This short essay describing random days in the life a diabetic was first published in Sugarcoated and is part of the University of Baltimore Plork Anthology (2013).
The harp string of my alarm wakes me. I remove my insulin pump from the folds of my cream-colored sheets. As I walk to the bathroom outside my bedroom, I clip the pump to my underwear.
In the bathroom, I unzip the black case of my glucometer, insert the lancet into the pricking device and then shoot it into my calloused fingertip. I push the blood from my finger and touch a drop to the test strip. The meter reads 88. A good start.
Before I leave for work, I unclip my insulin pump from the plastic tubing taped to the skin above my waist line. I do not want the exercise from walking to and from the bus stops to make my blood sugar drop.
If my blood sugar is low when I wake up, like yesterday when it was 80, I drink a cup of orange juice before leaving.
It also is easier to manage diabetes with the insulin pump—it administers a consistent amount of insulin over a 24-hour period to keep blood sugars stable.
I arrive at my office job and check my blood sugar again. It reads 80—dropping, but stable. I measure out my cereal. One cup equals 30 grams of carbohydrates, and since I take one unit of insulin per 15 grams of carbs, I take two units of insulin. There are no carbs in my unsweetened almond milk.
Fortunately, my pump is pre-programmed, so I don’t have to do the math myself like I once did when I used syringes and then FlexPens, pre-filled, dial-a-dose insulin injection pens. I tell the pump my current blood sugar reading and the number of carbs I plan to eat, and my pump administers the correct amount of insulin.
My blood sugar reads 130. There is still some insulin, what is called active insulin, in my system so I don’t need to take a correction bolus (fast-acting insulin).
There is no active insulin in my system, but I’m hungry so I measure out a cup of almonds. They contain five grams of carbs per serving size and will keep my blood sugar stable until lunch.
I keep my insulin pump on when I travel to school. I don’t need to worry about my blood sugars dropping since the shuttle bus will pick me up and drop me off right in front of my building. When I arrive for my graduate assistantship, I check my blood sugar again.
It’s now 104. I take out my tomato and avocado sandwich. The whole wheat bread doesn’t break down as easily as white bread and therefore is better for my blood sugars.
I also use tofu mayonnaise to maintain my antibiotic- and hormone-free dairy diet and better manage my cholesterol.
The bread contains 20 grams of carbs in each slice, and because starches take longer to digest, I administer 2.6 units of insulin over 30 minutes. I drink lots of water throughout the day because water helps keep my blood sugars stable.
Once, before I had the pump, I ran out of insulin at work, and my blood sugars climbed to 250. I started drinking eight ounces of water every fifteen minutes, and within two hours time, in addition to the active insulin in my system, my blood sugars returned to 150. Still high, but a lot better than 250.
My blood sugar is 100. With no active insulin in my system, I eat the rest of my almonds before class. This will keep my blood sugar normal until I arrive home and make dinner.
My blood sugar is 92. Six hours have passed since I ate lunch.
I make myself my favorite basmati rice dish with tofu sour cream, garlic, organic red peppers, onions, and antibiotic- and hormone-free cheddar cheese. In learning more about how carbs and sugar affect my body, I also have learned more about food safety and public health.
I think about exercising. Today didn’t allow much time for a run or kickboxing, but tomorrow, I will try to work out. Exercise helps fight the negative effects of my lifelong partner.
My meter reads 106, a good bedtime reading.
ANOTHER KIND OF DAY
I wake up late on Saturday, remove my insulin pump from the folds of my cream-colored sheets and clip it to my underwear on the way to the bathroom. I prick my calloused pointer finger. I push the blood from my finger and touch the drop to the strip.
My blood sugar is 180. Must have been the late-night nachos I ate at the bar last night, I think.
I take my insulin pump off when I travel to work. I don’t have time to eat breakfast so I grab a bagel on my way. Bagels are difficult. They’re full of carbs, and they take forever to digest. But I’m hungover and I need substance.
I am waiting tables at a local Baltimore pizza bar. I punch in a large table’s order at the server station, but then I can’t see the screen. I start shaking and grab the server next to me.
“Can you ring this in? I can’t focus on the screen. I think my blood sugar is dropping.”
“Here, sit down,” he says, pulling up the nearest barstool. “I’ll get you juice. Don’t worry about it.”
Instead of sitting, I grab my purse and find my glucometer. My blood sugar reads 39.
I finish my two cups of orange juice. The other server has attended to my table, but now that I have stopped shaking and I can see again, I return to the dining area. Another hypoglycemic episode diverted.
I’m done with my shift and feel extremely thirsty. My blood sugar is 202. I had pizza for lunch. Another hard one to estimate. I take a correction dosage and then enjoy a pint of my shift drink.
For dinner, I eat honey oat cereal, another high carb option, but at least one I can measure. I’m out of food, and I don’t feel like going to the grocery store. My roommate asks if I want to go for ice cream.
Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop is right down the street. I’m surprised I don’t take more advantage of the opportunities Little Italy provides. They’re having a two-for-one deal. I gorge myself on pistachio and vanilla gelato.
My blood sugar reads 230. I take a correction dosage. Ice cream is full of sugar so it hits my bloodstream fast, but for some reason, can make my blood sugars peak two hours later.
I wake up in a sweat. My chest feels heavy. I roll out of bed and crawl to the bathroom. My blood sugar reads 25. I am adjusting to the bathroom light, but everything is out of focus. My heart is pounding; my body is shaking.
I crawl back into the hallway, up the few stairs to the kitchen. I open the fridge and see my roommate’s leftover chocolate cheesecake. I grab a fork and dig in. Ten minutes later, my blood sugar feels stable, and I look at the massacred cake. I manage to return the dilapidated dessert to the fridge, stumble back to my bed and pass out, my sheets still moist.
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