Making the Low Go: Over the Years

So I’m a day late with this post, but they always say better late than never, right? I spent most of the day in bed yesterday fighting some sort of stomach disturbance. I am on the mend, though, and ready to continue with Diabetes Blog Week

Here’s the topic du jour:

Making the low go. Tell us about your favorite way to treat a low. Juice? Glucose tabs? Secret candy stash? What’s your favorite thing to indulge in when you are low? What do you find brings your blood sugar up fast without spiking it too high?

This topic got me thinking about all of the different ways I’ve treated low over the years. And reminded me of one reason why I have such a weird relationship with food.

Back in my early days of being diabetic, some 25 years ago or so, my lows were much more severe than they are now. Thanks to the peaking effect of NPH insulin and the less-accurate BG testing methods we used, I would sometimes end up passed out, then convulsing. This usually happened in the middle of the night, although I did once have a “reaction” in the cafeteria at school. I was in the fourth grade. My friend told me later that I dropped my lunch tray and that some kid stole my milk. So not cool.

In the beginning, we treated these lows with glucose gel that came in a clear bottle that looked a lot like an Elmer’s glue bottle. It had a twist-open lid that was red and white. The “doses” of glucose were marked on the side of the bottle. Later we upgraded to “Insta-Glucose,” an awful-tasting pink gel that comes in one-serving squeezable tubes, kind of like toothpaste containers. Eventually, we added Glucagon to the mix. This shot was part powder, part liquid, had to be stored in the refrigerator, and could not be mixed in advance. The routine was that my mom would force the pink goo into my mouth, while I kicked and fought and spit, and then she would run to the kitchen to pull the Glucagon shot from the refrigerator and mix it while my dad stood by my bed to make sure I didn’t flop out.

Of course, I remember very little of this seeing as I was unconscious. But the evidence was there when I came to: pink goo all over me – in my hair, on my face, on my pajamas, and an aching sensation in whichever extremity my mom could get a hand on to give me the Glucagon shot.

After I was coherent, she would force Coca-Cola on me. She would beg and plead and finally threaten: “If you don’t drink this Coke, I’m going to have to call an ambulance.”

The Glucagon shot left me with an incredible case of nausea, so if I felt that aching sensation in one of my extremities, I knew that the night would not end without a trip to the toilet to empty the contents of my stomach: mostly Coke.

And then there is orange juice. Whenever I had a close call in public, and needed the help of a friendly waitress or shop clerk, or teacher, I usually ended up with orange juice. Because the general public seems to think that the only thing that helps a low blood sugar is orange juice. Of course I was grateful for the help, but I sure would have appreciated a glass of apple juice every now and again.

Needless to say, as a result of these traumatic memories, there are a lot of ways that I choose NOT to treat lows these days. Despite my doctors’ warnings and reprimands, I do not keep Glucagon in my house. I never treat with Coke unless it is an absolute dire emergency, and I do not treat with anything resembling Insta-Glucose, including those squeezable icing packs and those sports “shots” of dextrose gel. I also avoid orange juice like it’s the plague.

I have hung onto a couple of those early low-treaters, though. When I was a kid, I always carried a bike pouch or make-up bag full of granola bars and lifesavers. By the time I needed them, they were usually smashed and stale, but who really cares when you can hardly think straight? When I was on the soccer team in high school, my water bottle had a false bottom in it. It screwed off to reveal a granola bar, a roll of lifesavers and a couple of quarters. You might think that the quarters were for a pay phone (These were pre-cell phone days, after all,) but they were actually for the nearest vending machine.

These days I’ve abandoned the granola bars because of the slow-digesting fat, but I keep rolls of lifesavers everywhere: in my purse, in the glove box in both my car and my husband’s car, in my laptop bag for work, in my desk, and in all of my coat pockets.

When I’m at home, I use those small, toddler-sized boxes of juice (berry and grape are my favorite,) and Dots (five of them is 15 grams of carb.) When I was in the first trimester, I was low ALL of the time. I treated with Jelly Belly jelly beans because they were just about the only thing I could stomach. When I’m out and about and there’s time, I will order a smoothie, because let’s face it, if you have to go through a low, it’s always nice to end it with a little treat.

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6 Comments on “Making the Low Go: Over the Years”

  1. Jacquie Says:

    Good (and hilarious) call on the orange juice! I blame Steel Magnolias.

    I find that people either offer me that, or a peppermint.

  2. J Says:

    I really enjoyed this post, because I don’t know anyone in real life who is also type I, so I have no one with whom to discuss this.

    We grew up so poor and on public aid, etc., so I never had glucagon growing up, though I have struggled with severe lows since I was diagnosed (at 9, 28 now). At home, I would just crawl my way to the kitchen and start eating straight sugar with a spoon. I still do this. Sugar and honey.

    On the go, I like to keep glucose tablets with me, but I run out too quickly. And I spend a lot of time in other countries in Africa/Latin America, so no chance of getting more. So I tend to carry a big bag with honey or juice boxes.

    I feel you on the oj! I hate citrus fruit anyway, but yeah, too many lows with oj has ruined it for me.

    It’s strange. I am on humalog and lantus, and I still can’t seem to stop the frequent (at least a few times a day) and severe (at least one in the 20s/week) lows. I have fiddled with my lantus and with my ratio of humalog/carbs, but to no avail.

  3. Mom Says:

    I wish I could have eliminated these childhood memories. Certainly not happy times. As a mother all you can do when someone or something attacks your baby is to work with the medical community and your own ‘gut’ to devise ways to eliminate or at least minimize the trauma.

    You were such a brave and determined child. No matter how bad the night may have been, you were up early, jumped in the shower to wash the glucose out of your hear, and determined to go to school. I don’t know how you did it!

  4. Granny Says:

    As I had many days before you with your mom from age 13 and you age 4 food and shots were a constant mind jolt of whats next. One time you were spending the night,I called the dietician requesting if I could feed you pork & beans for an evening snack. The dietician replied, “Why would you want to give beans to a diabetic late in the evening”. I said because its a protein. After we discussed I did give it to you and you had no lows that night.
    There was another time that your mom had to go out of town on business and your dad was overseer. He got mixed up with your shots & gave you your morning shot in the afternoon. After he realized what he had done he called Dr Curtis. The Dr called me to take over & he advised the hospital to stand by. So your dad brought you over and we let you go to sleep. Throughout the night we would wake you & test you and give you coke. We sat up with you all night repeating the process & you made it thru the night without going to the hospital. The next morning your dad took you to the hospital to be checked & the Dr could not believe your blood sugar was high.

  5. Saffy Says:

    I smiled the ‘knowing smile’ at the thought of all those hypo treatments – and felt for your parents… and THEN I got to the last 2 comments – and wow, an eye opener. Bless your parents and grandparents… and to think soon another generation will be with you all 🙂 Cluck.

  6. Lorraine Says:

    I appreciate you sharing your early experiences. It’s good to have the perspective of how it used to be to better appreciate how it is today. I know we are lucky to have all that is available to us today to manage my son’s diabetes. Reading experiences like yours, though, drive that point home even more.


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