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Hips Don’t Lie.

“You’re early for your appointment!”  The receptionist looked at me hopefully.  “Less nervous this time?”

(My track record as a nervous dental patient follows me everywhere.)

“Yep.  I’m early.  And I have a babysitter this morning for my kid.  I have to follow through now!”

Over the last seven years or so, I’ve finally hit stride with my dentist visits.  Very sensitive teeth and an obsession with flossing and brushing at home made me feel invincible, skipping cleanings because they were painful and only showing up for emergency dental appointments (like this).  But I’ve been trying to practice what I preach about preventative care, so showing up every six months for cleanings and scheduling repairs immediately is my new jam.

It helps that the dentists I’ve seen over the last few years have been very receptive to requests for more novocaine during repairs or sensitivity-reducing pastes during cleanings. When the procedures aren’t painful, I’ll follow through on all of them.  Which is what brought me to the dentist yesterday:  a very old filling on my back-most molar had come loose, in need of a redo.  As soon as it popped off, I made an appointment, wrangled coverage for my little Guy, and marched into the dentist armed with good blood sugars and my copay up front.

“Can I just duck into your ladies room before going in to see Dr. Fang? [Not his real name, of course.  But holy shit, I wish it was.]”

“Sure thing.  We’ll be calling you in about 15 minutes.”

In the bathroom, I went to de-pants (?), forgetting about the fresh, new pump site on the back of my right hip.  It was exactly where my waistband hit.  Which is why I deftly ripped it off when removing my pants.  Hips don’t lie.  They also don’t like infusion sets.


Riding a wave of arrogance because I was ready for my dentist appointment and also because I knew I had an insulin pen in my meter case, I checked my CGM graph to see if I needed a little boost before my filling.  (Dentist appointments make me feel nervous, which causes my blood sugar to rise, so I expected to see an upward arrow.)  Sure enough, I was 160 mg/dL with double arrows up.

A unit will fix this right quick.

I pulled the pen cap off and saw a pen needle already screwed in.  Hmmmm.  I knew I’d used this pen when traveling in April.  Had that needle been on there for over a month?  I turned the dial on my Humalog pen to find it spongy and sticky.

Shit.  The last time I had a pen with a sticky dial, it was the result of an old needle cap that had contributed to built up pressure in the pen cartridge.  When it happened previously, I called the pharma company hotline and they advised me to check the rubber stopper on the cartridge.  I did that this time and saw that it was bulging.  I tried to push a unit into the air but nothing came out.  The pen was clogged.  No other pen.  No backup infusion set.

Awesome.  Insulin right there for the taking but no way to access it.  And my blood sugar was climbing aggressively.

“I need to run to my car for a second; is that okay?” I asked the receptionist.

She nodded, eyeing me skeptically.  “You’re coming back in, aren’t you?  Or are you making a run for it?”

“Nope.  I will be back in,” I promised.

The center console of my car is a treasure trove of crap:  lip gloss, spare diapers and wipes, glucose tabs, mints, packets of Truvia, a GPS from 2009 that wouldn’t be able to get me out of my garden never mind to a specific location, and the odd lancet or needle tip.  I was hoping to find one of those needle tips hiding in there, all sharp and new and ready to de-bulge the insulin pen pressure.

And there it was, crammed in the back corner of the console trench, unsure of how old it was but with the paper tab still over the base, so I knew it was unused.

Back in the dentist’s bathroom, I stashed my now-disconnected pump in my purse and was able to steal a unit and a half from my insulin pen (after a test bolus that exploded out of the pen and into the air – I’m sure I heard it yell, “Weeeeeee!!”), heading the high off at the pass.

Thankful for my packrat tendencies, I was called in for my appointment and after 45 minutes of drilling and scraping and refilling and novocaine and polite “Are you okay’s” from the dentist and mangled “mmm hmmm’s” from me, my tooth was filled and my blood sugar wasn’t garbage.

The moral of this toothy tale?  Bring backups of all your diabetes crap when you leave the house.  You never know when you’ll need to forage in the center console for drug paraphernalia.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. I hate pen needles, I’ve always hacked pens using regular syringes. Too many issues with absorption and leakage (yuck) over the years. As for being a pack rat, well – I sure envy the ladies who can rock a tiny purse, that’s never happened for me!

    06/1/17; 4:18 pm
  2. Andrea #

    How long do you keep the pens around for emergencies? I thought they were only good for 4 weeks? Do you find yourself wasting most of them from not being used?

    06/1/17; 8:41 pm
    • I usually keep them around for about four months. I know that’s way past the advisable timeframe, but they have worked fine and in a pinch, they hit the mark.

      06/5/17; 9:34 am
  3. I was in Philadelphia had an unrelenting high and did not have another set. Luckily my friend Molly rescued me. You know when they say bring two of everything? Yeah, I now pack three. I am not certain three is enough.

    06/1/17; 8:59 pm
  4. Sandy T #

    Ugh, I have a filling replacement next week. I HATE the dentist. This would cause me to hyperventilate and I don’t have back up pens. So glad you did!

    06/2/17; 9:41 am
  5. Toni #

    When I was a kid, my dentist’s name was Dr. Stinger! Fortunately he was great.

    06/2/17; 6:54 pm
  6. dan #

    Hi Kerri,

    I realize that you pulled out your inset. I happen to use the steel rather than the plastic.
    What does this mean? When I have pulled out the inset, the ability with tape and sticky stuff to place that inset back into my body. Success.
    As always have a great day


    06/3/17; 10:00 am
  7. Erin #

    I had both a Humalog and Lantus pen clog on me a couple months ago. First time in 18 years. Good to know how to fix it!

    06/4/17; 7:33 pm
  8. I am kind of traditional. No pump. No pens. Only my insulin packed in my little package and a couple of 100 units insulin syringes. Of course a glucometer and some test strips.

    06/4/17; 11:35 pm
  9. Tatjana #

    Just as an idea – if asked, they probably might have given you a sterile syringe at the dentist.
    Just disconnect the clogged pen-needle, stick the spare syringe into the membrane of the pen, let it take its fill from the over-pressure created during your earlier attempts, DISCARD that unknown quantity down the drain, and then stick it back into the pen and dose the syringe with the amount you need. The “loaner” syringe won’t have the grading for U100 Insulin, but that’s what your pen is good for.
    Just don’t draw any insulin using the plunger of the syringe or you’re likely to draw too much. With this method you will draw too little (depending on the friction of the plunger at the receiving end of the pen-syringe combination), but depending on the amount needed and the “time until backup” this can make the difference between elevated and skyrocketing bg levels >)

    (When siphoning off the over-pressurized pen, now’s the moment to pick up that air bubble it had been developing…)

    06/11/17; 1:38 pm
    • Ahh but they didn’t have one. I asked. 🙂 I also went to the what-I-thought-was-a-doctor’s-office in the suite below the dentist but they were a lactation consultant’s office and they didn’t have any syringes. I was SOL!!

      06/11/17; 10:31 pm

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