The Sound of Diabetes

I don’t know where the title—and, of course, the subject—for this week’s blog entry came from. Well…maybe I do. For the past week, our normally quiet neighborhood evenings have been permeated by the sounds of fireworks, a constant barrage of Black Cats, Saturn Missiles, and Roman Candles, which has no doubt influenced my thinking. While it’s true enough that there’s little correlation between the sound of diabetes and the fireworks’ sizzles, whistles, fizzles, and explosions, when the phrase "sound of diabetes" popped into my head last night, I decided to run with it.

Diabetes indeed has its own aural symphony, and if I turned down the rest of the world’s noise and focused only on the sounds specific to my experience with Type 1 diabetes, what would that be? I’m imagining here one of those documentaries with snippets of high-fidelity recordings layered over each other, a film editor’s dream of dozens, if not hundreds, of unique bits of audio to splice into a montage of jump cuts of the world of diabetes sound.

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It’s the test kit’s zipper, a quick one-two-three tug to open the black case; the rattle of test strips within their container, and the percussive smacks as they hit the top then the bottom then the top in unison.

The satisfying Tupperware-ish thud-pop when I push open the container’s snap cap.

The ratchet twist to spring-load the lancet pen. The click when it’s released into flesh.

There’s the buzz from the insulin pump’s blood glucose meter to tell me that test’s results.

And there’s the insulin pump itself, full of noise, from the new battery insertion beep fanfare to the plunger’s high-pitched motor whine to the hissing tick-tick-tick of insulin being pushed into tubing.

Infusion sets? Changing sites? The crinkle and shuffle of medical packing material, plastic wrappers, and supplies boxes. The metallic spring-loaded twang of the Cleo needle leaving the cannula beneath my skin. The adhesive sigh as the infusion set unsticks from the insertion device.

The medicine cabinet’s magnets releasing the mirror to reveal the necessary meds: simvastatin, citalopram, baby aspirin bottles, their contents each with a distinct sound when shaken, when opened.

The refrigerator butter compartment’s plastic clack when it’s raised to reveal vials of insulin, how the glass clinks and—imagine this sound—the insulin sloshing as the fridge door hits the wall and the vials roll back and forth a few times together, the fluid calming to stopped.

It’s the pharmacy doors I walk through at least once a month, the same few pharmacists asking me if I have any questions, the pharmaceutical Ziploc bag snapped open when the assistant puts the drugs on the counter.

The doctor’s office receptionist asking for my insulin pump and meter. The thin tink of the urine-specimen bottle being set on the counter. The metal door through which the filled container goes sliding shut.

The doctor’s waiting room television’s background din. Then the nurse calling my name. Then the blood pressure cuff’s tough Velcro, the quick squeezes of the black bulb (if it’s still hand-operated), then the air’s releasing hiss and the Velcro again.

It’s my endocrinologist asking me how things are going, a series of similar questions about the past three months, his chair squeaking on its rollers, his ink pen through paper amplified by the desk on which he’s writing…

And on and on.

Do you want me to turn down the volume?

  • Kelly

    Eric, I look forward to your blogs each time. I find I have very similar situations, experiences and feelings and I have had Diabetes for 30 years. I’ve only been on the pump though for a little over a year. This was so creative and fun to read…I wonder if we’d miss those sounds if they weren’t there…

  • CAT- TYPE I-1985

    WOW ERIC….I USED TO THINK I WAS OBSERVANT. MY BLACK TEST KIT ZIP-ZIP-ZIP.. THE CLINK OF MY INSULIN IN THE BUTTER COMPARTMENT, THE STRIPS IN THEIR CASE.
    *HOW ABOUT PEOPLE “TALKING BACKWARDS” ON T.V. WHEN YOUR SUGAR IS 18
    *SOUNDS OF GASPING AND WET MOUTH SOUNDS AS YOU “AWAKEN” ON FLOOR;STILL CAN’T MOVE BUT YOUR BREATHING! SUGAR MAYBE 28 NOW
    *STRIRRING TO THE SOUND OF B.P. CUFF BEING PUMPED UP BY FIREMAN WHO ALSO JUST STARTED YOUR D-50. WHOO ALMOST THERE,SUGAR NOW 45!
    *OOOH AND MY FAVORITE… THE “BONG” OF THE BATHTUB AS YOUR HEAD STRIKES IT DURING A “SMALL” SEIZURE.
    THESE ARE SEPARATE TIMES! THANK GOD FOR HUMOLOG, PEAKS AT TWO HOURS LASTS ONLY FOUR. THESE ARE HAPPENING WITH 5 OR LESS UNITS…POST PRANDIAL!!!

    ANY ONE ELSE WITH SOME “FUN” STORIES? OF COURSE I’M BEING FACETIOUS.I HAVE A GREAT BEDTIME SNACK RECIPE; MADE WITH CORN STARCH FOR SLOW RELEASE.
    I’M VERY SENSITIVE TO INSULIN…TDD(TOTAL DAILY DOSE)IS ONLY 35U. ANY SUGGESTION? MY ENDOCRINOLOGIST IS STUMPED..VERY EXPENSIVE MRI RULED OUT AN INSULINOMA.

  • Wacky Walrus

    Hmm, I think I smell (or should I say hear) an FCE project in this one ;)