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What's Your Altitude?

It was Monday night. I had taken the day off to recoup from the busy Cinderella weekend. The musical was great and I could not have been happier but I was tired and needed the rest.

All during the day I fought highs. My BG hovered around the upper 200’s and low 300’s no matter what I did. Finally around evening it came down some. At least enough to eat dinner.

Monday night was our bittersweet “24” finale party. Lots of friends came over to watch and those friends brought lots of snacks which I indulged in. It was the last time I would see Jack Bauer, I was emotional!

I bolused for a lot of carbs because I knew I would be snacking throughout the show.

After it was all done and everyone left I checked my bg and I was high. I corrected and relaxed for a bit before I went to bed. It was almost midnight when I put down the iPad and decided to check one last time.


Forget this! I pulled the site out and changed it. I knew I had been high for hours and just decided to take a shot to correct. No more screwing around. Site changed and injection injected, I went to bed.

1 hour later I woke up with awful cramps in my legs. Both thighs locked up on me and I knew standing up was the only way to fix it. My wife knows the drill and came around the bed to help me stand. Legs cramps are a common side effect of high bg’s for me so I was not surprised. While I was leaning on my dresser trying to stand I felt low and dizzy.

“Honey, I think I am going to pass out. Talk to me. Keep me alert.”

The next thing I knew I was looking up at my wife on the phone and my son holding my One Touch trying to get my finger to bleed. I had fainted.

“130, dad.”

My son had a cup filled with regular soda so I sipped a little just to be safe. Did coming down so fast make me faint? I didn’t stand up too fast did I? What happened?

I have never fainted before so this really scared me. At that point I could hear my daughter in the hallway crying and when I tried to tell her I was okay, I fell apart.

I was so angry that my kids have to be scared and that my wife has to deal with this. I hate it so much.

Next thing I knew the paramedics came in. I told them I could stand up and they helped me sit on the bed. I told them the story and all of them about fainted when I told then how high I had been. They asked me to check my BG.

“Wow, I am down to 107 now.”

“Well, that is great! That is in range.” A medic said in the most chipper of voices you could have at 1AM.

“Yeah but I was so high not long ago that I am worried I am going to crash.”

“Well, we can’t really do anything for a blood sugar of 107. I mean, if you were over 250 we would have to take to emergency!” He was so serious I laughed like crazy in my head.

“Well then I guess I will just handle this myself.”

“Great, is there anything else we can do for you?”

“Could you take my blood pressure?” Yes, I had to ask for them to take my vitals.

BP was fine so they left.

As I sat there eating my 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which kept me steady at 140ish all night, I told my wife, “You know, if I was in a plane that was crashing. Do you think the emergency crew would ask what my altitude was? And when I say ‘7000 feet’ do you think they would say, ‘oh you’re not crashing you are still up in the air!’ No way in hell would they say that! So why don’t they understand, even when I explain it to them?”

I was so angry and at the same time my wife started crying. It all finally hit her.

“When I was on the phone with 911 they asked me if you were breathing and I didn’t want to know. I could hardly look down at you. I was so scared.”

I held her feeling to guilty when she said, “I can’t believe that they didn’t even help.”

Her and my kids were emotionally drained and it kills me that they went through all that. Especially to have those paramedics make us feel like it was a waste of their time even coming to the house.

Somehow these emergency medics need to learn more about our disease.

They need to understand the altitude analogy. They need to understand trends. One number does not tell the whole story. You could be smooth sailing, climbing so high you leave our atmosphere, or plummeting to your death.

One number is not enough.

Reader Comments (16)

Wow! Your altitude analogy is the best I've heard (I'm going to borrow it).

I'm sorry that you've had such a rough time lately, George. You deserve some much needed relief from d-craziness. I hope you get it soon.



May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

I'm glad your okay George. I agree that our disease/illness/pain in the arse is complicated and what kills me is that doctors, nurses, EMT, CDE, etc act as though diabetes is simple. If they prick your finger and the number reads high then take a shot if it reads low drink some juice and anything right on target is great thumbs up. Ummmm no like you said you can have a number that reads fine one minute and the next minute be totally opposite. Literally!

Thank you for writing such a personal post! I'm praying for Super G!

Andrea S.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea S.

George: This makes me so mad and sad at the same time. These paramedics just don't seem with it, and that pisses me off. Your altitude analogy is a perfect one, and I think it's one that could be used to try and help some supervisor-level paramedic or the fire chief (if that's how it's set up in your area) about this.

I'm so sorry that it hit your kids and wife like that. I recently grabbed my wife's wrist as she tried to test me during a Low, even though I insisted that I wasn't - the result was 42. But her wrist got twisted in the process and apparently I wasn't pleasant with my words.... There's no excuse and it just kills me that these things happen no matter how hard we try to manage and keep in control.

That is just as emotionally upsetting and traumatizing as a Low or full day of Highs, even moreso. It just doesn't seem fair that we put them through this, and the subsequent apologies are never good enough. I hate that it happens in my own life, I hate that it happens in yours, and in everyone's lives. But they are there for us. Just wish there was a way to stop it from happening.

I think I'm going to start investigating my own local paramedics' procedures in these situations, and try to hit them with education and the Altitude Analogy before it may be needed.

