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Diabetically Speaking

Month

March 2013

Seeing Things

I’m finally learning to accept some things. Not everything, but some things.

For example, I’ve learned to accept that cooked carrots and mushrooms are disgusting and have no place on the food pyramid. Except maybe underneath the pyramid, as compost, to grow delicious things. Like fried chicken strip trees.

I’ve learned that my dog doesn’t really detect low blood sugars like I imagine he does in my low-brained head. He just likes spoonfuls of peanut butter at 3:30 in the morning. And who doesn’t love that?

A big thing that I’ve learned to accept (sort of…okay, not really) is that I get nervous when it comes to tests. Or things that I perceive as tests, like doctor visits. I don’t know why, but I always dread these appointments. In my head, they are the worst, even though 99% of the time they turn out just fine. It defies explanation.

As well as my life has been with diabetes, my imagination has a tendency to run wild and make things up that don’t necessarily reflect the reality of what I do everyday with diabetes. I think my anxiety is because diabetes is like a really crappy retirement plan: You make decisions based on data every single day in hopes that your annual account statement doesn’t show that you’ve invested all your efforts into a poop factory.

Earlier this week I went to the eye doctor, or more specifically, the ophthalmologist. This is where they check my eyeballs and retinas and all the tiny little veins and capillaries and doohickeys that keep them working to make sure that I have my diabetes in good control and that complications aren’t running rampant in my eyeball holes and causing irreparable damage to my vision and kidneys (which are connected to my eyeballs, somehow). I’m sure it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s basically the big idea.

I was extremely nervous. Anxious. Full on shakytown while waiting to sign in. It didn’t help that the receptionist had a look on her face like she had just bitten into a piece of cat litter in her sandwich. She wasn’t rude by any means, just not exceptionally welcoming. In her defense, my appointment was at 1:00pm, and she was probably hungry. Plus, cat litter in your sandwich isn’t pleasant no matter how famished you are.

After I signed in, I barely had time to do a quick BG check before they called me back (it was 89, by the way…perfection). The nurse was super nice, but I could tell she hadn’t really been exposed to too many people with Type 1 diabetes before. We went through the standard form field questions for an eye doctor appointment: Height, weight, do you wear glasses, do you have any health problems, what kind of insulin do you use, what book are you going to try to read after we dilate your eyes, will you please put your phone away, did you just roll your eyes at me? You know, the usual.

I told her that my blood pressure was probably a little high because I was very nervous. It was, and wasn’t a big deal at all. She said, very friendly-like, “You should be used to this for as long as you have had diabetes.” I just smiled and laughed. Truth is, I’ve never gotten used to it. I don’t think I ever will.

The biggest disconnect was when she asked, “What was your blood sugar this morning?” I fumbled for an answer. That was at least three checks ago. I don’t remember that kind of information. That’s what BG meters and insulin pumps are for. I have more important questions to answer from my short term memory. Like, where did I park my car? What pocket is my cell phone in? How did I think these clothes matched this morning when I got dressed? I told her what my last BG was, and just went with that. One BG on my patient chart out of all the data points that I depend on every day to keep myself alive really makes zero difference in the grand scheme of things.

So we got through the formalities, and then I met with my ophthalmologist. Through all of the anxiety and nervousness, the experience was rather uneventful, which is a good thing.¬†Bottom line, my eyes look the same as they did when I saw my ophthalmologist two years ago. Very microscopic evidence of having had Type 1 diabetes for almost 32 years, but nothing at all to be worried about. No blood vessels bleeding into the back of my eyes. No kidneys waving white flags of surrender. All in all, a clean bill of health, and a free joke about me being the oldest “kid” that my pediatric endocrinologist still sees on a regular basis.

I’ll take it. Growing up is overrated anyway.

Bindi Glasses

Low Interrupted

At first, I was thinking that I would toss out this post, or save it for later, in order to respond to the news from the Diabetes Research Institute. I know that a post like this, full of words on a screen, risks getting lost in the mix. But maybe it won’t.

If you read my last post, you know that A-Flizzle surprised me with a birthday trip to Jacksonville to tour the Budweiser brewery, hang out with Jacquie and the gang, get a massage, and go to one of my favorite restaurants in the whole wide world called 13 Gypsies. And my blood sugar spiked sky high. So now you’re caught up. As Paul Harvey would say, this is “the rest of the story.”

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few weeks now. It’s been a really hard thing for me to share. It’s the post I’ve been waiting to write for, like, 23 days.

My blood sugar was sky high, but I couldn’t very well call in diabetic and cancel a quality birthday celebration. Nor did I want to. I bolused for the high, but having been unplugged from my pump for as long as I was, there was really no telling how much insulin it would take to turn things around and get my BG’s back to normal. I knew I would need to feather the insulin over time in small doses so that I didn’t get a big ball of insulin hitting me all at once. It sounded like a good idea, at least. Until it just wasn’t working. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.

So, I did what any abnormal person with a nonfunctioning pancreas would do in the situation: I rage bolused the $h!t out of that high to show it who was boss. And I did too.

Later that night, after we had gone out to a rooftop bar and then to one of our favorite hangouts in 5 Points, Birdie’s, A-Flizzle and I trekked back to our hotel to call it a night. We settled in, I stretched out on the bed, propped my head up on a stack of pillows, and started watching one of the greatest movies of all time that just happened to be on TV that night: Con Air. What? You know you love it!

A-Flizzle was sound asleep, and I was laying there in bed messing around with my iPad and watching Cyrus the Virus battle The Man of Nomadic Eyebrows from the Land of Forgotten Forehead (aka, Nicholas Cage) for a shot at freedom via a crash landing on the Las Vegas strip (don’t blame me, I didn’t write it) when it hit me. Hard. And I remember every single part of it.

