The Most Evil Roller-coaster Ever

There is a vicious cycle many, if not all, diabetics have gotten stuck in probably many times throughout their diabetic life. This horrible cycle is commonly called the blood sugar roller-coaster. It is evil, frustrating, bad for both immediate and long term health, and potentially deadly.

What is the blood sugar roller-coaster? That is when a diabetics blood sugar continually rises and drops and, for a number of reasons depending on the individual, refuses to normalize. It is generally accepted that an ideal blood sugar should stay between 80 and 120 mg/dL. What happens on the roller-coaster is that something may cause the blood sugar to drop, so the diabetic eats to bring it up. Maybe they eat too much and now their blood sugar has gone too high, so they take some insulin to bring it down to normal. Maybe they take too much insulin, or they are more active than they thought they would be...for whatever reason, it has now dropped too low again. And so on and so forth. The roller-coaster.

Yesterday, Super Bowl Sunday, I woke up with a terrifically high blood sugar. It was so high my meter couldn't give me a number, it just read "Hi". I was shocked but not too surprised because I had eaten a lot the evening before. But when I was getting ready for bed I had checked my blood and bolused. So I was shocked because I woke up hella higher than when I had gone to bed. In any case, I took my morning dose plus a bolus I estimated should bring me down quite a bit.

I waited one hour, then tested again. Again the meter read "Hi". I was worried now. Why was my blood sugar so high? And why wasn't my insulin bringing it down? Did I inject into scar tissue? Was my insulin bad? In any case, I bolused again but this time with less because I knew I still had (or SHOULD have) active insulin in my system.

I waited another hour and then tested again. I was relieved to see a number this time, 317. It was obviously coming down, but I was worried it may need more help. This was my first big mistake of the day. Instead of waiting to see what the insulin already in my body did, I bolused again. A small dose just to ease my mind. You see, I still had it in my head that maybe my insulin wasn't working properly for whatever reason, and I didn't want to stay high any longer.

I decided to check again in one hour. And I would have, except for the fact that I fell asleep. Several hours later I woke up. It was a slow and confused, and panicked waking. I was on the floor for some reason...and blocked in by something. I didn't know where I was, I didn't know what was going on. I called out to my mom.

The corner of my room where I first woke up and felt trapped.

"I can’t help you. I’m dead. You need to find someone else now."

I began to cry and struggle to get up, but something was wrong. I couldn’t move right, and was still blocked in by something. I think I fell asleep again for a bit. When I came to again I was in a different position, not blocked in anymore. I couldn’t get up. I was still confused about where I was. And I was still stuck on the belief that my mother was dead. I called out through my sobs for my husband.




No one came. Where am I?! “Lee!” I cried out one last time. He wasn’t coming. I had to get up myself. I struggled and continued to cry. My mind kept bouncing from one thought to the next, never completing a full thought. I made it to my feet. My cat was on the bed pacing and crying at me.

I went to the door and opened it. My husband came running when he heard my crying.

"Oh, my God! What’s wrong? Is your blood sugar too low? I thought it was high? What’s going on?!“

I sobbed, “I don’t know! Dead! It hurts so bad! I don’t know where I am! On the floor!” I was totally incoherent.

“What do you need? What should I do?” He asked

"I don’t even know where I am! Need to check my blood.” I was still sobbing loudly.

My husband and cat lead me to the kitchen. I was crying, soaked with sweat, and in pain. I brokenly told my husband what had happened.

"I need to call my mom, I need to know if she’s OK!"

My blood sugar was 32. My husband gave me chocolate and I ate it as I cried.

“My shoulder hurts bad.”

“You probably fell on it when you fell out of the bed.”

“I need to call my mom!” I was still stuck on her being dead.

"OK, OK, I’m calling her now."

My legs felt like rubber so I hobbled over to the couch and sat down. My husband gave me a cookie and I ate it while waiting for my mom to pick up. It went to voice mail.

I knew she was having a Super Bowl party, and I knew mostly who was there. "Call Glenn."

My husband dialed my brother’s number. Voice mail.

"Call Trisha."

My husband dialed my cousin’s number. Voice mail.

"Call Joel."

My husband dialed my brother’s number. He picked up. My brother is also a type 1 diabetic so when my husband explained the situation to him he understood completely and before handing the phone over to my mom, he asked if I was getting enough sugar. My husband assured him I was OK now.

