Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘low blood sugar’

Sparkly, Like Her Shoes.

As a family, we went to dinner and Birdy’s sequin-covered shoes sparkled furiously in the afternoon sunlight.  Her shoes were downright distracting and I found myself low-staring at them, focusing on the individual sparkles being projected onto the tablecloth at the restaurant.  My brain had hit an uncomfortably steady pace with the anxiety of being under 60 mg/dL for more than two hours, adjusting to the panic but still needing an outlet.  Staring at the glitter on my daughter’s shoes calmed my brain down just enough.

We ordered and ate, and a meal plated with carbs and less-than-normal bolusing still didn’t battle back against the low alarm from my Dexcom.  I felt like a failure, asking Chris to grab a glass of juice from the waitress as my empty dinner plate sat in front of me.

“I’m still low.”  I tested my blood sugar again, hoping to see a number that didn’t require more glucose tabs, hoping the Dexcom was wrong, but a bright 43 mg/dL grinned back at me.  I knew the food would hit but not fast enough.  “Yeah, I need juice now.”

In a quiet hurry, I heard the background noise of hypo management done from a distance.  “I need a glass of juice.”  “Would you like lemonade?”  “No, juice.  Do you have orange juice?”  “We have apple juice.”  “That, then.  Please.”  Chris sat back down at the table while Birdy bounced and played beside me, her shoes throwing sparkles onto the table that were spreading out everywhere, my eyes starting to cave to the low blood sugar.  Peripheral vision was being replaced by these starbursts that were sparkly, like her shoes.  I felt my body pulling in tight and rallying glucose, sending it to the places that were necessary and not caring that I couldn’t hold a fork or keep my mouth from twisting into a resting bitch face/uncomfortable grimace.

Dinner tumbled into a pile of apologies and distractions because I couldn’t get my wits about me, and even once my blood sugar was stable (back up to 72 mg/dL), it still wasn’t staying up, and tumbled again a few more times before bed.

It doesn’t look like much, from the outside.  It’s hard to explain how silent the panic is, how evacuated my brain feels when the hypos hit and stay for too long.  I don’t know how to show someone a Dexcom graph that looks like this and explain how it’s not just the blood sugar number, but the cumulative effect on my body – the exhaustion in my muscles from being clenched in fight-or-flight mode, the sleep my brain needs after a five hour low blood sugar experience, my inability to find the words for what I want to say because my mind is just like, “We’re DONE.”

I woke up with a blood sugar of 230 mg/dL this morning, the product of answering low alarms with frustration and marshmallows, and I corrected the number with the predetermined, carefully calculated amount of insulin.  And I hoped that, for today, diabetes would leave the sparkles on my daughter’s shoes.

Looking Back: Dining Out.

I love going out on the town for the night
And having a meal by a soft candlelight
(Because I know, at a restaurant, meals are yummy;
For the food isn’t prepped, touched, or cooked by me.)
But to dine with type 1 can be quite complex,
Because restaurant food has a whole set of specs
That require some SWAG’ing; carbs seem to inflate
As you wonder what’s really down there on your plate.

“Excuse me, but does the salmon have a glaze?
Is it covered in sugary, caramelized haze?”
I ask of the waiter, tuning in as he states
That the glaze can be brought on the side of my plate.
My soda arrives, and I ask, “Is this diet?”
As I bring the glass up to my lips just to try it.
“It is,” he responds, and he watches my face
As I try to assess the fizzy soda’s taste.

Moments later, I notice that something is wrong.
I’m not sure my thoughts are where they belong.
My brain is all foggy, my hands feel so weak,
I’m having some trouble with words while I speak.
Did I bolus too early?  Did I miscount the carbs?
Is it something I did to make Dex go on guard?
There are glucose tabs right here in my purse,
But I know that I’ll feel better if I have juice first.

My husband is almost up, quick as a blink
To go to the bar to grab something to drink.
But it’s not a big deal; I chomp tabs while I wait
For the waiter to come back and fill up our plates.
He comes back for our order, but I’m not quite ready.
My Dex shows my numbers as slightly unsteady,
With double-down arrows beaming; so unkind.
“Can I have an orange juice, if you don’t mind?”

