Some Wednesday in November, 3:00am:
I woke up suddenly. Unaware of if I was even awake at all. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest and my head was groggy, but spinning. I could hardly breathe. I looked over at you sleeping soundly and then pulled my weak, nervous body out of the warmth of the bed, using a white furry blanket as a cloak, and went to the kitchen and got a drink of water. And another. And one more. I knew my blood sugar was high. Fuck.
I went to the bathroom. I rustled around in the cabinet above the sink for my ketones strips. I opened up the small white bottle and pulled out one thin, plastic strip. I sat on the toilet with my blanket wrapped around me and held the strip between my legs as I peed. Super casual. I then waited for the results. The little foam square on the end of the strip turned from white to a deep, purple wine red. Red is my favorite color. But this particular shade in this particular place was informing me that my urine was testing positive. Positive for having poisonous chemicals called ketones rampantly pumping through my body. My body was breaking down my fat as fuel, a sick alternative source of energy, as it was thirsty for the insulin it wasn’t getting…the kind my body doesn’t make. The acid was building up in my bloodstream. If I didn’t act fast, I would slip into diabetic ketoacidosis, I could die. This little red square has told me so.
I went back to the bedroom and felt my mind get pulled further away from reality. I turned the lights on, I noticed I still had the pee stick in my hand. My meter read “ABOVE 600.” I looked down at my site and saw it was leaking. I did a site change, only then becoming aware of the fact that it was 3am. I gave myself a correction with a flexpen shot. I placed my hand over my chest, feeling my heart pound. My mind was racing. I was so scared. I started to hyperventilate and tears built up in my eyes. I felt so sick. I felt nauseous, intentionally holding back vomit I could feel in the back of my throat. My hands felt numb and my head felt like shards of glass were cutting the delicate tissue that makes up my brain. I started to cry.
Frantically, I rustled around the floor for my cell phone. You were awake now. Observing the manic episode in a state of confusion due to it being 3am on a Wednesday night but also with discernment, knowing I wasn’t well. You asked what was happening, in a calm and caring tone. You have always been pretty good like that. You have a certain grace about you that people get half from the ingredients that make up the bits of who they are but also from experiencing enough tribulations in life to know how to keep a cool head.
I called up my friend Lauren, she worked with me at diabetes camp the past summer and told me she had a recent episode of DKA. She and I also have similar experiences with diabetes, our typical blood sugar ranges and treatment styles. She answered the phone after a few rings, thankfully she was in Arizona so it was only around 10pm for her. I’m sure she could hear the worry in my voice. She told me I was going to be okay but to keep an eye on everything. If nothing changes within a couple of hours, get to a hospital. Lauren was telling me everything I already knew. The Protocol. In moments like this you sometimes need a friend to act as a mirror to your own conscience. Reaffirming that you can handle this. Telling you the words you know by heart.
Same Day, 3:45am:
There we sat. Waiting. I would check my blood sugar periodically to see if the insulin was bringing it down. It wasn’t. You went to go fetch me new glasses of water as soon as I finished them. I couldn’t drink anymore. I felt so sick. My mouth was dry and my heart was pounding despite having had 5 glasses of water. You held me. Your arms wrapped tight around my trembling body. You let my tears fall down your arms as I worried about dying. We played the waiting game, you and I.
The Breaking Point, 4:00am:
I had coaxed my blood sugar down to about 400, after a lot of insulin and water. Still not low enough. I still felt terrible. I knew my body needed fluids, more than I could give it. Finally, after you convincing me it would only make me feel better we called a cab and went to the emergency room. I pulled on some clothes and you grabbed my bag. The cab driver sat there on his phone for several minutes gossiping until I screamed at him that I had diabetes and I needed to get to the emergency room. You smiled out of the corner of your mouth and held my hand.
The Emergency Room, 4:15am:
You stood outside the doorway as I told the check in woman my medical details, holding my bag in your hands. You peered in, making sure I was okay. You stayed outside though, a way of respecting my privacy, I assume.
I was escorted to a bed in the emergency room. I climbed onto the bed and you came in moments later. You told me your friend was working there that night, she was one of the nurses. You had to make sure I was being taken care of, you made sure they knew of my condition. You have always been protective.
After a while someone came in to give me the IV fluids my body was craving. You watched the needle puncture my skin at the crease of my arm and enter my vein as I turned my head away, I can never watch. It makes me light headed. You watched. Like I said, very protective. The cool rush of the fluids went through my arm.
Thankfully, my blood sugar was down low enough that I didn’t need to be put on an insulin drip. We waited there together. Old episodes of The Golden Girls played on a tv in the corner of the room. You asked me how I was feeling and pulled the crusty napkin like hospital blanket up on my body as I tried to sleep in a position that felt comfortable with the IV pumping fluids into my arm.
You were expected to be at your office at work in three and a half hours. You never missed work like that. Not for a cold, or for a Ferris Bueller day. Never. You emailed your boss, telling her where you were and that you couldn’t come in. For me.
Empty Bag, 5:30am:
Finally, the second IV fluid bag had been pumped into my body. I was finally feeling like myself. My blood sugar was back in range. The nurses came in and we arranged for discharge. Your eyes were tired but you smiled to me. You engaged with my newfound energy, even though yours was gone.
We left the hospital and went to what we declared was probably the saddest Panera Bread on earth conveniently located across the street. We are both kind of dark like that, realists. You more so than me but that’s a different story. You sat with me and watched me eat breakfast during the early hours of the morning. I sipped on a latte with a smile as this is one of those life moments that never fails to bring me joy, still having a hospital bracelet on my wrist, and I caught you staring at me and smiling too. I am certain it wasn’t what you had planned for that day, but you stayed with me. Through everything.
Reflections on April 23rd, 8:39pm:
That night was something that really changed us. It brought you into my diabetes world. You saw me fall. Fall to a place of fear, a reality that death could pull me into its cold grasp if I stop fighting. You knew I was sick, you knew I was tired, and you knew I was scared. Instead of growing weary, instead of pulling away, you held onto me. Tight. You were a pillar of support by my side on that Wednesday night in November. Thank you.
Diabetes tests you in life. Your endurance. Your patience. Your resilience. Your grace. It also tests your relationships. Whether the people you are welcoming into your world can hold on tight enough for the ride.
All my Love,