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Looking Back: Telling Off the Paramedics.

A few things: 

This post is almost ten years old, which is unsettling on its own accord.

It also documents the only time in my 27 years with type 1 diabetes that paramedics needed to be brought in to assist, and mostly because my roommate needed help getting me to eat, not because I was unconscious.

I miss Abby and her magical, glucose-sniffing powers.

The day after this low blood sugar happened, I drove to the fire station and thanked the paramedics profusely for their help, and apologized just as profusely for my actions. They said they see it all the time. The fact that they see it all the time and continue to do what they do to help people makes me respect their profession, and all HCPs, even more.

Apologies for the language used. As you know, I wouldn’t swear unless I was low.

*   *   *

Abby. My cat.

She has never missed a low blood sugar. There have been times when I was so low that beads of sweat collected on my forehead, making my face clammy and my t-shirt damp with panic. Usually my body wakes itself up in time, leaving me just enough energy to stumble out to the kitchen and pour a glass of juice. But sometimes I don’t wake myself up.

That’s where Abby has never failed me.

She will sit on the pillow above my head, wailing like a banshee. “Meow!” She paws fiercely at my head and nudges my face with hers. I usually come around as she is pressing her nose fervently into my ear. “Me-ow!” More insistently now. She won’t stop wailing until I am trudging through the living room towards the kitchen. Siah hasn’t figured out this trick yet. But I’m sure she will in time. Or maybe Abby is just in tune with the way my body starts to panic.

Sometimes I feel waves. The ones that gently undulate and lap at the shores of my consciousness. I focus what is left of my resolve on remaining awake, waiting for the juice to take effect. Those are the worst ones. The ones where I am afraid I am going to pass out.

I’ve never passed out. In almost two decades of diabetes, I have never been unconscious. Of course it may happen. It could happen to any of us. But I have come close.

There have been some tricky lows, though.

There was one that I had in January of 2003, while I was living with my ex-boyfriend. The alarm clock went off in the morning, but I didn’t stir. He got up to turn it off. Usually I lean right over and grab my kit off the nightstand so I can test my blood sugar, but that morning I wasn’t moving at all. He had dated me for six years and he knew the signs of a serious hypoglycemic episode, so he immediately woke up and tested me himself. My bloodsugar clocked in at 44 mg/dl. He went downstairs and grabbed a glass of juice.

“Kerri, get up. Drink this. You’re low.”

Nothing from me.

“Hey. Drink this.”

Most often, I sit up, obligingly grab the glass, consume the contents with graceless gulping, and fall back upon the pillow until the tides of my sugar rise enough for me to sit up and say, “How low was I?” This time, I took the glass from his hand, told him to leave me alone, and proceeded to pour the juice all over the bed.

I’m known for being slightly combative when low.

He got another glass of juice. And the phone.

“Kerri, you need to drink this. If you don’t drink it, I am going to call the paramedics. “

After being told, repeatedly, to go fuck himself, [Note: I’m still embarrassed by this.] Roommate dialed 911. Three paramedics showed up, one slightly chubby. I am in bed, at a minimal level of functionality. I don’t remember what happened from here on in, but Roommate told me I was belligerent.

Roommate told them I rang in at 44 mg/dl. They grabbed the red and white tube of InstaGlucose from their med kit and advanced on me. In the throes of my low, I fought them off as best I could. They outnumbered me considerably; it took three paramedics to hold me down well enough for Roommate to administer the InstaGlucose in my fitful mouth. The paramedics let me loose. As the sugary substance absorbed into the inside of my cheeks, I turned to Roommate with a resounding “Fuck you!” I whirled to the most portly of the medics and growled, not unlike Linda Blair, “You too, fatty!”

I came around very slowly. I don’t remember much of how I ended up downstairs, but I am told that I wandered down the staircase and stood at the front door, clutching my blanket around my shoulders and murmuring, “I want my Daddy.” Because that’s not at all embarrassing.

Roommate told the medics that I would be fine in a few minutes, having just tested me and yielding a result of 68 mg/dl. “She’s on the upswing. She doesn’t need to go to the hospital.” To confirm my agreement, I had to sign a release form, stating that I refused to be brought to the hospital. I signed, half in a fog.

Fast forward to me in the shower, getting ready to go to work. The medics are gone. Roommate is sitting on the bathroom counter, monitoring me. I start to remember what happened. We talk about how everything is okay now, and how sometimes a low just sneaks up and destroys me.

I’m feeling much better. A little embarrassed that I was such trouble, but no harm, no foul, right? I smile sheepishly. Safe now. Abby was prowling about on the bathroom floor, making sure everything was okay now.

“Yes, Kerri. You did okay.”

And as the warm water washed away the traces of InstaGlucose from my arms and eased the tension in my muscles, I gasped in shock as I cried, “Oh my God! … I called them fat fucks, didn’t I?”

The laugh from the counter top confirmed.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Just curious…..post-pregnancy, have you noticed that your “low belligerency” has been reduced? Mine surely has. I’ve turned into more of the “quiet-and-not-talking” low blood sugar person. And it still always confuses the heck out of me why sometimes I can be 45, can’t formulate a coherent sentence and about to pass out, and other times be 35 and talking like I’m giving a Master’s dissertation. Wacky blood sugars.

