Low Blood Sugar…From The Victims Point of View

I have been a type I diabetic for twenty-six years or so now, and have several family members who are also type I’s, as well as some type 2’s, so I have seen from both sides of the fence what it looks and feels like to have a “low blood sugar”, an “insulin reaction”, a “diabetic episode”, or you may prefer the clinical term, “hypoglycemia”.

Note: I am not a medical professional, I am simply someone who has many, many years hands on experience in this area.  If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a medical issue, I highly suggest seeing a doctor.

Hypoglycemia occurs when the body experiences a severe drop in sugar levels.  Basically there is  too little sugar in the blood.  Anyone can experience hypoglycemia, it is not reserved just to torture diabetics.  Think about it, have you ever been at work or school and been so busy that you forgot, or didn’t have time, to stop and eat?  After awhile you may start to feel hungry, then a tired and weak and shaky feeling sets in, and maybe eventually you start to feel sick, sweaty, and even your heart-rate speeds up.  Then you decide to eat and eventually feel just fine, maybe with a headache, though.  That is usually what it feels like for a “normal” person to have a low blood sugar.  And those are just the mild symptoms.

A healthy person should maintain a blood-sugar level between 70mg/dl and 120mg/dl.  The preferred healthy levels may vary depending on what your doctor says, but generally 70-120 is the accepted range.  Anything lower than 70 will result in hypoglycemia.

Here is a rundown of the usual symptoms of a low blood-sugar starting with mild and ending with severe:

Mild: Hunger, nausea, increased heart-rate, sweaty/clammy feeling, cold, weak and/or shaky feeling, moodiness

Moderate: Blurry vision, numbness or tingling (especially around the mouth), more moodiness, difficulty concentrating, twitching, lethargy

Severe: Drunk behavior (stumbling, confusion, slurred speech, etc.)  loss of consciousness, seizure, DEATH.

A mild hypoglycemic episode can be easily treated by eating something that has a decent carbohydrate content, like fruit or juice, crackers,  a sandwich, or candy.  Diabetics should be careful not to overdo it and end up with a high glucose level! An excellent way to be sure and not over treat is to use glucose tablets instead of food or drinks.

A moderate hypoglycemic episode should be taken seriously.  If you are having a moderate episode you may be able to treat it yourself, eat or drink something with a good amount of carbohydrate, or glucose tablets.  If it is on the more severe side of moderate, you may need help from someone.  They may need to give you glucose gel (preferred to lessen risk of choking) and coax you to do what needs to be done and make sure you don’t choke.

A severe hypoglycemic episode should be treated by professionals.  If the patient is conscious, they may become violent, emotional, or otherwise difficult to treat.  If they lose consciousness or begin to seizure, you most definitely need to get emergency medical help.  Never feed a severe hypoglycemic episode, the patient can easily choke.  Instead, if you must get sugar in them (while waiting for an ambulance, for instance), the preferred treatment is to inject them with glucagon. If a glucagon emergency kit is not available then you can put sugar or a glucose tablet or gel on the patients tongue and let it dissolve there, although, at this point it may do little help, they probably need IV glucose at this point (very fast acting).  I can not stress enough how important it is to get the patient to the hospital for proper treatment.

OK, so you are probably wondering what a low blood-sugar is like from the point of view of the person having it.  I can, and will, give you a detailed account of what it is typically like for me, but I have to let you know that a low blood-sugar is unique to the person experiencing it.  In other words, it is different for everyone, not everyone experiences the same symptoms in the same severity at the same times as everyone else.

For me, when my blood-sugar first begins to get too low I usually feel weak and tired.  A shaky, unstable feeling sets in that is usually accompanied by a “panic” feeling.  I often think of this as my body’s (instinct) way of telling me “Something is wrong and you need to take care of it”.  If this stage happens at night while I am asleep, I usually wake up (more of the body’s instinct).

If, for some reason I ignore,  don’t experience, or for some reason cannot address, the above symptoms, I will then move into the moderate stage.  I begin to notice an even weaker and more sleepy feeling accompanied by numbness or tingling feeling, usually of the lips, hands, feet, and patches on my back.  Really, the numbness can occur anywhere. My vision blurs, darkens, and I can’t focus my eyes.  I become rather lethargic, and although I may know I need to address this low blood-sugar, I may simply just not care, or feel too tired to do anything.  Most times, I get my husband to help me.  In a very weak and mumbling way I tell him “my bloos-sugar is low” and he will hurry off and bring me something to eat and sit with me (monitoring closely to be sure I come out of the low) until I am better.  My husband says that I mumble a lot, don’t respond to his questions quickly, and act groggy during this stage.

