Okie dokie, folks. For the one or two of you that read here… if you read my last post about all the allergy and sinus meds I was put on last week, this is a weird and wacky update to that.
The very next day after starting all those meds, I began to have repeated severe hypoglycemic episodes. (that just means “really low blood sugar“)
Since I’ve had type 1 diabetes for over 40 years now, I tend to not always know when my sugar goes low. My body simply doesn’t show signs or symptoms of a hypo, which is bad. It’s REALLY bad.
Usually, the body gives you some clear and strong signals that the blood sugar is getting too low. The above chart shows some of those. Over time, however, your body starts going,
“Meh, low-shmow…I don’t have time to process that crap!”
and doesn’t tell you that your sugar is or has dropped. That means you’re left walking around, feeling normal (or as close to it as you get) with no idea that you’re in danger of passing out or dying because your sugar is way too low.
That’s what started happening to me last week. I mean, I’ve been quite hypoglycemia-unaware for many years now, but last week, the lows just kept coming in quick succession! (you can click the link in this paragraph to learn more about hypoglycemia unawareness)
I haven’t had any lows like this, (under 30) in quite awhile, so it was shocking when I saw that first one in this Episode Of Lows that was 27! Keep in mind that the brain needs sugar/glucose to function (thus the confusion often experienced during a hypo) and since a normal level is between 70-100 (possibly up to 150 after a meal), getting that low means your brain is not functioning properly. We all know the brain runs all our automatic systems such as the lungs, heart, and circulation therefore, if the brain stops working, we are not far from death. Zero (0) blood sugar doesn’t necessarily mean instant death, but you would be close enough to it that your chances of getting out without at least coma are slim-to-none.
Here’s the thing, though…I had helped my husband load a heavy-ish, awkward piece of exercise equipment to take to my mom’s, then helped him unload it and chatted briefly with Mom before returning home and beginning to show the first signs of fatigue and slight confusion. I felt absolutely no symptoms up to that point.
That was the beginning of my almost-week-long roller coaster ride. I had many more of those severe, scary, unrecognized lows. I was testing my blood sugar about 10 times a day at this point. I called my endocrinologist to ask what to do by the time I had struggled through 3 days of this. Obviously, you don’t call the doc every time you have a low, but these were beyond my ability to pinpoint, explain or control, so we had to get some help!
I spoke with the DNE (diabetes nurse educator) who happens to be my doc’s wife, and she had me lower all of my basal rates (I have five rates set currently) .05 units each. So that would have been a total of 1.2 units per 24-hour period. Not much. But she told me that I should do it again if I was still having lows the next day. I was, so I did. That was now 2.4 units/24 hours lower. After another day of struggling, I lowered the basals another .025 each. That put me at 3 units/24 hours lower.
Like I said, by this time, I was testing what seemed like constantly. My low-lows were always 50 and below, with most of the being in the 30’s.
I finally broke down and called again after I had such an awful low that I thought I was dying.
Hubby and I had run a couple of errands…our baby son and his wife were asked to go back to Haiti and needed so much that the church raised the funds to send them, so they had left the day after Thanksgiving. We went to pick up Baby Son’s truck so it wasn’t sitting in the church parking lot all week and to pick up a few things at Lowe’s. My sugar was 53 when we left, so I was nursing a can of Coke to raise it. I sat in the truck while Hubbs ran into the store. Mom was calling wanting us to come up and eat leftovers for supper, so I explained what we were doing and told her we’d be there when we got back.
We drove out to pick up the truck, I moved over to the driver’s side and we started home. I was feeling really tired, but that’s not at all unusual. It was dark and I hate driving in the dark, so I didn’t dilly-dally around. I drove straight up to Mom’s, which is the drive just before ours and is also where the Baby Kids live in a basement apartment. For some reason, I thought we were taking his truck up there. When I realized Hubby had driven home, I turned around and drove back down the hill to pick him up. We got to Mom’s and started filling plates to heat in the microwave.
My dad was sitting in the next room watching TV and peeling something or other for Mom while she, Hubby and I were in the kitchen.
I got my plate out of the micro and started to eat when Hubby insisted that I test again. *sigh* So I did, and lo and behold, it was 32!! GAH!
He went to garage to get a single-serve bottle of Coke for me, Mom put ice in a cup, poured it full and slid it to me. I drank a bit of it down and started eating the dumplings, broccoli casserole and dressing on my plate (fairly carb-laden foods) when I started to feel just weird.
Of course, I didn’t pause to think about it, I just kept trying to eat. Kept trying to appear “normal”, like I was okay…and I really thought I was at that point. I don’t know if I was really participating in the conversation or not at this time. I had drunk almost the whole glass of Coke when a wave of dizziness hit me and I got that panicky feeling of knowing my sugar is really bad low. I remember sort of grabbing at the glass and downing the last bit of Coke in it. I then tried to go back to eating, then I placed my fork back on the plate. (I dunno why those things seem so clear to me) I can remember the thought that I needed to stop acting so out of it flashing through my mind and for some reason, I took off my glasses and laid them on the bar in front of me. I remember Mom telling me I needed to chew. (??–Yeah, that’s something I might forget to do, but why she thought telling me was going to help, I dunno)
That’s when things got really weird, really scary… I got extremely aware that something was seriously wrong with me, but couldn’t formulate what it was. I guess I knew it was a low, but I couldn’t complete a thought unless it raced 90 miles a minute through my brain. I recall thinking, I need help. and then realizing that Mom and Hubby were with me. I guess that was a relief to me, and then I noticed that they weren’t talking. Like, at all.
