At first, I passed her by, but something didn’t seem quite right, so I turned around and went back.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"Well, you have what looks like a tube of glucose gel and I thought you might be low. Do you need some help?"
Uh-oh. “I’m fine” is universal diabetes talk for “Ha! You wish!” As if aimlessly meandering around while sucking on an empty glucose gel tube wasn’t enough of a hint.
“I think you should sit down,” I said.
“Well, as long as you’re walking around you’re exercising, and exercise lowers your sugar. There are some chairs over there. Come on: I’ll go with you.”
“But I just took two and a half units [of insulin],” she said (again and again).
“And how much did you eat and how much walking around have you done today?” I parried (each time).
To make a long story short, sitting still, ingesting a bottle of orange juice on top of the glucose gel, and some plain ol’ time got her blood glucose up to a point where we could walk across the street and get her on a bus to her hotel. The correct bus, even—not the one she was about to board.
In the process, she gave me a dollar, and we discovered we have a mutual friend. I don’t know why the dollar, but I took it since it seemed to be important to her, and then added it to a donation.
What was a bit disconcerting about the whole thing is that she is a CDE. In fact, she wasn’t the only CDE around. The incident happened during the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), and the place was filthy with CDEs. To be fair, by the time I saw her, she was in a relatively traffic-free area of the convention center.
“What am I doing,” I kept asking myself, “telling a CDE what to do? Maybe I’m telling her the wrong thing and she’ll know it isn’t right.”
When I called Mutual Friend later to ask her to check up on Hypo Lady (as she called herself when she saw me the next morning), she opined that the other CDEs “just figure, ‘she’s a CDE, she knows what to do.'”
“Oh. So they leave it up to a reporter?!”
The other disconcerting thing was…well, quite frankly, I was just a bit nervous. While I have helped other people with bouts of hypoglycemia, I knew all of them and none appeared to be as far gone as Hypo Lady. Her eyes kept closing and I didn’t know whether she was passing out or just doing that thing where you feel so wiped out by the hypoglycemia you just want to go to sleep.
I’ve had blood glucose so low I’ve been on the verge of passing out. But knowing I got through that didn’t help my rising sense of unease.
Should I call for the emergency medical technicians? Should I give a wave to the hordes of CDEs coming down a nearby escalator? I know—I’ll call Sandy! Sandy, my traveling bud and roomie at the meeting, lists “RN” among the alphabet soup after her name.
“Sandy! Where are you? Could you please come to…?” I must not have sounded as panicky as I felt, because she called back a little bit later and said she couldn’t find me so she was going back to the hotel.
“No, no, no. You don’t understand. I’m here with a woman having a bad low and I need help. Would you please come?” And, bless her heart, she was right there with moral support for me.
I wonder what it’s like for somebody whose never experienced the joy of having a hypoglycemic incident to help a friend or loved one through one. It can be “interesting” enough when you know what’s happening and how they’re feeling. And this was a stranger, after all. Well, in that we’d never met each other before. I think all people with diabetes have a connection. And, because we do have diabetes, we help each other.
It also showed me that you can be a CDE, reporter, or any other profession, male or female, any nationality, educated or not, young or old, large or small, and any other description you can think of; hypoglycemia is the great equalizer. Ain’t none of us got two brain cells to rub together when we’re in the middle of one.