Some of you who read this blog may have picked up over the years that I am a Type I diabetic which means I am dependant on insulin four times a day to keep my sugars as regular as I can.
I don't blog about it much because I have had diabetes since I was 18 and injecting feels as normal to me as brushing my teeth and putting on sunscreen. It is part of my everyday life.
Yesterday was a really hot day. I am working in a book shop outlet, there is no air con and the fans don't really reach us. Honestly? I should have probably drunk orange juice but I was busy, putting out books, helping customers etc
When a diabetic goes low it is sometimes hard to recognise the signs. I have heard that some can slip into a coma, some people slur and seem out of balance, some seem like they are drunk or on drugs, some people shake, some people get really aggressive or fall over or just act really strange.
I know there is a tendency to assume that someone with diabetes are just a little strange or maybe drunk, that most people do not think to help.
I wear a medic alert bracelet with insulin dependant diabetes on it which really doesn't help a layperson much but paramedics are trained to check for bracelets first.
Yesterday I was lucky. I went low which for me means my hands shake like crazy and I start seeing double vision and things feel out of balance. It means the brain is losing sugar and the irony is that the brain doesn't send a message to get help, to ask someone for hep and to give sugar. I went low fast and didn't recognise the signs and sort of carrying on working, losing my balance and focus.
Luckily for me though a man recognised my signs really early. He gave me carob melts and as soon as I started to return to slightly normal, he got someone to give me a sandwich. Bread and orange juice have always helped me the most. It balances the sugar, because after a low you can go extremely high after all the chocolate!
The man told me that 7 years ago he was on a plane and a man had a diabetic low. People did not recognise the signs, which frankly I think is very hard unless you either know the person fairly well or know that the person is a diabetic. By the time staff reacted and called emergency services and made an emergency landing; the diabetic man had died.
I feel incredibly sorry for passengers who had to witness that and for the man in question. With diabetes, the quicker the person is helped, the better. When someone is going low, they are losing sugar to the brain and once the body registers this, it can go into some kind of weird survival mode. It shuts itself down, leading into a coma and it is potentially fateful. I tend to go low really quickly and like the man on the plane, I need help fast.
After that happened to this man who helped me; he vowed that he would learn what the signs are and help someone fast. He seriously noticed my hands shaking and that I was way off balance and immediately helped me. It seemed that he was really grateful that he could. I think he even asked if I was a diabetic and if I needed sugar a few times; just to make sure.
So if you see someone completely out of whack, yes the first assumption is that he/she is on drugs or drinking. Check to see if they have a medic alert bracelet. Ask if they are a diabetic, even in my lowest of lows I have managed to get the word sugar out of my mouth, meaning give me something sugary and fast. No dithering.
If they look like they are about to pass out or if they have passed out, call the ambulance. please, please before doing any of this, make sure the person is a diabetic. If you can, get honey or something sugary and put it on their lips because the instinct is to lick it off.
And once and if the person returns to relatively normal, give them bread, bread roll, a sandwich to help them get their sugars back to normal.
In most cases, the diabetics you will be dealing with are going low, which means their brains need sugar and if you seriously don't know what to do, please don't waste time, call and ambulance, get help immediately. I have been in a few situations where people have assumed that I was either extremely drunk which resulted in me falling and smashing my face and then going into a very long coma and another time while driving an undercover police man presumed I was on drugs, and he pulled me out of the car, screaming at me, which resulted into me going into shock.
However, diabetics also have a tendency to go high. This means their blood sugars are far too high and it could be very dangerous giving them sugar. Best thing I know this sounds mad, is to smell their breath, which will smell like acid, quite sharp and tangy. Call an ambulance immediately.
I tend to go low really quickly and I have had many many ups and downs with my diabetes. I truly don't believe I will ever get my sugars perfectly normal and in sync and in a way I am lucky because I am in tune with my body in a way I never thought I would be.
There is a proverb One disease long life, no disease short life, which to me means to me embracing that I have a weakness in my system and to acknowledge it. My diabetes has given me an incredible understanding of foods, eating, weight, health, vitamins, nutrition and healing.
They say limitations can be your strength and this is so true. I don't see going low as a terrible thing, I see it as something which can happen, then to work out why it happened and to be more mindful that I drink orange juice on Thursday before starting work.
And that is my rather long story of going low.