I didn’t feel that great yesterday. Nothing specific, just a headache (which isn’t unusual for me at all), some queasiness, and just not feeling right. So, I limited what I ate to jello, mashed potatoes, and other bland foods that provided some carbs to deal with the basal insulin dose I take twice a day. The bland food helped the queasiness, and I figured I’d had enough carbs for the insulin. I’m usually pretty good with my diabetic and RN knowledge (nearly 28 years since graduating from nursing school; 20 years as a working RN taking care of a lot of diabetics, 17 years as a diabetic, and 8+ years of being disabled and learning a LOT from a patient’s point of view). I figured wrong.
I went to bed around 6:30 p.m. Normally, I’m up until 2:00-3:00 a.m., easy. I’m a night owl. And don’t talk to me before noon. But, I was really tired, so I decided I’d either go to bed, sleep for a few hours, and then resume my normal night owl schedule, or I’d sleep straight through. I didn’t care. I was still awake at 7:00 p.m., so decided I’d just take my nighttime meds (including my main dose of Lantus insulin) and be done with it for the night. I crawled back into bed and fell asleep.
At 9:40 p.m. (it’s written down in my blood sugar log) I woke up to go to the bathroom, but felt really odd. After falling into the walls walking to and from the bathroom, it dawned on my that I needed to check my blood sugar. It was 37mg/dl; I double checked it and it came back at 40mg/dl. It shouldn’t go below 70mg/dl, and my endocrinologist doesn’t want mine below 80mg/dl because of my history of epilepsy; I’m prone to seizures anyway- no point in adding hypoglycemia to the risks. I was still with the program enough to grab one of my tubes of ‘gel’ candy (‘Squeeze Pops’ – cheaper than products marketed to diabetics, and tastes like Jolly Rancher candy, but in a tube, and a gel consistency). With some of that on board, I got some ginger ale. I checked my blood sugar about every 10 minutes until it had settled in the 90s (took about 30 minutes). That was ‘safe’ enough to go to bed. I knew I needed a fat and protein source to keep from having rebound hypoglycemia, so justified a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup 🙂 I was still really tired, but at least didn’t feel like I was having for force myself to stay conscious. That was better.
It’s really important to not ‘just’ do the simple carbs, or the hypoglycemia WILL come back. I’ve been treated in a local ER, and they are clueless about the protein/fat source after getting the blood sugar back up. One time when I’d been brought in by ambulance for hypoglycemia, I was sent to the waiting room to wait for a cab, and was told the cab would be there in 45 minutes. The basic instructions for hypoglycemia are to have a snack if the next meal is more than 30 minutes after treating the low blood sugar episode. That’s ‘diabetes 101’ for lay people, yet the genius ER nurse was either clueless or just didn’t care (typical of that facility’s ER). When I was waiting for the cab, my blood sugar went down to the 50s again, and I told the triage desk person. She told me that since I’d already been seen, one of the nurses would talk to me IF she got time. I was safer in the cab going home. It was really pathetic, and there’s no excuse for them.
My endocrinologist had prescribed a glucagon kit to me somewhat recently- but I live alone. Glucagon is designed for someone who has already lost consciousness, and requires someone else to mix the syringe of sterile solution with the little vial of powder, mix it up, pull it back into the syringe, and ‘shoot’ the person who is out of it. I’m not sure how that is supposed to help me, except that I’ve dropped to the 30s before and couldn’t get it to come back up, while remaining alert. (I ended up calling 911 for that one, and getting IV D50W- that stuff feels awful going in) I guess I could shoot myself. Glucagon can be given under the skin (subcutaneously) or into a muscle (intramuscularly), so basically any good dart throw at the person will work. I could do that. My outer mid-thigh would probably be the best place to aim for… a fair amount of real estate for a blurry eye and shaky hand. But the kit I’ve got right now is expired by a month. It would probably still work, but last night, the edible carbs were working. I need to call the pharmacy for a refill on the glucagon….
For those ER nurses (and others; I’ve given it a few times working on a med-surg floor) who have given D50W, here’s a little inside information. The stuff doesn’t feel good. It causes a strange warm feeling, and a feeling of needing to go to the bathroom NOW. It’s unpleasant. It can also cause dehydration, depending on how high the blood sugar goes, with frequent urination and hyperosmolar diuresis (frequent peeing from concentrated sugar in the blood). Knowing this, and offering to help someone to the bathroom would be nice. Go a little slow pushing the stuff- a few extra seconds isn’t going to cause brain damage.
It’s also important to realize that the half-life of D50W is dependent on the degree of hypoglycemia and the individual patient. Once it wears off, the blood sugar drops again UNLESS there is something to help prolong its effects, such as fat and protein. Peanut butter and crackers, a candy bar, milk and crackers, or other protein/fat source is needed. That’s also the reason that those items are not good for treating the severe low blood sugar. For ‘borderline’ or mild hypoglycemia (above 60mg/dl those will probably work OK… but always listen to facility policy if you’re treating a patient; if something goes south, that will be the criteria used to judge you). The blood sugar will not rise quickly with protein and/or fat in the item being used to treat it. Candy bars are NOT good ‘first aid’ for hypoglycemia, and will delay return to normal blood sugar because of the fat and protein. Once the blood sugar is raised with simple carbs, it’s necessary to give a fat/protein source- not before.
Anyhoo… I survived the night. I hate the feeling of having low blood sugar, and last night included balance problems. Had the walls not been there, I would have hit the floor, which would have been bad news for my knees. I’m not feeling that great today (same queasy, fatigue stuff as yesterday), but know to check my blood sugar more often today.