The Red Wedding

If you’re reading this post and knew immediately what the title was referring to…rest assured that what you’re about to read is not nearly as dramatically violent as The Rains of Castamere episode of Game of Thrones. I just chose the title because it semi-accurately described what I encountered with my CGM at a weekend wedding I recently attended. And because the final season is here in a mere FOUR DAYS and I’m struggling to hold in my excitement/terror/anticipation.

Anyways, the day of said wedding began normally, if not a bit early. I put on makeup and a nice dress, tried (and somewhat failed) to curl my hair, and ate a light breakfast. Somewhere between slipping on my jewelry and singeing my hair with the curling iron, I heard my CGM’s alarm blaring, notifying me that my blood sugar was going up. That wasn’t surprising, since I’d just eaten food. But I was caught off-guard when it stopped alarming after two alerts went off…I hadn’t dismissed the previous two, so why was it no longer making any noise?

I checked the app on my phone and saw “sensor error” on the screen…and said out loud, “NOT today, diabetes,” as I promptly stopped my sensor and ripped it off my body. I didn’t even hesitate to do it because I knew that the sensor was due to be changed that evening, anyway, so I saw no harm in doing it a bit early.

“What?” My partner yelled from behind the bathroom door.

“Nothing, nothing,” I said dismissively, which reflected my determination to just brush this inconvenience away and stick a fresh sensor on my body.

Oh, if only it were that simple…

It should’ve been an easy, routine sensor change; alas, upon pressing the button on the insertion device, I let out a little pained squeak. Sensors don’t normally hurt, but every now and then, I get myself in a sensitive spot. And I definitely did this time around. Before popping the transmitter into the sensor, I noticed a bit of blood pooling underneath the sensor’s adhesive.

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Pools of blood as I make my way to a wedding…do you get the red wedding connection now?

Fortunately, this tale has a happier ending than it did for much of the *spoiler alert* Stark family. Sure, my sensor kinda freaked out when it warmed up two hours later and measured blood instead of interstitial fluid, and it took like 12 hours for it to get its act together and display my readings accurately, but…it all worked out in the end. And thankfully, not a single person had any clue that there was a patch of blood on my belly throughout the wedding…it didn’t even stain through my dress.

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Fearful and Falling in Target

What do they pump into the air at Target? Is it Afrezza or something? Because that seems like the only logical explanation for the phenomenon that seems to occur to most other fellow T1Ds when we step into a Target store.

Low blood sugars tend to happen at Target. Also known as “Target lows”, they can occur at any Target, big or small, no matter how long or short the shopping trip.

I experienced one last week. And it was severely exacerbated by the fact that I was visiting one in my new city for the first time by myself.

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Damn you, Target, for making my blood sugar go low during basically nine out of ten visits.

As you can see from my CGM screenshot, my blood sugar was definitely not low – not even close to it. I was in the mid-250s by the time I headed to the store, which is absolutely NOT where I like to be. But I didn’t take a correction bolus or even raise my basal insulin temporarily, because I guess I just had that feeling about my Target trip. I didn’t bother checking my CGM again after I parked, figuring that I’d do my best to make it a quick trip with minimal purchases.

Forty minutes (I’d been aiming for 20) after I’d stepped into the store and one semi-full cart (oops) later, I started feeling panicky and gasp-y. I told myself no, no, no, I wasn’t going low, I was just maybe reacting strangely to the scent of all the cleansers in the aisle I was occupying. I could deny it all I want, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I needed to pull my cart over, dig through my backpack, and locate my CGM so I could at least be informed of what my blood sugar was doing.

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Honestly, Target and all other retailers should just make glucose tablets free to any shoppers who are having a low moment.

So I did just that. Upon checking my Dexcom app and seeing that down arrow, I practically started hyperventilating. That’s when the following series of thoughts flew through my mind:

Okay, just get to the checkout…

Ugh, why is there only one open?! Guess you’ll have to self-checkout on low brain. Great…

OMG, Molly, you know you can only scan one item at a time…go faster!

You are NOT going to go down in this Target. Not today!!!

By some miracle, I successfully purchased my items and booked it to my car. Once I loaded everything inside, I suspended my insulin and shoved three glucose tablets into my mouth at once, chewing them so fast and furious that it probably deserved its own movie by the same name…(oh, but that’s taken *tee-hee*).