On the rare occasion that I don’t get help for a moderate low, then I will move into a severe low.  In this stage, I can not tell you my point of view because I always experience memory loss and don’t remember much, if any, of what happened.  I can tell you from my husband’s point of view, since he is the one who has been there, by my side, the whole time.  Usually I begin to make weird vocal sounds, like mumbling, groaning, grunting, and very slurred speech. I do not respond to questions or commands, or if I do, it is very slow and confused.  I twitch, usually my fingers and legs.  I may burst into tears and cry uncontrollably and in a panicked manner.  I can not eat or drink on my own, my husband usually has to hand feed me and remind me to close my mouth and chew/swallow*.   When I begin to come out of the low, my vision clears up (as if I’ve had my eyes closed the whole time), I regain my mental and physical faculties and usually it feels like I am coming out of a drunken state, but much faster.  I usually feel very sleepy when I come out of the low.  I may also feel very cold and be shivering and find it difficult to get warm.

My husband will check my blood-sugar often during the treatment of a severe low to make sure it is coming up.

*Remember to never feed a person who is having a severe low.  My husband and I are aware that this behavior/action is risky. He usually treats me with glucose tablets, honey, and/or granulated sugar which can dissolve easily on the tongue.

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I Can See…Kind of…

This was originally posted to my old blog on March 12, 2014

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

March 11, 2014 I had surgery number two on my right eye.  The first surgery, three weeks earlier, was to clean up my eye from the ravages of diabetic retinopathy.  This second surgery was to clean out my eye fluid of blood from a hemorrhage that didn’t want to stop on its own.  And also to take out the remainder of the gas bubble that was put in three weeks earlier, and put in silicon oil.  And, finally, to finish the laser treatment that was started during the first surgery.

I am happy to make some pleasant points of difference between the two surgeries:

Surgery one:                                                                   Surgery two:
3 hours                                                                             1 hour            pain throughout (not unbearable) Pain at beginning and end (not     unbearable)
all conversations in the room were about the surgery   Conversation varied and was lighthearted

Nausea and vomiting in recovery room                          No nausea or vomiting
Extreme swelling and bruising of eyelids and cheek      Some swelling, no new bruising

March 12th I went in for my post-op appointment and the doctor said everything looked great.  There were sutures in my eye that would probably cause discomfort and irritation for a while, but I can live with that, I guess.  The happy awesome part was when I realized I could see out of my right eye!  It was extremely blurry but I could make things out.  This was awesome because for the last three weeks I had been completely blind in my right eye.

So what was this surgery all about?  First, they had to clear out my eye fluid because there was a bunch of blood mixed in with it that wasn’t clearing itself out.  This bleeding was caused from a hemorrhage in the back of my eye that wasn’t stopping on it’s own (they usually do).  During the first surgery they had put in a gas bubble to hold my retina in place while it healed. Usually they let the gas go away on it’s own but since they had to do this second surgery they had to remove the gas to do the job.  Next they used a laser to close off the hemorrhage.  After this they injected silicon oil into my eye, this stuff does pretty much the same job the gas was doing but allows for better vision than the gas did.  Next, they went to the front of my eye and cleaned up a hemorrhage there.  Then they did a laser treatment, sutured me up, and called it a day.

If all goes well, I wont have to have surgery again until they go in to remove the oil and fix my cataract. This will be in 3-six months…

There’s a Little Sadist in Every Doctor, Except Mine

This was originally posted to my old blog on February 25, 2014

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

February 25, 2014 was round two of operation: Save Tiki’s Eyesight.  The week before, I had surgery on my right eye to clean up the mess made by years of damage from Diabetic Retinopathy.  Today I went in for a check-up and laser surgery.

The original idea was to come in, check-up, and if all was well, go ahead and do laser surgery on both eyes.  However, as soon as the doctor walked in and saw my badly bruised and swollen eyelids and still half bloodshot eye, he decided it would be prudent to wait another week on the right eye.  He did examine it and do an ultrasound on it.  The retina, which had been detached, was now reattached and healing well.  There was some hemorrhaging as a result of the surgery which was now causing some obstruction to the doctor’s view which was what ultimately made him decide to wait on the laser surgery.

He went ahead and did the laser surgery on my left eye which entailed numbing and dilating that eye and then putting an ungodly bright light in my eye and then making me look this way and that while a red/purple light flashed and clicked causing flashes of pain through my eye.  This torture lasted several minutes and then was over.  The pain lasted only a few minutes and then my eye was normal again.

I still have to keep my head facing down at all times for another week, even though the retina in my right eye is reattached.  There is still gas in there holding the retina in place as it continues to heal.  In one week I go back to the doctor to have a check-up and , hopefully, have the last of the laser surgery done.

I have to say that Dr. Hunter at Eye-Q in Fresno/Selma, Ca. is an excellent doctor and has an outstanding bedside manner.  He apologized for “having to go through so much pain in such a short period of time.”  He has compassion that equals his great knowledge and ability as a doctor.

