Don’t make this mistake with insulin! The only time my diabetes landed me in the ER
I had just thought proudly to myself a few days before this incident, “Great job, Sysy, you’ve been a diabetic for over 10 years and never been to the ER!” Well, one Saturday morning, I get up at 7am as usual to give my lantus insulin shot. In case you are not familiar with lantus, it works as your basal. I take one shot of lantus every morning at the same time and if I have given the correct amount (which for me is about 20 units), you should have steady glucose throughout the next 24 hours, say if you don’t eat or give any fast acting insulin.
Well my fiancé at the time had bought me a mini fridge to keep in my room so that I wouldn’t have to go upstairs for the lantus shot. This was so sweet of him because on Saturday and Sunday mornings it allowed me to wake up at 7am for the shot and go back to sleep for a while. Going upstairs would really wake me up and not allow me to drift back into sleep.
Now, the night before I was out late. So while I am giving myself my 20 units of lantus, I have only had about 4 hours of sleep. As I pushed in the injection I suddenly looked at the bottle of insulin I had taken out. It wasn’t the lantus, it was the fast acting humolog!
I checked and my blood sugar was 110. This gave me no extra time. I closed my eyes for about 60 seconds. I thought to myself, “Ok Sysy, in 15 minutes 20 units of fast acting insulin is going to start rushing your system. You need to buy time and get to the hospital. At the time, I lived at home with my family. I knew that telling them this news would illicit panic. So I got dressed, brushed my teeth (come on! I want fresh breath even in an emergency!) Then I ran upstairs to the kitchen, drank the first thing I found with sugar-chocolate soy milk-worked for me! I gulped 2 glasses of the stuff. I then ran out the door and drove approximately 30 seconds (literally) to the corner gas station. I went in and bought candy and a couple bottles of grape juice (grape juice has more sugar than any other juice).
I then went back to the car (don’t worry I didn’t drive anywhere), I began gulping down the grape juice while I dialed my fiancé (who lived 5 minutes away). Luckily, he answered his cell phone. I began telling him calmly, “Alex, I am going to need for you to wake up and be really alert to what I am about to say.” He says, “Yeah, yeah, I am awake”. His voice sounded far away and on a lazy cloud so again I said, a little louder, “Alex, I need your help but I need for you to really be awake and paying attention”. He finally spoke to me in a voice of someone who was no longer in a dream so I explained to him what happened. He is better at math than me so I asked him what 20 times 15 was (because I need about 15 carbs per unit of insulin). The number he came up with was very scary and I knew I couldn’t save myself. I told him to immediately come to the gas station and pick me up to take me to the hospital.
He arrived in about 6 minutes. (Gotta love a man that can move fast!) By this time I had downed two large bottles of grape juice (which was very nauseating) and was now starting on the candy. My brain felt like it was swelling inside my head and I was getting sleepy. It also felt like my veins would explode. On the way to the hospital I checked my glucose and it was 98. 98! I could not drink anymore liquid without fear of vomiting (and making things worse) and I could barely chew the candy. So I called 911 to let someone know to expect me at the hospital entrance. The operator asked me if I was in an argument with my boyfriend and if this was a suicide attempt. (Very disheartening when all I needed was for her to believe me and HELP!) I was still very aware of everything and chose to fight what I was feeling and calmly explained the woman what happened. She suggested an ambulance meet me on the way to the hospital and transport me the rest of the way.
So that’s what we did. We waited 12 minutes for the ambulance. In the meantime I was scared I might die over the dumbest most preventable mistake ever and my fiancé and I began to panic. I saw tears in his eyes and felt so sad for him and my family and friends. I just kept trying to eat candy.
On the way to the hospital the medic checked my glucose and told me it was a little over 200. I did buy myself time! All that sugar worked! In the ER, the nurses didn’t really take my situation seriously. Each time they gave me intravenous glucose was because I had checked my blood sugar on my own and I had alerted a nurse it had dropped to 80 or 70. I felt they didn’t believe I really gave all that fast acting insulin. They would tell me they would check me in an hour and within half an hour I would do the safe thing and check it myself and find it plummeting dangerously, to which they would come in and say, “Oh, it’s really dropping, you need more glucose!” This went on for about 6 hours. Amazing, when you consider the makers of humolog claim it only acts for 2 hours-no matter the dose. (Hmm…)
I really felt like I redeemed myself that day. I made the initial mistake of giving the wrong insulin type but, I took responsibility for myself in the ER and I would hate to have seen what would have happened had I not done so. I found that in 30 minutes my blood sugar dropped more than 10 times what the hospital staff expected and had I not checked my own glucose repeatedly, I am sure I would have gone into a seizure or worse.
I came away that day with the conclusion that nurses and doctors are not as educated in certain details about type 1 diabetes as one might expect or hope. I also quit going to bed so late and made sure I was up and alert before giving any insulin.
Oh yes, and I was super thankful to be alive.