Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Answer.

All of a sudden, I couldn't focus my eyes on anything.

I knew my 8 month-old daughter had her eyes fixed on me; my peripheral vision worked enough for me to know that she was jubilantly swinging her legs back and forth in the seat of the grocery cart. I could tell that she was grinning and waiting for me to return her smile, as she often does. Instead I reached behind her to grab my purse.

My hand instinctively went first to my Dexcom receiver. I clicked the button to wake it up, and it told me I was at 113 mg/dL with a straight arrow, meaning that it thought my blood sugar was in range and steady. "I don't think that's right", I mumbled out loud - there's no other reason my vision would have suddenly changed. Reaching to the right-most interior pocket, I searched for that plastic tube's familiar shape; the one that holds my glucose tabs.

I picked it up and shook it. Empty.

"Ugh, are you seeeeeerious...", I muttered. I turned the cart around and headed for the checkout, still unable to really focus but knowing that all of the fast-acting sugar was up by the registers, so that's where we needed to go. Should I try to test?, I thought to myself. I decided against it for two reasons: I knew that trying to balance a testing kit on the handle of the grocery cart was a no-go because tiny hands would try to "help", and I also knew that it was safer to just treat the possible low blood sugar when in doubt, and test later to confirm. I caught Rabbit's gaze, smiling meekly at her. I would keep us safe. I would keep her safe. "We're okay", I said out loud in a sing-songy voice, mostly to her but also to try to convince myself because I wasn't so sure we were.

We got to the checkout and my eyes found the soda cooler. I don't want soda, part of my mind said. Don't they have juice? I don't see any. When I tried to look at the candy display to my right, it shifted and blurred. I could not come to a decision. Chocolate isn't a great low treatment because it doesn't work as quickly. Do they have Starbursts? Wait, that's not good either; lots of chewing. And on and on, until the rational part of my brain ducked its head in, cutting through the low-induced indecision for juuuuust a second to say, Literally ANY OF THESE THINGS can save your life right now, just pick one and eat it.

With Snickers bar in hand, I swiped my debit card. I didn't even know how much we had spent, but we had two bags of groceries suddenly ready to go in the main compartment of our cart. Maybe once I start walking, my eyes will be able to focus. (Sidenote: I have no idea why I thought this.)

I pushed the cart of precious cargo out to the parking lot, still not touching the Snickers. Too many things to juggle at once; I'll eat it once we get to the car. The sunlight hit our faces and the Rabbit squinted her eyes. "We're aaaaallmost there, punkin'." I felt the symptoms of the low finally kick in - I felt weak and helpless but determined that I would not pass out on the way to the car.

And I didn't - I even got the groceries into the trunk and my daughter into her carseat. (Not gracefully, but I did it.) Only as I finished inhaling the Snickers bar did I realize we'd bought bananas, so I ate one of those too. I turned up the radio (silent cars seem to upset the wee one) and we sat for a while in the parked car, my daughter batting at her toy monkey hanging from the carseat handle and me finally testing my blood sugar a few minutes later.

53 mg/dL.

That's the thing about living with diabetes - I'm fine, until I'm not. Once lucid again, I scolded myself for potentially putting us both in danger: Couldn't I have treated that low before we ever left the safety of the building, instead of confining myself to the car where no one might notice if I passed out? Shouldn't I have checked my glucose tab supply before we ever set foot in the store, knowing that grocery shopping makes me often run low? What if I did pass out? Would my daughter be okay? Would the paramedics find my medical ID bracelet; the one whose colorful beads make it look a lot like a normal, recreational one? Should I have said something to someone? Diabetes gives me so many reasons to question myself.

You can be as vigilant as possible, use the latest devices, dutifully take every medication on time, and eat all of the "right" things, and incidents like this can still happen. The answer to "Am I okay?" always has this asterisk on it, as the answer is never completely yes or no.

The knee-jerk response when I say that "I'm fine" belies the intricate nature of what's going on both in my body and in my mind, and I hate that sometimes I have to admit that the answer to the question "Are you okay?"  isn't so cut-and-dry:

Probably? I guess we'll know in a few minutes.


  1. Glad you're fine now even if maybe you weren't then. Some of my strongest and scariest memories of 37 years with Type 1 are lows that I had when I was with my then young children. I still say prayers of thanks that we got through them OK.

  2. The "What ifs?" will do you in. I'm glad you're okay.

  3. This has happened to me many times with my son in toe. When he was younger, I would tell him "I'm low" and head for the cookie isle (don't know why the cookie isle) rip open a bag and just eat a handful right there (of course he would also get a few cookies to join in the party).

    Now that he's 14, he is the scholar on where the cookie isle is in every store we frequent. If I start sounding a little "off" he knows exactly what to do...and I now let him pick which cookie bag to rip open. I have never had anyone working question me when I've done this so I don't feel embarrassed looking like a sugar-rush addict.

    So glad you were able get through it safely!

  4. I'm glad you guys made it through okay! That's one of my big fears, when I think about being a Mom someday. I have that reaction to low blood sugars; the "I can push myself to finish this task, then deal with the low" thoughts/actions. Most of the time it's just me involved - it's still stupid to endanger myself, but at least it's just me affected. I need to change that way of thinking. Granted, low blood sugar doesn't afford us the clearest of thinking skills, so don't beat yourself up too much! I'm learning to always have my 'backup' (in the car, in my purse, money in my pocket) for lows, as moving apparently makes me bottom out. For days.

    Again, can I just say how wonderful it is to have a DOC? Where people really get what it is we go through because they've been there? And thank you for your transparency in these blogs! It's a great relief to me I'm not the only one out there who has these thoughts/fears.

  5. Those are the toughest lows to deal with. Out of nowhere sudden terror, lows. You did it right. Well done, Kim.

  6. So scary. I'm glad it worked out OK.

    Why does grocery shopping/Target make so many of you people low? I guess I should follow the link you provided.

  7. Sounds exactly like situations Ive been in too many times!! :( Thank goodness you made it to the car, but why on earth do we choose that time to prove to ourselves we are ok? -Sigh- Is it that we dont want to draw attention to ourselves? Are we THAT stubborn? I was 33 the other day at work and someone scolded me for eating jellybeans. Maybe thats why we keep to ourselves? Sheesh.

  8. I generally head over to the grocery store bakery when that happens and treat myself to a donut. When I was pregnant, it happened a number of times; once while I was standing in the bakery eating my chocolate donut, and I decided I should get one for my husband as well. I chose a different variety that was also chocolate (remember, pregnant), and as I went to put it in the bakery bag for him, I wondered, "what does this other chocolate one taste like?" So I took a bite of his donut. While I had my own donut in my other hand. As I stood there with half-eaten chocolate donuts in BOTH hands, someone from the bakery came out from behind the counter and asked, "Can I help you?" I just said "No thank you," rather than try to explain the blurry brain and less-than-rational decisions of a low blood sugar episode!


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