I went back and forth on whether to share the following anecdote. It’s pretty embarrassing, but it happened. So, in the spirit of sharing all the delights of living with diabetes, here it goes.
Last Thursday night began innocently enough. A friend was visiting from out of town, and several of us had plans to meet up at a brewery down the street, then move on to one of our regular neighborhood haunts for further merrymaking.
All was going according to plan until we arrived at said regular haunt. I think I was drinking a Yuengling (or two or three), screwing around with a couple of friends and dancing like an idiot to whatever songs we’d requested. Put simply, I was having a blast — and thoroughly enjoying one of my few Thursday nights that isn’t followed by an early Friday morning.
My favorite bartender was there too, in a non-professional capacity. I was ecstatic to see her, and when she asked me if I felt like doing a shot, I saw no reason not to respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” She asked me if I liked whiskey, and I told her I did, imagining that she’d shake up some scrumptious mix of whiskey and cranberry juice or something else to take the edge off.
I was wrong: a few minutes later, she presented me with a shot glass overflowing with straight-up Jim Beam. I braced myself, and threw the stuff back like a champ — not counting the pronounced gagging noise and very attractive facial expression I made immediately following.
I was feeling pretty damn good, and my awesome night continued for another hour or so, at which point my husband and I headed home. Once there, I made a beeline for the refrigerator and the tub of leftover mashed potatoes that I’d been thinking about all night. I popped the taters in the microwave, checked my blood sugar and CGM, and bolused accordingly.
After I’d killed those potatoes, I wandered back into the bedroom to lay down — and that’s where it all started to go to hell. About 20 minutes later I bolted upright, sure of one thing: I was going to throw up. Fortunately, our bathroom is just a few steps from the bed. Not so fortunately, I lost my balance as soon as I entered the bathroom, falling backwards into the bathtub and knocking my head on the soap dish. I struggled to climb out, but I was stuck like a flipped tortoise on the side of the road — and I still had to throw up.
So, yeah. I puked, fully clothed, into the bathtub. Even worse, I threw up all the food I’d just bolused for. After wriggling my way out of the tub — and cleaning up after myself — I checked my blood sugar: 58. My CGM showed that I was dropping, I still felt pretty pukey, and I knew there was no way I’d be able to consume enough juice and gummy frogs to compensate for all the extra insulin in my system. I started to panic and called for my husband, who’d been eating cereal on the couch this whole time, blissfully unaware of the ridiculous scene unfolding in the master bathroom.
I thought back to Lorraine’s wonderful post (and accompanying first-person video perspective) about using glucagon to pull her son Caleb out of a nausea-induced low, and I knew what I needed to do. Granted, the circumstances surrounding Lorraine and Caleb’s use of glucagon and my current situation couldn’t be more different: he’s an innocent seven-year-old trying to eat breakfast with Santa, and I’m a thoroughly soused 32-year-old tossing my potatoes like a frat boy during rush week. In a bathtub.
In all my twenty years of living with diabetes, I had never even gone near that ever-present red plastic box. To me, using glucagon meant failure — that I’d let my diabetes get so out of control that another person had to take care of me. I associated glucagon with unconsciousness, seizures, ambulances, and complete helplessness. But at 2:00 last Friday morning, it seemed like the best option I had.
My husband pulled out the contents of the kit, mixed it all up, and handed the syringe to me. I sank the needle into my thigh, injected the solution, and waited.
We checked my blood sugar about 15 minutes later, and it was clear that the glucagon was doing its thing: I was in the mid-90s. And from there, my blood sugar continued to climb, peaking at about 230. I drank a few glasses of water and dozed off, while my very patient and understanding husband sat awake next to me, just to make sure my CGM showed that I was holding steady.
My first thought the next morning was “Nice one, dumbass,” but I felt quite a bit of relief, too. Not just because I’d escaped relatively unscathed from what could have been a very bad situation, but because I’d finally put my glucagon kit to use, and it hadn’t been the end of the world. My second thought the next morning was, “I hope the DOC doesn’t disown me if I post about this.”
I’m not proud of the position I put myself in, but I did learn a few things that night — about glucagon, about how awesome my husband is, about the laws of physics.
Most important, I learned to never, ever, ever, ever drink a shot glass full of Jim Beam. Ever. Again.
Image via Intropin/Wikimedia