I see his confusion. The gears start to grind.
I hear the thoughts churning inside of his mind.
“She didn’t want glaze, and her soda was diet.
The bread was right here, but she didn’t try it.
What’s up with this girl? Selective sweet tooth?
Whatever. My job is to bring her the juice.”
He walks off to the bar to bring back something sweeter
While I quickly confirm the Dex trend with my meter.

“Here you go,” and I down it in one giant gulp,
Not caring for class, or a straw, or the pulp.
“Thank you so very much,” I reply with a smile
And try to regain some semblance of my mind.
My husband distracts me with soft, gentle chatter
While the orange juice fixes the thing that’s the matter.
And the moments that pass are quick in real life
But it’s hard for him, watching a low change his wife.

A few minutes later, things are as they were.
I’m no longer sounding all drunk, with a slur.
The waiter comes back with his menu pad out
And we tell him the entrees we’d like to try out.
Our date night moves forward without any trouble.
(The waiter’s confused, but i don’t burst his bubble.)
It’s not a big deal; it was just a quick thing.
But it’s always a riddle, what diabetes will bring.

(This poem was originally published back in January 2012.  It’s from the past.  And I am in Canada, where the poutine lives.)

Hypo Effery.

BEEEEEPBEEEEEPBEEEEEP!!

My purse start vibrating in a panic.

79 mg/dL and two arrows down – how the hell did that happen?  I just dropped my daughter off at preschool.  My blood sugar was 139 mg/dL before leaving the house with a steady, easterly arrow.

I pulled the car over and put on my hazard lights so I could bust out my glucose meter.  (Oh hell yes I treat low blood sugars purely based on a Dexcom reading from a trusted sensor, but this sensor is on Day 14 and due to be changed this afternoon, so my trust was getting rusty.  Trusty?  Rustworthy.  Bah.)  Meter said 68 mg/dL.

The symptoms, which weren’t strong when I pulled over, were starting to edge in.  Shaky hands and blurred vision (almost wrote “blurred bison,” which sounds like a band name) paved the way for clammy skin, which let the fog of hypoglycemia settle into my brain.

Fine then.  I reached into the glove compartment for the ubiquitous jar of glucose tabs.  Chomp, chomp on four of them only to realize they aren’t Glucolift but instead the generic chalkified glucose tabs from CVS and became grossed out.  The low symptoms were intensifying as I sat on the side of the road, so being picky about my glucose sources wasn’t an option.  Chomp, chomp on another tab, wishing I could somehow keep a soft-serve ice cream machine in the glove compartment instead.

Moments pass.  I’m still buckled into my car, eating snacks, watching cars whiz by.  The Dexcom finally shows an upward climbing arrow.  My hairline feels less clammy.  The shape of the steering wheel and the radio control knobs come back into sharp focus.  Better.

“Did you check your GPS?” my mom asks me whenever we’re about to get into the car together.

“Mom, it’s a CGM.  And yes, I did check it,” I reply, usually laughing because no matter how many times I tell her it’s a “CGM,” she still calls it a “GPS.”

But as I think about what may have happened if the low symptoms hit in full while I was driving instead of after I had pulled over, GPS might me just as accurate, giving me the location, in context, of what the hell my blood sugars are doing.

 

Put On Your Listening Ears.

Our backyard is big and lovely and fenced in on all sides so that when Birdy and I are playing outside, we’re both safe from cars and giant woodland creatures (except the ones that can shimmy underneath the fence … I’m looking at you, groundhog).  I don’t keep my eyes glued to her while she plays, and we can enjoy the sunshine and the garden without feeling paranoid about passing cars, wandering off, etc.

Which is exactly what sucks about the front yard, because that’s the part of the house that the road is closest to.  So while I still need to do things in the front yard (getting the mail, tending the front garden, drawing hopscotch in the driveway), I don’t do anything of those things without having Birdzone front and center in both my mind and my actual line of sight.

Yesterday evening, Birdy and I were working in the front yard garden (I was clearing out some weeds and she was making “houses” for worms we discovered underneath a rock), when my Dexcom started wailing from my pocket.  In retrospect, I felt a little “off,” but it wasn’t until I heard the low alarm blaring from the Dexcom receiver that the symptoms kicked in fully.

“Hey, your blood sugar is whoa, Mom,” Birdy said absently, placing another worm onto a pile of dirt.

