Thirty Four

A low blood sugar moment serves as a wake-up call.

Christel MarchandBy Christel Marchand Aprigliano

May 2008 — There are days when I think I've got it all figured out. After twenty-five years of dealing with diabetes, I've endured bad days and glided through good ones, but you would assume that I've got some sort of routine down by now. Blood sugars relatively stable, supplies readily available, and a sense of direction when it comes to this disease.


If nothing else, diabetes has shown me over the past few weeks that I don't have it all together.

A few weeks ago, I commemorated the anniversary of my diagnosis by scaring myself and my husband with a frightening low – and it was my fault. At 3am, I awoke to that fuzzy feeling of ‘I don't know what's going on, but I don't like it.' I began to have that conversation between the low blood sugar brain and my rational body.

"Hey, it'll be OK. Turn over and go back to sleep. Yeah, you're low, but no big deal."

The rational body won out, with a resounding: "Get up. Now. This is NOT good."

I sat up, felt nauseous, and began to quietly panic. Nausea was only a symptom of my hypoglycemic episodes when I was very low. I struggled out of bed, trying not to wake my husband or the dog, and made it to the kitchen. Barely. My meter was on the kitchen table, and I actually stopped to check to see just how low I was. (The low blood sugar brain also thought about turning on the TV to see what was on.)

The meter flashed that magic number: 34.

I've been that low before, but this felt different. I stumble to the refrigerator and stared into the abyss, then saw my hand grab a bottle. Two small swigs of regular soda and it was empty. At this stage in the game, I knew I was lost. Legs buckling, I dropped to the floor and lay down, fighting the tunnel vision, and hating what I had to do next.

I called for help. Quietly at first, then louder.

"John. Please. Help. I'm low. Thirty-four. Low."

He jumped out of bed, rushed into the kitchen, and went into full rescuer mode. Maple syrup came out and he helped pour it into me with a spoon, then sat on the floor with me and kept me talking, making sure that I was still ingesting food. (I tend to get distracted around 50, and will stop eating and stare off into space.) He was calm, cool, and collected, although I know he was freaking out inside. I was lucky and I know it. He got me through this when I couldn't.

Almost an hour later, I felt strong enough to get back into bed and we both drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep. You can imagine that my blood sugar was now through the roof, but I didn't care. I wasn't going to physically crash again – at least not that day.

I scared myself – and my husband. This was the first time in almost seven years that I needed someone else to help me through a low blood sugar. This was the first time he needed to be there, and if he hadn't, there could have been (dare I even write this?) very serious consequences – and it was all my own doing.

I wasn't hungry at dinner that night, so I didn't eat. I checked my blood sugar before I went to bed, and while it was normal, years of experience has shown that I really need to have something in my stomach to digest while I sleep. I ignored my body, my training, and my own head.

Diabetes has played a huge role in my life, but I have, as of late, come to think of it as inconsequential. It's there, it's not going away, but until that "thirty four experience", it had been a long time since I've come to grips with how serious it can be.

It took me a few days to feel better. (If you've had one of these oh-my-this-is-bad lows, you understand when I mutter about not getting the license plate number of the Mac truck that ran over me.) It's taking me much longer to admit that I'm off the rails with my regimen. I have an appointment with a new endo in a few weeks, and I know there will be some serious discussions of how I treat myself and the disease. In the meantime, I'm trying to take care of myself – and my husband. Thirty-four was not just a number. It was a wake-up call for both of us.

Read more of Christel's articles.

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.

Last Modified Date: May 20, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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