Where’s Your Brain When You Need It?

Hypoglycemia is a strange thing. Just when you need at least a couple of brain cells to rub together, they seem to have all disappeared. Perhaps I was a bit hypoglycemic when I wrote last week’s blog entry ("South of the Border [and So Was My Glucose]"), because it appears I didn’t make myself clear enough.


First of all, I do not, and never have, lived in Texas. I am a native of West Virginia currently living in Indiana. I’ve lived in several other states but, aside from changing planes, have only been in Texas once and that was to visit my friend, Nancy, for a few days during the year she lived in San Antonio. Nancy’s husband is career military and they don’t live anywhere for very long. This year, they are in Germany.

As far as food goes, I like pretty much everything except Brussels sprouts and some fish. I have eaten my way through the local or native cuisine on three continents and several small island nations without a problem. But the food has to be edible. The cook at the restaurant in Nuevo Laredo didn’t even reach the level of “mediocre.”

Most importantly, however: Of course there were snacks for the children. I still take snacks for them on trips even though they are now teenagers. However, snacks are not meals, plus we were in an urban, commercial area with plenty of food and drink to buy. In addition, we did plan to have dinner in Mexico. We just selected the wrong restaurant.

Now to my supposed lack of glucose tablets. I don’t recall that I’ve ever been without some source of fast-acting sugar. My old CDE, Sonja, would disown me if she thought I hadn’t heeded her teachings. I can, however, recall times when, as my friend Ann puts it, I “did not have mental access to [my] glucose tablets.” When you are hypoglycemic, your brain takes a vacation (to put it mildly).

At home, I have glucose tabs and glucose gel on my nightstand (among other places). However, when I go low in the middle of the night, I raid the refrigerator. Maybe sweet pickles sound better (it’s happened). Maybe I decide that, since I have a kitchen full of food, I need to save the glucose for an emergency.

On that particular day in TexMex Land, I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nothing but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would do.

(For those of you thinking: “PB&J is not a fast-acting carbohydrate. You’re supposed to eat a fast-acting carbohydrate,” please reread the part about having a brain that’s taken leave.)

Nancy once found me standing in front of her refrigerator holding a two-quart carton of orange juice, looking for the straw. (Yes, I usually know that two-quart cartons of OJ do not have a straw on the side.) I might still be standing in her kitchen looking for the straw if she had not poured a glass of juice, thrust it into my hand, and told me to drink.

Lest you think I’m the only one who turns into a brainless wonder while struggling through a hypoglycemic moment, read on:

“JUUUICE! JUUUUUICE! JUUUUUUUICE!” Ann wailed pathetically as she stood in the middle of a hotel ballroom, tears running down her cheeks, amidst a crowd of diabetes educators during an American Association of Diabetes Educators convention.

It was a Saturday morning and she had injected her morning dose of Regular insulin half an hour before she expected to eat breakfast.

Unfortunately, she was delayed, and her mind became focused on drinking some juice to get her blood glucose up. However, by the time she got to the ballroom where she expected breakfast—and orange juice—to be…the food had already been put away.

“The whole time I was wailing ‘JUUUUICE!’ I had glucose tablets in my pocket,” she recalls. “But I couldn’t think of that, because in my hypo state my brain was frozen on my last cogent thought.”

Socks are also on the minds of some people when they slip into hypoglycemia.

“Socks…muuuust have sooooocks…” Sara Smarty Pants has been known to say while in the throes of hypoglycemia, describing “an instinctive, corporeal need and urge for socks. I can go from store to store, in search of exactly the right treat that I can enjoy without ‘guilt’ since I am low. Do I want a pastry from the Italian bakery? Do I want something from Godiva? Oh, there is Ben and Jerry’s…No wait, I have Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer and there is no way I am paying that much for a measly scoop. Then I will get sidetracked and remember that I…need socks and since I am in the area of Kmart anyway, why not go look, all the while dropping and dropping…Then I find myself in the checkout aisle with three packages of socks and no freaking treat.”

Fortunately, she managed to come up with a couple of brain cells and grabbed something from the stash near the cash register.

It was during the O.J. Simpson trial and an unnamed contributor to the insulin-pumpers.org mail list was watching the proceedings and folding socks when her daughter came home from school.

“Call Judge Ito!” the woman screamed. “I solved the case! Just don’t touch the socks!”

Instead, her daughter took a cue from the trial and brought her some…OJ.

Sometimes I ponder the miraculous machine that is our body, with its perfectly balanced systems that work in harmony. At least, they do when we don’t have something that’s gone awry. Like that little insulin “thing.”

If I didn’t already believe in a higher power, that one thing would make me think seriously about the existence of a creator. In the meantime, those of us who are pancreatically challenged and take glucose-lowering medicine of some kind do the best we can. After all, we’re only human.

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • jo

    yes, i know that one..low bld sugar & no brain function at alll…..!
    trying to figure out what to take,( when my brain does not work)let alone what to grab.. what a hard area to be in, when no one home to help.., is a fine pickle to be into…
    still working on it …& it happens even when you think you have covered it all…

  • Maribeth

    This is a great blog and I will add it to my blog roll at http://www.walk2bfit.com/blog where I have posted the best of diabetes info blog rolls on the web. My site and blog are focused to provide etools, education, e-experts and products to people struggling with obesity, overweight and diabetes. Also meant to inspire people struggling through my own personal experience of having lost 170 lbs. and bariatric surgery to get diabetes under control to not suffer the ill-fate as my father and grandmother both passed away from diabetes related foot complications that began with amputations. Thank you for your posts. Very good info.

  • Dutchman

    I drive an 18 wheeler haul’n/deliver’n boats in the lower 48 and Canada. I have a fridge in the truck and have started keep’n several cold cans of Monster’s caffine drink, called the “low ball” (4grm of sugar) and their
    “mean bean” (17grm of sugar) for emergency
    “sugar moments” while driv’n-the bad times
    for me is try’n to get to an unfamiliar spot and/or load’n/unload’n. I’ve only been deal’n
    with diabetes for 4yrs and driv’n a 50.000lb
    truck (yes boat loads don’t weigh 80,000lbs
    like most trucks-but still deadly if it runs
    over ya) is not the time to have the “brain-
    dead sugar moments. The monster drinks are sold at most major truck stops, now. I also keep lots of Jiff’s “simply Jiff” peanut butter to dip celerary sticks into.


  • Dutchman

    Jan, I forgot to mention that the Monster Java drinks DO HAVE (see David Spero’s blog) as sweetener…Sucralose. It is my understanding that the American Diabetes Foundation approves of this artificial sweeter (Splenda). I try to stay away from Aspertane and Sachrine. Tell me……..is
    Sucralose any differant than Aspertane?


  • Tara Dairman, Web Editor

    Hi Dutchman,

    For a rundown of all the artificial sweeteners, including sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin), and others, check out dietitian Amy Campbell’s blog entry “Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth with Low-Calorie Sweeteners (Part 1).”

  • Dutchman

    THANK YOU, Tara!!!

    I was unaware of Amy’s article-can’t wait to read part 2! I found the article so useful, that it’s now safely saved in my “Diabetes File”,………..and the Low Ball and the 17gm Monster Caffine drinks just got a LOT TASTEYER LOL !!!

    Thanks again