The past few days have been unreasonably hot in the northeast, making me wonder if that whole “fry an egg on the sidewalk” thing could have been a real breakfast option. I visited the Animas HQ last Thursday and Friday, and when I left their offices late on Friday afternoon and headed to the train station at 30th Street in Philadelphia, the heat was relentless. And apparently, the train station didn’t get the note about air conditioning being a great idea.
“Acela 2172 to Boston delayed by 50 minutes” greeted me upon walking in the door. Awesome.
I milled around the train station for a while, sucking down an iced coffee and changing from my dress and heels into shorts and a t-shirt. (Thankfully – more on that good decision later.) The train was delayed again, this time to 75 minutes. Many of the other trains on the board were marked as “Cancelled.”
I called Chris.
“I’m not positive I’m going to get out of Philly. The trains going north are all delayed or cancelled. I’ll let you know.”
“Okay, be careful.”
The Acela 2172 did end up boarding, so I jumped on with my fellow passengers, thankful to be in the air conditioned, comfortable seats on the train. However, right after we started going, the conductor came over the loudspeaker: “This train will TERMINATE in New York’s Penn Station. There is no further assistance offered by Amtrak. All passengers must exit the train.”
TERMINATE? Spoken in all caps? That can’t be good.
I’ve never seen such a large group of people mobilize so quickly. Within seconds, everyone was on their phone trying to secure a rental car, or a hotel room, or a helicopter. (Okay, so one guy on this train had some serious money, because he was actually talking to someone about getting his helipad ready for take off.) Me? I called a friend, my mother, and then my husband, mainly just to confirm that I was indeed stuck on a train, and it sucked.
The short of it is this: An accident in New Haven, coupled with wires down due to the excessive heat, shut down all of the northbound train service on Amtrak. It also completely mucked with the Metro North trains headed north, as well. This left a bunch of northbound passengers high and dry (actually, low and sweaty, if you’re me), and streaming out into the streets outside of Penn Station.
Part of living with diabetes is hoping for the best scenario, but planning for the worst. I thanked whatever part of my brain had thought about buying a few bottles of water before leaving Penn Station. I also thanked that same part for remembering to throw a pen of Humalog into my purse before traveling. And then I thanked my subconscious for making me change out of my heels before I slogged it through New York City.
Because what unfolded next was a perfect storm of personal diabetes chaos: While walking from Penn Station to Grand Central in efforts to grab one of the only running Metro North trains, my blood sugar plummeted into the 50’s. I cracked open a bottle of juice I had snagged from the Animas office, and drained half of it while walking with my new friends (aka my fellow 2172 passengers). Between the heat, trotting along with my luggage, and the low blood sugar, I was drenched with sweat by the time I reached Grand Central. Dehydrated, exhausted, and watching the now double-up arrows on my Dexcom, I stood in Grand Central and watched the Hudson line board, waiting for the departure track to be announced. The train finally arrived and the collective throng of people waiting in the terminal moved towards the track. The heat, again, was incredible. The Dexcom started to BEEEEEEP! and wail. And I realized I hadn’t used the bathroom since leaving Philly, which meant that my body was sorely lacking in the hydration department.
As I rode the slowest train EVER from Grand Central up to Stamford, I watched as my blood sugar rose and rose and rose. Within a 45 minute span, I climbed over 280 points, eventually hitting 380 mg/dl. The stress of the cancelled train, hoofing it to Grand Central, the low blood sugar, the rebound high, and the dehydration was sending me straight into a dangerous situation. I was drinking water, but the nausea was overwhelming, and I spent the entire ride trying not to throw up. I’ve never experienced diabetic ketoacidosis before, but I knew that if vomiting started with a blood sugar that high and hydration levels that low, I was in for some trouble.
I called Chris, who was on his way into New Haven to pick me up. “Dude, I feel horrible. My blood sugars are wicked high, and I feel really nauseous. We may need to stop at the ER, depending on how this goes.”
“When are you supposed to get to New Haven?”
“We have to change trains in Stamford to a diesel engine, because the wires are down in Westport and everything sucks. Looks like I’ll get to New Haven close to one am.”
Thankfully, by the time we reached New Haven, my blood sugar was down to 117 mg/dl and the nausea had passed. But not without issue. Hours and hours passed, and the train crawled from stop to stop, the doors of the car opening and the hot air rushing in. People were irritable and exhausted, myself included. I had left West Chester, PA around 3:45 pm, but didn’t smash my face against my pillow at home in Rhode Island until 2:30 am.
- Test strips used during my travels: 11.
- Bottles of water consumed: 4.
- Average temperature while traveling: 103 degrees.
- Number of bouquets of flowers that Amtrak should send to my house as an apology: 2.
- Glucose tabs consumed: 8.
- Humalog pen injections taken: 1.
- Number of hours it took to get from West Chester to RI: 11.
- Number of times I texted and used the phrase “effing train”: 14.
Being home, safe and in the air conditioning? Priceless.