BRONX, NY- Imagine riding a crowded subway car to work. It is a beautiful, hot summer day and there is only one stop left to arrive at your destination. Your body suddenly begins to sweat and your heartbeat accelerates. You think it is the heat, but then your hands begin to shake. Your vision plays tricks on you.
Uh-oh. Now you know something is wrong.
The woman standing next to you asks, “are you okay?”
You shake your head and that makes your vision worse. By now your breathing is labored. You feel your legs give up and your world goes dark.
This is what happened to me the day I was diagnosed with Hypoglycemia on July 25, 2012. I woke up in an ambulance with an EMT telling me to relax because I was in shock. Personally, I felt dizzy and just wanted to know what the hell happened. Everything was explained to me in the ER at Lincoln Hospital. It turns out the woman who asked if I was okay pulled me out the 4 train at 125th and got an MTA employee to call 911. I never got her name, but I am forever thankful to her. God made her my guardian angel.
After a nurse finally found my thin vein, the blood test results showed that I had hypoglycemia. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, hypoglycemia is “a condition characterized by abnormally low blood sugar, usually less than 70 mg/dl” (Diabetes.org).
In other words, my family’s medical history of diabetes had caught up to me. I had to lay in an uncomfortable hospital bed and eat a cold sandwich to see if my glucose levels would go back to normal. By then my parents and boyfriend had come to check on me.
The doctor explained hypoglycemia is a border line diagnosis to diabetes and that I will have to keep an eye on my glucose levels for the rest of my life. I don’t carry sweets with me on a daily basis since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but ever since that scary visit to the ER, I keep at least a tiny chocolate bar or a piece of candy in my purse or backpack.
The symptoms vary for everyone and more than one can occur. Symptoms include:
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sweating, chills, and clamminess
- Irritability or impatience
- Confusion, including delirium
- Rapid/ fast heartbeat
- Feeling lightheaded or dizziness
- Hunger and nausea
- Blurred/ impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
- Weakness or fatigue
- Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
- Lack of coordination
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
Source: Hypoglycemia Low Blood Glucose (Blood Sugar). American Diabetes Association. 16 Sept. 2014. Web. Diabetes.org. 27 Apr. 2015
As soon as I feel any of those symptoms kick in, I eat my sweets right away. No need for me to pass out again. There is a simple treatment when these symptoms occur: consume 15-20 grams of glucose or carbohydrates. The equivalent of this is two tablespoons of raisins, one tablespoon of honey, or four ounces (1 1/2 cup) of juice or non-diet soda. It is recommended to eat a meal within an hour these symptoms occur (diabetes.com).
As for me, I handle my hypoglycemia the same way I do with my asthma: I carry what I need, watch for symptoms, and do what is necessary to prevent anything worse. Not many are educated about hypoglycemia, so I hope you have learned a little more about it from me today.
Photo: Mikhail Nilov
Note: I quit my retail job the next day because my manager was not concerned for my health after I explained why I did not arrive to work that day.
Last updated: October 11, 2021