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Diabetically Speaking

Month

May 2011

Helleaux From New Orleans

I’ve been traveling and working a lot lately, which is to blame for the lack of blog posts in the past couple weeks. A couple weekends ago I spent a few days in New Orleans celebrating A-Flizzle‘s birthday. We had a great time eating good food, exploring quirky and interesting stores and art galleries, and overall just having a great time away from work and responsibilities. We even got to check out a fun swampy sounding backwoods bayou band that featured a mix of blues, jazz, and a quintessential New Orleans sound…and a trombone. I love me some trombone.

New Orleans is a city whose disaster history in recent years is known quite well. In September of 2005, the city of New Orleans suffered a devastating blow by Hurricane Katrina, causing billions of dollars in damage and changing the lives of thousands of people. The city still features glimpses of the storm damage, but it is as rejuvenated and full of that New Orleans spirit as ever, while still retaining it’s signature lack of polish that gives the city so much of it’s soul.

Librarie Book Shop - New Orleans French Quarter
Librarie Book Shop - New Orleans French Quarter
Shotgun House Garden - New Orleans French Quarter
Shotgun House Garden - New Orleans French Quarter
Haunted Hotel - New Orleans French Quarter
Haunted Hotel - New Orleans French Quarter
Lafayette Cemetery - New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery - New Orleans

Traveling with diabetes is always a challenge, as any PWD can attest. Accurate carb counting while on the road is equivalent to winning the lottery or catching an empty cab in the city on a rainy day. Really, it’s mostly luck and best guess. Something that New Orleans is better known for than Katrina is its amazing food, but when you’re trying to stay focused on low carb eating, it isn’t easy being in a city where poor boy sandwiches and fried everything are the staples.

Some of the foods that I enjoyed the most in New Orleans weren’t really food at all. A couple blocks from the shotgun where we were staying was a Community Coffee house, and let me tell you, Community Coffee is so much better in New Orleans than it is anywhere else you can get it. One of the highlights of the trip was a morning when A-Flizzle and I got up early, walked to CC’s to get our coffee, and then headed east to the mighty Mississippi River and sat on a bench and just took a few moments to chat and soak it in. Here is a city that actually sits below the water level, where all that is separating it from a seemingly unending supply of muddy water is a dirt and rock levee, and yet somehow it thrives and survives.

Mississippi River Levee in New Orleans French Quarter
Mississippi River Levee in New Orleans French Quarter

It’s a lot like how I feel about my own diabetes sometimes. I’m always just a break in routine diabetes management away from the proverbial levee breaking and a gush of unpredictable blood sugars flooding in and causing all sorts of chaos. Which is pretty much where I am right now, by the way. My biggest problem is that I’m having a hard time getting pump insets and CGM sensors to stay stuck to my body. On more than one occasion I’ve reached under my shirt to check an inset just to find it floating around in the fabric as free as a bird, spewing insulin all over me like a malfunctioning Band-Aid smelling fire hose.

The thing about diabetes though is that you can’t let it keep you from living life. As annoying as disconnected pump insets and CGM sensors can be, they are manageable and something that I refuse to let keep me chained to the house. I love to travel, and see new places. If that means I have to duct tape my diabetes attachments to me in addition to spending a small fortune and carrying extra supplies everywhere with me, I will.

So in the true New Orleans spirit of things, I say to you, diabetes: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

…because ultimately, this is what being in New Orleans was really about:

A-Flizzle and Martin - NOLA - May 2011

Learning and Lows

It has been an intense week of blogging about diabetes. It’s been an intense week of living with diabetes too.

I have found so many other diabetes bloggers during Diabetes Blog Week that I may never have to buy another book again to always have new material to read. Our community that is sharing about this disease is so awesome, and BIG. I love that, but I also hate it.

Right now probably isn’t the best time for me to write about diabetes, since I’m still quite upset with it, yet maybe it’s the perfect time. I do well with my diabetes. Most days, I have it handled and am able to show it who’s boss.

Today was not one of those days. I spent a full day outside for A-Flizzle‘s birthday, hanging out with friends, discovering and having a blast playing Ladder Golf, and then coming home and giving my animals a bath. Then I went to meet up for dinner, and wouldn’t you know it…I went low.

