This is a reminder or rather a warning to all my fellow diabetics. How many of us are there? Several years ago, l called the Diabetes Foundation of St. Maarten to confirm my suspicion that there were at least hundreds of us on the Dutch side. I was assured that there were not hundreds, but thousands living with diabetes. That number must have grown exponentially since then. I was also told that there are many undiagnosed people walking around not even knowing they have the chronic disease.
I understand that Aruba – with the assistance of PAHO – is about to have another survey to determine how many of its people are suffering from high blood pressure and glucose level measurements. It would be nice if St. Maarten would follow suit.
I have been a type 2 diabetic for longer than I can remember, certainly, for more than 40 years. Until recently, I have never suffered from hyperglycaemia (the level of glucose in the blood is too high). My blood sugar level was almost always just a little on the high side. Neither have I suffered from hypoglycaemia (when the level of glucose drops too low); at least not that I know of.
I would occasionally wake up during the night feeling something was off. My first thought was always that it was diabetes-related. I would check my blood glucose level and as expected, find it was a little on the low side. I would then treat it myself by eating or drinking something sugary and within a very short time the unwell feeling would go away, and I would go back to sleep.
However, as of late, when my blood sugar dropped even lower, I would no longer wake up from my sleep. My wife, thank God she is a light sleeper, would be awakened by my tossing and turning. I would be, according to her, swinging my hands wildly, holding my head, talking nonsense, and displaying other weird behaviour. Once, according to her, I even fell off the bed onto the floor. She had to lift me up and put me back on the bed. On these nights, she would feed me some cookies and sugary juice, which she always kept on the night table next to her bed. Shortly after doing so, she would notice my eyes clear up and I would begin answering her questions clearly. She then knew I was back to being myself again. The next morning, she would tell me about my weird behaviour the previous night, but I would always tell her that she was exaggerating. At my daughter’s suggestion, she videotaped me one night; needless to say, I did not like what I saw.
Then came Valentine’s Day which turned out to be a nightmare for my wife. She was again rudely awakened by my weird behaviour. Only this time I was not reacting to her in the least. After trying in vain for an hour to get me to eat or drink something sugary (I was unable to answer her questions and open my mouth to be fed), she called the ambulance.
The ambulance was there within 20 minutes. Before the ambulance arrived, I had somehow regained consciousness. I was annoyed that she had called the ambulance, but got dressed and went to the porch to wait for them. I had fully intended to apologize to them for needlessly calling them. However, my wife insisted that they check me out. And I am glad they did.
The two paramedics were very professional. They sat me down and checked my blood sugar. When I heard one of them tell the other, “His blood sugar is 57”, I got scared. Even in my confused mind, I knew that was bad news. A measurement of 54 is an indication that I was suffering from severe hypoglycaemia, a very dangerous situation to be in.
The paramedic immediately proceeded to inject a sugary liquid directly into a vein in my hand. Within a few minutes he checked my blood sugar again and it had risen to 177. My wife and I both uttered a sigh of relief. We both thanked the paramedics for their help.
Here lies the danger. I had checked my glucose level that night before going to bed and it had been 202. Therefore, had the ambulance not come, I would simply have gone back to sleep and could have possibly fallen into a diabetic coma. My wife would have thought I was peacefully sleeping but instead I could have woken up dead.
To all my diabetic friends, educate yourself on the dangers of hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia. Learn about the devastating irreversible complications (blindness, strokes, amputations, kidney failure, heart disease) and a host of other things that will eventually pounce on us if we don’t take better care of ourselves. Our future quality of life depends entirely on us. Most men, including myself, are naturally stubborn and are very reluctant to go to the doctor. My doctor once referred to me as “stupid stubborn” and she was right.
And yes, appreciate your wife, and don’t accuse her of exaggerating.