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

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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. 

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!)