Normally, I would wait for my blood sugar to come back up before even thinking about driving home…but this wasn’t exactly a normal situation. I was on my one-hour lunch break from work, and I was rapidly approaching the 59-minute mark. The rational part of my brain (the way, way, super-far-back part) knew that I would be okay after about 15 minutes or so, but I was just so stressed about being alone in a strange city and wanted nothing more than to return to the safety of my apartment, pronto.

Of course, I had no idea how to actually get home – I needed my GPS to get to and from Target, and I’m sure I’ll need it to get basically anywhere for the foreseeable future – so I plugged my address into my phone’s GPS app.

And yet I STILL managed to take a wrong turn or three as I anxiously drove back to the apartment.

Less than 15 minutes later, I was parked and my shopping bags and I were inside my apartment. And that’s when I fell apart, feeling stupid for letting the low happen and getting lost on the way home…and feeling extra dumb for crying so hard about it.

Yeah, methinks that I’ll be running a temporary basal reduction the next time I plan a Target trip. I don’t want to be fearful and falling again any time soon.

 

T1D Plus the TSA Equals Trauma

I had a bit of a traumatizing experience at the airport a few weeks ago.

I travel fairly frequently – I’d estimate that I hop aboard a flight a dozen times or so per year. As a result, I’m well-versed in the TSA routine that goes down at every airport: Remove shoes/belts/items from pockets. Take laptops and electronic devices of similar size out of bags. Place 3-1-1 liquids in a visible spot. Let TSA agents know before stepping into the full-body scanner that I have T1D and wear a couple of devices. Step out of scanner and allow them to do a hand swab. Wait patiently for the results to come back clean, gather belongings, and move on to my gate.

It’s a very precise routine that I’ve come to anticipate and accept, so really, it’s no wonder that it was bad experience when it deviated sharply from the standard format on my last trip.

I was returning home from a long weekend in Washington, D.C. I queued myself up in the TSA line and when I got close enough to an agent, I let her know that I didn’t want to go through the full-body scanner, because I was wearing a medical device that couldn’t handle it. (The manual for my Dexcom G6 advises users to avoid full-body scanners and opt for pat-downs, metal detectors, or wands, as available. I’m a stickler for following the rules, so that’s why I stuck with the manual’s advice). I’ve had the pat-down before, and while I don’t love it, I knew it wouldn’t be intolerable.

As soon as another female agent was free to conduct the pat-down, I was waved over and subjected to the semi-embarrassing “free massage”. Once it was done, my hands were swabbed. If you aren’t familiar with the hand-swab process, it’s a protocol in which the TSA checks passengers’ hands for any traces of explosives. In other words? My swab always comes back clean.

Except this time, it didn’t. The machine dinged. This prompted a couple of TSA agents to consult one another before coming over to me and informing me that I’d have to wait an undisclosed period of time for another, higher-up female agent to come over, conduct a “more-thorough” pat-down, and forfeit my luggage for a closer inspection.

Deep down, I wasn’t worried because I knew that the more meticulous inspections would clear me for travel. But I couldn’t fight back against the anxiety that flooded throughout my body as I wondered how long I’d have to wait and how much more invasive this next pat-down would be. I struggled to conceal the tears that rolled down my cheeks as TSA agents seized my bags and rifled through them, ruining my careful packing techniques. I was humiliated, and practically had to beg them when I asked to see my cell phone and OmniPod PDM. (I could practically feel my blood sugar going up due to the stressful nature of the situation, so I wanted to check and correct it A.S.A.P.) It only got worse as I was pulled into a separate room and given a pat-down in which the agent actually pulled my pants away from my body to look down inside them, which is just as awful as it sounds. I know that they’re merely performing their job – I don’t fault them for that and appreciate that it’s far from glamorous – but it was horribly demeaning.

When I was finally told I could go, I wordlessly collected my belongings, fighting to shove them back into my suitcase. I made a beeline to the restroom to splash water on my face and calm down. As I waited to board my flight, curiosity took hold of me and I posted a poll on Twitter. I wanted to know if anyone else has ever had an experience like mine. Nearly 241 people answered my poll.

