I contemplated getting up even earlier this morning to drive to work and pick up my pump supplies, but then I decided it would be more worth it to stick to my original plan and live a weekend with pens and needles.
Today would be a true test, too. It wasn’t like any other Saturday. I had volunteered to plant trees at Farring Baybrook Park with the National Aquarium and TreeBaltimore. The event was supposed to last five hours – that meant five hours in the cold, doing hard, physical labor.
I would need to make sure my blood sugar didn’t drop, but I also didn’t want it to remain high – I didn’t want to feel constantly thirsty and have to pee every 10 minutes. I checked my blood sugar. It read 83.
Wow, I was impressed it stayed stable overnight. I shouldn’t be. After all, I had taken Lantus (long-lasting insulin) injections nightly before the pump to keep my blood sugars stable over a 24-hour period.
I drank half of cup of “green” juice. I didn’t feel like eating. The event organizers promised granola bars, but they would be full of carbs and sugar. How would I take insulin? Wouldn’t I have to take too much insulin depending on the carb ratio? Maybe I would just wait to eat the hard boiled eggs (devoid of carbs and full of protein) I had packed when I felt hungry?
They encouraged us to bring lunch, but I was out of any “to-go” options so I brought a hodge podge of snacks: granola, crackers, hummus, and Gatorade.
My friend from my graduate program picked me up, and we drove to the site together. We were both excited about the prospect of planting trees, but neither of us was awake enough to fully appreciate it.
When we arrived at the site, I realized the prospects were worse than I imagined. There was no “bathroom” – just a Porta-Potty. I couldn’t imagine myself trying to prick my finger and check my blood sugar or inject my stomach with insulin in there.
Luckily, I didn’t drink coffee that morning so maybe I wouldn’t have to use it at all.
After orientation, my friend and I realized we were at a disadvantage. Every other group had more than two or three shovels. We only had one, but that didn’t deter us from attempting to reach a goal of five planted trees.
We started digging. My friend started with the shovel; I got on my hands and knees digging away the dirt with my hands. We found a pickaxe – this helped with the rocky ground. We freed the roots from the sapling, and then covered them with dirt. We created a barrier with the sod and then covered with mulch.
At one point, my friend dug out a golf ball.
“A souvenir,” I said.
“Yes, because my husband will be so happy I’m bringing home more ‘souvenirs’,” she laughed.
After three trees planted, we decided we needed a break.
We walked to a tent with food, shelter, and a handwashing station. It was 50 degrees out, but we weren’t cold. The sun had been at our backs the whole morning. We realized it was a perfect day for planting trees.
My friend re-filled her water bottle. I opened my Gatorade, proud I still didn’t need to use the Porta-Potty.
A National Aquarium staff member sat down next to us with her sandwich and chips. I looked at her plate, realizing how much insulin I would have to take for a lunch like that. I pulled out the hard-boiled eggs from my backpack. They were packed full of protein and required no insulin.
I could feel the blisters forming on the tips of my fingers and palms of my hands. My lower back screamed in pain, and my arms were shaking with each pull of the shovel.
My friend and I struggled to unearth pieces of brick from our last hole, our fifth tree. But we did it. When we finished, so had everyone else. A group of 40 staff members and volunteers planted 150 trees in just four hours.
We headed back to the city for some lunch. My blood sugar was 110.
I ordered a parmesan-crusted spinach omelet, which came with potatoes and multigrain toast. I knew I needed to take insulin, but I didn’t feel like rooting for the bathroom (yes at this point I had stopped at my apartment to use the restroom before heading out again), and I felt uncomfortable injecting myself at the table.
It’s funny. No matter how open I am about my diabetes and how willing I am to write about it to the world, I am still uncomfortable sharing this revelation with mere strangers. I rarely check my blood sugar in public and often hide my pump in my pocket or bra strap.
After lunch, I took insulin with my flex pen. Then my friend and I stopped by the grocery store. I felt awful. My head was spinning; I was overheated and tired. I wondered if maybe the insulin in my flex pen was still effective.
But when I arrived home and checked my blood sugar again, it was 84. I took insulin only a few hours ago so there was still active insulin in my system, and it would probably drop if I didn’t drink some juice.
I cut up some onions, carrots, red peppers, and zucchini, and threw them in the pot. While listening to Band of Horses, I waited for the veggies to cook, and then added diced tomatoes, garlic, and vegetable stock. I brought to a boil and let simmer.
I checked my blood sugar – it was 139, probably high from the San Pellegrino I drank an hour earlier. I took a correction dosage.
I poured the soup into a bowl, adding tofu sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and my favorite: avocado. Hardly any carbs in this meal so I didn’t worry about taking more insulin.
I realized then that because I had a limited access to a bathroom throughout the day and because my flex pen only has one-unit increments, I had avoided high-carb meals. I maintained a high-protein, low-carb diet to ensure my blood sugar didn’t drop and to avoid having to prick myself a million times a day.
As I wiped the remainder of the soup from my mouth, I searched my pocket for my Blistex, expecting my fingers to get tangled in the cords of my insulin pump, but instead, they were free to move wherever they liked.
Part 3: Gizmo Comes Back.