Where Are We Going?

When I look back, it’s hard to believe that 17 years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about diabetes. Well, I guess I can’t say NOTHING. I knew my husband had it. I knew he had to test his blood sugar and take shots. I didn’t know about carbs, high blood sugars, low blood sugars. I was about to get a crash course though.

Less than a year into our marriage, my husband, stepdaughter, and I went camping with my parents. My parents have never camped in the local parks. Oh, no, as children we hiked miles to our camping locations. As adults, it was a little gentler, we just drove hours to our destination. (By the way, I miss those days!)

On this particular trip, I don’t remember how long we had been there or how long we were staying. I do remember waking up at some point in the night and knowing that something wasn’t right. I checked my husband. He was breathing, but he wasn’t particularly responsive. Fortunately I knew enough to know that not responding was not okay. I grabbed his blood glucose monitor. I had seen him use it hundreds of times. I looked at that thing, I pushed buttons, I looked at it again.

I had no clue what I was doing.

I ran to my parents’ camp site and knocked on their trailer door. “Something is wrong with Chad!” They woke up right away and came to our site. They tried to figure out this blood sugar tester thingamabob and we. were. CLUELESS. It was a bad time to realize that we had no idea how to operate this thing. I am not sure that I should even get points for knowing we NEEDED to use it.

My dad said the hospital was some 40+ miles away. Somehow we were able to get my husband into the truck. My mom stayed behind with my step daughter. My dad was hurtling down this windy, curvy road as fast as he could maneuver the corners. It was dark and it was a little concerning and I don’t think my anxiety could handle a trip like that today. I remember wondering what it was going to be like at the hospital. What would they do? Would he be okay? I didn’t have any experience in this department and I hadn’t prepared myself very well. It was his disease. I was just married to him. I never gave any thought to his diabetes.

Somewhere between the camp site and the hospital, my husband came out of his low blood glucose stupor. (I can’t remember if we had tried to give him anything. My mom probably remembers) What a surprise it must have been for him! He looked around and said “Where are we going?”

I told him we were headed to the hospital, because he hadn’t been responsive. Then he asked where his daughter was. I figured if he was aware enough to worry about the care of his daughter, he was probably okay, so I gave my dad the all clear to head back to camp.

You better believe that we learned to use that monitor immediately!

Also, the next morning, we were talking to the camp host and told him what had happened. He said he was diabetic and he could have helped us. Why didn’t we think of that?

I know the answer to that. Back then we didn’t think about a lot of things. We would eventually learn though.

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Test Strips, Test Strips Everywhere!

My husband goes through a lot of test strips. 4-6 per day on a good day, up to 8-10 on others. He says he throws them away, but I am telling you, I FIND THEM EVERYWHERE! I’ve heard other people say the same thing about their family members, friends, or self with diabetes. Test strips everywhere. When we were on vacation, I found test strips in the driveway. I wonder if he has ever inadvertently left any in a restaurant?

I knew that he had reached new heights in dropping test strips when my 15 year old daughter came in the kitchen and said “I just found one of daddy’s test strips… IN MY BED!”

Now this is a miracle. He never even goes in their room and she is in the top bunk of a bunk bed!

We’ve got test strips…. everywhere!

How Low Can He Go?

The right amount of carbs + the right amount of insulin = Diabetes Bliss

The right amount of carbs + too much insulin = Diabetes Hell aka a low blood sugar

My least favorite thing about diabetes is the low blood sugar.

This is my husband

IMG_0313

This is my husband with a low blood sugar

Chad blood sugar beachThe difference may be so subtle that many people wouldn’t even notice. I don’t like this picture. It is a reminder of the time that I was so focused on something else that I didn’t notice he was not “right”. Usually I can look at him and tell by his stance, the look on his face, the way he holds his hands, and the way he talks to me. On this day, I completely missed it, and he had to bring it to my attention. A few days later I was looking through the pictures I had taken and it was as clear as day.

According to WebMD, symptoms of a low blood sugar include:

I normally have a sixth sense when it comes to my husband and his blood sugars. I called him from work a few years ago and knew he had a low blood sugar. I was too far away to help in a reasonable amount of time, so I called the paramedics.

