The four rules of a hypo – by Alex Wellington

Everyone who has diabetes must have suffered a ‘hypo’ at one time or another. A ‘hypo’ (officially known as hypoglycaemia) is when the body enters a state of ‘low blood glucose levels’ – less than 4 mmol/l. As you know, this can have a serious toll on your daily activities.

I remember my ‘first time’ well – it was both disappointing and over and done with in less than five minutes – your typical anti-climax. Most of the time was spent fumbling around for a pack of jelly babies, with the lights turned on – what a turn off!

One afternoon, I developed a sudden craving for a ‘Pink Lady’ and a carrot – not really, more like a packet of chocolate biscuits and a ‘doughnut’ (hope my dietician isn’t reading this!) Having already felt a little heavy footed before leaving the house, I decided to still go to the shop – first mistake!

Rule 1 – stay put if hypo alert

I didn’t comprehend how quickly the symptoms could develop. One moment, you’re casually enjoying a stroll to the corner shop; the next, you’re breathing heavily, swaying from side-to-side and finding it difficult to focus – damn, where was I going in the first place? All in all, I felt like a Churchill dog after a ‘few too many’.
I was powerless.

By the time I reached the shop, my hypo was in full swing. I began sweating and shaking, but this was no fever. Adrenalin had been pumped by the bucket load and I honestly couldn’t keep up. I didn’t know whether to sit down and relax or give Usain Bolt a run for his money – it was all too confusing. These symptoms are, by far, the worst a hypo can throw at you.

Rule 2 – better to treat a hypo you can’t defeat

I couldn’t wait to get home – literally! I was scared I might collapse on the street, with no phone, no identification and the average passer-by not even knowing what a hypo is. So, I knew, my only salvation was either chocolate biscuits or a ‘doughnut’ – of course, I went with the ‘doughnut’. I stood outside the shop for a while praying to God for my symptoms to vanish.
They never quite ‘vanished’ – but, instead, suppressed to a point where I couldn’t feel them. And I suppose that’s all I can do from now on – prevent but never stop. When I described this to my family, my sister came up with the best analogy; a hypo is like a ‘Jack in a Box’, you can close the lid but the music continues.

Rule 3 – be your best and do a re-test

I got home in a flash (thanks to adrenalin) and tested my sugars, despite my difficulty in keeping the meter steady. Five seconds later, the ‘jury’ was in and as I stood up to hear my verdict – a sugar reading of only 3.4!

Are you kidding me? I was having a ‘mild’ hypo – how can that be? The shaking? The sweating? The swaying from side to side? I felt my entire world fall apart in an instance and that was ‘mild’ – how much worse can it get? Hopefully, that question will remain unanswered – for now.

Rule 4 – be prepared, a hypo’s never scared

Upon reflection, I have had many hypos and some have been a breeze but others sheer hell. My approach and understanding has improved and, whilst I believe I am prepared for anything, there’s always something new in store for me. I guess, that’s the perks of being Type one diabetic.

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