The Straw, Best Invention Ever!

This was originally posted to my old blog on February 20, 2014

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

On February 18th I had the first of , hopefully, only three eye surgeries.  These surgeries are meant to help clean up and prevent more damage from Diabetic Retinopathy.

It all started many years ago, about seventeen years, I think.  I was young and had good health insurance, but I was wild and didn’t care about taking care of my health.  I went in for a routine yearly eye exam and was told that I had the beginnings of retinopathy in my right eye, but it wouldn’t become a problem if I took care of my diabetes.

Fast forward about twelve years, I had been living with no health insurance for  about six years or so and my vision was becoming very blurry, especially in my right eye.  The only place I knew I could go without health insurance was Lenscrafters.  Come to find out, for nearly two hundred dollars you can get the whole nine yards of exam..including a retinal exam.  This was when I found out the retinopathy was now in both eyes and actively causing hemorrhages and retinal damage which was what was making my vision blotchy and blurry.  Well, at this time I definitely couldn’t afford surgery so I just got new glasses and lived on as is, hoping I could get insurance before I went completely blind.

In the years to come I would experience some strange things like the time I was laying on the couch watching T.V. when suddenly I saw a couple of blobs in my vision, it was like watching a lava lamp inside my right eye.  I went to the bathroom, turned on the light and looked in the mirror to see if I could see anything in my eye.  I couldn’t but with the light on, I now could tell it was blood floating around in my eye.  It took several weeks for the blood to go away and all the while I kept wanting to blink it out of my line of sight!

Fast forward about four years or so.  It is January 2014, time to renew my driver license.  Lucky me, I have to do the written exam and eye exam.  I stand at the counter with my glasses on and read the exam chart flawlessly.  I cover my right eye and again read the chart flawlessly.  I now cover my left eye and can not read anything, it is total blur.  The girl takes me over to another eye test and I fail that one with my right eye as well.  I am told to see an ophthalmologist and have a form filled out in order to get my license back.  Yippe…

Since now I do have insurance, in February I go in and see an Ophthalmologist and since it has been roughly five years since my last exam and I know I have retinopathy, they do a complete eye exam.  The doctor finds all kinds of lovely damage in both eyes and tells me to come back in a week and see a retina specialist.  One week later I return and see the specialist.  I must take a moment here to let you all know that Dr. Allan Hunter at Eye-Q Vision Center in Fresno/Selma California is the most kind and gentle and awesome eye doctor I have ever known.  The exam was not the most comfortable experience but his attitude and calming nature made it all the more bearable. He explained that I needed immediate surgery on both eyes and since the right eye was the worst for wear, it would be done first…in four days, followed by the left eye sometime later. The right eye surgery would be the more invasive, the left eye only laser.  Wow.

The following Monday I had to go in to have an Avastin injection in my right eye.  As far as I understood it was supposed to shrink up or dry out some membranes and make it easier to clean up the eye.  The injection, even though they numbed my eye, hurt a bit, and my eye was irritated for nearly 24 hours after, all scratchy and burny, etc.

On Tuesday afternoon I went in for the surgery.  The prep was your usual interrogation about medicines, illnesses, family history, pregnancy test, blood test, eye drops galore, IV.  Then they put me to sleep for only about five minuets while they did the “painful” stuff, numbing and paralyzing my eye and surrounding tissues and muscles.  As soon as I woke up I was in the operating room strapped down to a pillow with my eye clamped open but I couldn’t see or feel anything.  Then the surgery started and it was fascinating.  I couldn’t see outside my eye, but I could see everything going on inside it.  I could see the cutting tool, the scissors, the infusion tool, the vacuum, the blood swirling around in pretty little clouds and then being sucked away, the scar tissue being cut away and pulled by the little clam tool.  A purely amazing thing to watch.  The only bad part was when I did feel pain.  There were a few times when he went in near my sinus/nasal area and it hurt a little.  And there was a moment when the infusion machine stopped working and my eye began to collapse…that hurt.  All in all the surgery was only supposed to last an hour or so, it lasted three hours and they didn’t even finish everything!

He’s going to go back in later and finish my right eye and then do my left…

Because they had to detach my retina, they had to put a gas bubble in my eye.  So as I am healing I have to keep my eyes to the floor at all times in order to keep the gas to the back of my eye to hold the retina in place as it heals.  This is how I discovered that straws are the best invention ever.  I can drink without having to lift my head!  LOL

So here I am two days after surgery,  my eyelids are so very bruised and swollen, I can’t see a thing, and my eye is so bloodshot it looks frightening.  The good thing is that I have very minimal pain.

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You Mean It’s Not Over Yet?

This was originally posted to my old blog on January 19, 2014

It has now been three months since I had triple bypass surgery.  I had this point set so firmly in my mind as the moment all would magically be well again.  In many respects it is, and in some it is not.

