Memory Monday: My Lowest Low Blood Sugar

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the lowest low blood sugar that I ever experienced. So low, in fact, that I never actually found out how low it reached. Scary stuff.

lost in stockholm

Admittedly, my memory’s a little fuzzy when it comes to recollecting what exactly happened, but here’s what I remember: It was my sophomore or junior year of high school. I woke up in the morning and checked my blood sugar – or so I thought. In reality, I think I imagined checking my blood sugar, or perhaps I went through the motions of doing it without actually getting a reading.

Regardless, I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen, where I encountered my mother. I told her that I wanted “special cake”.

I remember her looking at me with worried eyes and asking me what I was saying. All I can recall is that I asked for special cake two or three more times before getting totally frustrated with her. How could she not understand my request for Special K cereal?

That’s right, in my stupor, I thought I was saying that I wanted Special K cereal for breakfast. But I didn’t realize that my low blood sugar was causing me to slur so badly that my words weren’t coming out clearly.

I vaguely remember my mom’s panicked reaction as she figured out that I must be experiencing a low. I think she asked me what my blood sugar was, and when I couldn’t tell her because I didn’t remember, she knew it was time to force some orange juice down my throat. I was conscious for that, but it’s like it was erased from my memory – I have no recollection of drinking the juice or what the moments after that were like.

I wound up going to school late that morning, only to have to go home less than halfway through the day. My low “hangover” was so bad that I felt nauseous in my classes and couldn’t concentrate on the lessons.

Obviously, I fully recovered from the incident. Even though my memory is shoddy at best when it comes to remembering the whole experience, the mere fragments that I can recall are enough to make me scared to ever go through something like that again. It’s a reminder that diabetes can be terrifying, but living with it is a reality that I have no choice but to accept – fears and all.

Must Be Hypo, Super Low

Today’s blog post is part 2 of my re-imagining of two classic Christmas carols! Last week’s rendition was all about high blood sugar, so of course, this week has to be about the opposite: low blood sugar, also known as hypos!

This blog post is for my extended family, who will simultaneously appreciate and cringe at my spin on the holiday classic, “Must Be Santa”. Unfamiliar with the tune? Click this link to listen to the original, and maybe even sing along using my oh-so creative lyrics, below!

Must be hypo, super low
Must be Santa – I mean, hypo.

Must be Hypo

Who’s got a blood sugar that’s dropping quick?
I’ve got a blood sugar dropping quick
Who needs a juice box to do the trick?
I need a juice box to do the trick
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Who’s got too much insulin on board?
I’ve got too much insulin on board
Who has a massive candy hoard?
I have a massive candy hoard
Insulin on board, candy hoard
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Who’s got a red sweaty face that glows?
I’ve got a red sweaty face that glows
Who is cursing at their CGM, “no, no, no!”
I’m cursing at my CGM, “no, no, no!”
No, no, no, face that glows
Insulin on board, candy hoard
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Who very soon will come back up?
I very soon will come back up
15 carbs, perhaps a Reese’s cup?
I ate 15 carbs, thanks to my Reese’s cup
Reese’s cup, come back up
No, no, no, face that glows
Insulin on board, candy hoard
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low

 

The Emotions of Low Blood Sugar

Previously, I’ve written about what it feels like to have low blood sugar. While many people with T1D feel the same symptoms as me when they experience a low, there are even more who experience a wider variety of emotions and sensations.

Renza, a T1D Twitter friend of mine, did a little investigating into how others would describe what it’s like to have a low blood sugar. She sent a tweet that read:

friends. I’m crowdsourcing (again). If you had to use ONE WORD to describe how hypos/lows feel to you, what would it be. Go!! #Hypoglycaemia

She received nearly 100 responses, which I’ve compiled into the below graphic.

Capture

Looking at this word collage is a bit startling because it represents the vast array of feelings associated with low blood sugar. Most of them are negative. A handful of them start with the prefix “dis”, which describes something with an opposing force. A couple of them relate to feelings associated with eating. And just about all of them can be summed up as sensations that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

To me, this graphic serves as a stark reminder that diabetes is more than just a chronic illness that affects the body: It affects the mind, too.

Favorite Things Friday: Mini Boxes of Yogurt-Covered Raisins

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

Mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins is an oddly specific kind of food, but they’ve literally saved my life (and my mom’s) hundreds of times.

I’m almost certain that I introduced these raisins into our low supply kit because I was looking for something that 1) was portable 2) had 10-15 grams of carbs 3) could be quick and easy to consume and 4) wasn’t glucose tablets (I get sick of them). I must’ve been browsing through the aisles of the grocery store when I found a bag containing 10 mini boxes of raisins. Clocking in at exactly 10 grams of carbs per box, they seemed to fit the bill nicely. I brought them on a trip to Disney World soon after buying my first bag, and that sealed the deal for me. They proved to be super convenient throughout the trip and helped prevent me from over-correcting my lows, which was huge for me.

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A box of raisins adjacent to my OmniPod PDM. I can easily fit several boxes of raisins into my purse, along with my other diabetes supplies.

Since that trip, the raisins have become a go-to low treatment for me and my mom, who agrees that they work just as well as glucose tablets. They’re much tastier than glucose tablets, and qualify as a healthier way to treat a low. As tempting as it might be to treat with Skittles or Starbursts, I struggle to control my intake of the candy when dealing with a particularly icky low. The raisins are already perfectly portioned, so that eliminates the can’t-stop-won’t-stop (eat ALL the foods!) feeling that can make dealing with low blood sugars difficult.

