Tag Archives: hypoglycemia

Frustrated, but okay with it (sort of).

Do you ever experience a low where someone really goes out of their way to help you, when you don’t really need it, and it’s kind of annoying?

This wasn’t help during a low… this was, unfortunately, hindrance.

About three minutes earlier, I felt like I might be low, and tested out at 58 mg/dL. I started to eat some candy I keep in a jar on my desk at work. I suspended my pump, for what that was worth, and I was sitting quietly, not doing anything. Just concentrating on the one thing I needed to do in that moment, which was eat the candy (or, as some might call it, Stephen-eat-the-cheeseburger), and nothing else. Then someone came by, and noticed I was low. Before I knew it, I heard “Come with me… do you have something in your desk?… Here, I got your juice… drink it. NO, DRINK IT… NOW”.

My co-workers have come a long way in their understanding of diabetes, and especially their understanding of the dangers of hypoglycemia. But a few days ago, I came to the realization that there is a big difference between basic knowledge of highs and lows, and knowing about the nuances of diabetes.

I was definitely low in this instance. No doubt about that. But I was already treating, and as we all know, ingesting something now does not mean my BGs will come up at the very moment that fast-acting carbs are ingested. It takes fifteen minutes or so. Nothing I can do about that.

But it’s very hard for people who don’t live with diabetes to just sit there and wait, or even understand what it means to sit there and wait those fifteen precarious minutes. Especially when they’re worrying about you.

I have to tell you… it warms my heart to know that the people I work with are so eager to help when I hit a bad low. By the same token, it takes more than just literally shoving a juice box in my face and expecting me to be okay. The truth is, I would have been okay eventually, even if I was the only one there.

The thing is, it’s easy for me to be frustrated, because my low wouldn’t have been so difficult had I been left to my own devices. I was sitting in a chair at my desk, eating candy. My pump was off. I knew it was going to take a bit, but I knew I would eventually be okay. I didn’t need the extra grabbing and juice shoving and holding the juice so all I had to do was drink it. I also could have done without the “It’s because he’s stressed… the stress is making him low” comments.

But… how can I be unhappy about the level of concern and effort put into this moment? In reality, I cannot expect someone who doesn’t live with diabetes to know the difference between what 74 mg/dL feels like, and what 44 mg/dL feels like. And they really wanted to help me. How can I complain about that?

In the end, for all of the frustration, it’s just another brief episode in life with diabetes. I need to go through the mental checklist, examine the moment, and see if there’s anything I could have done better. To not do that would be folly. If it turns out it was just one of those crazy lows that happens from time to time despite our best efforts at diabetes management, then I just have to let it go. And thank everyone who tried to help me.

And be happy that there are people who want to help when I need it, even if I don’t need it all the time.

Saturday Night.

It was Saturday, about 6:00 p.m.

My BGs had been running high all day. It was time for dinner, and since I try to pre-bolus whenever possible, I washed my hands (like I almost always do), did my pre-dinner check, and saw that I was 138 mg/dL.

I was just making a sandwich and eating a tomato for dinner… no big deal, except that bread seems to spike my post-prandial numbers a bit. So I bolused based on that 138 number and continued watching the L.A. Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates game on TV.

Pre-bolusing being what it is, I had expected to wait 15-20 minutes before eating. About ten minutes after my bolus, I felt what I thought was a sign that I was low: A feeling of shakiness, sort of like I was sinking, and a suddenly overwhelming hunger.

But I had been high all day. I was 138 mg/dL just ten minutes before, right? In the next five minutes, the following occurred:

– I went back into the kitchen to test again. The result: 48 mg/dL.

– I grabbed the juice bottle from the refrigerator and, carefully, a glass from the cabinet. Somehow, I got the glass and the juice on the counter just before I slunked down on the kitchen floor.

– Now I’m trying to (again, carefully) get the glass and juice off of the counter and onto the floor next to me so I could drink it. I didn’t know if I could get back up again until I could get my BG back up again.