I looked over at the two of them, both sitting to my left and there was no expression of acknowledgement. Just silence. I recall thinking, They can’t see me!! What’s happened? Where am I if they can’t see me? Am I already dead? Then the thought that, no, I think surely Hubby would be a bit more emotional if I was really dead on Mom’s kitchen floor. (it’s amazing what the glucose-starved mind will come up with) I heard Mom in the other room saying something about checking my blood pressure, so I thought, Maybe I’m in the hospital already?
About that time, I got this bizarre sensation of being sucked into nothing…like I was being pulled out of the room, but not to another place, just OUT. The thought that I was actually dying at that very moment was beginning to stir up a panic when my dad walked up on my right site and plopped his blood pressure monitor on the bar and said, “Are you gonna let me do this?” I think then I realized that I wasn’t gone, dead, or invisible and so I stuck my arm out. After that, I slowly returned to normal, Hubby and Mom started talking to me, I ate a little more of my food and BOOM! I was ‘back’.
But the feeling that I had been dying hasn’t left me yet.
Contrary to what people say, my life didn’t flash, I didn’t instantly think of my children or loved ones. That makes me feel like a turd because, c’mon, I didn’t think about who I was leaving behind? Maybe that’s because, thank my gracious God, I wasn’t actually dying? I hope that’s it. My brain was obviously WAY busy trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me and how to fix it.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that the past couple days have been severe-low free!! After the above incident, we called my doc again that night. He happened to be on call, so we got to talk directly to him. He had me lower the basals another .125 each. That made a total of 6 units per day that I lowered my insulin use. He confirmed what we suspected, this is very rare. He said it seemed as if I had become more sensitive to the insulin, which is awesome. less insulin saves money and makes it easier to lose or maintain weight.
I’m thrilled. Puzzled as to why it happened, but thrilled that it has. I had asked my friends and family to pray because it was getting really scary. Who knows how low my sugar was on that drive up to Mom’s the evening after Thanksgiving? Even after treating a moderate low! That’s the reason why, when my boys were much younger, I would keep my blood sugars a bit high…I couldn’t stand the thought that I might go low when I was in the car with them. I mentioned to a few people the thought that God might be healing me.
That’s a frightening thing to say “out loud” (or in a text). Because, what if He isn’t? And then, I felt like a failure as a Christian for doubting. But it wasn’t that I doubted He could, because for a short period of time after a traumatic accident, He DID take away my need for insulin altogether! So I know He can, I guess it’s scary to hope He will when He might not, ya know?
Anyhow, my belief is that God is healing us all…it just may not happen here in this life. Ultimately, every child of God will be in perfect health with no pain or worry.
Ahhhh, I am eager for that!
Hebrew 7:11 – “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?”
EDIT::: I feel like I need to clarify a bit. Sorry to expand an already long post, but for those who want to know more, read on…
So when I say, “BOOM! I was ‘back’.” it isn’t quite like that normally. Maybe I seemed to bounce back a little quicker because I was at my parents’ house because I fret a lot about making them worry about me/the diabetes.
Case in point: the other day, right in the middle of this whole “too many severe lows” situation, Mom and I were supposed to go out for breakfast with my mother-in-law and one of Hubby’s aunts who was in town visiting. So all four of us had planned to meet that morning at a restaurant. I don’t know if she called just to remind me or if it was some other reason, but apparently, she called and all I would say to her is, “I’m alright. I’m alright. I’m alright.” over and over. Obviously, I was NOT alright because I have absolutely no recollection of even answering the phone. She ended up having to come to the house and get me out of bed and nurse me out of a low. Apparently I worry SO much about making her worry that I’ll lie even when I’m all-but unconscious! So, that COULD be why I “came back” so fast the other night.
The thing is that lows are not always the same. Obviously, I no longer always even feel them. In the early years of my diabetes, I could count on getting shaky and sweaty and nervous. Then later, those became intermittent with numbness around my lips and tongue. Then there were the “sleep lows”…when I went low in my sleep and would wake up or be awakened soaking wet from sweat. Sometimes I still do that and I don’t always wake up. But later, I’ll recall rolling over or half-waking and noticing that I’m sweaty. I’ll think to myself that the house seems really hot and usually just toss off the cover and go back to sleep. Sometimes Hubby will wake up and find me like that. Other times, I recoup from minor lows on my own.
One thing that’s become habit for my hubbs is to feel my face whenever he wakes in the night. Sometimes it’s less than gentle and irritates me but I try not to get really mad. It’s not fun to wake from a dead sleep with someone pawing your face while they aren’t fully awake either. Ha. But I know he’s just checking on me. Poor guy, I can’t count the number of times he’s gotten up in the wee hours to coax food and drink down my throat, sometimes with me fighting him. Then changing my soaked bed clothes, occasionally putting me in the tub and then even switching sides with me so I don’t have to sleep on the damp sheets til morning. He is my greatest support and caregiver.
Some people want their moms when they are sick, but I want my husband.
The other weird thing that’s stayed fairly constant is the bone-chilling freeze that I get after a super-low with mega-sweating. Once my sugar starts to normalize, I will feel as if my insides have turned to ice and I’ll be so cold that I want every source of warmth available on me. How many times has Hubby wrapped me in his arms to warm me up during The Freeze? I can’t even guess. How many times has he pulled blankets out of the closet to pile on me? Thank God, that doesn’t last long, but while it’s happening, it feels like I’ll never be warm again!
So, don’t think that lows just happen and then are over all at once. No two lows are the same and no two diabetics will have the same symptoms or react the same to treatment. That’s the insidious nature of type 1 diabetes. It tends to have a mind of its own and does whatever it darn well pleases.
My hope, in taking the time to write this stuff out, is that it might help someone understand more about diabetes and the diabetics in their life. Or perhaps it will make other T1D’s feel less alone in the daily battle that is our lives. Whatever else you deal with, however hard the days and weeks and years get, always know there’s hope. Don’t ever lose hope. ❤