Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Miracles

It happened in summer. It was one of those hot days. You know -- the kind of hot days that make diabetes a real suckfest. It was the kind of day when you feel as if your body's pores are leaking sugar along with your sweat. I had to drive into Boston to give a lecture at Emerson College about Direct Marketing for non-profits. Leaving Providence, I was a little nervous -- but excited.

I cruised up 95 and onto 93... And I felt OK...

And then I got onto Storrow Drive and I started realizing how confused I was. It seemed as if the people around me on their daily commute were driving like idiots and the signs and landmarks I was looking for -- well, they just didn't seem to be there at all. I thought -- it's just your nerves -- just find your exit -- and find a parking space. You don't want to be late.

I got off Storrow, and by some miracle, I got off at the right place. But I could not find a parking space. If you have ever been to downtown Boston -- near the Commonwealth exit -- you can testify to the fact that even when your bloodsugar is perfectly fine, it is damned confusing. There are lots of strange alleyways and weird one way streets. Now, add a low bloodsugar. Now, add the fact that the person having the low bloodsugar is having a "stubborn moment" and has not yet tested... You've now got a person driving their car the wrong way down alleyways and one way streets and asking silly questions of passersby who think they're completely nuts.... And, oh, by the way, the person driving the car happens to encounter a Boston cop as they're exiting the wrong way down one of those one-way streets... Thankfully -- or maybe regretfully -- the Boston cop doesn't feel like enforcing the law that day.

Finally, I realize I am probably not going to make it to this lecture. Because, finally, I test my bloodsugar and have a reading of 26 mg/dl. Yikes. That's what I thought to myself. Yikes. I have nothing fast enough to treat this kind of bloodsugar in my car (read: a juice box and three glucose tabs are NOT going to do it.) I suck down the juice box and drive out to the nearest "main" street -- which, by another miracle, was Massachusetts Avenue. I see a sign for Trader Joe's in a row of houses to my left and I pull over into a T Bus stop space. I cross Mass Avenue, stumbling like a fool. I take an escalator DOWN to Trader Joe's. I marvel at how strange it is that there is a Trader Joe's in the basement of the people whose apartments are upstairs. I marvel at what I think is an absurd selection of food. I leave Trader Joe's -- nearly 20 minutes later -- with a quart bottle of 2% milk, a bag of Trader Reduced Fat Crunchy Cheese Curls, and a 4 oz bag of Jelly Beans (the last of that particular item in the store.) I find that my car is still outside -- parked totally illegally -- and that there are a number of people marveling at me as I get in it. It seems that the people standing around staring are also speaking a million foreign languages. The World is hazy and feels so far away.

I start driving -- and guzzling the milk -- and finishing the jelly beans and eating the cheese curls. I am covered in cheese curl orange cheese and I end up spilling most of the milk down the front of my shirt. I make it down Mass Avenue and somehow I found Route 93. I end up, by accident, driving to the airport. No, I am not kidding. I am at the airport, once again, parked illegally. I test again. I am only up to 39 mg/dl. I am scared. I have given no insulin in hours. I have shut my pump off. I am eating like a mad woman. All I have left in my store of weird food is a few sips of milk and some cheese curls... And my bloodsugar is NOT coming up fast enough.

So... what do I do? I drive out of the airport and get onto 93 -- then realize I'm going North and I want to be going South. I just want to GET HOME. I see an exit with a sign for gas on it and think -- gas, that means they have to have a food mart too, right? I am now frantic. My gas light is on -- both my car gas light and my body gas light -- the body gas light is tellling me "get more food now..." I find the gas station and the attendant food mart. Before I get out of the car -- I test again. 36 mg/dl -- what in god's name is happening to me?

I head into the store -- more stumbling than walking. I still have enough presence of mind to think, "I must look like crap." I run/stumble/walk to the back of the store and grab three 12 ounce bottles of apple juice. I also grab three 12 ounce bottles of fruit punch. I am going to force my bloodsugar up -- or, I think, with a little laugh to myself -- it may be the last thing I do... I mumble something about gas and bloodsugar and things to the puzzled clerk.

Sitting in my car in front of the gas pump -- after I've simultaneously pumped my gas and guzzled two 12 ounce bottle of apple juice, I am finally starting to feel halfway human again. I drink another bottle of apple juice. You can imagine how bloated and disgusting and strange I am. I give myself thirty minutes in front of that pump. The clerk is staring out at me. I can't even imagine what's going through his head. I test again. 92 mg/dl. Thank you, thank you. I'm crying like a child.

I head back to 93 -- get on -- headed South this time. And get myself going home. When I do finally reach my destination I am still weepy and when I'm inside -- I tell my convoluted tale to my boyfriend who listens patiently and frets with me about what could have happened, and why didn't I call (no cellphone and not one working payphone -- or so it seemed -- in the entire city of Boston), and why did I drive in that state (I still don't know), and why did it take my sugar so long to creep up (as yet unexplained -- even after I consulted my endo about it), and why and why and why? -- I test one more time 149 mg/dl before falling into a near-comatose sleep...