– After trying for what seemed like a long time, but really wasn’t, I was no closer to getting the glass or the juice off the counter, but I had managed to lay flat on my back, feeling very sleepy, if that makes sense.

– Somehow, something inside me made me realize that I needed to get up to the counter to get my juice. I had no other choice. Again, it seemed to take a long time to stand up, but it wasn’t a long time after all.

I finally got my juice, and within 15 more minutes, I had eaten my sandwich and was feeling almost normal again. Except for the post-low hangover that comes with an episode like this. And it was significant.

Immediately after, I called The Great Spousal Unit, who was away, and let her know what happened and that I was okay.

Then I took to Facebook and recounted what happened. I also replied to some of the replies I received, and posted a little more too. I was so grateful to have people who understand help me feel better after an awful experience like that. Still, I generally don’t spend my Saturday night hanging out on Facebook, and that made me ask a few questions.

Was I really trying hard to connect after almost being permanently disconnected? Was I trying to keep a lifeline (so to speak) open in case of another low? Was I just trying to show how strong I am and that I was okay and no one should worry about me because I’m tough as nails?

Maybe it was a combination of some of those things. Plus this:

When you nearly lose your life (because, for worse or for worse, hypoglycemia is a near-death experience), you want to connect with the special people in your life and forget about anything else that doesn’t really matter.

Hypoglycemia sucks. Diabetes sucks.

As a person with diabetes, I am in a unique position to let the rest of the world know that we need the best accuracy possible from our glucose meters. We need Medicare coverage for seniors who simply must keep their continuous glucose monitor technology. We need artificial pancreas technology that will help read our glucose levels and adjust pump settings automatically based on reliable algorithms designed with patient safety as its first priority.

And we all need to have people to reach out to, to make us feel less alone when we’re at our most vulnerable. God bless those who don’t have anyone to turn to.

If you have no one to turn to when diabetes wrecks your evening, I encourage you to find the Diabetes Online Community. Search the #DOC hashtag on Twitter. Do a Google search for diabetes blogs. Or send me an e-mail. Don’t be alone.

Hello, Mr. Middle-of-the-Night low.

Well hello there, Mr. Crazy out-of-nowhere-middle-of-the-night low.

It’s been a while, but as soon as I woke up at 2:15, felt strange, and put my hand on the back of my sweaty head (in the air conditioning), I knew you were back.

And it wasn’t just my head: my PJs, my pillow, my bed, everything was drenched with sweat. I didn’t even bother getting my meter to check right away. I just grabbed a juice box and started sucking back The Thing That Brings Me Back Up.

After a small snack and even more juice, about half an hour later, I was staring at 81 mg/dL on my meter.

I’ll bet you were thinking you could sneak up on me, right? You thought I had let down my guard, that I would just sleep peacefully right through it all. Until, you know, I wasn’t sleeping anymore.

The fact that I didn’t, that I actually did wake up and take the necessary steps to save my life, must have pissed you off. Because I had that awful post-hypo hangover that was only partially mitigated by a long, hot shower. Also, I had a 258 mg/dL on my meter this morning.

But that’s okay. I’m still here, Mr. Crazy out-of-nowhere-middle-of-the-night low. I’m still here. I bested you this time. I’m not giving up. And I’ve got my eye on you. So watch it.

Diabetes is hard. But we’re worth it.

Diabetes. Our lives with diabetes is a balancing act.

Keep those numbers in between 80 mg/dL and 120 mg/dL. We know that a hemoglobin A1c reading under 7.0% is optimal. As we also know, there are studies that show that people who achieve this are more likely to spend a fair amount of time with hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar) than people who don’t. Among other things, hypoglycemia can potentially do damage to our hearts and our brains. Of course, if our A1c is over 7.0, we’re faced with a number that makes us feel like we’re not successful. It makes us want to do all that we can to get it under that number. Even though that could possibly mean additional risk of hypoglycemia. That’s a lot to consider.