“Yeah, we need to go inside and get some snacks, okay?  It’s important,” I replied, looking at the “UNDER 65 MG/DL” warning on the Dexcom screen.

Normally, she listens.  Especially when it’s about blood sugars, because Chris and I have talked with her a few times about how listening is important, particularly when I tell her my blood sugar is low.  But she wanted to stay outside.  She liked playing with the worms.  She liked being in the dirt and gardening.  She didn’t want to have to cut playtime short because Mommy needed a few glucose tabs that she should have brought outside with her in the first place.  [Insert Mom Guilt here.]

“Nooooo waaaaaaay!!!” she said, flouncing away from me and refusing to turn around.

Under normal circumstances, I would have laughed (because “No way!” is a great response), but I was starting to feel shaky and my brain cells connections felt loose, like thoughts weren’t coupling up the right way.  We were in the front yard and I knew I needed to gain control of all potentially dangerous situations in a hurry.

“We need.  To go.  INSIDE right now.  My blood sugar is low.  This is not a joke.” I said.

“No!  I don’t waaaaaaant to!!”

My blood sugar falls fast.  It always has.  I don’t get the long, lingering slides towards hypoglycemia but instead the quick, breathless plummets.  Knowing that I was dropping and watching yet another car drive by our house meant I needed to get control fast and without issue.

Before my body completely caved to the low blood sugar, I scooped up my flailing daughter and walked into the house.  She was freaking out and still forcefully asserting her right to “NOOOO!” but I needed sugar more than I needed her to like me.  A few seconds later, we were both safely contained in the kitchen.  I had a few glucose tabs and waited for my brain to acknowledge them.  Birdy pouted in the corner, staring at her hands and still mumbling, “No way.”

A few minutes later, I felt more human.  “Birdy, I’m sorry we had to come inside.  But my blood sugar was low and it could have become an emergency.  So that’s why you needed to put your listening ears on and come inside.  I wasn’t doing it to be mean; I was doing it to be safe.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t stay outside.  But we can go back out now, okay?”

“Okay.  I’m sorry I didn’t listen.”

“It’s okay.”

She turned around and pressed her hand into mine.  Something wriggled.  She smiled.

“I brought a worm inside.”

No way.

 

Functionally Low.

The Dexcom yelled at me from the kitchen table – “BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BEEEEP!” – and I double-checked the alarm just to make sure I was actually low, since I’d been basal testing all morning long and I’m always wary of my graph when it’s nice-happy-in-range.

(Note:  It’s really, really easy to test basal rates when you take a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston and don’t sleep for even a minute on the flight, causing you to fall asleep for three hours when you finally get home to RI at 7 am, leaving you in the “No Eat Zone” from like 3 am – 11 am.  Exhaustion makes for easy basal testing.)

Sure enough, the alarms were right, confirmed by the 58 mg/dL on my meter.

Four glucose tabs, down the hatch.

Symptoms were alive and kicking on this low.  Numb lips, tingly mouth, that restless feeling in my arms where I suppress the urge to flap them, and the settling in of the low fog, where all my thoughts are smoky and loose at the edges, not fitting together entirely and leaving gaps between moments of clear reason, leaving all thoughts that made sense clouded with a big, “NOPE.”

The Dexcom showed me as still dropping ten minutes later – the dreaded double-down arrows – so I went for some juice.  Only it wasn’t a “stop and have a measured sip of juice” but more “grab a swig of juice right from the bottle while you walk by the fridge” because I couldn’t sit down for this one.

Some lows are disgusting and debilitating and don’t leave any wiggle room for choice.  But other lows (like the cleaning lows or the endless lows) have their own idiosyncrasies and distinct patterns.  This low felt like a functional low, where my blood sugar is in a ditch but I’m still able to walk around and talk, despite being in the 40 – 60 mg/dL range.  And if I were to sit down and actually acknowledge the low in full, the symptoms would take over and I’d be trapped.

Which left me wandering around the house, picking up toys that had escaped from Birdy’s room and absently looking out the windows or at my phone, focusing intently upon the mundane instead on the lack of sugar in my blood stream, while at the same time snacking on glucose tabs and peering at my Dexcom.  Chris saw me shuffling around the house and gave me some raised eyebrows.

“You okay?”

