Postcards From Stupidsville
Its one thing to talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?
July 2008 — I grin when someone asks a question about diabetes. I always attempt to respond gracefully, despite my desire at times to bonk the individual on the forehead as if to say "Duh!" I've got the answers (or most of them) from years of sharing the same information over and over. As many of us who have had diabetes and actively seek out education about the disease, I supposedly know a lot about the day-to-day management.
Why can't I listen to myself?
I had become (and am still, in unguarded moments) complacent. It's not that I don't care about my diabetes. I am aware of all the statistics and complications, what happens when things go wrong, how to deal with high and low blood sugars. I have, in the past, been fastidious about keeping on top of the disease. (After years of not keeping on top, I know the difference.)
A few months ago, I began a new job. New city, new transportation options, and well, a whole new life. It used to be that I drove everywhere, worked from home most of the time, and had access to all sorts of supplies.
Now, I take the subway to work, alleviating the rise in blood sugars due to stress that my city's traffic notoriously causes. I don't need to leave my building to grab lunch – there is a veritable cornucopia of dining options downstairs. Where does this leave me?
I sat in a meeting in the first week of my new employment that (as meetings are wont to do) ran over the time allotted. I knew my blood sugar was dropping, but we were in the middle of a very intense discussion, so I quietly patted my pocket for some readily available Starburst. Umm … not wearing pockets. The train pulled into the Stupidsville station and I struggled with excusing myself or riding it out. (For all of us who have experienced a "riding it out" low blood sugar, you can explain to the others about that feeling of panic. Sheer panic.)
I didn't move. The meeting continued, and thankfully, we decided to break for lunch. I made it back to my office, where my stash of sugar hides itself in a top drawer and my meter stared accusingly at me on my desk. It beeped "43" and I shoveled sugar into my mouth. I used to tell people about the importance of keeping some type of sugar with you at all times, because "you never know when you might need it".
Not three weeks later, after checking my blood sugar before I left for work, I skipped the train to Stupidsville and took a jet plane. I had placed a new insertion set in that morning, and it malfunctioned. Big time. I shot up 250 points in less than two hours. Easy fix, right? Put a new insertion set in and take extra insulin to cover the high blood sugar. Yeah, that's what I tell people to do, along with the need to have an "emergency kit" at work that includes a vial of insulin, syringes, a glucagon kit, pump supplies, and sugar.
I never brought my "emergency kit" to work. At that moment, the airplane door opened, and the flight attendant pushed me out over Stupidsville, smiling sweetly while saying: "Thank you for flying with us. Watch that step. It's a doozy!"
I was able to hightail it out of Stupidsville, but only because my coworkers know that I am diabetic. (I am always a firm believer that at least one person at your job should know you're a diabetic, in case something happens.) A frantic phone call, a quick ride on the subway, and less than an hour later, I had a new vial of Humalog and a package of syringes. I was able to bring my blood sugar down through manual injections, but the day left me exhausted and angry at myself.
New job, new city, new life … old routines that I had forgotten – and needed more than ever.
I now make sure that before meetings, I check my blood sugar at my desk. I keep supplies with me at work. I carry supplies with me wherever I go, which amuses people who watch me dig through the depths of my purse for a wayward cracker package. I haven't visited Stupidsville in a while, but it looms in the distance. I know the main road to get there is named complacency, and it's not a long road. I'm just trying, as we all are, to avoid speeding in that direction.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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