A Diabetes Break

The thing with diabetes is it never gives you a break. It is constant and you always have to TRY to be one step ahead of it . Some days you will succeed and others you will fail miserably. Every day you have to get right back on the horse, or the bike, or your motorcycle and try, try again, because giving up is not an option. My husband will never ever get a break from diabetes. It will go wherever he goes. It’s a constant companion. No matter where he goes or what he does, he will have to consider diabetes. It’s almost like a girlfriend that turns into  a stalker when you try to make it go away.

My husband will be going on a business trip soon. He will take his diabetes with him. He will take a box full of goodies, hopefully enough for his time away. He will need some carb-y snacks and some low carb snacks. I’ll probably stick some peanut butter, crackers, glucose tablets, etc in there. I will also probably worry the entire time he is gone. Especially at night. He sleeps soundly, but I get up at least once per night. No matter what wakes me up, I make it a habit to check on him. Depending on what his activity level and/ or blood sugar was before or at bedtime, I might check his blood sugar.

These are the things that worry me when he is away for any length of time. It hasn’t happened very often. I can probably count on one hand how many times it has. When he went to Reno 16 years ago, I don’t remember worrying. He was diabetic then, but it hadn’t infiltrated my life as much as it does now. We are constantly checking in with each other on his blood sugars, his insulin doses and how he is feeling. He CAN count carbs, but typically he relies on me to tell him what they are, because I prepare most of his meals. (he’s generally on his own for breakfast and takes leftovers for lunch)

So he won’t get a break…. ever, but I will. He will be gone and I won’t be able to count his carbs or prepare his meals. I won’t have to meal plan with him in mind, while he is gone. The kids and I can graze if we want, we can have ice cream, sandwiches, cereal. I won’t have to make sure that the meal I am providing is well rounded.

It sounds almost delightful, but I am sure that when the time comes, I won’t think so. I will probably worry too much to really enjoy it. He HAS promised to keep in touch morning and night with his blood sugar readings. It sounds awful, like he has to check in with a mom, but he knows that it gives me peace of mind.

And as a side note, have you seen this? http://www.wral.com/news/national_world/national/video/14722595/

Do you think a cure for diabetes is possible? I’ve seen many hopeful “cures” that haven’t panned out, so i am a bit hesitant to get excited about anything that seems possible.

I’ll check back in at a later date and let you know how the time apart went. eeeek.

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. 

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