I am pretty well healed up although after a long normal day I can have some strong fatigue and a weak feeling in my chest muscles.  This just reminds me that I have not done anything for three months and need to rebuild my stamina and muscle power.

I was told by my surgeon that I would only be on a couple of medications for three months.  But then when I saw my cardiologist, he bumped that time up to six months.  I can not express how  much I hate being on blood-thinners.  Imagine looking over your body everyday and everyday find one or two new bruises that  mysteriously popped up.  Also, imagine getting your period while on blood-thinners.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is like the floodgates of hell opening and staying open for three solid days!  And after doing some research on my own, I find that I may be stuck on the blood-thinners for life!  Thanks for letting me know this little tidbit, doctors.

I have resumed regular activities and am doing very well so far.  I have been back to work for two shifts, both only five hour shifts but with no restrictions.  I was able to do everything my job requires, even bring in the carts from the parking lot and running up and down stairs while carrying bulky and slightly heavy items, which are the two activities that caused me so much pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea before my surgery.  I can now do everything with no trouble or symptoms at all.

The only problem I have had at work was that less than two hours into each five hour shift I felt exhausted.  I was able to push on and do my job well, though.  It will take some time to rebuild my energy and strength again.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had swelling in my ankles which has concerned me a bit.  I was very worried that going back to work and being on my feet for several hours would make the swelling worse.  In fact, working…all the walking, I am assuming…actually resolved the swelling problem and all is well again.

So, to sum it up, things aren’t perfect but they are good and getting better.  It just takes time.

Obligatory New Year Resolution Post

This was originally posted to my old blog on December 26, 2013

Every year my resolution is the same;  I resolve to work out regularly, lose weight, and get healthy all around.  Every year I start out well and in no more than a few weeks all returns to it’s normal gain-lose-gain-lose roller-coaster ride.  Well this year is going to be different, damn it!

I have just a tad bit more incentive to get healthy this year.  After two years solid of chest pain caused from a combination of GERD and coronary artery disease, I had a triple bypass back in October.  So, yeah, I think it is a very good idea to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

So, how do I go about actually sticking to my resolution?  For starters, I wrote down a workout routine and posted it on my bulletin board so I will see it everyday.  Secondly, I thrive on variety, so I have six different workouts planned, one for each day.  The seventh day I shall rest.  I will also be keeping a record of my weight, which I will be checking once a week.

As for food, the household has been decent about only having “healthy” foods in the house…except for on what we call “Fat Sunday”.  So, as long as we can all be good, it will all be good.  I have only had fast food three times since my surgery, and even then I didn’t eat all of it.  My appetite and preferences have changed (for the better) since surgery.  I hope it stays this way.

I think if my friends and family can be supportive as well as holding me responsible for my resolution, it would help.  I would love to hear things like, “How’s the resolution coming?”,  “You’re looking good!”, and “Don’t eat that, you fat pig!”  would be nice.  OK, maybe not the last comment, it would probably make me sob into a tub of ice cream.

…And Two Months Later…

Today, December 18, 2013, marks two months since my surprise heart surgery.  I am doing well, everything is healing on schedule. I don’t think there is anything new to report.  I saw my surgeon for the last time on December 6th.  From now on I will be working with my cardiologist.  I have an appointment with him on January 2nd.

If I were to complain about anything right now, it would be the same two complaints I have had since the beginning, I have extreme exhaustion very easily, – I don’t think I can find words to adequately describe what I mean by “easy exhaustion”.  Imagine yourself casually walking through your house when suddenly, in the blink of an eye, you feel as if every ounce of energy is stripped from you…right down to the bones!  It is as if you could just lay down where you stand and sleep for hours.   And I am still constantly frustrated over being on restricted activity. I want my independence back! Oh, God, I NEED my independence back!

A new complaint would be the aching I feel in my shoulders and collar bones. I was warned I might experience some aching in the shoulders, and I have been feeling it on and off a bit since week one.  However, over the past week I have been feeling the ache more frequently and to a more painful degree.  I attribute this pain to muscle ache due to exertion and healing. Since it is usually worse later in the day and especially at night when I lay down to sleep, I am apt to believe this true.

The only over-the-counter pain medication I am allowed to take right now is acetaminophen, which is worthless to me.  For some strange reason acetaminophen (Tylenol) has never been effective in relieving ANY type of pain I have experienced. It doesn’t touch the pain at all.  Instead, it makes me extremely drowsy.  I suppose since my pain is at it’s worse at night, I can try taking the Tylenol and letting it make me drowsy enough to sleep through the pain.  Sounds legit.  🙂

Don’t misunderstand me here.  To have had major heart surgery and two months later only have three complaints, I think I’m doing pretty good!  Oh, and a bonus, I have been working hard to eat healthy and have lost nearly twelve pounds since surgery.  😀