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And I was fascinated by the results. There was no overwhelming majority; in fact, it was rather solidly split down the middle, with only a few more people reporting a negative experience with the TSA. Many of those people responded directly to my poll with tweets of their own that described their experiences:

They nearly ripped my son’s inset out of his thigh for his pump one time. Another time they took his bottle of insulin & tested it & I understand explosives come in liquid form but he was 8 years old. Another time they performed a very thorough and humiliating body pat down on me in order for him to bring his insulin on board.

I’ve never had a difficult experience w/TSA on any flights- international or domestic. They’ve all been very professional & understanding when I said I have an insulin pump/all supplies. I’m sorry you had a tough time.

My husband has to take my daughter through because I completely lose my shit on them. Every single time a hand swipe test. Unbelievable and stigmatizing.

Almost every single time and it infuriates me. They treat your supplies like you’re part of the drug cartel. One held up my bag and with so much attitude “excuse me? What is this?” And I said my medicine and another passenger screamed at the agent saying “you can’t do that!”

Same thing happened to me! They tore apart and destroyed so many of my supplies and I just watched helplessly while crying. If 29 million Americans have diabetes why is TSA so oblivious to what it looks like?!!

While these replies validated to me that I wasn’t overreacting, they also made me sad. Angry. Frustrated. Why is this a thing in some airports? Why isn’t there a better protocol in place for people with diabetes?

Perhaps the most irritating part of it all is that I don’t know for sure why this whole thing happened in the first place. I assumed that it was a fluke on the machine’s end, but after corroborating stories with so many other T1Ds, it’s got me wondering…was my diabetes a red flag of sorts to the agents? Did they think that my supplies were disguised and could be something harmful?

Again, I don’t want to discount the work that the TSA does to help keep travelers safe. I truly do appreciate it and I know that experiences vary at airports all across the world. But…we can do better. Traveling should be fun and exciting, not traumatizing.

That Time I Asked Someone to Prove Their Diabetes to Me

It was not my finest moment.

Yes, I doubted someone when they claimed to have diabetes. But there was no ill intent! Let me explain.

I worked at a local movie theater for five and a half years. During that time, I was trained to work the concession stand, sell tickets at the box office, and clean theaters with the ushers. More often than not, I was happiest working in the box office – it was nice and quiet when there weren’t any lines of customers to contend with, but when there were, time flew by as I worked at a frantic pace to get through the line as fast as I could.

One of my responsibilities as a ticket seller was to check to see what people were taking into the theaters with them. Mainly, I was supposed to make sure that outside foods or beverages weren’t making their way into our theaters, for a few reasons: 1) to encourage customers to buy snacks/drinks at our concession stand, 2) to reduce the possibility of customers leaving behind terrible messes for the ushers to clean up, and 3) to help ensure the comfort of other customers – after all, no one particularly enjoys the sharp stench of raw onions or malodorous tuna fish sandwiches.

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You have diabetes? Well, prove it! (At least I didn’t ask the kid to take a shot or show me his pump. That would’ve been over the top.)

So I was merely following protocol on this particular day when I asked a teenage boy to throw away his mysterious styrofoam food container once he entered the lobby. He looked at me, unsmiling, and said, “I have diabetes, I can’t throw it away.”

It’d been a long afternoon dealing with irate customers and pesky teenagers, so I figured he was just being bratty and didn’t want to toss the food he’d clearly just purchased from the mall. This is when I retorted back with, “Oh, really? I have type one diabetes, myself. Do you actually have it, too?”

He nodded. His face was expressionless, which made me even more suspicious. If I’d been in his shoes, I probably would’ve been a bit more emotional/passionate about my need to keep my food with me. His poker face prodded me into asking this next question, which nearly seven or so years later still makes me feel ashamed when I remember it:

“Well, then, show me your medical ID or your meter, or some other diabetes supplies!”

Ugh, I can practically hear my defiant tone. I was so certain I was about to catch a fibber! Alas, the boy lifted his arm to show off the gleaming medical ID hanging from his wrist. Again, he was completely wordless and his face betrayed no emotion – and for a beat, I couldn’t say anything, either…though I felt the blood rushing rapidly into my cheeks as I found my voice again.

“Oh, I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You’re all set to take the food in with you,” I said in a tone much higher for me than normal. I’m pretty sure I smacked my hand to my forehead out of pure embarrassment as he walked away.

