Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On diabetic vampirism

I think I have a good idea of what vampires feel like, when they're starving.

It's a thought that went through my head today at grandma's, after dinner, when I finished three bowls of turkey noodle soup and a left-over slice of pumpkin pie. I had this overwhelming sense of calm and contentment - and I wondered, "Is this what Ann Rice was writing about?"

On the way to grandma's today, I noticed I was a bit...on edge. I was anticipating a fight that never even happened, and when I finally got there I was so cranky and argumentative I felt like I had to shut up to keep myself from saying something stupid.

What was it all about? The soup.

Grandma: What are you doing with all that turkey?

Me: I'm going to make soup for dinner.

Grandma: What do you mean you're going to make soup for dinner?

Me: What do you mean, what do I mean? Is there another way to say it?

Grandma: I just don't understand...

...and I walked away in a huff, grabbed the stuff I brought, and started to make soup. What she didn't understand was how I could make a pot so fast (hers took all day), but to me she was being annoying.

I check my bloodsugar before we ate, and it was 50. Normal is 80-120. And it didn't occur to me until later that the reason I was upset and flustered was because my bloodsugar was so low.

That calm and ease I felt after the pie? That was me returning to my senses. I really felt like the happiest clam on earth, realizing I could die right then and be perfectly happy. Over a piece of pie.

I'm a sugar vampire. Sometimes.

I've had scarier experiences than that - sometimes waking up in the hospital, not realizing what the heck happened. Ask Don or Neff about Easter weekend of freshman year at Adrian.

My dad has found me stumbling around outside, blabbering like I was drunk. That's one symptom of low bloodsugar - or hypoglycemia - a condition that occurs either when I have too much insulin or not enough glucose (or sugar) in my system.

Deprived of energy-giving sugar, my body starts to shut down, organ by organ. My brain is usually the first to go (symptoms like apparent drunkenness, dizziness, sleepiness, or irritability), then my eyes (blurred vision, inability to focus), and sometimes even my extremities - all a result of my body keeping the sugar I do have in my system flowing to the necessary organs like my heart and lungs. Though, if you've heard of someone going into a diabetic coma, those things will stop, too.

Pretty scary. The scariest incident, though, was at Emily's, the night before we left for a weekend in Traverse City. I remember feeling super sleepy on the way to her place, and when I got there I felt the uncontrollable urge to just fall asleep. Poor Emily didn't think much of it (I am known to take naps and fall asleep at random times) until I started having seizures.

It was the weirdest thing: I actually felt my arm come alive. I could feel a center point, right in the crook on the opposite side of my elbow, and I could sense my veins and arteries waking up - ribbons of blue in what was otherwise total darkness. Soon my whole arm woke up, and then I did. To two paramedics standing over Em's bed. And Emily's family looking on in horror.

My brain had shut off, and what I felt was an IV in my arm shooting glucose back into my system. My cells were literally switching back on, blood vessel by blood vessel, until my brain finally received enough nutrition to switch on, too.

Thankfully, after a scary incident my senior year in college, I have my diabetes well under control. My doctor's visit today proved it. I have an A1c (an average bloodsugar count of the last three months) of 6.1%, and it's good for diabetics to be under 7.0%. My feet are in great condition, and I've lost six pounds over the last year.

But still, events like today at grandma's remind me that it doesn't take much to push me over some catatonic deep end. I ate a whole bunch today, and still my sugar dropped without me even noticing until...well, until the pie.

I remember, when Dayna and I would be lazy on weekends, I would feel that sleepiness come on me - and the last thing I felt like doing was fighting it off. Surrendering felt like a much better option, until usually my brain said, "Dave, I'm starving." Then I would ask for help.

Often, though, someone will find me jabbering away in the yard, or falling asleep on some fraternity house couch - and they can't wake me back up - and I'll have no idea how I got there.

Usually I do feel the hypoglycemia, and I'm so starved out of my mind that I get shaky and sweaty and I can't focus my thoughts. Then I'm so hungry I can't think about anything other than getting a soda or juice or piece of candy to bring me back to my senses - and in that way I kind of feel like some glucose Dracula, ready to pounce on some poor, innocent Hershey's bar.

That's why I try to carry candy on me at all times - just in case the hunger strikes again.

My diabetes, it's something that follows me wherever I go. No matter how much I try to let it drift into my life's background, it rears its fanged head often enough to remind me it's still there.

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