So, as well as administering insulin, checking BG levels, counting carbs, watching what we eat, along with the sheer mental stress that diabetes comes hand in hand with, we also have a high chance of experiencing a hypo, in other words a low blood sugar level. Now, I don’t know about you but I tend to categorise my hypos:
Pre-hypo: My BG level is in range but I can feel it dropping. How do I explain the feeling….. well, my symptoms are having 0 energy and struggling to keep my eyes open.
Mini hypo: My BG level is just less than 4mmol, but I only get mild symptoms and I can quickly correct.
A normal hypo: My BG level is usually between 2.5-4mmol and typical symptoms of shaking, sweating, confusion, tingly lips, short temper, tiredness etc.
A SERIOUS hypo: My BG level is lower than 2.5mmol usually and sometimes just reads LO, whereby I am basically on the border of losing consciousness
Now, at the weekend, for the first time in a VERY long time, I had a serious hypo. In fact, an ambulance also had to be called. But, what made me want to write this blog is my own experience during that 15 minutes of disorientation, confusion and hot sweats. It made me realise just how important glucose actually is, not just for energy, but actual brain function….and what I experienced scared me to death!
So, I will start from the beginning and many of you may be able to relate to the symptoms I had. The night started off with lots of laughter and the drinks were flowing. As a diabetic, I chose to have simple vodka and diet coke to keep the BG levels as stable as possible. But, I then thought to myself, why not treat myself to a cocktail?! I train hard and I am really disciplined with my diabetes control. So I did….I ordered a pornstar martini and it was amazing! However, I then scanned my sensor a few minutes after and was faced with a reading of 13mmol, which was accompanied by a vertical line pointing upwards…..woops! So, my instant thought was “Shit I need to inject”, stupidly without thinking about what was likely to happen, given that I had been drinking alcohol (alcohol can cause a sudden drop in BG levels). So I continued my night by checking my BG levels every so often in order to catch a sudden drop, which seemed to be pretty stable, with no sign of the alcohol taking its toll. I am usually quite on the ball with my BG levels and can often catch a low BG level before it gets any worse. However, this time the plummet was far too quick for me to pick up……
I was sat in a bar with my friend and we were having a deep conversation about work. I felt absolutely fine. But then suddenly my head started to go really fuzzy and it wasn’t registering what I was actually saying to my friend. I was speaking, but I couldn’t figure out why I was saying what I was saying. My friend actually told me that I was chatting to her, when all of a sudden I started speaking completely out of context and all of my words made no sense at all…. I later found out that whilst talking about work, I then said something along the lines of:
“Yeah so I want to go out, but I don’t get cold, but why am I here and where is it?” …… complete gobbledygook.
My friend also told me that my eyes went really glazed and I was starring around the room. Now going back to how I felt, following on from not being able to get my words out or understand what I was saying, I then found it really hard to see. I remember my friend saying, “Vanessa, check your blood sugar!” which ironically registered with me. So, it took all my effort to open my bag and search for my CGM scanner, something that I found so hard to do. It felt as though I was drifting in and out of consciousness, finding it so difficult to see what I was doing. My friend then took the bag from me, found my scanner and scanned my CGM which read LO……… My friend bless her began to panic and started searching for my dextrose. She then looked over at me and apparently, I then began to twitch severely, which for me is a tell-tale sign that I was about to lose consciousness and also something that I have no memory of doing (I mean surely you would remember feeling severe twitches!?). Luckily, I was still conscious and able to consume my glucose tablets. My friend was so supportive and if it wasn’t for her who knows where I could have ended up! After consuming my glucose tablets, my friend sat with me and tried to keep me focused, explaining to me that I had a low blood sugar. Me being me I kept saying over and over again “I will be fineeeee you don’t need to worry about me” (which apparently I said over and over again without knowing due to the sheer lack of glucose to my brain!).
After around 5-10 minutes, I felt back to my normal self and my BG level had come up. It was strange how quickly I snapped out of it! I felt absolutely fine and even said to my friend how strange it was that it didn’t wipe out my energy levels. It made me realise though how important it is to:
- Check BG levels on a regular basis, especially when drinking
- Carry a glucagon jab (something I didn’t have)
- TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE DIABETIC
- Explain to people what to do if a hypo was to occur
- Wear a diabetic/medic alert bracelet
- Be careful with insulin administration when drinking
Unfortunately, when drinking, severe hypos can be mistaken for simply being drunk, which is why it is so important to inform people who can act accordingly. One girl actually said to my friend “Are you sure she is not just drunk?”, but my friend knew that was definitely not the case. This has also prompted me to get a diabetic tattoo (joining the club!), so that if this situation happens again, there is a visual present to prompt people to act accordingly. However, I will be working proactively to ensure this doesn’t happen again!
Overall, based on the symptoms I experienced during my severe hypo, it made me realise how incredibly important it is to avoid hypos (and high BG levels of course!) and to keep BG levels within range. It also made me realise how many people without diabetes have no idea what we experience on a day to day basis, never mind what a severe hypo feels like! We are SO strong and put up with so much. Even though diabetes sucks, I am proud to call myself a diabetic!
Thanks for reading,