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Diabetes, Stomach Stuff, and Spousal Stress
August 14, 2008
Last Thursday, I left work early because I was feeling out of it. These were the typical nondescript symptoms of my youth, more often than not the ones I’d call upon when I wanted nothing more than to tune out and do nothing. My intention last week was to go home and nap for a good three or four hours, then enjoy a quiet evening before returning to work the next day, the lazy weekend stretching out before me.
It didn’t turn out that way.
I did go home and sleep. And that evening I felt fine, for the most part; most of whatever I was going through I attributed to eight or nine days of not getting decent sleep because of the new dog.
On Friday morning, however, I woke up more tired than the day before, so I called in sick and decided to take it easy, watch some of the PGA Championship, and see if I couldn’t still get some energy back for the weekend.
After my wife left for work, I realized that I was in a house without caffeine, so I drove to the Walgreen’s down the road for some diet Coke. When I left the store, the siren song of a not-to-be-named breakfast sandwich from a not-good-for-people-with-diabetes fast food restaurant pulled me half a block in the other direction. (And yeah, I’m aware there’s probably no such thing as a “good” fast food restaurant for someone with diabetes.)
That afternoon began a decline into a weekend of bodily unhappiness.
As is often the case when I get sick, I have the premonition that the illness is coming on and I call it in sooner than most people (my wife would say that I milk it for all I can). I don’t know if that was the case this time, though; there’s a pretty good chance that what happened to me last weekend was because of my moment-of-weakness detour through the drive-thru.
For about 48 hours, the only thing I ate was a small breakfast burrito from a local deli; the rest was liquid diet of diet 7 Up or Sprite Zero (for the most part, because I did keep Gatorade and fruit juice on hand in case my blood glucose started to dip).
I kept a steady watch over my blood glucose all day Saturday, and it remained around 130 mg/dl, which indicated to me that, even though I had little food in my stomach, my basal must have been at a pretty good rate.
Nonetheless, when I went to bed on Saturday night, I set the temporary rate on my insulin pump to deliver only 60% of the basal over the next eight hours, because I figured no harm in going a bit higher for a day or two.
At 3 o’clock that morning, I woke up and went downstairs to pee. I thought that the vague nausea I’d been feeling all day Saturday was simply because I was losing a lot of fluid to the stomach bug, that maybe my head felt weird because of my dehydration and my attempts to remain hydrated. But as I stood at the sink after washing my hands, the same feeling came over me that usually accompanies a low blood glucose. I couldn’t figure it out.
I went into the kitchen and stumbled through a check of my blood glucose. When it checked out fine, I was dubious. I was already in a confused state (middle of the night, not much in my system, and on and on), so I opened the fridge to grab some juice, just in case.
And then I went back into the bathroom.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been that ill, and it’s most definitely not been since I’ve had Type 1 diabetes, nor since I’ve known my wife. I’m not versed in the ways of throwing up quietly, and those many minutes of reverse peristaltic hell woke up my wife and the dog, both of whom parked on the floor outside the bathroom during my ordeal.
Everything that we learned during our diabetes education class about sick days and diabetes came back to my wife. She worried. When I said she could go back upstairs and lie down—after she got me some soda—she did. I thought she’d gone back to sleep, but I found out later that she was incredibly upset and going through worst-case scenarios, wondering what effect this illness was going to have on my blood glucose numbers that night, if I’d be OK, what she could do…
Me, I spent an hour or so taking a warm bath, sipping diet 7 Up, and reading back issues of The New Yorker (oh, and checking my blood glucose three or four times in the process). When I finally felt well enough to go back to bed, I drank some juice as a precaution, and then set my alarm to get up two hours later to check my blood glucose again.
What I thought was going to be an enjoyable, slow weekend filled with some gardening, some Olympics, and some hanging out with my wife and our new dog ended up as a weekend of sleeping on the basement couch (I didn’t want to move) and dealing with my body’s attempts to expel whatever wasn’t tied down.
But I made it through, and thanks to the knowledge beforehand of how sickness can affect blood glucose, I made it through while maintaining pretty good control.
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