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.
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.
What is LDM? According to my mother, it stands for Lovely Diabetes Mystery. The “lovely”, of course, is sarcastic, whereas the “diabetes” and “mystery” relate to a random, unforeseen diabetes medical incident – which occurred to me on Sunday, October 7th.
I woke up that morning with some abdominal pain. I rolled over soon after waking to check my CGM, and was startled to see that I’d be in the 300s for most of the night as I was sleeping. I quickly bolused for it using my PDM, and shut my eyes, hoping to get some more rest and to wake up again without stomach discomfort.
No such luck. About an hour later, I opened my eyes and looked at my PDM again, and I had barely come down. I tested to confirm, and sure enough, I’d only gone down a few points. I was worried, which was exacerbated by the weird nausea I was having. Could this be a sign of something more serious?
My mother convinced me to do a manual injection with a syringe. We both figured that that would help bring my numbers down faster, and that if I started coming down quickly, then it could mean that the pod I had just applied the day before was not working properly. We agreed that I should probably change it, to err on the side of caution.
However, I didn’t get to change my pod until much later in the day. That’s because of what happened soon after I took my manual injection.
I went to use the bathroom, certain that the churning of my stomach meant that I was about to be sick. I was standing in front of the toilet when I started sweating – profusely. On top of that, my vision went all fuzzy, and I felt totally disoriented. I knew something was wrong, so I called out for help.
My mom raced into the bathroom to find me seated on the floor, dripping in sweat. I placed myself on the floor deliberately because I was worried I might pass out and injure myself. She started cooling me down with a wet facecloth, and searched through the drawers to find a thermometer to check my temperature. She also grabbed her test kit and my lancing device, because naturally, we both assumed that perhaps my blood sugar was dropping rapidly from the insulin injection, and it might be a hypoglycemic event.
But when we checked my blood sugar, I was still in the high 200s. I was pretty scared at this point and just wanted the sweating to stop and for my vision to clear. That’s when my dad came in and made the executive decision to call an ambulance for me.
A police officer, three firefighters, and two EMTs showed up my house. I answered questions in my confused state. My vision restored and the sweating stopped, but I still felt weak and woozy. They put me into the ambulance. I was given an IV bag and medication for the nausea. It was my first time in an ambulance and it was not exciting, just weird. I didn’t like riding backwards or experiencing the twists and turns along the way.
We arrive to the hospital. I’m whisked away into the ER. I answer a series of questions from various medical students and nurses and doctors. They draw blood for tests. I give them a urine sample for more testing. I keep on explaining the concept of my OmniPod to each one of them. No one seems to have seen it before, besides one med student who has a sister who works for Insulet. Small world!
We monitor my blood sugar closely. My tests come back normal. I eat my first foods for the day around 2 P.M.: sugar-free jello and two hard-boiled eggs. Yum…
I get an injection of insulin at the hospital. We don’t have a vial of Humalog with us – it was the one thing we forgot to grab from the house. But my dad drives home to retrieve it so I can change my pod at the hospital. My mom does it for me. I feel helpless.
The old pod comes off and we notice a definite bend in the cannula. Okay. One thing explained. I wasn’t receiving my full insulin dosages due to the bend, and unfortunately, I have no way of knowing how much insulin I was truly receiving. All I know is that it wasn’t enough, and that’s why I was running high.
I receive a diagnosis: vasovagal syncope, or pre-syncope. It’s explained to me, but I still don’t really get it. So I text my best friend, who is also a nurse. She tells me that it’s very common and can be triggered by a variety of things. The pre-syncope aspect makes more sense to me, seeing as I never truly passed out.
I’m discharged and feel so very tired. It was a long day. The following days are filled with follow-ups and message exchanges between myself, my endocrinologist, and my primary care physician. My healthcare team and I think that we come up with a plausible explanation for the hullabaloo: My body knew something was wrong. It knew that my blood sugar was abnormally high, and it knew to send signals to me that I needed to take care of it. Hence, the abdominal pain. My dehydrated state exacerbated things, and when I started sweating and lost more fluids, it was a lot for my body to experience.
Sheesh. What an ordeal. Like any diabetes-related experience, it taught me a lot, but I certainly don’t want anything like that to happen again. Shout-out to the healthcare professionals, but especially my parents, for taking damn good care of me throughout the whole episode. You’re the bomb diggity.