Low blood sugars can be caused by too much insulin, too little carbs, and exercise. It happens when the body does not have enough glucose in its blood stream.

I asked my husband what it is like to have a low blood sugar. He said that for him, low blood sugar leads to confusion, exhaustion, and feeling like it is extremely difficult to move. I looked at him and smiled. “That explains the time you kept telling us your feet were glued to the floor”. He said that is exactly what it feels like, as if he is slogging through mud and it takes all of his strength and effort to lift his feet one more time. I asked if he knows that he is having a low blood sugar. He said “Sometimes, but it’s like I am in an alternate world. I know that’s what it is, but I can’t figure out what to do to take care of it.” He also said that diabetes likes to trick the brain. His body feels off, but his brain keeps telling him he is okay.

My daughter says that the scariest time for her was a day we were at Goodwill. My husband was shopping with the kids elsewhere in the store. I hadn’t seen him for a while. My daughter came up and said “Something is wrong with daddy”. It was very crowded and I had a hard time finding him. When I did, he was staggering like a drunk. I found a chair and sat him down. We had been at Target prior to Goodwill and I just happened to buy an orange juice. I had taken a sip of it, then put it back in my purse. His blood sugar was so low that the bottle didn’t help much. I grabbed a bottle out of their cooler and gave that to him. We’ve had to do this a few times over the years, and I do it knowing that I could risk making an employee angry. I don’t care. 🙂 Sometimes, like that day, a low blood sugar comes on so quick that he doesn’t have time to react to it.

Night time is the worst, because it is generally 8 hours of untreated diabetes. If you are resting, you are not testing your blood sugar. Lucky for my husband, I don’t sleep. Okay, I’m kidding. I do wake up several times a night to check on him though. I don’t always check his blood sugar, but I make sure he is breathing and not sweating. When he is sleeping, I can predict a blood sugar by the way he breathes and if he is sweating. A low blood sugar sweat does not present itself in the same way as “this room is way too hot” sweat.

I wish that people who know he has diabetes understood better the signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar. Last week, I made a spur of the moment decision to visit him at work. I didn’t tell him I was coming, I showed up. When I walked in, he was glad to see me, then he said “I’m not doing well”. He sat down and tested his blood sugar. It was 32. (anything less than 70 is considered low, although he is much more functional at 67 than he is 32) Even while he was treating his low blood sugar, his co-workers were talking to him, asking him questions, and trying to push him out the door for lunch.

If my husband has calculated his carbs and his insulin amount, he can’t decide halfway through that he just isn’t hungry anymore and skip eating the rest of his meal. Since he has already dosed for the entire meal, he’s kind of stuck eating the entire meal. It’s pretty inconvenient.

A low blood sugar can be relatively easy to counteract, you just have to catch it. One of the challenges we face is his insurance company only wants to cover 3 test strips per day. One for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. Without insurance coverage, test strips are very expensive. He needs to test, at a minimum 4 times per day. (He needs to test before bedtime) If he feels off, he needs to test. If his blood sugar is low, he needs to treat it and retest in 15 minutes. It is very hard to get by on just 3 strips per day.

Have you ever seen someone with a low blood sugar? Do you know how to treat it? The general consensus is 15 grams of fast acting carbs and retest in 15 minutes. I’m official. I have glucose tablets in my purse at all times. 

Type 1? Type 2? What’s the difference?

My mama, one of my faithful readers (HI, MOM!) said that I should write something funny. I should. I really should. I’m not going to do that today. (Sorry, mom!)

One thing that frustrates me and many diabetics, is that people don’t know there are different types of diabetes. They assume that all diabetes is the same, and they are all caused by indulging too much on the candy aisle. Grrrrr, Grrrrr, Grrrrr

There are three different types of diabetes. Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. I have had day to day experience with Type 1 for 17 years. While I have not had as much experience with Type 2 diabetes, I am familiar with it. My father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a million moons ago. Which is what I say when I don’t actually know the answer. It works. Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy, but disappears after birth. I was tested for Gestational diabetes with 2 of my pregnancies, but thankfully I did not have it.

