As I mentioned yesterday, the trip to Spain was lovely, but fraught with lows. I'm not sure what caused what, but between the six hour time change, the excessively late nights and the corresponding late mornings, and spending hours walking around the city of Barcelona - my glucose levels spent a lot of time in the trenches.
Chris and I brought three big jars of glucose tabs (in grape, raspberry, and tropical flavors, of course) and four packages of Mentos candy with us for the trip, assuming this would be enough. But I couldn't have anticipated the lows that followed us from landmark to landmark. Aside from the initial high after the plane took off (Oh Kerri, you don't like to fly? Hmm ... you've never mentioned that before!) and a spike after my mid-week insulin pump set change, my blood sugars were low the majority of the time we were traveling. Nothing earth-shattering, but more a constant trend of 60 - 80 mg/dl, which sounds good in theory but when it's the result of constantly popping glucose tabs, that's a bit much.
Especially in the airport.
Leaving from JFK to head to Barcelona was fine. Our flight left NYC on time and things went smoothly, schedule-wise. But coming home? Completely different story.
According to our itinerary, we had an hour and fifteen minutes between our flights from Barcelona and from London, so we thought we'd have enough time. But when the plane left Barcelona 30 minutes late, we knew it was going to be a scramble to make our connection. In Heathrow. Which has to be the most confusing, unstructured airport I have ever visited in my life, more like a mall with airplanes thrown in as a bonus, instead of being a well-organized airport first.
Our plane landed in London and we had about 40 minutes to make our connection. We stood in line to go through security again, and the Dexcom started to wail. I dug it out of my bag and saw a blood sugar of 102 mg/dl and two double arrows pointing straight down. (You can guess what that means.)
"Oh darn it gee wilikers, I'm going low," I said to Chris. (Note: This is the edited, non-Yosemite Sam version of our exchange.)
"You have glucose tabs?"
"Yup. Chomping now."
We went through security - down to 23 minutes to catch our flight. Raced to the board where the flights gates were being announced and searched for our flight.
"Shit, we're all the way across the airport. We've got to book. Keep eating, okay?"
So we start moving fast. The Dexcom is continuing to vibrate, and I'm eating glucose tabs while dragging my suitcase behind me, my purse bouncing off my hip as we run.
"You okay?" Chris calls back to me as we're running while on the moving sidewalk.
"Sort of. Are we close?" Glucose tab dust covers my hands, leaving imprints on the railing of the sidewalk.
Time is tight. So we start to move as quickly as we can. We run until we get to the American Airlines gate and Chris goes to the counter to check us in. I take my meter out of my bag with shaking hands and test, only realizing then that I've been crying.
Oh that's lovely.
And then the panic hits with intensity.
"I'm 30. I need something fast." My mouth is dry and the idea of trying to consume glucose tabs with vigor makes my throat close at the thought.
"Juice. There's a machine. Sit here, baby. Sit and eat the tabs and I'll get juice. You'll be fine ..." He moves quickly to sit me in a chair, puts the bottle of glucose tabs in my hand, and runs to the Minute Maid vending machine.
Which only takes British pounds. Not American dollars. Or Spanish Euro.
"Gosh." Chris said. (See above comment re: edited version.)
I'm not sure what happened next. My brain was in a complete fog and I'm sure I looked frightful to the unknowing outsider, surrounded by suitcases and crying and eating odd little dusty discs and looking as though I was jilted at the airport. I know Chris ran to the check in desk and explained "medical emergency" and "needs juice from the machine" to the man in the American Airlines uniform. I know that this stranger gave Chris all the money he had in his pocket as quickly as he could, without asking questions. I know Chris said "thank you" as he ran back to the machine and I sat on the chair, still trying to choke down glucose tabs. I know that a bottle of orange juice was in my hands seconds later, and I know that the plane was boarding and we were treating a really miserable low in the airport.
"You're coming up. See? That's already higher."
Still in a fog, but beyond pressed for time, we gathered our bags and started down the gate towards the door of the plane. We were among the very last people to board. I wasn't as much of a mess but I was wiped out, my whole body trying to recover.
"Thank you," Chris said to the American Airlines employee who gave us the money for juice. "Here, please take the money back."
The guy was behind us in line and smiled gently. "No, it's fine. Please. I'm glad you're okay. Don't worry."
I took the coins from Chris and pressed them into the employee's hand.
"Thanks very much. But you might need this change. You know. For another diabetic who really needs a helping hand."
He took it. We boarded. And headed home.