SEMINOLE – In the everyday world, our heroes are not always burly firemen in black boots. Sometimes the real heroes come in small packages.
When, on an ordinary October evening, Gabriella Carey (Gabby) told her mother good night and went off to her bedroom, her only thoughts were of getting up in time to catch the school bus the next morning.
But at 5:30 a.m., a couple of hours before her alarm clock was set to go off, Gabby, a sixth grader at Madeira Beach Middle School, heard her mom, Laura Claybourne, screaming for help.
Gabby got into the kitchen just as her mother, a diabetic since infancy, slid to the floor unconscious, a cookie grasped in her hand. Laura, who gives herself five to seven insulin injections a day, had awoken early, feeling as though her blood sugar was way too low. By the time she got to the kitchen, she realized she was in serious trouble.
Throughout her childhood, Gabby had seen her mother’s ongoing struggles with the disease and knew all about the symptoms of low blood sugar. Without hesitating, she picked up the phone and punched in 911.
“In about five minutes they were here,” she said. “But I was so scared that those five minutes seemed like a very long time.”
Laura Claybourne, 37, had gone into a diabetic coma and without Gabby’s quick action, would probably not have survived the ordeal, as her husband was away on a business trip that night.
After arriving on the scene, the paramedics were able to get her to sip a high glucose drink before putting her into the ambulance. The attractive mother of two – Gabby has a 17-year-old brother – also has coronary heart disease which is often related to the effects of diabetes.
“The EMT’s know our house,” she said.
Gabby, 11, was diagnosed with diabetes last April and has learned how to give herself insulin injections twice a day. She credits the school nurse, who is on campus just one day a week, with being sympathetic and helpful to the half dozen children who are diabetics at Madeira Beach Middle School. Gabby has not let the disease slow her down. She enjoys playing the flute and hopes to begin tennis lessons soon.
While her mother’s near-death experience shook her up, “I learned from it,” she said. The importance of a good diet, exercise and careful monitoring of her disease means more to this friendly sixth grader now.
Laura Claybourne, who does not remember anything that happened in those early morning hours, said, “My daughter is my guardian angel. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Gabby.”