There was a medical emergency on my flight today. It was me!
Yet, there was no drama—no one rushing to help me, no diverting to the nearest airport. But I was precariously close to death. Again. That happens in my life sometimes. Perhaps I miscalculated the food from the airport (I looked up the carbs on their nutrition guide), perhaps the altitude or pressure caused the change? Maybe my body was more tired after 4 days of being away from home. I will never know, and I have gotten used to that. It doesn’t matter.
My CGM beeped, and I saw the down arrows, so I started munching on my sugar stash. My favorite life-saving medicine of late is Smarties candies. My seatmate just saw me indulging in an early morning candy fest. Perhaps he thought it odd? Who knows?
My number continued to decline. I grabbed my insulin pump controller and paused the delivery. Feeling hot and sweaty, I reached up to open the airflow above me.
Now I wait. I believe I ate enough to do the trick, but I want more and I feel anxious. I pull out my phone—playing a game of Sudoku to distract myself while my digestive system absorbs my Sweeties and converts the sucrose into glucose, making its way into my bloodstream.
No one pays attention to my shaking hands or slight sheen of sweat. Nor do I want or need them to—today. I practice mindfulness, breathing deeply to calm my nerves. Yet, my survival instinct can’t help but roar at the situation. There’s nothing to do but wait and tell myself I have done this before and all will be well. Except, will it? Maybe this will be the time it doesn’t end well. The fear is always there—we are old friends. I thank him for the vigilance and concern.
Eventually, I stabilize. My heart rate comes down, my skin dries, and I can relax. The CGM arrows shift from down to level. The glucose has arrived in my bloodstream. Today is not the day, and I am grateful.
Grateful for the technology that alerted me, the technology that allowed me to see my blood sugar correcting before I could feel it, the tech that gives me insulin and allows me to stop it as well. I am grateful for the candies I loved as a child which now save my life and bring back memories of the days when they were just a treat to enjoy.
I don’t share this for sympathy or to startle, but to remind everyone that even though diabetes can be treated, it still poses a dangerous and real threat to life. A blood glucose level of 47 may cause some people to lose consciousness or even seize. I know I am fortunate to have hypo awareness and tolerate levels others may not. During my years as an ER nurse, I saw it all too often—even with numbers in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
However, just because you may not notice the struggle doesn’t mean it doesn’t significantly impact our physical, emotional, and mental state. It absolutely does! There are things we learn to help us adapt, or at least we should be learning these things. Unfortunately, diabetes care seldom teaches these skills, and people continue to be traumatized and suffer more than needed. My mission is to change that and support all aspects of a person’s struggle: body, mind, and spirit.
Someone nearly died on a plane today, and it was me. The only evidence was a few candy wrappers on a tray table and the feelings I typically keep inside me.
Be well and if you are ready to learn some new skills to ease your diabetes struggle, I am here.