Readers’ Hypoglycemia Stories
This is what it’s like to go too low
As we geared up for our in-depth look at hypoglycemia and the brain, we asked our Facebook friends to share their stories of going too low. The response? Well, let’s just say many of you are intimately acquainted with the frustration and danger that comes with low blood glucose. Here’s what some of you had to say:
THE LAST SERIOUS low I had—about three years ago—was the worst. I simply took a nap and woke up with an IV in my arm and a paramedic over me. (Neither of these were uncommon occurrences.) But this time I also saw my wife and children looking at me. It really struck home that time that a change needed to be made.
—Frank Andrade, Fresno, California
ONE TIME, WHEN I went to bed, I accidentally grabbed the wrong pen and gave myself 22 units of (short-acting) Apidra instead of (long-acting) Lantus. I awoke to my husband testing my blood glucose. I was covered in sweat and a tad bit groggy. I don’t remember going low at all.
—Laura Warren, Reno, Nevada
I HAVE HAD many occasions where I’ve had seizures from low blood glucose: one time at a concert where I wasn’t permitted to bring food into the facility, another at work, and numerous times while home. Luckily, I had people around for all these occasions. My biggest fear with diabetes is of having an episode when nobody is around to help. I live alone, and while I take great care of myself, I can’t help but worry.
—Bryan Francis, Auburn, Massachusetts
Sarah Fech, an attorney with the American Diabetes Association, responds: That is a completely understandable fear. Luckily, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you should always be permitted to carry a source of glucose on your person in any public space. Carrying a medical alert card (like this printable version) with you can help explain your medical needs if anyone questions you, and you can call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383) to speak to a legal advocate for more information about your rights.
IN JUNE 2012, I was 5 months pregnant with my first child. My husband woke up to a noise around midnight. He found me vomiting in my sleep. He realized I was in distress and rushed to find my glucagon, but was unable to do so. He quickly called 911, and first responders showed up within minutes. They checked my blood glucose levels in the ambulance, and they could not get a reading, which I assume means it had gone below 20 mg/dl. They administered medicine in the ambulance and again once I arrived in the emergency room. It took hours for my blood glucose to reach 100 mg/dl, and then I was released. My child, a daughter, was healthy throughout the whole ordeal.
—Ericka Bryant, Nacogdoches, Texas
Brush up on your knowledge of low blood glucose:
How does hypoglycemia affect the brain?
How to avoid severe hypoglycemia
Symptoms of hypoglycemia
Products for treating lows
ONE DAY IN January of 2014, my four children were getting ready to go play in the snow. As part of our normal routine, Trinitie (who’s now 9 years old) tested her blood glucose before going out. She happily reported that she was 250, a perfect lets-go-play number. They were outside for about 30 minutes when my oldest came bursting through the front door yelling, “Trinitie is sleeping on the snow hill and won’t get up.” Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t even think to grab my coat or shoes. I scooped her up and ran into the house, where my husband was waiting with her testing kit and the glucagon. Within seconds, she started to respond. My husband and I were shocked to find out just how low her blood glucose was: 19 mg/dl. We have no idea how long it would have taken her to recover from that dangerous low if we used anything else other than glucagon. That’s why we always have one with us no matter where we go.
—Tina Hoff, West Fargo, North Dakota
TO ME, the worst part is the psychological piece that occurs in the hours and days that follow such an episode because it is ultimately my fault, no one else’s. People can say, “It happens,” but no one else is to blame. It happened because of something I did or did not do, plain and simple.
—Tom Witmer, Epping, New Hampshire
MY 14-YEAR-OLD daughter, Cassie has type 1 diabetes. Her most recent experience was the lowest she has ever been. She was very nauseated and shaking uncontrollably. She complained of not being able to feel her legs. I got her some cheese crackers, and as she was eating, she sat up in the bed and starting crying. She told me she was scared and that she felt lower. She started clawing at me and tried to grab her meter out of my hands. I managed to get her still enough to recheck. It was 29. I yelled to my oldest daughter to bring me the icing. She brought me a bottle of chocolate syrup instead. Cassie grabbed it out of my hand and started drinking it. I’ve never seen her more scared in her life—as was I, but I couldn’t let her see that. She was crying and begging for God to help her. I assured her I wouldn’t let her go any lower (even though I knew I couldn’t guarantee that). She slowly began to calm down and breathe normally. Her heart rate slowed and she became my sweet, loving child again.
