Don’t forget the highs with the lows – by Helen May


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Although I have to live with diabetes, I do not want my life to revolve around: it is just something I have to keep at the back of my mind. Therefore, local diabetes groups and weekends are not for me. However, I do not feel I am alone with diabetes. Through reading articles like the Diabetes UK blogs, I know there are others experiencing the same feelings and getting frustrated but still living their lives to the full with diabetes.

I recently enjoyed Daisy’s inaugural posting. Like many of the comments, the picture for hypos resonates with me. And I can add to Daisy’s night time hypo circus acts with my daytime distraction obstacle course: as I realise I am not feeling my best, I head off to find my meter to check it’s a hypo. En route to the meter, I spot a bill that I need to pay. As I start to dial the electricity company, I remember I was supposed to be getting my meter so I hang up and head off towards the meter.

I falter at numerous other distractions (tidying the kitchen, cleaning the floor, …) which I leave unfinished when I remember my target. I finally make it through the first half of the distraction obstacle course to the meter and take the reading. With a blood sugar reading of 2.5 mmol/l, I head off towards the dextrose: the second half of the course.

This time I know I need to get to the end; it’s not just a weird feeling so I dodge the unmade bed and the unopened curtains but as I walk towards the laundry basket, I realise the dirty washing on the floor got me. I drop the dirty washing and set off again. There’s the latest version of Balance waiting for me to read, I eye it suspiciously but make it over this hurdle and finally the golden dextrose medal greets me. At the end of the race, I can sit down and bask in my rising blood sugar levels.

I know the theory: low blood sugars are dangerous immediately and I need to get sugar when I wake up in a sweat and my levels are particularly low if I have pins and needles in my lips. If I do not get the sugar, I may feel unconscious and, if body takes over, I will wake up with the worst hangover you can ever experience (headache, feeling nauseous, not being able to concentrate). I’ve also read about the long cerebral term effects of severe hypos. The immediate, medium and longer term effects of long blood sugar are definitely worth avoiding.

At the other end is high blood sugar. It is clear that long term effects of high blood sugar can be pretty bad with neuropathy, nephropathy and heart disease. And, I don’t like the short term effects either. At night I cannot sleep with a BG reading above 10mmol/l (and sometimes lower): if I find myself awake in the middle of night, tossing and turning, if I am still awake after counting the 2376th sheep, if I look at the clock and it’s only 3:22am, my meter comes to hand, the insulin follows and uninterrupted sleep follows that soon after. If I need to use the toilet (and haven’t been drinking before bed), I can short circuit the meter (if I’m thinking clear enough at 2am to link all the symptoms).

During the day, if I feel particularly lethargic, if I get out of breath walking home, if I start feeling sleepy watching an exciting thriller, it’s time to dig out the meter and insulin again. It seems a cruel joke to play – if I feel sleepy, I could have high blood sugar; if I have high blood sugar, I cannot sleep – but, on the other hand, I consider myself lucky that I know to check and I’m reducing my chances of the long term bad effects of having diabetes.

Yes, hypos and hypers are a pain that I could do without. However, I could do without a sore shoulder but a sore shoulder is an indication I am sitting badly and, if I don’t sit up straight, I could be suffering from back ache and worse. The advantage of our diabetic symptoms is we have a meter to tell us what is wrong within 5 seconds (assuming I don’t get distracted on the way).

I believe I am lucky I experience and recognise the pain of hypos, hypers and sore shoulders so I can make the changes today rather than suffering far worse in the future. I’m also glad I am not alone in my experiences: thank you fellow bloggers.

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1 Comment

  1. Theresa says

    My son, now 29 yrs old, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 11 yrs ago. He broke the record, I was told by the hospital staff, for having the highest glucose readings of 96.7 (normal is between 4-8 here in Canada). One of the doctors was shocked that he could not find my son’s pulse, yet he was sitting up talking to all of us at the time. Ketoacidosis was the main factor in diagnosing my son; the strange smell that was coming from his breath and pores alerted me that something was not quite right, but I still went to work that day. Upon arriving home, I did not even recognize my tall, thin son — he had lost 50 lbs in the course of the day and was literally a walking skeleton. Only the sound of his voice permitted me to acknowledge who this seemingly strange being was in my house.

    It has been a struggle since then as my son has not been able to be “regulated” with his sugar levels and is in and out of hospital often with varying degrees of complications that have arisen from diabetes.

    He may be almost 30 yrs old now, but I can’t stop thinking of him as my child and it tears me apart to know that because of what some consider a “simple disease” where you just need to eat right and take a shot of insulin now and then, I have already begun to plan for the inevitable……..my child will not outlive me.

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