Good luck on your end, George. Know that despite the craziness and frustration, your wife and kids are rock solid in their support and that He is using this all to build them up and make you all stronger. I have to believe that, personally. And though you know it, I'll reiterate: all of us here in the DOC are here for you, too. Best, bro.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael W. Hoskins

MY GOSH! I'm so pissed right now, I'm crying. I cannot believe the parametics there are so "unskiilled" and.... just..... uuuuughhhhhhh!!!!!! LOVE the reference too. It exactly describes the situation. I just wish we could get the medical world to understand it from that point of veiw!

((((((((((HUGS))))))))))))) to you and your family. You know we're here for you to vent to.

May 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterSarah

I really like the airplane analogy, and think it should be taught in medical schools and paramedics' EMT training classes. The reality is that EMT's really have only basic knowledge (much, much, much less than a doctor or even an RN), so that response, while annoying, is about all you can really expect from them. I once had an EMT who was at my house for a social event scold me because I didn't have any orange juice in the house. When I said I disliked OJ and preferred premeasured dextrose tablets, they told me they were trained that OJ was superior -- I explained that was not the case, and he told me I needed to do more research because HE was correct, not me. But at least they're better than the average Joe the Plumber!

May 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterScott S

I'm so sorry you had to go through all of that. I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be and the emotional toll it has on the family. I have also wanted to give health care professionals a piece of my mind when it comes to blood sugar goals and treatments, etc. I'm lucky that my primary care doctor knows that I know how I am going to react better than he does and trusts my judgment. I just wish the nurses at the hospital and ER docs, etc would understand that as well. It can be completely frustrating! Here is hoping that the blood sugars even themselves out and you'll be back to where you need to be!

May 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterAngie

Like everyone said, your airplane analogy is awesome.

What is so scary is that while you have made it through both of your recent emergency situations, they both could have ended so much worse. Would the EMT's be liable if something happened shortly after they left? There has to be someone you can write a letter to or something. Who?

And the guilt is a real tangible thing man. While you know they love you and would do anything to support you, there's no denying the fear and trauma they went through. It's hard not to feel guilty, even though that's silly.

In all of this bullshit, we pay many prices. All for just trying to take as best care of ourselves as we can.

May 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterScott K. Johnson

You know, I just don't get it. This stuff is not that hard to understand, so why is it that medical professionals (yes I include EMT's in that) don't understand that blood sugar controlled with exogenous insulin can be such a fluid thing? I think I hate the lack of understanding more than the disease itself sometimes. Glad you are OK, and I'm sorry for what you and your family went through.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

What should the paramedics have done? Injected you with glucagon? Taken you to the hospital?

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

@Andrew - Well, first I would say they should have checked my BG. I had to ask them. Second, when I told them what was wrong they told me I was fine. I was not fine. Glucagon is not needed when you can consume glucose. They didn't ask if I had any glucose tabs or juice. They were not concerned about it at all. The number they saw was in range and so they said, you are fine.

That is the problem.

Taking me to the hospital might not have been a bad thing. I mean, do we know why I fainted? I am still not sure so why would they not check my BP, check my pulse, or even shine a light into my eyes to check anything!?!?

I think overall the feeling and tone of the call was that it was a waste of their time. If someone passes out, it seems like it should be of some concern.

i would love your thoughts on this or anyone's thoughts for that matter.

May 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterGeorge Simmons

The airplane analogy is a good one, from my perspective, too.

Ugh, what a few days of suck for you in that airplane...

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I agree with George... more should have been done. I got the impression that it was an almost "why did you call me?" moment. Call it lack of understanding, lack of knowledge or whatever, but the main fact is he passed out. With the blood sugar in "range", it shouldn't have happened. The drop in blood sugar that fast may have played a part, though, and if it did, then who knows what else it could have impacted and he should have been checked out more.

As for writing a letter, I agree. At the very least, a letter to the editor. But I've said that already. :)

May 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterAngie

George -

So sorry that you and the family had to go through that. I hate putting my family though times like that , For me the worst feeling is not the nasty highs or the super G lows, it the trauma I put the one I love through. I am glad you are ok and hope you and the family are recovering from the scare. Hang in there and next time, just kick the EMT's in the junk.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Bishop

Oh George! What an awful experience for you guys! Hopefully there will never be a next time, but if there is, I would insist on being taken to the hospital. You're not an average Joe- you have diabetes and fainting is a signal that something isn't right, even if the EMT's can't see it. I wish they had done more than make you feel like your call was a waste of time. It wasn't. I'm glad you're OK now. Love you cousin.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

ok that sucks. i have had good and bad experiences with emts.personally i liked it better when they took you in no matter what.
sorry but that little training course does not t qualify them to make all decisions if you know what i mean.
your a d. thats why you fainted. bullshit!!! you for sure were unbalanced
somewhere in you circulatory system
and by the way the dam doctor takes my bp just for walking into the office when im fine. inexcusable.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdeanusa

wow! I can't believe the paramedic's didn't do more. I am sorry you had to put up with them. I am sending hugs and prayers to you and the family. I hope everything evens out.

May 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCherise

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