It happened so fast. One of those sneaky lows, where I started seeing funny shapes and lines in things and people’s faces that shouldn’t be there. This is something I’ve realized seems to happen sometimes when I’m dropping too fast and getting too low, these really disturbing lines and colors that my brain realizes aren’t right, but can’t quite connect to a low blood sugar and something being wrong. Imagine the world subtly and all of a sudden looking like a mismatched patchwork quilt, kind of like a real life Picasso. That is as close as I can think to describe what it looks like, a Picasso painting. I was studying A-Flizzle’s face, trying to figure out why it looked like her jaw was on her forehead and her eye was by her ear, when she looked at me and said, “Are you okay?”

Photo by Nocturnal.Intellect on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Nocturnal.Intellect on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

That was when I realized my speech had already left the building. All I could do was shake my head no. No talking. No checking the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). No grabbing my kit and managing to fumble with my testing supplies so I could do a fingerprick. No reaching in my pocket to fish out my keys that have my four emergency glucose tabs on the keychain. No, none of that. I just put my head in my hands and closed my eyes, trying to focus.

A-Flizzle was all over it, as were my dear friends DJ and H1L1. Whatever conversation we had been having, which I think was about the dogs at the table near us, was thrown aside. All the training and education that I’ve given A-Flizzle over the past year and some odd months about what to do if I drop low, and assuring her that it isn’t a question of IF it will happen, but WHEN it happens, kicked in. I have to say, she handled it like a pro, and as unpredictable as diabetes can be, she took over showing it who was boss while I was temporarily put on the bench.

While A-Flizzle was fishing my glucose tabs out of my pocket and feeding them to me and my lack of motor skills, refusing to let me panic, DJ had scrambled to go get orange juice (any kind of fruit juice would have worked, or a regular Coke, but I wasn’t able to tell them that at the time), and my buddy H1L1 was there fielding flying glucose tabs from off the ground before the aforementioned dogs could eat them as treats. I love my girlfriend and friends. This was the first time that I have had a low where I needed a little help since A-Flizzle and I have been dating, and between her and my friends, I cannot describe how thankful and grateful I truly am.

Still, I feel guilty.

I know it isn’t my fault.
I know that nobody is holding it against me.
I know that today was the exception, not the rule.
I know that there was absolutely nothing any one of us could have done to prevent this low. It happened way too fast. My CGM actually alarmed with the low alert while A-Flizzle was feeding me glucose tabs. Way to be on the ball there, technology! (See also: sarcasm)

I also know that I’m telling myself most of this, in hopes that it is true.

The guilt I feel is because there we were having a fine time, carrying on perfectly good conversations, appreciating the day that we had all spent together, maybe sharing a little gossip between friends, and then all of that got derailed by stupid diabetes. Diabetes was like a toddler at the table, eating its peas and carrots and minding its own business, and then all of a sudden demanding the attention of everyone by screaming and throwing a spoon at my forehead. Diabetes should really learn some manners.

I don’t like that diabetes is like that, that it can take over any situation with little to no warning. I don’t like putting anybody else in a position where they have to take on the responsibility of my diabetes. It isn’t fair…not to them, and not to me either. Still, this was one low where I didn’t have to spend precious minutes quietly focusing my way into telling my hands to reach in my pocket, get my glucose tabs, and eat them. I was comfortable enough, and maybe even scared enough, to trust A-Flizzle and my friends to know that I needed help, and to be able to help me. That trust alone tells me that I’m getting better at not hiding my diabetes, and why I admire the people who save us every single day, so very much.

A Boy, a Pump, and a Dog

A boy, a pump, and a dog
No long explanation. Just a boy, a pump, and a dog...and a squeaky toy.

Because of Diabetes, I Win

Not too long ago the DOC was tasked with writing about the most awesome thing we’ve done in spite of diabetes. There were so many great posts, and today’s Diabetes Blog Week topic takes that same notion of awesomeness, and gives it a twist. Rather than the awesomeness that we’ve achieved DESPITE diabetes, today’s topic is to write about the awesomeness achieved BECAUSE of diabetes.

I am who I am because of diabetes. Diabetes isn’t all that I am, but there is no way that I can say that it isn’t responsible for helping to shape who I have become.

I’ve written before about how I don’t have the perspective of life without diabetes. I was diagnosed at age two, so it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. To some that may sound tragic, but I rather like who I am. I don’t have any guarantees that I would like the person I might have been without diabetes being such a big part of my life.

Since struggling with yesterday’s Diabetes Blog Week post, I’ve realized as I’ve continued to reflect that maybe I’ve accepted the fact that I have diabetes, instead of hoping and pretending like it isn’t there and might magically go away. Accepting diabetes is a hard pill to swallow, and shouldn’t be confused with being happy about it or giving up hope. You have to sometimes embrace the monkey on your back to keep him from choking you to death.