To this day, I still can’t help but cringe when I reflect on this interaction that couldn’t have lasted more than two or three minutes. I felt horrible about it, but I guess that the one good thing that came from it is that it taught me to be a little more compassionate when I witness situations like this. Rather than assuming the worst, I should try to see the other side of the coin and view things a bit more rationally.

So to that teenage boy, who I never saw again: Please accept my extremely-belated but utterly sincere apology for that exchange of words.

Money Talks, Low Blood Sugar Slurs

Somewhere between Class A, B, and C share mutual funds, I got lost. That familiar fog clouded my brain and I had trouble focusing my gaze on anything, let alone absorbing any of the information being shared with me. I felt like I must’ve nodded my head so many times over the course of the conversations that I probably resembled a bobble-head. Words tumbled slowly, awkwardly, out of my mouth: I babbled “yup” and “right” over and over again to show that I was still engaged, even though I absolutely wasn’t.

What was wrong with me? I was having a low blood sugar in the middle of my (first-ever) meeting with a financial advisor. Stellar!!!

Obviously, I made it through the meeting fine. I got back to my car, tested my blood sugar, discovered that I was 66, and corrected it with three glucose tablets. I wiped my hands together, watching glucose dust puff up into the air like a cloud, and chided myself for not taking action sooner than that moment. I suppose I didn’t want to alarm the advisor by sticking a needle into my finger in the the middle of our meeting, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing what I must do, medically speaking, in other situations. Ordinarily, I would have calmly explained, “I have type one diabetes. I think I’m experiencing a low blood sugar right now. Do you mind if I check my blood sugar here, or could you please direct me to a place where I can do that?” I would also let the person know that I’d be fine either way, I just wanted to be sure so I could focus my energy back onto them and not my diabetes.
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I’m not really sure what was different about this particular low blood sugar event, but I didn’t do the “right” thing because I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt the advisor’s train of thought. But waiting nearly thirty minutes into experiencing these symptoms could have caused things to turn out much differently. My blood sugar could have gone even lower, and it could have become an embarrassing or scary situation for both of us.

I guess this’ll serve as a reminder to myself to speak up. It’s okay to interrupt, because my health and safety (and potentially the health and safety of another person) is at risk. It’s not rude, it’s good common sense.

How Raising a Puppy is Like Dealing with Diabetes

“Aw, she’s so cute! What’s her name? What kind of dog is she?” The woman stooped down to the ground to take a closer look at Clarence, my 12-week old Shetland Sheepdog – who is a boy.

I patiently answered her questions, knowing she wasn’t really paying attention. After all, she was totally distracted by my adorable little pup.

The man who accompanied her – undoubtedly her partner – was chattier. He looked at me, almost condescendingly, and said something about how this must be my first dog.

Nonplussed, I said, “Actually, this is my family’s third Sheltie. The last time we had a puppy like Clarence here, I was practically a baby myself.”

“Well, you know, I noticed that you’re buying puppy pads. You really shouldn’t do that if you want to get your dog housebroken, it’ll only encourage it to go indoors.” If I thought he was bordering on condescending before, he was definitely laying it on thick now.

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I hastily responded by telling him how the puppy chow that Clarence is eating is salty, and the high salt intake results in frequent puppy puddles in the kitchen. It’s virtually impossible to ensure that Clarence is outside every single time that he has to pee, so the puppy pads have been a huge help. I trailed off, wondering why I had felt the need to provide this stranger with an explanation that wouldn’t matter to him.

The man shrugged, clearly unimpressed by this answer, and walked away.

Upon reflection, this mildly irritating encounter turned into a bit of a metaphor for what life with diabetes is like. People you don’t know bombard you with questions about it. You answer as best as you can, hoping that your replies help these inquisitive folks understand diabetes better than they did before. But this ray of hope is quickly dimmed when the questioners run out of things to ask and begin to tell you how you should manage your diabetes. It’s baffling when it happens because you didn’t ask for advice, but you somehow get an earful of it every damn time.

So I guess in this way, diabetes is a little like raising a puppy. There will be highs and lows, good days and bad days. And unsolicited advice will be dished to you by strangers, even though nobody knows your diabetes – or your dog – the way that you do.