    03/5/14; 11:06 am
    • I didn’t notice a change post-pregnancy but I used to have “angry lows” all the time when I was in my late teens/early 20’s and they sort of tapered off when I got into my mid-20’s, easing into that curl-up-and-cry style of lows. However, the angry lows aren’t entirely gone. I had a wicked bitchy low last week, where I wanted to punch something. Thankfully, I ate five glucose tabs and the urge to punch passed. 😉

      03/5/14; 11:10 am
  2. Katie S. #

    Oh my God I want to laugh but feel bad about laughing about such a serious situation. As far as I know I have never been combative while low. Thank God for the patience of the paramedics! Glad you went down there to apologize LOL

    03/5/14; 1:14 pm
  3. Shannon #

    So glad I’m not the only one! My poor husband has born the brunt of many a “bitchy low”. Some are just crankiness but others are the scary ones that I can barely remember til coming out of the fog later. Like once when hubby went to the kitchen to get me done orange juice and when he came back I had hidden behind the bedroom door with one of those magic bag heating pad things that’s full of sand and started hurting him as hard as I could with it. Another time I screamed like I was being murdered and scared my sleeping children half to death. Good to know I’m not alone.

    03/5/14; 3:49 pm
  4. Woo…I’m glad you apologized. Yes, I’ve been angry and denied that I needed juice or anything other than to be left alone…but, I don’t remember actually saying what I might have been thinking. Only once in all of these years [59] have paramedics been called. That was because a financial consultant arrived at my door for a scheduled appointment and found me answering the door in my robe, acting very strangely. After 15 minutes of attempting to get comprehensive replies to his questions, he called the paramedics. They immediately noticed my MedicAlert bracelet and quickly resolved the problem.

    03/5/14; 6:28 pm
    • I was absolutely mortified at the way I acted and for what I said, even though I was not in my right mind. (I have almost no recollection of what happened, and most of what I know about the experience was told to me by my roommate.) I am really grateful for their help that day.

      03/5/14; 9:17 pm
  5. Christine Curry #

    If this wasn’t so serious it would be quite funny. Your growl to the one medic “you too, fatty” is priceless. These times frighten my family and friends.
    I just had a 34 in the dressing room at Penneys this last week I had my 6 glucose tablets and just waited fifteen minutes for relief. This was one of those profuse sweating, dizziness with just enough sense to sit and wait it out. But refusing to allow for any help. Stubborn I know. Everything turned out fine this time.
    So far I have not had a medic standing over me.

    03/5/14; 9:17 pm
  6. Adrianna #

    I’ve been combative only with my husband. But I’ve had to have the paramedics more than once. The funniest but also most embarrassing thing was looking at one of the young guys – I’m old enough to be his mother, maybe even grandmother – and telling him, “You’re very good looking.” By the time we arrived at the emergency room I was “with it” enough to recall, and apologized. He laughed it off and said, “We see things like that all the time.”

    03/5/14; 9:50 pm
  7. Kim #

    oh my goodness! this is so not funny, but funny because i have been there many, many times. my very first “real” low blood sugar happened when i was about 16 or so. my mom handed me a glass of oj and i promptly spit it all over my dad (dressed in his suit ready to leave for work!). paramedics were called. another time my children called my friend to come help them get me to eat some sugar (stubborn? yes), and i punched her in the face. not nice. needless to say she called the paramedics and forgave me!
    i’m still a bit of a stubborn low girl, but if you mention the paramedics i will cry and do whatever you tell me too!!

    03/6/14; 8:33 am
  8. June S. #

    Given the fact that, ultimately, you WERE O.K., I found that post immensely funny. Of course, hypoglycemia is THE most frightening thing, and the thing that, for most of us, makes this disease so dreaded. High BG’s cause damage, over time, but lows can be deadly. I have needed to have been brought around from a low only twice in my 41 years with Type I. The most scary time, in retrospect, occurred while I was in college, and on a choir tour of Communist Romania. When I didn’t waken with my alarm, my roommate got some adults involved (while she and a fellow Type I started chugging Romanian orange juice, which resembled Tang) into my mouth. I started ‘coming to’ just as a Romanian doctor walked in and announced “She must have forgotten to take her insulin, and is in a coma. We’ll need to take her to the hospital for an injection of insulin.” Just at that moment, I wakened and informed them that I was fine and was not going anywhere. (This was, of course, in the days before blood glucose meters were invented.)

    03/6/14; 9:31 am
  9. lindsay #

    So I had my “first time the paramedics had to be called” last night. Not completely unconscious, but not swallowing the juice, which made my husband (fairly) afraid I was choking on it. And, seriously, the first thing I thought of when I came to and realized paramedics were in the room was this post, and I immediately asked if I had been mean 🙂

    06/29/14; 4:21 pm
    • OMG – I’m glad you’re okay!! … and had you been mean? 😉

      06/29/14; 7:17 pm

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