I learned something interesting from this site. Out of 100 people with diabetes, 5 – 10 of them have type 1 diabetes. 90 – 95 of them have Type 2. No wonder people assume that all diabetes is caused by a horrible diet. 

What is the difference? Type 1 diabetes is formerly known as juvenile onset. It mainly affects children and young adults. It is not caused by eating habits. It is caused by a total lack of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is primarily diagnosed in adulthood, but it is becoming more common for kids to be diagnosed. T2D produce too little insulin or their bodies can not use insulin effectively.

Type 1 Diabetes CAN NOT BE PREVENTED. Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented, delayed or even reversed through diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Type 1 Diabetes must be treated with insulin. Type 2 CAN BE treated with insulin, but it’s not always the first course of action. My father (T2D) was on several oral medications prior to starting insulin therapy. My husband (T1D), at age 4 or 5, immediately started taking insulin at his diagnosis.

Type 1 or Type 2 doesn’t matter when it comes to how important diet and exercise is for a diabetic. Even with a good treatment program, all diabetics are at risk for kidney disease, blindness, leg amputations, heart disease and strokes. After 45 years of diabetes, my husband’s kidneys are damaged. He does not yet have kidney disease, but it is something he has to be tested for several times a year. One of his diabetic camp buddies had a leg amputated, another had a kidney transplant and is on permanent disability. All diabetics using insulin, injected or oral are also at risk for low blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms develop slowly and may not be known for years. Symptoms include weight loss, hunger, frequent urination, fatigue and blurred vision. Symptoms for Type 1 diabetes are similar, however T1D generally comes on quickly.

Both types of diabetes are life changers. One does not simply fill a prescription, pop a pill, and continue on with life as before. There is much to learn, from diet to how stress, illness and insulin affect you, and a few too many things in between. Previously I said that after 17 years of living with a diabetic, I am still learning. I am not sure that there ever comes a point where you “know it all” and you’re good to go. Treatment plans change, new information comes out, and different things are discovered.

All diabetes, not all the same.

Did you know that there are different types of diabetes or did you think they are all the same? Hey, I thought there was only one and it was the type my husband has, and I was surprised to learn that there were others! 

And, mom, I promise to tell a story next week, well, maybe.

 

 

What is a Carb and Why Does it Matter?

I Googled “What is a carb?”

Google said “Short for carburetor”.

Close. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

Carbohydrates, what they are, and how they affect the body are as important to a diabetic as insulin.

Let’s start with what a carbohydrate is. A carbohydrate is defined as: any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body.

Um. What?

Foods with carbs are typically pastas, rice, bread, potatoes, sweets, sugars, etc. Carbs! Glorious carbs. I love carbs. 

That sounds simple enough, but it gets tricky when you learn that there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are sweets, white breads, potatoes, sugar, sodas, donuts, etc. Fruits and vegetables also consist of simple sugars, but the body processes them like a complex carb.

Complex carbs are carbs that take the body longer to break down and process. This gives a more steady release of sugars throughout the day and is better than the spike and dip of simple carbs. Complex carbs are whole wheat (rice, pasta, bread). Complex carbs are better for everyone.

Just to complicate things, one carb doesn’t always equal another. 15g of carbs from a bowl of cream of wheat affects my husband differently than 15g of carbs from a potato. If only one equaled another. He has to keep track of how many units of insulin he needs based on carbs and also has to remember that sometimes he needs to take more or less for one food than another.

The body uses carbohydrates for energy. The moment you put it in your mouth and swallow, your body starts processing it. Carbs cause your blood sugar to rise, then your pancreas produces insulin to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.

Unless you’re diabetic, because your pancreas is broken and not producing insulin. A non-diabetic person’s body automatically calculates how much insulin you need and distributes it.  A diabetic has to do this calculation themselves, taking into account current blood sugar and carbs to be consumed. Then they administer the insulin (synthetic) their body doesn’t produce. Without insulin, your body doesn’t know to level off. A normal blood sugar is under 140. Kycie was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with T1D. She had a blood sugar of 1,148. This is what diabetes does!