But wait… there’s more. The closer our numbers are to perfect, the closer we are to bad lows. What do we do when those lows occur? We treat them, with juice or peanut butter sandwiches or cookies or Nutella or whatever works. Or all of those things, plus a couple more. Because above all, hypoglycemia is scary. It’s a near-death experience that shakes our confidence and makes us want to make it go away as quickly as possible. So sometimes we over-treat. Which leads us to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) later on. And pretty soon our glucose management looks like this:


The hyperglycemia? In a word, that’s frustrating. Partly because we’re aware (we’re more than aware) of the complications it might bring years down the road, and partly because we don’t want our hard work go to waste just because we decided to eat something because it would save our life. Hyperglycemia makes us sluggish, tired, thirsty, and again, frustrated. And while we can encounter it after over-treating a low, we can also encounter it due to a bad injection site, bad insulin, or a crazy metabolism that can have us under 100 one day and over 300 the next. While the “eat 15 grams of carbohydrates, wait 15 minutes and check” idea is the standard for treating lows, it can take hours to come down from those highs. It may take the ingestion of copious amounts of water, lots of exercise, trimming our diet, extra insulin, or any and all combinations of the four to bring us back into range. Or back down into hypoglycemia again.

Add to that the fact that we’re more susceptible to infection, more likely to encounter eye and foot problems, under additional risk of heart trouble and stroke, and also facing people in our lives who just don’t understand why these things are true and want to blame us instead of helping us, and you can see why diabetes ain’t no kiddie game.

Yet we go on living our lives, in wondrous and amazing ways. We often have parents and spouses and girlfriends and boyfriends and just friends who help us and give us the strength to know that we’re worth all the trouble. If you’re not living with diabetes and you encounter someone who is, remember that diabetes is a moving target, it’s always, and it’s hard. The best thing you can do is live our lives alongside us, displaying the assets of perseverance and empathy that all people living with diabetes possess. Just ask us… we really are worth it.

Recognize your inner superhero.

Is it the warm weather, or is it just that I’m getting older? I’ve recently experienced a couple of lows that were just energy-zapping. Those “I see it coming, here it is, I don’t want to move, now I need to move, and eat a bunch of stuff/drink juice/inhale glucose tabs” lows. Then, when it’s over, I experience the “I’m so tired I just want to curl up in the corner where the sun is shining through and sleep for about ten hours” hangover.

That’s what it feels like too… like a hangover. Knocked on your butt, your body is punishing you for too much insulin. Or too much exercise. Or not enough carbs. Or because your body has a history of punishing you, and every now and then it wants to assert its authority for no bloody reason at all.

That’s when we become heroes. Doesn’t make sense, does it? But think about it.

We find ourselves in a dangerous situation. Life-threatening, even. A crisis all our own, like our human body has encountered its own kryptonite. Things might be touch-and-go for a little while. But we fight back. We use whatever means at our disposal to drive the enemy away. We MacGyver solutions, we will ourselves to persevere.

And then we go right back to our regularly scheduled lives.

Hopefully, this little scenario doesn’t play out too often in your life. When it does, and you overcome, don’t forget that you are a force of nature. Diabetes cannot stop you, and you are living proof. In fact, diabetes has tried to stop you, and you didn’t let it.

It’s not in your most recent hypoglycemic episode. It’s not in your last hemoglobin A1c. It is evident in the life you lead, the job you perform, the people and organizations you help succeed, in the family and friends that surround you, and the simple fact that you are still here.

I see you. I read about you. I live with the same disease you do. Trust me when I say that when you overcome those lows, you are succeeding at something that would humble even the most confident of individuals. I recognize that about you. I hope you recognize that about yourself.

By the way, you might want to check yourself in the mirror. I thought I saw a little of your superhero cape showing in the back.

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