Low blood sugars can sound like stories told ’round the campfire, with great embellishments and drama as to who can tolerate the lowest number without tipping over.
“Low? I wasn’t just low. I was so low that my eyes were swimming away from my face and my meter said 52 mg/dL but I still got my own juice.”
“52? I was 41 mg/dL without any symptoms at all and then my hands fell off so I ate them.”
“Pfffft. I was 30 mg/dL and eating popcorn and I was coherent enough to eat individual kernels of popped corn until 100 hours passed and I had steadily climbed back up to 115 mg/dL without a rebound high.”
Most of the time, my lows are symptom free and I can function properly. I feel lucky that, in the last 28 years, there have been more functional hypoglycemic episodes than ones requiring assistance. I’m glad I can treat my own lows.
But sometimes numbers hit differently. A blood sugar around 65 mg/dL usually feels a tiny bit off, but nothing too jarring. No shaky hands, clumsy tongue, loss of peripheral vision stuff going on, mostly just a Dexcom alarm going off, forcing me to take a closer look at my graph and thinking, “Huh. Time for a snack.” (This lack of hypo symptoms is what prompted me to look into a continuous glucose monitor in the first place.)
At other times, the 65 mg/dL comes in like a freight train, barreling towards me with symptoms hitting full force, which happened yesterday while I was brushing my teeth. A waves of confusion washed over me and put a twitch in my hands, making my desired grip onto the bathroom counter hard to come by. My tongue went numb and I forced myself to spit the toothpaste into the sink, knowing the next mission was more challenging: get downstairs and eat something fast.
The first thing I saw was a giant Tootsie Roll in Birdzone’s Halloween bucket. (Flashbacks to being a kid growing up with diabetes, where the Halloween bucket was always saved as a “for low blood sugars!” salve but instead was something I dipped into without admitting it, until there were only Almond Joys left.) Normally, Tootsie Rolls are a candy that repulses me enough to steer me clear, the low symptoms were intensifying and my knees felt wobbly, so I unwrapped the candy and shoved it into my mouth. And then I learned of a new hypoglycemia symptom that was in play this round: a confused jaw.
Chewing on that Tootsie Roll candy was a disaster. It was slightly cold, making it tough to work through regardless, but the massive chewy scope of the thing was too much. In the fog of a low, I clamped down on the stupid thing and felt a familiar popping sensation. The Tootsie Roll was working to raise my blood sugar, but in the interim, it had pulled off one of the frigging composites from my tooth.
Once the low had subsided, I called the dentist to fess up and make a fix-it appointment.
“What happened? Did you bite into an apple or something?” asked the receptionist.
“No, it was actually a Tootsie Roll but …”
“Oh, Halloween candy. Yeah, we get a lot of calls this time of year for stuff like this.”
And in my head, I was all, “Wait, no it was a low blood sugar and it was THIS BIG and I finally had symptoms – they were rotten – in the 60’s which is why I went for the Halloween candy …”
… but instead, I was all, “Yep. Tootsie Roll of doom.”