The Diabetes Online Community (DOC) has been a huge part of my life in since I discovered that there are other people who go through the same trials with diabetes as me. How I live with my diabetes has changed a lot since I began sharing and being a contributing member of the DOC. I’ve pulled back the curtains on what it is like to live with diabetes, not only for everyone that reads my blog and follows me on Twitter, but also for myself. I still fall into the habit of hiding it sometimes when I shouldn’t, but I am getting better about putting diabetes out in plain sight.

As I write about diabetes more, talk about it more, and teach others about it more, I know that I will continue to get more comfortable with sharing the spotlight with diabetes. Because of diabetes, I have found a community of people who I can lean on when I stumble, and who can rely on me when they struggle. Diabetes is a condition best treated in a community. Because of diabetes I can focus my energies strengthening that community, increasing awareness, and improving the lives of all people with diabetes. Because of diabetes, I have a lifetime of knowledge and experience with this disease to share.

Because of diabetes, I win.

You Are A Winner (Photo by Elisfanclub, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo by Elisfanclub, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Walking Contradiction

The Diabetes Blog Week challenge for today was to write ten things that I hate about diabetes.

I have struggled with this post all day long. It’s not that there aren’t things that I hate about diabetes. I’ve read so many other posts from my friends in the DOC, and I agree with every single one of them. Like…

…Jacquie’s list where she mentions the heartbreaking blue diabetes candle.

…Kelly’s list where she highlights critical insurance issues relating to diabetes.

…Jess’s list highlights the guilt and fear that often accompany diabetes.

…Mike’s list that captures the anger and helplessness that comes with diabetes.

…Scott’s list and all the logistics of diabetes.

I sat down tonight and had a talkie talk with A-Flizzle about why I’m having such a hard time with this post. Her response was, “Martin, you can find the positive side to being in a chain gang. The reason you can’t find ten things to hate about diabetes is because that isn’t how you view your life with diabetes.”

Chain Gang (Photo by Patrick Denker, Flickr, CC 2.0)
Photo by Patrick Denker, Flickr, CC 2.0

She’s right. I don’t typically think of diabetes in terms of hate. Sure, there are things I don’t like about diabetes. I’ve certainly had my days where I’ve looked up with tears in my eyes and said to someone, no one, anyone that I’m tired of diabetes. It’s not always easy. Still, I try my best not to give all the aggravations of diabetes so much power that they become all I can focus on.

I try to find the positive side of things and not dwell on the things that aren’t perfect in this world; especially not the things that I can’t do anything about.

I have diabetes. Diabetes does not have me.

Without the dark of night, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset. Life can sometimes be a little sweeter with diabetes. I spent 28 years of my life with diabetes not knowing anyone else with this disease, and living every single day with it more alone than I ever realized. Today I know more people with diabetes than I can count, and I meet new friends every single day who overcome it just like I do.

I hate that, but at the same time, I love it. I’m a diabetic walking contradiction.

30 Years With Diabetes

Today’s Diabetes Blog Week topic is diabetes bloopers. You know, those things that make you go, “D’Oh!” and facepalm yourself. I’ve had my fair share of diabetes bloopers: Dropping & shattering glass vials of insulin, running off on trips without all of my diabetes supplies, forgetting to dose for a meal, forgetting that I already dosed for a meal, finding the cat playing with rogue pump tubing, catching the dog gnawing on a perfectly good tube of glucose tabs…the list goes on and on.

The blooper that is really on my mind today is the one that my pancreas made 30 years ago when it decided to quit working. Or maybe it was my immune system that decided to work too well. Or maybe it was because I had chicken pox. Or maybe it was because someone got me wet or fed me after midnight. Or maybe it was because a butterfly flapped its wings in China. 30 years after the fact there is so much more we know about diabetes, but what exactly causes it and how to cure it are still not on that list, despite what we were told about how close we were to a cure when we were diagnosed.

Today is a day of celebration, of blessings, thankfulness, and appreciation. I have learned more in my 30 years with diabetes than some people learn in a lifetime. Living with diabetes has taught me so much, and coupled with other life lessons, I would be remiss to not stop for just a moment and appreciate the gifts that I have been given…thanks to diabetes.