The raisins are excellent on the go, too. I can pop a box of them in the car, at my office desk, in the gym, or at church. I’ve even whipped them out at bars, and my friends get a bit of a chuckle when I down them like a shot of alcohol. But honestly, they’re so discreet and go down so easily that most of the time, people don’t even notice that I’m eating them. And if people aren’t noticing yet another part of my otherwise very prominent diabetes care kit, then that suits me just fine!

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.
IMG_6428

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.

“I’ll Have a Regular Soda, Please.”

A funny thing about life with diabetes is that new experiences occur all the time. For example, this was a first for me the other day: ordering a regular soda at a restaurant instead of a diet.

Why was this necessary? I chalk it up to a few different factors that affected my blood sugar: 1) I did strength training earlier in the day, which can make me go low several hours after the fact. 2) I ignored the diagonal down arrow that had appeared on my CGM, because I really didn’t think I’d end up below 100 mg/dL before dinner. 3) It took a long time for our dinner to come out, and I’d made the rookie mistake of bolusing soon after ordering the food. 4) I also think I miscalculated the carbs in my dinner – I’m used to ordering this particular dish, a cajun chicken salad, with a beer or two. But since I gave up alcohol for Lent (more on this in an upcoming blog post), I wasn’t getting the extra carbs from the beer, which I forgot to take into account.

So yeah, in hindsight, I could’ve seen the low blood sugar coming. But I just didn’t anticipate some of these occurrences, such as our food coming out late. This particular restaurant is usually timely, but since it was a Saturday evening and the bar was rapidly filling up, I should’ve connected the dots.

IMG_5443
Diet Coke has a special place in my part, but in a hypoglycemic emergency, it just won’t cut it.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. There was nothing I could do about my rapidly dropping blood sugar, unless I bit the bullet and ordered a regular soda. Shoving my diet root beer to the side, I flagged down my semi-bemused bartender and asked for a regular Pepsi, trying to ignore the fact that he was joking about how “diet just wouldn’t do it for me any longer, eh”.

If only he knew that the circumstances required sugar, stat.

It only took him about 60 seconds to deliver the Pepsi, but it felt like a long time. My CGM alerted me to an urgent low and things around me were a little fuzzy. I was trying to engage in conversation with my companions, who knew that I was going low, but maybe weren’t aware of how quickly I was going down due to my determination to appear normal.

Once my Pepsi arrived, I gulped down several sips and sighed with relief as my dinner appeared soon after. I wolfed down every last bit of it within 15 minutes, taking breaks only to drink a little more soda. I knew I needed to control how much I drank, because I didn’t want to end up sky high later on in the night.

Fortunately, my blood sugar was coming back up to normal within no time, and I actually didn’t even go higher than 172 mg/dL for the remainder of the night. A huge win, all things considered. Even though it was a somewhat scary experience, I’m glad I did what I needed to in order to take proper care of myself…even if that meant drinking regular soda, which was actually pretty gross. How do people actually enjoy that saccharine sludge?!

Testing for Accuracy, in Addition to Blood Glucose

Blood glucose meters serve the sole purpose of checking current levels of glucose in the blood. Pretty self-explanatory, right? And it’s equally obvious that it’s crucial for all meters to generate accurate results so PWD can make the right treatment decisions based on those numbers.

Unfortunately, though, accuracy isn’t always what I get.

The other day, I was running low before bedtime. I corrected with an organic rice crispy treat (honestly, it was a million times better than the brand name kind). I waited nearly an hour for my blood sugar to come up. When my CGM wasn’t showing any progress, I tested: I was 47. It’s rare for me to be that low, so I tested again. 52. I believed it, especially since I was experiencing several hypoglycemic symptoms.

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My unicorn bg quickly turned into A Situation.

I chugged a glass of orange juice and plopped down on the couch to wait for signs of improvement. Before long, I was freezing cold – a sure sign I was coming up, because I had been sweating 20 minutes prior. But I didn’t feel comfortable going to bed yet. I wanted to see if my CGM would show an up arrow. When it finally did, I made my way upstairs to brush my teeth and wash my face. In the middle of my routine, though, I decided to glance at my CGM again – and saw the dreaded ??? screen.

I decided then that the Dexcom should be out of commission, a.k.a. not trusted at all, for the remainder of the evening.

I ripped it out and inserted a fresh one, not really caring that it would wake me up in two hours to be calibrated. I would need to set at least two alarms for the middle of the night, anyways, if I decided to go to bed disconnected from my Dex. So it just made sense.

Once that was done, I tested again. I was pretty tired at this point and really didn’t want to have to eat something else, so I did it as quickly as I could. In my haste, I jostled my meter just so – enough that I saw the test strip, already marked with my blood, move slightly as it brushed against my PDM and was placed next to it.

113 mg/dL flashed upon the screen. Normally, I’d be thrilled! But I furrowed my brow. Something just felt…off about that reading. So I tested again.

206.

What?!

I tested a third time – 203. Okay, something was definitely wrong. Either that 113 was wrong (likely) or my meter had just produced two wildly inaccurate blood sugars in a row (less likely).

This is one of the many times that it’s convenient to live with another PWD. I asked my mom if I could borrow her test kit and see what result it generated. Seconds later…a twin 203 popped up on the screen, reassuring me that the 113 was a fluke on my meter.

Relief with the reality and irritation with the technology washed over me simultaneously as I went to correct the high with a bolus. I was glad I wasn’t heading down again, but irked that my meter had failed me. True, it was a bit of human error there, but aren’t we at a point in technological advancements where this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen? I put my life into the “hands” of my meter, Dexcom, and OmniPod. They should produce results that are undoubtedly accurate.

I guess we aren’t quite there yet.