This is the first thing I saw as I opened my eyes on June 18, 1996, the 5th Birthday of my daughter Cayla. A toilet.
As I open my eyes and look around I realize I am sitting on the floor of the bathroom. I am freezing cold. I am covered in something sticky. It is in my hair, on my face. It is all over me. My lips are numb. My left thigh aches. I note I have on the same clothes I wore to bed. An oversized t-shirt with the decals that celebrated the Toronto Blue Jays World Series wins in 1992 and 1993. The t-shirt is so soaked in cold sweat it could’ve been wrung out. I am shaking profusely.
I then look over to my left and see my then husband. He is sitting on the edge of the tub. I mumble to him “I’m low.”. I see that he is holding my glucose meter. As he shows me the face of it, evident he has just tested my sugar I notice his hand is shaking. He says “No, you’re high.” and shows me the number on the meter. I feebly argue I am definitely low despite the number on the blood glucose meter. I then say my leg is sore and ask if he gave me a needle.
He then explains to me the events that occurred that lead to this point. As he is sound asleep in bed he feels my arm fall across his chest in bed. As he grabs my arm to remove it from his chest, he realizes that it is very cold and clammy. So cold and clammy he wonders if I am alive. After placing my arm back at my side, he nudges me and ask if I am okay. According to him the only sound out of my mouth is a moan. He continues to tell me that he then picks me up out of the bed and carries me to the kitchen where he attempts to feed me honey, as he tries to tuck the honey into the corner of my cheek to allow it slowly drain into the back of my throat, down into my stomach where it will begin to raise my sugar, I fight.
According to those who have cared for me during a severe low, I am not a nice person. Despite my small stature I am a fighter & don’t like to cooperate. I have been known to be holding my son Kurtis when he was a baby, refusing to give him up, insisting I need to protect him. When I injected my insulin using vial and syringe I made a habit of leaving a new syringe and vials of insulin on the kitchen table so I didn’t forget to take my insulin. After being carried from the bedroom, unresponsive and seated at the kitchen table, while my caregiver gets the honey out of the cupboard, I have been known to unconsciously draw up my insulin from the vials into a syringe & insist I MUST give me my insulin. With adrenalin kicking my mind into fight mode, I have been known to hold the syringe full of insulin tightly in the air, making it challenging for the person trying to save me from my low to get close enough to treat it. I have been known to place both feet on either side of the outside of car door to prevent my caregiver from getting me in the car to take me to the hospital. Yes, I am one of THOSE in a severe low.
He continues to attempt to place the honey in my mouth. According to the story I hear the # on the BG meter reads high, well above target. As a result he re-adjusts his plan and determines that when he found me in bed I was not low but high. He injects 10 units of Humulin® R (regular) insulin in my left thigh. I don’t remember any of it. It is 5am when he found me cold and clammy in bed, it is 10am when I wake up to see the toilet.
After I come to my senses in front of the toilet, he helps me clean up and leads me to the couch. I feel so guilty. Not because I had the low…it was considered inevitable with that type of insulin and I always tried to convince myself it wasn’t my fault. Back then the insulin I took caused me many severe lows.
I feel guilty because it is Cayla’s 5th birthday and birthdays are important. My Mom always made birthdays a very special day and I made a point of carrying that tradition on for my children.
I felt guilty because I am not able to get up and make Cayla’s morning as special as I typically did. I am not able to smile, hug her and wish her a Happy Birthday. I felt guilty because I can’t make her Birthday breakfast.
Instead, she is witness to her Father trying to bring her Mother out of severe low.
I feel guilty because I have to lay on the couch testing my sugars every few minutes to make sure I don’t bottom out from the 10 units of Humulin® R I have active in me. I feel guilty because I am a bystander as I watch her Dad present her with her new bicycle. I feel guilty that on that day, her special day I feel like a failure as a person, a parent, as a person living with diabetes.
The learning I received from this morning is that she was more worried about me then how the morning of her 5th Birthday unfolded. She smiled as he presents her with her new bike. Then she says to her Dad, ” Daddy, I think you should’ve called for an ambulance.”
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference….” –Reinhold Niebuhr