The 1st 10 Years

  • If you’re low, anytime is snacktime.
  • Bananas and peanut butter on vanilla wafers is the best snack in the world.
  • You can’t go play when you blood sugar is high. But if you can sneak away when your parents aren’t looking, it’s fair game. The back door doesn’t squeak and make noise like the other ones do.
  • Swimming always makes you go low.
  • Visiting the cute nurses on the Pediatric floor at the hospital when you’re there for lab work is always a treat. They know you by name.
  • When you hear the term “A1C” you think of steak sauce and hamburgers.
  • You don’t know anyone else with diabetes.

The Teenage Years

  • If you’re low, it’s a nuisance, and you have to stop what you’re doing and take a break to feed it. Not always ideal when you’re being paid hourly at a part-time job.
  • Whatever is fast and convenient is the best snack in the world.
  • You hardly notice when your blood sugar is high. Until it makes you feel awful. Then it is all you notice.
  • Swimming still makes you go low.
  • Visiting the cute nurses on the Pediatric floor at the hospital when you’re there for lab work is still a treat. Other floors are acceptable as well, as long as there are cute nurses. You know THEM by name.
  • When you hear the term “A1C,” you also hear words like “goal” and “lower.” Those cute nurses are a good distraction.
  • You’ve heard of other people with diabetes, but you still don’t know anyone that has it.

The Last Ten Years

  • If you’re low, your CGM alarms and you drop everything and treat it. Except when you have low-brain and can’t seem to focus. Then it becomes more of a struggle, and is sometimes followed by a hangLOWver.
  • Cheese, nuts, and other low carb foods are the best snacks in the world.
  • Because you are in better control of your diabetes, you can feel a high blood sugar in the upper 100’s now. 200+ makes you feel like dog’s ass.
  • Swimming still makes you go low, and now you have to replace a pump site when you get done because the sticky doesn’t stay stuck in the water. You are able to ride a bike for over 100 miles in one day. You’ve discovered OTHER activities that have the same effect as swimming on your BG’s, and are just as much fun.
  • Visiting the cute nurses, wherever you can find them, has become a rarity. Now you mostly settle for Helga, the former wrestler with the mustache and gallon sized syringe and harpoon needle to do your lab work. She knows you as a number.
  • When you hear the term “A1C,” you start thinking all about decimal pointed numbers like 5.6 and 6.5.
  • You meet an amazing community of people online and in real life who also have diabetes. You start a blog, and start sharing your life with diabetes. They inspire you.

The Next Ten Years

  • Your diabetes is tightly controlled, and you don’t have any of the complications that others who don’t take their diabetes seriously often suffer from.
  • You’re slim, fit, and eat right so that you’re able to do the things you love and experience the world. You look fantastic naked.
  • You accept that there will always be things that make you go low. You’re prepared for them, and never let diabetes keep you from being able to do anything that you set your mind to.
  • You have a family now, and your diabetes is not the center of the universe, but just a piece that helps explain your awesomeness during bedtime stories.
  • You vow to only have lab work done from cute nurses in the future. You have diabetes, so you deserve it.
  • Your doctor rarely mentions the term “A1C” anymore. He’s more interested in what awesome things you did in the last three months so that he has success stories to share with his other diabetes patients.
  • You continue to write about diabetes, speak about diabetes, advocate for diabetes research and better treatments, and share your world with diabetes. You challenge others to take control of their own diabetes, and cherish those stories of how you inspired someone else to save their own life.

Today, May 11, 2011 is my 30th Diaversary. Thank you all for being such an amazing part of it.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

 

NYC D-Meetup
Allison, Caroline, me, and Brenda at a May 2011 D-Meetup in New York City

Oh, The Places You’ll Go Low!

Thanks to a little help from Dr. Seuss, this is a story to me and so many others as a kiddo with diabetes.

Oh The Places You'll Go Low

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
But you’re awake, and afraid!

You have low brains in your head.
You have sticky feet in your shoes.
You can’t seem to steer yourself any direction you choose.
You feel all alone. And you know what you know. And YOU need SOMEONE to know that you’re LOW!

You lay there in wet sheets. Thinking over with care. About next time you say, “I’ll remember to have glucose right there.” With your head full of low brains and your shoes full of sticky feet, you’re too clumsy to make it to the kitchen to eat.

And you may not find any snacks sitting around. In that case, of course, you’ll cry out and growl. It’s easier when stuff is right there.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people just as low-brainy and sticky-footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. And drink you some juice.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go Low!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be doing alright!
You’ll do a quick blood test and everything will be fine.

