The Unexpected

Adapting diabetes care during and after an emergency room visit.

Driving with DiabetesBy Rachel Baumgartel

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!


January 2010 — Now that we have lived with two instances of diabetes in one household for nearly five years, one might assume that any health issues that my husband and I might encounter could be traced back to our diabetes. We learned in December that this is quite untrue. And yet we still had to keep diabetes in the back of our minds.

After weeks of feeling not quite right, I spiked a fever and developed severe abdominal pain on the first Friday night of the month. Blood tests, urine tests, and a CT scan ensued during the emergency room visit. As I began to get sleepy and incoherent, my husband provided one health care professional after another with the history of my illness and explaining over and over that I treat my type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone.

Several hours later, it was determined that there was an abscess in my lower right abdomen. As my blood pressure dropped and white blood cell count kept rising, emergency surgery to drain the abscess became necessary.

I don't remember much of the next three days, other than the blood sugar readings that were taken every few hours. Not only did a 60 mg/dl (3.3 mmol/l) reading accompany me into surgery, but the liquid diet after surgery also allowed me to stay well within range. This came as a complete surprise, as the surgeons had explained that I might actually need temporary insulin while recovering.

Meanwhile, Greg visited me a couple hours a day in between working from home. We are quite grateful that he is allowed to do this, as I was unable to do much once I returned home after five nights in the hospital.

Antibiotics, pain medication, and iron supplements followed me home. Given that I had little appetite, I continued to eat whatever sounded good rather than paying attention to carbohydrate counts. Mixed with powerful antibiotics, this approach led to some of the highest blood sugars since I started testing shortly after my diabetes diagnosis. (Where was that supplemental insulin when I needed it?!?) Luckily, as soon as the antibiotics were out of my system, everything returned to normal.

Now that I'm about a month past surgery, I am itching to return to exercise. My fasting blood sugar numbers still are not as good as they were before the infection and I think working out vigorously will be the only thing that will assist in lowering them. To that end, Greg has been comforting when I have been frustrated and has gone on a couple of short walks with me as weather has permitted. He has also kept lower carbohydrate levels in mind as he has prepared dinners.

The unexpected happened. Just like we did upon Greg's emergency room visit for a hypoglycemia-induced seizure or my diabetes diagnosis, we are getting through it with what we continue to learn about "in sickness and in health."

Read more of Rachel's columns.

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: July 10, 2013

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

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by Brenda Bell
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