I imagine that for a typical person, the amount of carbs in a food is not particularly important. It seems most people know there are good carbs and bad carbs, even if they like to indulge in the bad. A diabetic needs to be aware of the carbs in any and all foods and drinks that they consume. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Some food doesn’t come in labeled packaging and if it’s a vegetable, you might not think there are carbs in it. Carrots have carbs. My husband loves carrots, so he needs to be careful to either dose for the carbs, or not to over indulge.

I don’t know why anyone would willfully over indulge on a carrot, but hey, that’s me. He sings his own songs. 

Fortunately, these days, information is practically at our finger tips. It is very easy to search “How many carbs are in a carrot?”. 6g for one carrot, in case you were wondering. With this information, a diabetic can calculate their insulin dose, inject and eat. My husband would not dose for one carrot, but if he was eating 3 of them, he would need to do so.  (There’s a calculation and it’s not a one size fits all formula and if you figure out YOUR formula, it can change. Because it wants to. Diabetes is its own boss, it doesn’t need a reason.)

My husband has to be aware, all the time, of all the carbs. If he thinks he doesn’t need to count a carb, he is usually wrong. On Saturdays, we like to grab a coffee. He always gets a sugar free Double Torture. He used to never dose, but then we found out there are 16 carbs in the milk they use. He started injecting two units of insulin prior to drinking it, and hasn’t had wild blood sugars like in the past. “But I only had that sugar free drink!”. Sugar free does not equal carb free and it matters!

Sometime we’ll talk about that time that the waitress served him a regular drink, instead of diet. Fortunately he noticed. We can’t imagine what 38 extra carbs not accounted for, would have done to his blood sugar! By “noticed”, I mean after he drank practically the whole glass, he pushed it across the table and said “I don’t think that’s diet”. I tasted it, confirmed it was not. So he recalculated his dosage, with the extra carbs included.

Carbs. They matter.

Please don’t take anything I say as gospel or fact. Do your own research, talk to your own doctor. If you see a mistake I’ve made, please bring it to my attention. I wrote this based on personal experience, reading, dietitian appointments, and internet searching. I am not a professional, just experienced. I’m going to get to some fun stories some time. I’m starting with the basics. Ha. None of this sounds basic though. Even writing it down makes my head spin and I am not sure how we do it.  

Sources:

http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2011/mar/how-the-body-uses-carbohydrates-proteins-and-fats.html

http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/101/nutrition-basics/good-carbs-bad-carbs.aspx

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/

http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/how-sugar-affects-diabetes

So What is Diabetes?

I’m going to go all Texan for a minute and say y’all! You have been so encouraging and excited and it makes ME excited! I have been stumbling for words for a few years. They used to flow through my finger tips and then they stopped coming. Much of my life is spent talking about, thinking about, reading about, learning about diabetes. Well, hello? Why don’t I WRITE about it?

I have a lot of stories floating around in my head about diabetes. I don’t even know where to start, because I want to start with them all! When I told my kids I was starting this blog, they started throwing out stories to tell. “Remember when daddy had a low blood sugar and he thought his feet were stuck to the floor?” Or from my husband “Remember when I belched in your mom’s face?”

So I’ll start with the obvious, what diabetes is, and what a person has to do to get it. (it’s not what you think)

So what is diabetes? Well, did you know that there are two types of diabetes? Many people don’t. There is a lot of information out there about Type 2 Diabetes and it is assumed that this is the type everyone has. You know the one where you are overweight, don’t exercise and don’t eat well, so this is your punishment? Yes, this is the actual attitude that a lot of diabetics are subjected to! I know a boy who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 18 months old. People have asked his mom if it’s because she gave him too much juice in his bottle.

Eh, no.

Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The receiver of this diagnosis is as culpable for it, as I am for my hearing loss. I did not do anything to cause my hearing loss, my ears are damaged. Type 1 diabetes is the same way. It does not happen to you because you have made poor choices. Your pancreas is as broken as my ears. (maybe a little more! I can still hear)

So with Type 1 Diabetes, your pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. “Each year, 15,000 children and 15,000 adults are diagnosed with T1D in the United States.” (source) There is nothing you can do to prevent it. It is not caused by diet or life style choices.

Treatment for T1D includes diet, exercise, INSULIN (the most important part of managing T1D), and frequent blood sugar testing. Not only do you have to treat T1D with all these, you have to balance them. It may sound easy, but imagine someone hands you four playground balls and tells you to hold them without dropping them. Sound doable? Now balance those four balls, at one time, without dropping them. Oh, is that a little more challenging? Balancing all the components of diabetes care is a little like that. However if you drop one of those balls, you’re not risking your health and well being. A diabetic would be.

No matter how great a person with type 1 diabetes is with balancing all the components of their care, they run the risk every day of too high or too low blood sugars. Diabetes is constantly changing. What affects you one day will affect you differently the next day. A diabetic must constantly be alert and flexible in order to manage their disease.

There isn’t a cure for T1D. Even with treatment, those with T1D are at risk for nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, heart attack, stroke and complications in pregnancy.

The most important thing to remember is the difference. Type 1 Diabetes IS NOT Type 2 Diabetes. Do not ask a Type 1 diabetic what they did to cause their disease. In fact, don’t even ask a Type 2 diabetic that question. It’s insulting and rude and if you are not one of the key people in their life, you don’t really need this information.

My husband was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 45 years ago. The treatment then pales in comparison to the treatment now. Doctors told his parents that statistically he would only live to 35 years of age. That was 15 years ago! You might think that with 45 years of diabetic knowledge, he would know everything there is to know, but we are learning new things every day!

Here are some symptoms of diabetes:

  • extreme thirst
  • frequent urination
  • drowsiness/ lethargy
  • increased appetite
  • sudden weight loss
  • sudden vision changes
  • fruity smelling breath

Did you learn anything new? Did you know that there are two different kinds of diabetes? Do you have any questions? (I know how to Google) Did I get something wrong or not quite right? (Let me know!)

My Credentials – I Have None

I have loved writing since I was a kid. I breathed writing. I lived writing. I was a writer and I knew I was going to grow up to be a writer. I wrote poems and stories and I was going to write books. Then all of a sudden, I stopped writing. I struggled to find words, ideas, and stories. People told me to write what I know, but I felt like I didn’t know anything.

Who am I? I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. As cliche as it sounds, I live, I laugh, I love. My husband and I have five kids. I keep house, I pay bills, I advocate for those who are considered “less than”. Other people have said I am so creative. Creative with paper, creative with words, but I don’t feel creative in my mind.

Then one weekend came like many before them. My husband of seventeen years was struggling with his type 1  diabetes management. I put my nose into our books, notes, doctor visits and created a plan. I presented the plan to him. Once again we were living and breathing diabetes and it hit me. Write about what I know. I know what it’s like to live with and love a diabetic.

I have been with my husband through the highs and lows of his chronic disease, as well as the steadies. Diabetes has interrupted my life and frustrated me, as much as it has him. It never rests and it is always present.

Diabetes is much like our 9 year old. We can not control it (or her). We can only manage them. Every day we wait for results and create new game plans. If it’s a good day, the game plan is very similar to the day before. On a bad day, it can be devastating and it is exhausting. We never know what we are going to get.

For 17 years, I have been my husband’s support person.  This is a family affair. Diabetes doesn’t just affect its host, it affects us all. When he has given up, I give my all. He goes head to head with diabetes every single day, and I stand next to him. Diabetes never rests, it never sleeps, it never gives us a break. We are always one step behind, learning the rules, and playing the game.

I will write what I know. I do not have medical knowledge. I have experience.

You are here:

Sugar Daddy

The Position is Filled and the Syringe is too

There will be stories. We have some doozies. You will laugh, hold your breath, and maybe shed a tear.

I’m looking forward to sharing it all. Maybe you are searching for someone who has been there and done that. I just might be that person. Come on in. All are welcome here.