You won’t be all shaky, because you’ll have what you need. You’ll keep up with the world and you’ll soon take the lead. Whatever you eat, you’ll dose it the best. Wherever you go, will be with less stress.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that birthday parties and pizza can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a high blood sugar perch. Pause, and you’ll realize, you feel like you could lurch.

You’ll come down from the perch with an unpleasant tumble. And the chances are, then, that you’ll overdose and stumble.

And when you’re on the glucoaster, you’re not in for much fun. Un-stumbling yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the guilt is so harsh. Diabetes is like that. It can get very dark. A place you could stay in and feel like you can’t win! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a low-brained mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a chance to go or a thought to come, or a sound to make or the cry to come, or the door to open or the phone to ring, or the light to come on or waiting around for a Mom or Dad or waiting for the world to slow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the apple to eat or waiting for juice to kick in or waiting around for the night when waiting will end, when low-brain will subside, and sanity will return, or you can stop focusing on things you must learn, or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the strength to rise up and stop praying. For one brief moment, you are strong! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re not ready to die!

Oh, the places you’ll go low! There is fun to be done! There are carbs to be scored. There are alarms to be silenced. And the magical things you can do with the DOC will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win an awesome A1C.

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All alone!
Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though diabetes may prowl. On you will go though the CGM howls. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your pump sites may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that life’s a Great Blood Sugar Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right sites with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(You’ve got an army of people with diabetes who agree!)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Martin or Jacquie or Kerri or Scott…you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
No lows, no waiting.
So…get on your way!

Admiring Our Heroes

2nd Annual Diabetes Blog Week

I recently watched a movie called “Love and Other Drugs” where Anne Hathaway plays Maggie Murdock, a character who has early-onset Parkinson’s disease. I think the movie was actually a romantic comedy of sorts, with people running around naked, and enough drugs to fill a doctor’s office. The lead character, Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), was a pharmaceutical rep…where is your mind at?

The “I notice you have an invisible illness, I have an invisible illness too” side of me could identify with a lot of the trials that Maggie was going through, even though they were sometimes probably downplayed for the sake of the film having popular appeal. One particular bit of dialog in the movie really stood out for me, because it resonates so loud in our world with diabetes, an incurable disease like Parkinson’s.

Maggie Murdock: I’m gonna need you more than you need me.
Jamie Randall: That’s okay.
Maggie Murdock: [crying] No it’s not! It isn’t *fair*! I have places to go!
Jamie Randall: You’ll go there. I just may have to carry you.
Maggie Murdock: …I can’t ask you to do that.
Jamie Randall: You didn’t.

Well break my heart. If that doesn’t connect with you, you’re cold-hearted and you need to go find a puppy or a kitten to hug on (stat!) before you freeze to death.

Hopper the Dog

Think about your world with diabetes for a minute. Think about the times that you’ve needed someone, and they’ve been there, without you ever having to ask them to be. Think about the reality of knowing that there may come a time, at some point, where you will have to rely on someone else far more than you will be able to rely on yourself. Think about how guilty and vulnerable that makes you feel. It’s scary, and a really hard thing to admit to ourselves and accept. Although we strive so hard each and every day to manage our diabetes in such a way that maintains our independence and well-being, sometimes the unpredictability of it wins, and we need a little help.

Take a deep breath, because it’s okay.

Think about how lucky we are to have someone…a partner, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a coworker, a roommate, a neighbor, and sometimes even a trained dog…who is there for us, even when we can’t ask them to be.

Want to know who I admire? It’s those heroes.

Take a moment and read this post from one of my favorite bloggers, Saucy…well, her significant other, actually: FF’s Take On Diabetes

More Cops and Low Blood Sugars

While trying to figure out a good topic to write a blog post about while enjoying a giant cup of coffee at a nearby Starbucks, I spied with my two eyes a table of three police officers who were on break. I recently read a great blog post by my buddy Scott Johnson titled “Cops and Low Blood Sugars” about a conversation he had recently with a couple of officers about traffic stops involving diabetes and low blood sugars. Feeling curious, I decided to follow Scott’s lead, so I grabbed my blog business cards and headed over to the table o’ police and asked if I might be able to interrupt them for a few minutes. To my surprise, they were very polite and happy to accommodate me, and invited me to sit down and join them.

These particular three officers worked traffic duty with the Tallahassee Police Department. One of them had also worked for a time with the Florida Highway Patrol. The former FHP officer was the most vocal of the group, and seemed to have had the most experience encountering diabetes behind the wheel.