—Amy Cooper, Enterprise, Alabama
ONE TIME, I passed out in the car while parked in a Target parking lot. I had my daughter, who was 5, and my son, who was 3, with me. My daughter called my best friend and told her what was going on. My friend had to ask my daughter if she could give her clues as to which Target we were at. My daughter couldn’t read yet but recognized a few of the signs, and my friend called 911. My friend arrived, found the car we were in, and was able to direct the ambulance to come help me.
—Sue Harmon, New Berlin, Wisconsin
I’M A 19-YEAR-OLD Ugandan. I was diagnosed on Sept. 9, 2013, when I was 17. After being diagnosed, things were not easy. I had serious hypoglycemia, almost going into a coma, just some few months after the diagnosis. I was on my way back from school, and it was quite a long walk. I started developing signs of hypoglycemia immediately after leaving for home, but I couldn’t do anything to correct because I had limited knowledge about diabetes then. It grew severe upon reaching home, and I lost consciousness for a moment. It was fortunate that I had a mum at home who immediately helped me by giving me some sweets and sugars. After a few minutes, I got better.
—Okema Patrick, Uganda, Africa
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT hypoglycemia story begins with a routine trip to my endocrinologist. At that time, I was about 20 years into my diagnosis and was struggling with variable blood sugars and hypoglycemia unawareness. I left the doctor’s office and within 10 minutes I had passed the point of feeling my low. I was confused, disoriented, and lost. Instead of taking the fairly direct route from the doctor’s office to my home, I somehow ended up on a much different route. I lost the ability to differentiate the break from the gas pedal and was not able to recognize traffic lights. Eventually the police were called by a passerby who was concerned about my erratic driving. My trip ended when I went head on into a utility pole—15 miles out of the way from where I should have been.
My biggest concern from this experience was not that I lost my driver’s license until medically stable or that I was monitored for years by my state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, but that I was on the road in this condition at the same time of day when children were leaving school. I was very lucky myself to be alive, but even more lucky that I had not taken any other lives. Since that time which was just over 10 years ago, I now have an insulin pump and wear a continuous glucose monitor. I also test before driving, and insist on a blood glucose either by the doctor or myself prior to leaving any appointment that had required me to be fasting.
—Nicole Noble, RN, CCM, Schenectady, NY
THE PROBLEM WITH having coworkers, friends, family, or even medical personnel help with an insulin reaction is that their reaction is that you have done something wrong. You didn’t eat enough. You took too much insulin. You exercised too much, etc. Sometimes what people don’t realize is that our bodies are not perfect. Sometimes our bodies develop a mind of their own and sort of do whatever they want to do. It’s very difficult to explain this, but I wish there was a way to convey this message without coming across as nasty or angry or anything else.
—Judy Grandbois, Minneapolis, Minnesota
I WENT TO work and felt a bit ill when lunchtime came around—so much to the point of forgetting to eat all of my lunch. Quitting time came around, so I drove home like I normally did, and when I got home, I felt exhausted. I just thought that my new, physically demanding job was making me tired, but that ended up not being the case. I fell asleep on the couch, and my wife tried to wake me up for dinner, but I wouldn’t budge. I ended up falling on the floor, and my 1½-year-old daughter came over and tried to wake me up by slapping me in the face. I didn’t flinch. My wife quickly tried to force glucose tablets in my mouth but my jaw was locked shut. She then called 911 to have the paramedics come to our house. When they got to our house, they hooked up an IV in my arm with glucose and after a few minutes, I finally came to.
This story is my account based off of what people have told me after I came to. I don’t remember anything after saying I was tired and going to take a little nap. I woke up with three strange men standing around me. It was definitely one the scariest experiences I’ve ever had. I am the proud father of two beautiful children who motivate me every day to keep fighting this disease in order to watch them lead successful lives.
—Joshua Richmond, Cincinnati, Ohio
Have you ever had severe hypoglycemia? Share your stories in the comments below!