I was 27 years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I thought it would be pretty easy to manage at my age as long as I followed doctor’s orders. I had to make a few mistakes along the way to learn how complicated it could be.
My worst newbie sin was overcorrecting with insulin. I now know that insulin resides in the body for about 4 hours after dosing, but back in the day I would hastily check my glucose 15 to 30 minutes afterward, and then take another dose if my blood sugar levels had not yet come down. This was a major no-no and led to a couple very scary hypoglycemic attacks.
The first happened while on tour with the Paul Taylor Dance Company during a layover at London Heathrow Airport. On the plane I had taken a shot to cover the in-flight meal, but then decided against airplane food. Unfortunately, I failed to make up for the carbs for which I had dosed, leaving me with too much insulin in my system.
Leaving the plane, I became disoriented and lost consciousness. I came to with the entire company surrounding me in a protective cocoon, and one of the dancers forcing me to drink orange juice. This was my first low with the company, and I could register the shock on their faces.
That thoughtful dancer with orange juice, Andy, later became my husband. We had another orange juice incident several years later, this time it was at home.
I had taken a dosage for dinner, but my glucose wasn’t where I wanted it to be before calling it a night, so I took another shot. I have no memory of much of the rest of the night, so I have to rely on Andy’s memory of the incident.
Apparently I had gone into extreme hypoglycemia. I woke up Andy by knocking over my bedside lamp and then falling onto the floor in a convulsion. He ran to get some orange juice from the fridge and then pinned me down to make me drink it. I didn’t stand for being pinned down and I did my best to spit out all the juice. He almost ran out of juice before he got enough in for me to regain semi-consciousness. When I finally came to, I was still a bit confused and was sitting on the edge of the bed.
Andy sternly said, “James, drink more juice.” I dutifully took a mouthful of juice and spat it all over the bed.
It was only then that I asked myself what I was doing. The bed was soaked with juice, I had it all over me, and poor Andy was in a panic. I felt horrible for what I put my husband through and couldn’t believe what a mess I had made. Once out of danger, I showered off and helped Andy clean up.
I am happy to say that I have not gone through another episode like that. I have learned to wait before correcting with more insulin, and I now use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to stay in the loop of my glucose levels. Sometimes, you have to learn the hard way for the lesson to stick.
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