TPD Patch & Badge

I started with the same question that Scott did, inquiring if they had encountered traffic stops involving diabetes and low blood sugars. The former FHP officer said yes, and proceeded to share a couple of the more extreme cases he had dealt with. One story involved a man who was having a low blood sugar while driving on I-95 near Jacksonville into oncoming traffic. The officer said that he had to force the driver into the guardrail on the side of the highway to stop his car and keep him from injuring someone in a potential head on collision. Another story involved a PWD behind the wheel who was having a diabetic seizure and crashed into a tree.

I proceeded to ask the officers how they distinguish a diabetic medical emergency from driving while intoxicated (DWI). The short answer, they don’t. At least, not initially. A low blood sugar and a DWI can cause such similar behavior that stopping the vehicle and getting the driver away from the wheel in the name of public safety is of the highest priority to the police officers. There was a lot of head nodding at that statement, so they appeared to be in agreement on this point.

The officers said that they can sometimes distinguish a diabetic medical emergency from a DWI based on smell. Two of them described a sweet odor that comes off of a PWD when they are having a severe low, as opposed to the pungent smell of alcohol. I’m guessing what they are describing is the odor from the clothes-soaking sweat that sometimes accompanies a sudden low. Still, I’m not going to bank all of my points on an officer being able to help me based on smell alone. What if that officer has a cold on that one day that I need his sniffer to be fully functioning to save my life? To my relief, they also acknowledged other typical low blood sugar symptoms including confusion, sweating, inability to focus or respond to basic questions, shakiness, and in extreme situations even seizures, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. I gave them a mental check mark for knowing those.

So what happens, after the car is stopped and everybody is safe? If it is a diabetic medical emergency, the officers confirmed that paramedics would be called. After that, they said to fully expect the applicable punishments according to law. Read: citations and possible suspension of driving privileges until review and approval for reinstatement by the medical review board. They informed me that the steps that a PWD would have to go through after such an event would likely be similar to those that someone who suffers from epilepsy would have to go through to get their license or have their license reinstated, including a period of time (unspecified how long, and probably varies by situation or state) showing that their diabetes is in good control. Still, they deferred to the medical review board, as once the traffic case is closed, they are often left out of the loop as to what exactly happens in the long term.

From their no-nonsense point of view (and the one point where we disagreed), having a low blood sugar behind the wheel of a car and driving drunk are both totally preventable and are entirely the choice of the driver. One officer said that it is person’s choice whether or not they want to take responsibility for their diabetes and keep it under control, no different than a person’s choice to drink alcohol before they get behind the wheel of a car.

Obviously, he didn’t have diabetes. Nobody’s perfect. *wink*

We know that the realities of living with diabetes are not necessarily preventable or predictable. Life happens. Still, rather than argue, I encouraged the officer to continue, because I wanted him to understand that I’m asking for a HUGE number of people who live with diabetes each and every day. I want to make his job and our lives both easier in the unfortunate event that we do find ourselves on the side of the road having to deal with each other. What can we do, as PWD’s, to help police officers help us in a time of need?

Wear a medical alert ID on your wrist.

All three police officers acknowledged that recognizing a medical alert bracelet on the wrist or around the neck of a person is part of their training. They even followed up by saying that the wrist is the first place they would look, since they are trained to make sure they can see a driver’s hands at all times.

I also inquired about bumper stickers or window decals that say “Diabetic Driver.” They all said that it might help, but a medical ID on the wrist would be better. In a traffic stop, they are trained to look for other things beyond what a bumper sticker or window decal says, and a medical ID on the driver is more indicative that they are indeed the person in need of attention.

Get your drivers license to indicate that you have diabetes or are insulin dependent.

In Florida, if you indicate that you have Type 1 diabetes you can get a stamp on our license that says “INSULIN DEP” in bright red letters. I actually took my license out and showed it to the officers, and they said that because that is the only red ink on the entire license, it stands out and they will notice it. They also said that sometimes (unfortunately, not 100% of the time) the dispatch officer will also point out to them when they run the license number that this is a person who is insulin dependent and may need assistance. Check with your state to see what your options are. (I’d also be curious to know if there are any options like this for those with Type 2 diabetes.)

Check your blood sugar EVERY time before you get behind the wheel of a car.

The officers (and me) all agreed that managing diabetes is the most important thing we can do before getting behind the wheel of a car. Before you drive anywhere, stop and take 30 seconds to check your blood sugar, and if necessary treat accordingly. Let’s be honest, you probably need to check it anyway.

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