As soon as my mom got on the line, I burst into fresh tears. “Mom! I hallucinated or dreamed or something that you died!”

“Oh, Tiki, I’m OK. Are you OK?”

“I’m fine now. My shoulder hurts real bad, but I’m OK.”

“OK, call me back when you’re blood sugar is up enough. I know how weepy you get when you’re low. Call me back when you feel right.”


“I love you.”

"I love you, too. Bye."

I felt better now that I knew she was OK and that my blood sugar was normalizing. The more my blood sugar normalized, though, the more my shoulder hurt. I have been suffering a frozen shoulder for a little over a year now and it has been getting better. Until today I have not had hardly any pain. Now all of a sudden I am in near agony. The pain was in the joint of my shoulder and radiated down my entire arm and into my fingers. Everything from my neck to my shoulder-blade, to my shoulder and all the way down into my fingers was stiff and pained and weak.

“Do we need to go to emergency?” My husband asked.

"I don’t know. We’ll wait a bit and see."

My husband decided to make dinner and get some real food in me. I checked my blood sugar, it was up to 128. I took my pre dinner insulin dosed according to what I was going to eat. Then I called my mom back.

I told her everything that had happened that day and about my current pain. She though it was a good idea to go to ER, I might have torn something when I fell.

“I hope you didn’t have a seizure.”

“Maybe, I don’t know.” No one witnessed what had happened in the bedroom while I was in the hypoglycemic episode.

I decided to eat dinner and see how I felt after a bit.

I finished dinner and by this time my entire arm still hurt and was still stiff, but it was a little bit better. I was thinking about whether or not I should go to the ER when I noticed my left great toe and the toe next to it.

“Why is there blood all over my toes?” I wasn’t wearing my glasses so couldn’t see clear enough to tell.

My husband looked. “Oh, wow, you tore off your toenail.”

Torn nail on great toe, and small scrapes on second toe.

I asked him to go get the alcohol and disinfect it for me. He went and when he returned be brought with him the large chunk of toenail he had found near the bed next to a big smudge of blood.

Missing toenail next to smudge of blood.

My husband cleaned my toes first with alcohol which obviously stung real bad, and then with a clean wet wash cloth.

Eventually I decided not to go to the ER and instead opted to take some hydrocodone and see how I felt in the morning. If I was still in a lot of pain then I could at least see my primary doctor instead of bugging the ER.

So here I am today, still in a bit of pain but not nearly as much as I was yesterday. What a terrifying, and painful, adventure.

Tamra = I'm so sorry you endured that nightmare! I know it's worse than a bad dream. We all live with this threat. Other people have no idea the nature of our challenges. Most people think the hard part is injecting insulin. That isn't the half of it. The mind game, the fear, the vulnerability, the loss of confidence, it's ugly.

I had a similar episode once. I was home alone. I remember waking up on the floor. My insulin pump was ripped out and I had torn the medic-alert medal off of my neck chain. When I came to, everything had a surreal quality to it, but I was not frightened like you.

The TV and book case and entertainment center all looked like cardboard fakes that a furniture store might use. I thought that aliens had placed me in this spot! Convinced there was something outer-wordly weird was going on, I picked up the phone and proceeded to enter a ten digit number from memory (how strangely capable the brain is) and my sister picked up. When I started to tell her the story of the alien conspiracy, she asked me to check my glucose. I did. Mystery solved. Confidence undermined, feeling inept to take care of myself, I felt like a defeated child.

I know what the aftermath feels like. Look after your basic needs for the next 24-48 hours. Concentrate on staying warm, well nourished, hydrated, and keeping your BG as close to normal as possible. Maybe you could take your mind off of this by watching a movie or reading a good book. Try to create some peaceful mind space for yourself. If you're religious, pray.

Once you can put this episode a few days in the past, consider the facts of what happened. Try to figure out what precipitated and mostly what you may do in the future to prevent this from happening again. That is how I made peace with episodes like this. Yes, it has happened to me more than once. It's now been ten years since the last catastrophe and I don't think it will happen again due to some serious systemic changes I have made.

Be kind to yourself. This event is a part of the past. You survived. You are strong. You will learn from this and go forward better for it. Good luck!

Oh my dear. What a nightmarish experience. I'm sorry you had to go through this, though I understand lows like that can happen even to the most careful of "old pros" with T1. It's enough to cause a brief spell of PTSD. I'm very glad you weren't alone. Blessings to your husband, too.....