You don’t always think when you’re going to bed that you might not wake up in the morning, but for me this was almost my reality.
It was winter in Chicago, and I was out at a bar celebrating the holidays. My roommates weren’t with me, which they normally are when I’m out drinking. Mistake #1. I tend to stick to less sugary drinks, but indulged in some this time around. Mistake #2. Around that time I was transitioning to a low-carb high-fat diet, and hadn’t consumed any starchy carbs that day. Mistake #3.
When I was enjoying my night out flipped my wrist to check my sugar on my Apple Watch and saw 276 with double arrows up – those sugary drinks were clearly getting to me. Whenever I drink I set a temp basal on my pump so I get 50% of my basal insulin rate for the number of hours equal to drinks that I’m going to have – I had done this, but clearly underestimated how many carbs were in the drinks I was having and under-bolused. So what did I start doing? Bolusing of course. Mistake #4.
By the time I got home my numbers were in range, but I saw that they were heading down. So I had a few juice boxes and went to sleep. Mistake #5.
That was the last thing I remember.
The next thing I knew, my roommates were sitting in my bed with me and paramedics were standing in my bedroom door.
My sugar had crashed. And when I say crash, I mean 40 and below. Luckily, my parents can both follow my sugars using Dexcom Follow, and were alerted that I had crashed so both of them started calling me. Unfortunately, I didn’t wake up for any of their 15 calls.
My mom then called my roommate and told her how low I was and to go in my room and try to wake me up. I had locked my door before I went to bed though, and my roommate couldn’t get to me. She got my other roommate and they started banging on my bedroom wall and door to try and wake me up, and after a short while they heard me muttering in a high pitched voice, so they knew that I was alive in there. I then stood up to get to the door and immediately they heard a loud thud – I had fainted.
It was then that they made the decision to call 911.
While the paramedics were on their way I mustered up the strength to unlock my door. My roommates rushed in and quickly grabbed me a juice box and got me to drink it. By the time the paramedics came I was able to get some juice down, and my roommate made me a peanut butter and banana toast to get some protein in me. I didn’t have to go to the hospital, but the paramedics (and cops) stayed with me until they saw that arrow on my Dexcom turn up.
I have never been so simultaneously thankful and embarrassed in my life. Because so much of living with diabetes is making choices that directly impact your health the feeling of embarrassment had overcome me. I made the decisions that directly impacted my health, and could have cost me my life.
In living with diabetes it is important to not place that blame on yourself. This was my immediate instinct, but when you’re living with diabetes you’re living with it 100% of the time. You don’t get breaks, and no matter how long you’ve been living with it you’re bound to make mistakes.
I took that embarrassment and blame and instead reflected on the situation and what I did right. I’ve educated my roommates on what to do in case of any kind of T1D emergency. I have my parents following me on Dexcom Follow, and they have both of my roommates’ phone numbers. I keep juice boxes right next to my bed.
With this being said, I can’t stress enough to be careful when you’re drinking with diabetes. Alcohol makes you spike, and then you crash when it wares out of your system. Learn how your sugars react to different drinks, always keep an eye on your levels, and make sure someone you’re with knows that you have T1D.
I am thankful I have technology like the Dexcom that has saved my life like this on more than just this occasion. I am thankful I have parents that will do whatever they can to make sure I am healthy and safe. And I am thankful for roommates that have listened to me when explaining my needs as a someone living with T1D, that will jump into action in an emergency like this.
For the American Diabetes Association’s tips on drinking with diabetes click here
For Beyond Type 1’s tips on drinking with diabetes click here