In an instant, I had absolutely no clue where I was. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing, even though I was doing nothing. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t help overanalyzing every next thought that was popping into my head, and I had no control of what was popping into my head next.

I sat up and threw my legs over the side of the bed. My bare feet hit the cold wooden floor. I sat there, in a complete panic, trying to figure out what was going on. I knew what was going on. I just couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. But everything was so serious. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, what was next, what I should do.

I stood up. I walked over to my BG kit, and sat it on the table. I walked off. I started pacing around the room, stomping hard, trying to figure out what in the world was going on. I could see A-Flizzle in the middle of the king size bed, sound asleep. I tried to yell for her, but I couldn’t. No sound would come out. I started hitting my diabetes tattoo, indicating, trying to make noise and get her attention. Anybody’s attention. But it wasn’t loud enough.

And that’s when it hit me: I was low. Really, really low. And I was standing in the room with the one person that I trust more than anyone, and I could not for the life of me (literally) figure out how to get her attention. What would be so simple any other time, to simply yell or reach out and shake her awake, I could not figure out how to tell my body to do. I just knew that this was really, really serious, and I had to figure out something through my garbled thoughts.

I paced around the king sized bed like a tiger walking a perimeter, establishing his territory. Back and forth, from one side to the other, for I don’t even know how long. All the while I’m trying to figure out how to wake her up. I was fading. The panic was wearing me out. I was starting to think about what A-Flizzle would do without me, and how much it would crush her to lose me when she was right there, so close. What would happen to my Hopper (dog), Squirt (cat), and Bindi (A-Flizzle’s dog) back home without me. How their little hearts would break when I didn’t come home from a weekend away. How my Hopper would continue to look for me at the door long after Amanda got home, just waiting on me to get there to give him a doggie hug.

All I could think was, “This might be the one. That one low blood sugar that I don’t survive. The big one.” I was also thinking, “Dammit, I don’t want to go to the hospital on my friggin’ birthday!” I started punching the corner of the bed because I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get my body and brain to communicate and work properly. Then I thought of big ones, like the big earthquake in California that everybody always talks of but hasn’t happened yet. The hurricane that will come and sink Florida. The importance of having an emergency plan, a parachute. A parachute? A PARACHUTE! For when I fall!

No Brain

I managed to figure out that if I passed out from the low, it was my pump that would continue to give me insulin and keep me low. I snatched it from my PJ pants pocket, and unhooked it, not bothering to suspend it, and threw it on the bed. I went over to my bag, and found the glowing bright red rectangle that contained glucagon, and held it tight in my left hand. I knew that if I passed out, A-Flizzle would likely hear me hit the floor, and hopefully see the glucagon in my hand and know what to do. If she didn’t, at least my pump was off, so hopefully I would survive long enough for my blood sugar to come back up naturally before…well, before I died.

As I was digging in my bag for that, I uncovered a Level gel. I ripped off the top with my teeth and managed to get most of the gel in my mouth through the lack of motor skills and shaking that I didn’t realize was happening.¬†Once I got the Level gel in me, and gave it time to work, I was finally able to figure out how to reach over and wake A-Flizzle up to help me. By then I was back on the edge of the bed, drenched in sweat, shaking, still holding the glucagon case in my left hand, and completely physically and emotionally exhausted. Half asleep, her training that I taught her in case I ever go low kicked in, and she was able to retrieve two more Level gels and help me get them down before I had to lay down, else pass out from exhaustion. Still, I wasn’t up to a normal and safe BG level yet.

A-Flizzle set a timer on her phone to wake us up every 15 minutes for me to test my BG again. After an hour of that, I was still only at 70. Not too low, but certainly not high enough to go to sleep after such a bad low. I took one more Level gel, and then I was out for the rest of the night. I woke up the next morning at 96. Normal. And completely hungLOWver, worn out, physically and emotionally exhausted from the night before.

I’m thankful that I taught A-Flizzle what to do when I go low. I’m thankful that we have a plan and always know where things are to treat a low, even if half asleep. It’s so important to have something available to treat a low blood sugar, and know where it is even in your subconscious. That is what may save you in the event that you have to build your own parachute. I know it did me. It’s been extremely hard for me to admit to myself, but I know that I wouldn’t be here right now had I not had those gels, known where they were, and the fact that they were easy for me to get into when it was literally life or death for me.

Tomorrow, the DRI is set to share some big news about steps toward an eventual cure for diabetes. I really hope it is everything that we hope it will be. I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit I’m skeptical. Don’t confuse that with negativity. I’m positive that there will be a cure someday, and I’ll be the first one to celebrate tomorrow if there is something to celebrate. I’ve just heard that a cure was coming since my mother was told that there would be one when I was diagnosed at age two, 32 years ago. A cure for diabetes is exactly what every one of us with diabetes, and every parent of a child with diabetes, wants in this world. Nobody should have to see their life flash before their eyes on their birthday because of a low blood sugar like I had to. However, hoping and praying and wishing doesn’t get us closer to that day.

I’ve learned to keep myself grounded in reality. Maybe that’s a defense mechanism so that I’m not constantly let down, but experience says to be patient, diligent, and steadfast today so that we can make it to tomorrow. The absolute best thing we can do is take care of ourselves today, support each other in the diabetes community, both online and offline, and not let our fellow person with diabetes stumble. You can do this, and so can I. Then, when that cure does arrive, whether it’s tomorrow or twenty years from now, we’ll be ready.

Keep Calm And BG On

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