Off the Dial

Highs and Lows

One of the keys to managing diabetes is checking blood sugar levels. As I’ve explained before here, it’s usually done by pricking a finger then using a test strip and a meter to get a number. There’s usually a range of blood sugar levels your doctor gives that’s right for you. Too high and you need more insulin. Too low and you need more glucose, or sugar. Very simple explanation of a fairly complicated matter.

You can see what a meter looks like and how you check glucose levels in a pretty good presentation at Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/presentations/100220_1.htm

In the short term, it’s much more dangerous to be low than to be high. Low blood sugar means your brain is deprived of glucose. Symptoms start out with trembling and sweating and at dangerous levels can result in seizures or coma or even death. High blood sugar is more dangerous over a long period of time; it can lead to eye, kidney, nerve and blood vessel damage.

Our job, as parents of a two year old with diabetes, is to keep Benny as close to a blood sugar level of 80 to 150 as we can. We check about 6 times a day. My five year old, Lea, treats the meter like it’s part of game show. Once you put the test strip in, it counts down from five and she’s always rooting for a good number (no whammies!!). So far, I think we’ve done pretty well, but there have been two instances that stand out.

The very first came less than a month after Benny’s diagnosis. We were on a long-planned vacation, at my parents’ house in Florida. Along with my sister and her kids, we went to a sort of indoor amusement park. Benny had eaten a relatively normal lunch and it was already past nap time. We were thinking about hitting the road, when Slade noticed Benny, while still running around and having fun, seemed slightly uncoordinated. He was getting sort of clumsy. We scooped him up and took him to a quiet place to check his blood sugar. As I was holding him, he kept falling asleep. Since it was way past nap time, I wasn’t that worried. Well, after we checked him, you bet I was scared. His blood sugar was at 32. He wasn’t trying to sleep – he was about to pass out!

Luckily, he was lucid enough to suck down a quick juice box, which we always carry. Slade ran to a nearby snack stand and threw a 10-dollar bill at the guy for another bottle of juice. (He gave us the change later. Thanks!). Meantime, I had coaxed Benny into eating a fruit snack, which we also always carry, and he was coming around. By the time we got into the parking lot he was back up to a safe 95 and half an hour later he was chatting away, eating chicken nuggets and happy as could be. It took me two days and several conversations with our doctor to calm down!

The second incident was yesterday. Benny woke up for his afternoon nap sweaty and pale. He was happy to see me but put his head right down on my shoulder when I picked him up. We always check him after a nap and the magic number was…. 54. He’s been that low before, but usually 4 ounces of apple juice (15 carbs) is enough to bring him right back up, in about 5 minutes (we follow that with another 15 carb/protein snack, like peanut butter crackers). This time, it took a longer and it was pretty scary. That pale, shaky appearance lasted almost half an hour. In fact, I gave him some more sugar (sweet-tarts, a favorite) just in case. Of course, then a while later, his sugar was through the roof with one of the highest readings we’ve had in a while. We gave him a reasonable amount of insulin, a good dinner and lots of water (that helps). His next set of numbers were great.

What amazes me is how good he seems to feel after just a little bit of sugar or a little bit of insulin. 15 grams of carbohydrate isn’t really that much and you should see the teeny units of insulin, it’s really just a couple of drops (granted, Benny only weighs 30 pounds). We’re also in what’s called the honeymoon period of diabetes, when Benny’s pancreas still has 15-20% function. We don’t know how long that will last; it could be weeks or maybe even a year or two.

We’re told the end of the “honeymoon” won’t really mean a change in how we check or treat Benny, though. We’ll still be watching that little countdown, cheering for a winning number.

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Dude, Where’s My Coffee?

I’ve held my tongue so far, but this is an outrage! For the second time in two weeks, WBT – in fact, all of One Julian Price Place – is out of Morning Blend. Oh sure, I could settle for Colombian or Mocha French, but the smooth, familiar Morning Blend is nowhere to be found.

Yes, we’ve got a coffee situation. But let me back up and explain how it works around here. We’ve got a little kitchen sort of room like a lot of offices have. There’s a nifty coffee pod brewer, which makes a fresh cup each time. You just pop in the pod, press the button and enjoy a tasty cup of coffee. There are boxes and boxes of these pods stacked on shelves. Lots of decaf (why?) but no Morning Blend today. Again.

I’ve worked a lot of TV & radio stations where people seem to drink coffee by the gallon. I’ve always felt lucky that I never started smoking, but I did develop a pretty serious coffee habit. Just milk, no sugar. I’ll settle for that fake powdered creamer when I have to. And no, I don’t want to know what’s in that, thanks. Usually, radio station coffee is the burnt kind that’s been sitting around all day. We definitely have a good thing here. Except when we don’t.

If you drink coffee (real coffee.. not frappaventi-chocolate-milk), you know it must be taken seriously. Make fun if you like, but a quick poll of my co-workers speaks volumes. Al Gardner likes Douwe Egbert coffee made in a Senseo coffee maker. He says only the Senseo gets the water hot enough to bring out the full flavor of the Douwe. Keith has the Crossroads coffee house in Waxhaw which, along with giving him a place to go on Saturday mornings, also apparently gives him his own supply of paper coffee cups (how many germs are on the lid after a morning?). Hancock get exotic and votes for Ethiopian or Jamaican Blue Mountain and points me to Dilworth Coffee Company. Jeff Katz prefers Gevalia cinnamon hazelnut (half regular and half decaf) preferably with a french press (are you kidding?). Charles Jenkin likes the Starbucks Colombian made at home. Jim Szoke & I both vote for 8 O’Clock Bean.

Here at work, I admit, I have no idea who takes care of ordering the coffee. But I will track that person down and beg and plead today. I’m just not the same without my MoBlend.

Feb 6 update: A quick investigation reveals the coffee suppy guy comes on Wednesdays. I am assured he will restock the Morning Blend, no forms or signatures required.

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Snow Day!

First snow of the year around here! Actually, first snow in three years. No wonder my daughter got up at 5:45am and wanted to head outside. My husband, who’s home in the mornings while I’m at work, convinced her reconsider. At least for a little while.

This was the kind of snow you had to get out in quick, though, because it stopped around 9am and then the rain came. The kids didn’t care. I got home about 10:30 and they’d already been out and come back in. After lunch, more time out in the snow. By then, though, it was slush. And it was raining. But after two winters with no snow, you couldn’t tell kids in my neighborhood no. They were sledding and making snow men and jumping up and down.

I grew up not far from New York City. Moved to Syracuse to go to college and stayed up that way for ten years. After all those winters of lake effect snow (115″ average a year!) I’m happy about a snow-free winter. But I remember those days as a kid when you’d wake up and listen to the radio, cheering when your school was called off.

These days, we don’t own a sled or a snow shovel. My kids only have thin wool mittens and low, pretty boots – nothing that’s going to hold up in the wet. Lea changed her clothes about four times. But none of that matters when the snow is flying and the hot chocolate is flowing.