Staff Sgt. Brandon Decker got a text from his 5-year-old daughter at 9:19 a.m. on April 24.
First, the message confused him. Then it concerned him.
His daughter was supposed to be in school. And the text included a photo that appeared to show Decker’s wife, Samantha, sleeping.
“You don’t expect that from a 5-year-old,” he said.
Decker was training in Indiana with his unit, the 44th Medical Brigade. He talked about the text with his commander, who told him to check into the situation.
Decker tried to call his wife.
No answer.
He tried again.
No answer.
A fellow noncommissioned officer got the contact information for Fort Bragg emergency services.
Decker called.
When Decker started explaining the situation to a dispatcher, he was told that emergency crews already were headed to his house. His son, Nicholas, 8, had sent a similar photo to his mother-in-law, Christine Bell, at her job in Ohio.
Bell said she was working at a pharmacy when she got the text. She opened it, expecting a smiley face or a funny picture like Nicholas usually sends her.
She enlarged the photo and could tell that her daughter wasn’t asleep. She tried to call her daughter’s cell phone, but didn’t get an answer.
About that time Nicholas called her through a video app on his computer tablet.
“He kept saying, ‘Mommy won’t wake up,’” she said.
Bell told Nicholas to shake his mother to try to wake her up. She also could talk with Brooklynn on the video.
“She said, ‘Mommy won’t wake up. I think she’s dead,’” Bell said.
Bell correctly suspected that her daughter was in a diabetic coma.
A diabetic coma is a “life-threatening diabetes complication that causes unconsciousness,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
“If you lapse into a diabetic coma, you’re alive — but you can’t awaken or respond purposefully to sights, sounds or other types of stimulation,” the clinic’s website says. “Left untreated, a diabetic coma can be fatal.”
Bell, who was becoming frantic, kept talking to her grandchildren. A co-worker standing next to her looked up the number for Fort Bragg emergency services and called. She gave him the Deckers’ address so he could tell dispatchers.
Bell told the children to go to their next-door neighbor’s house. When a security chain prevented them from opening their front door, she told Nicholas to get a chair so he could reach it.
Then, the children told Bell that they aren’t allowed to go outside without their mother. Bell told them that she was giving them permission.
Nicholas said he needed to get his shoes. Brooklynn wanted to get a coat.
Bell told them to go without them.
As the children were knocking on the neighbor’s door, Bell heard sirens. She told them that some people were coming to help their mother.
The emergency medical workers revived Samantha Decker, who went to the doctor the next day to adjust her medication. She said she remembers getting the children’s lunches together the night of April 23, then going to bed. She woke up with the emergency workers in her house.
“I was like, whoa, what’s going on?” she said.
Samantha Decker wears a sensor that is supposed to send an alert to her phone when her blood sugar is low, but she didn’t hear it. Her mother said she and Brandon Decker also are supposed to get alerts, but something must have gone wrong.
The children later showed their mother the photos they took of her.
“It’s scary looking,” she said. “When I saw it, I said, ‘Wow. I do look dead in that picture.’”
The Deckers are hoping to get a dog that will stay with Samantha Decker, in case she slips into a coma, to be trained as a diabetic service dog. They also might consider getting a dog that is already trained, but the cost is higher than expected.
Brandon Decker said that shortly after his call to emergency dispatchers, his commander asked him if needed to go home. He hesitated to leave his unit, but when be explained the situation to his sergeant major, the sergeant major said, “Why are we still talking about this? Let’s get you home.”
Brandon Decker said he is relieved that Nicholas and Brooklynn figured out how to use their computer tablets to tell someone about the situation.
“I didn’t even know they knew how to do that,” he said.
Bell said she’s proud of her grandchildren.
“Those kids are my heroes,” she said.
Samantha Decker said she’s glad the children knew what to do.
“If it wouldn’t have been for them knowing how to use those tablets, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.