“Yep.  Low.  I already had juice,” which is Sparling-speak for, “I’m definitely low and I know I look scattered right now, but don’t worry; I’ve had juice and am just impatiently waiting for it to work.”

About thirty minutes later (after I had examined individual leaves on the houseplants in order to think about anything other than hypoglycemia), the Dexcom graph showed arrows pointing back towards safety.  Only then did my brain take the nope-filters off and let me calculate the total carbs consumed, and the potential blood sugar boost that might be coming.

 

Mommy’s Little Pack Mule.

Running alone brings out the Spibelt, and I cram it full of my on-the-move necessities:  glucose tabs, Dexcom receiver, keys, and phone.  Even though it’s reasonably streamlined and doesn’t bother me too much to tote around all that stuff, it’s a bulkier system than, oh, I don’t know … making my own insulin.

But lo!  The child rides a bike!  And insisted on having a bicycle basket!  To which I said, “Yes!  Excellent idea and can you please carry all my shit, too?” only I did not cuss at the child!

The miles might be logged a little slower than when I’m by myself, but there’s nothing more convenient than making use of her bike basket to carry all my diabetes stuff, and I love sharing some outside play moments with my daughter.

And she likes being in charge of such important things, since she is a “big girl” and can “carry the glucose tabs because then if I want a very, very, very small bite of a glucose tabs, I can just reach in and have one, right, Mawm?”

“Sure.  But only if you make sure you slow down if I need a glucose tab, okay?”

Bartering with my happy little helper of a diabetes pack mule.

Looking Back: Lows in Public.

On the road this week, so I’m looking back at a post from June 2012 about experiencing hypoglycemia in a public place.  It’s never fun to be low, but I’m always grateful for the patience and compassion of others who help see me back to being in-range.

*   *   *

I heard the Dexcom BEEEEEEP!ing in that frantic, “you’re low” kind of tone and my brain was swimming with confusion, so I went to the bar at the dinner event and asked for an orange juice.

“Do you want vodka in that, as well?”

“No, definitely no thank you.  Just juice, please.”

The bartender filled up a small tumbler with orange juice and I downed the contents of the glass in one giant gulp.

“Thanks,” I said, and wandered off, fishing my meter from my bag to get a true assessment of how far down the rabbit hole I’d fallen.

There isn’t ever a convenient time for a low.  I suppose the ones that happen when I’m at home and are only in the 60 mg/dL range and can be treated with the logical and tempered rationing of glucose tabs are better than the ones that happen in public.  When you’re at a dinner event and you’re trying to meet people and make a favorable (or at the very least, coherent) impression, it’s not the most opportune time for a 38 mg/dL to make an appearance.

Once I saw the number on the meter, I became this strange, hypoglycemic bear, foraging for food and ready to growl at anyone in my way.  The very nice waiter who was bringing appetizers around to the attendees ended up with an empty plate after I had my way with him.  (Which sounds worse than it actually was; he only had three snacks left, but I snagged them and might have bared my teeth at him in the process.)  My low symptoms were peaking, with tears in my eyes and confusion on my tongue and every skin cell buzzing with panic and adrenaline.

I do not like being low in front of people.  I don’t like that momentary weakness and the vulnerability and that empty, lost look I’ve been told takes over my eyes.  I don’t like that lack of control.  I don’t like when my knees buckle while I trying to keep myself upright.  I don’t like the look of “Are you okay?” that comes over the faces of most people, because it’s one of the very few times I have to answer, “No, I’m not.”

Thankfully, I was at a diabetes-related event, surrounded by people who either had diabetes, cared for someone with diabetes, or worked to cure diabetes.  So when I casually mentioned to Jeff Hitchcock that my blood sugar was tanking and I didn’t know what was going on, I was ushered quickly and covertly to a seat at a nearby dinner table so I could make sense of things.

“I’m fine, you know.  I had juice.  I’ll be fine in just a few minutes,” I said, folding and refolding the napkin on the table while I waited for my blood sugar to respond to the juice.

“I know,” he said, his voice calm and reasoned.  “We’ll wait.”

As it always does, the panic subsided.  My blood sugar came back up into range (and went up just a bit more than it needed to, thanks to downing that whole glass of orange juice).  And I was able to rejoin the dinner conversation without needing a three-minute lapse between thoughts, thankful for people who “know.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers