Friday, 10 November 2017

severe hypoglycaemic attacks: what are they like?

hey all, i want to share with you the stories of my attacks - yesterday i did a video about them, which i'll pop at the end of this post if you're interested to watch it. but, straight after i posted it i got an email from my mum reminding me that i had forgotten one! so, let this post contain all 6 stories of hypos where i've blacked out...

firstly let me say that it comes as no surprise to me that i've forgotten one of them, because a) they're traumatic and b) i black out and forget stuff.

secondly, severe hypos happen in type 1's when there's not enough sugar in the blood for the body to function - it can happen for so many different reasons and every person is different. i will detail the cause of each occasion in each story, so i can share some of what i've learnt from these 'episodes' with you. 

thirdly, don't let these stories either scare you, or make you complacent. although it could happen to you if you're a type 1 diabetic, i doesn't need to with a high level of care taken in managing the disease. however, again, i always think i manage it pretty well but i've still blacked out 6 times... every day i learn something new about how i should look after myself with diabetes and i think it's so important to learn from each other too. so please read and learn...

episode 1
my very first hypo was two years after i was diagnosed - i was 13 years old and it was in the middle of the night. mum heard me making weird noises, loud enough to get her out of bed and she found me having a fit in my room. she put sugar gel on my gums and called 999. my older brother heard it too and came to help, so i'm told. though of course i don't remember anything other than waking up in my bed covered in sweat and being taken for a bath.

why was i being taken for a bath? because i'd wet the bed, because my body had lost full control of itself. the paramedics came to check that all was ok and insisted on taking me into hospital to be checked out and monitored. i distinctly remember feeling as though it was ridiculous having to be taken out the house in a wheelchair when i was very capable of walking and talking, but they made me lie down on the stretcher in the ambulance too and so in return i asked if they'd put the flashy lights on and drive faster so it was like an actual ambulance experience - my first one too!

of course in hindsight i understand why they give you special treatment, because actually your brain can suffer a lot from a hypo, because it's the lack of sugar to the brain that causes a fit in the first place, so it's a wise precaution.

anyhow, i don't remember much else other than i was discharged home pretty quickly after the endocrinologist came to visit me to check all was well.

episode 2
my second hypo is the one i forgot about in the video. it was the night my brother's wife had given birth to their first baby, my first niece. i was 23 and living back at home with my mum after uni. it was quite late at night and we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the safe arrival. i had only had a glass. however it was also winter, and so i had taken to sleeping by the woodburner where it was warm and cosy and i usually got a great nights sleep.

except this time, i had a fit during the night. again. however this time i remember nothing about it. i remember waking up to mum in the morning, and she had told me that i'd had a fit in the night and i recall absolutely nothing about the whole night. clearly the small amount of alcohol, the excitement and the hot fire had been enough to drop my sugar level in an extreme way. that time i think she called an ambulance to check on me, but she insisted that i didn't need to go to hospital, because the first time seemed to be a bit of a waste of everyone's time, and the paramedic could check i was physically and mentally fine.

episode 3
the next time was two months after i got married - my whole life had changed and i was adjusting to a new routine. that morning i woke and decided i would get a few bits and bobs from around the corner in the Lidl supermarket, which was a 3 minute walk from our house. i figured i'd go over and get some shopping really quickly and then make it back in time to eat breakfast and then start work from home at 9am. however, i somehow thought that i could inject for breakfast, then go out and make it back in a short enough space of time.

i used to pre-bolus for meals. emphasis on the "used to", because most of my episodes from here on in involve injecting before a meal rather than during or after. but, it had used to work for me - i used to inject 15-20 mins before a meal, so in theory the insulin would go in at the same time as the carbs. however, this is faulty and dangerous logic because there are too many factors in life that can make pre-bolusing go wrong, like not getting the food fast enough, getting not enough quick carbs in the meal, or not accounting for exercise, or not knowing the absorption rate of a particular injection site.

so, back to the story - i injected for my pre-prepared breakfast and went to the shop. i don't remember anything from walking into the door. but i do remember waking up on the floor near the freezers and wondering 'how the heck did i get to the freezers?' i must've looked like a crazy drunk before collapsing and having a fit by the frozen chicken.

the staff in the store were lovely, and called an ambulance. i woke very confused with someone explaining what had happened. i vaguely remember me paying for my shopping and remembering which card to use and the pin. i also remember getting a free sandwich and bottle of coke. someone saw my ring and figured i was married and called my husband, i suppose i must've given them the phone and told them, but it don't recollect that - but my husband will never forget expecting to hear my voice but hearing a man's instead and absolutely freaking out! "who is this?" he said in his best Taken impression. then i take it he got in his car and drove like the wind to the A&E department of the local hospital. he took me home and made sure i was looked after for the rest of the day.

one of the staff at Lidl continued to remember me every time i kept going back in and she would always look at me worriedly and say "are you doing ok?" - it was embarrassing, but i was so grateful to the staff, because i could so easily have hurt myself seriously on the hard floors in the store, so they must've looked after me well.

episode 4 & 5
i'm going to put these two together because they're too similar not to. both of them happened another couple of months after epidose 3 and on each occasion i was working from home, going about my regular routine. it was the morning, and i was preparing porridge on the stove. i'd already injected for it and i went into the dining room to get set up for the day. i remember waking up under the dining room table, staring at the underneath of the thing and wondering how in the heck i got there?! what a strange place to be, and how? i woke up to the smell of not-yet-burnt-but-caramelising porridge coming through from the kitchen, and i was so glad that i hadn't been out for very long, because that could've been an even greater disaster with a fire too. i had enough sense to eat the porridge first before calling my husband and explaining the whole scenario.

the next time i had the same morning plan, but thankfully didn't attempt porridge that day. instead i actually forgot the entire morning because the fit had been so bad, the first thing i remember that day was waking up in bed and having a huge headache, freaking out at the clock because it was 9:30 and i thought i'd overslept. then i looked down and saw that i was dressed and then looked in the mirror and found massive bruising between my eyes from where i must've rubbed them extremely hard, and then a huge cut on my head from where i must've bashed it whilst writhing around in the bed. i then checked my sugar level monitor and realised that i'd done a level 45mins prior, so i'd been out of it for ages, alone in my house. and thankfully i'd woken up somehow. i think i remember that it was work that had woken me up actually by calling to see how the day was going so far or something.

that day i spent being looked after and swearing i wouldn't pre-bolus again. though clearly that didn't stick, and clearly it was a hard habit to shift from...

episode 6
the last time i had a severe hypo was the year before i got pregnant with my son. i was at my grandparents house and, contrary to previous occasions, it was the late afternoon. we had just come back from a cold walk (clearly my body is very sensitive to temperature and temperature changes) and settled down to have an aperitif of warm saké. this wasn't my regular drink, in fact i hadn't had saké hot before, and i haven't had any since... but we did usually have an aperitif before dinner at my grandparents house. though, unusually i had pre-bolused for dinner, or maybe i'd over-injected for the nibbles that came with the aperitif.

anyhow, i think i knew that i'd put myself at risk that time, and when i woke up on the floor i was less surprised than normal. the paramedic had got to their house in record time, and i remember not being able to move properly for a long while whilst i lay in my husbands arms with marmalade in my hair. which is what he'd used to rub into my gums to get my level back up. the paramedic spoke to me and made sure my brain was working fine before he wrote his report and then left.

i'd really scared my grandparents, but thankfully with the passing of time they've already forgotten about how terrified they were. my husband finally got to witness an episode and be my hero in saving me, which he was incredible at of course.

so, what are the lessons i've learnt from all of these episodes?
1. never pre-bolus, it isn't worth it.
2. watch out for hot alcohol.
3. don't sleep next to a hot fire after an exciting evening and a glass of champagne.
4. don't assume that regular routine will ensure the same pattern each day - injection sites, hormones and quality of sleep can all play a roll in messing with absorption and levels.
5. always go to sleep with a slightly higher level than you require, or eat a banana before bed.
6. exercise can do strange things to levels you can't predict.

please do share some of your hypo stories, so we can learn from each other, and let me know what you've learnt from your own episodes.

thanks for reading, i hope you enjoy watching the video too - and if you fancy educating the people around you, please feel free to share this video with your family and friends...