And I wake up the next morning -- by yet another miracle. And the sun is hot and melty in a new summer sky. And I am looking back on the day before and I am curious as to how in hell I am alive...

I beep in at a cruising sugar of 96 for the start of another day... Wondering how many more miracles I have and how many more I might need.

17 comments:

Kerri. said...

Terrific writing here. And your tale of Woe is Low is frighteningly similar to my purchase of juice and power ball tickets back in October.

Those lows, the ones that you consume 235,134 plus grams of carbohydrates for and still no bloodsugar budge, are the most confusing to me. They go against all reason. They defy diabetes protocol.

They are scary as hell.

You can't take into account all the potential variables when some are just, simply, so random.

(And Starrow Drive sends me almost comatose even without hypoglycemia. Bravo for triumph over both beasts.)

J said...

Great writing here Nicci for a " not great experience" I always claim to keep something in my car but always seems that there is never anything when I am low :-) go figure glad you made it home safe

Ellen said...

THANKFULLY YOU SURVIVED! I just want to send a hug.

Kassie said...

I've been the passenger in a car being driven by a very low person. It's terrifying!

On a different note, love the caricature!! That is too perfect!

Megan said...

This is so scary. I hate those lows that last forever and don't come up. If I consume more than 200 grams of carbs over the course of 2 hours and am still below 50 I usually say "Screw this" and inject glucagon. Works every time.

Vivian said...

Wow! I was so scared for you and yet I know obviously you made it through it. Great writing. I hope that does not happen again.

Vivian

Erica said...

how scary!! That was a really intense post too...

Andrea said...

Lows- just another joy of having diabetes...

I know, NOT exactly!.

They can be extremely scary, especially when they hit you out of the blue. And have you noticed that they always hit you at the least convenient moment? How annoying. I guess this is a good reason to have food with you at all times...or a Trader Joe's nearby, lol :).

I admit, I'm guilty. I'm not always prepared and I think that's going to get me into trouble if I'm not careful.

Anyways, I'm glad to hear that you survived this experience and hope this doesn't happen again to you anytime soon!

Nicole P said...

Thank you to all of you for your comments.

Kerri: Driving in Boston... Yuck. Anyway you slice it.

Kassie: I had that caricature made when I was working with the Teamsters... Go Rosie!

Megan: I have only had Glucagon once in my life. It made me so sick... Do you get nausea, etc. from it?

Shannon said...

This post really scared me. First it's a miracle that you didn't crash your car when driving while you were so low and that you were able to pull it together enough to get yourself some carbs.

Second, it's a miracle you were able to navigate Storrow and Boston while you were so out of it! I can barely navigate it when we bring Brendon in for appointments. Sure you drove to the airport, but dang if you were still driving on the correct side of the road. That's a miracle in that part of the city.

I'm breathing a big sigh of relief that you made it home safe and sound.

Sandra Miller said...

Okay, this is not only a wonderfully written post, but an aptly titled one as well.

Navigating Storrow Drive while experiencing a dangerously low hypo without getting completely lost or worse?

A miracle indeed.

Nicole, I'm so glad that you were all right.

Megan said...

No, I don't get sick from it. But I take half of it, then if I need the other half, take it later. Usually I only need half, so maybe that is why I don't get sick. I've heard that the reason people get sick is the huge soar in blood sugar when it is all taken at once.

Rachel said...

wow, both that nothing bad happened and that you did this navigating Boston. wow.

julia said...

Yeah, what everyone said about navigating Storrow Drive while low. Amazing.

I'm glad you were ok. Scary, scary stuff. It makes me worried about when my daughter starts driving.

Have you read up on the mini-rescue doses of glucagon? It sounds like what Megan was talking about. There's a formula to figure out how much you need, based on your age, but half for an adult sounds about right. I've never had to use it at all, but I keep a little syringe in Olivia's glucagon kit because that big needle is scary and I think I'd have a hard time jabbing that into her skin.

Shannon said...

Hey Nicole,

How are things going? I see your comments, but I have seen any postings. How has life been treating you? (good I hope).

Anonymous said...

Scarey, VERY scarey. I HATE this disease! And what the future might hold. I did not know that a low might not respond to fast-acting carbs. Especially when you were non-stop eating. Thank God you're all right. But, how many carbs can one possibly carry on their person! Well, I am going to keep the car well stocked at least. And bring the Glucagon. Always. We have been guilty of leaving the house without Glucagon, occasionally, just bringing juice and candy. No more!

KSC said...

What I'll never know is how we can function at all at such low numbers. I remember walking to work one day, feeling perfectly normal. I walk to my favorite Muffin store (the sadly defunct Taylors on 2nd Ave in NYC) and ask for something decadent and then - flop - my legs go out. I sit down and test and its......!8!!!!!! Anyway, it would have been smart to sit and wait a bit, but being the full steam ahead diabetic I am/was I ate my chocolate chip frosted muffin on the go...