Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mopping Up After a Nightcap Hypo

My watch said 10:56p, and as I walked toward the glass gas station door, the time written on the glass told me closing time was in roughly 4 minutes.

Though the glass, I could see the gas station attendant mopping up around the counter. The shiny wetness told me he'd already cleaned the floor in the two food aisles where I planned to beeline toward once going inside.

As I pulled the door open, he tossed a semi-annoyed look at me and the black dress shoes I was tracking inside.

"Did I make it?!" I asked, glancing at my watch for no reason except to show him how concerned I was with the time.

He didn't respond, but I really didn't care because this wasn't a pleasure visit to the gas station.

No, I had a mission. And the vibrating Dexcom G4 on my belt reminded me that there was a more critical point to all of this.

The 48 on my Dex receiver and CGM in the Cloud connected Pebble watch reminded me of the more critical point to all of this, the nightcap hypo that had dragged me from crawling into bed at a nearby hotel.

This wasn't the kind of night cap I'd wanted.

Here I was, on a two-day work trip, just close enough to home that I could make the 90-minute drive but far enough where it was better to just stay the night locally. I'd been walking around a college campus for a good chunk of time, and after finishing up the day's event snagged some lower-carb food and a drink at a nearby restaurant. I had just found my way to the hotel for the night and after ironing my shirt for the following morning, was ready to crash for the night.

Then, I heard the vibration and "BEEP BEEP BEEP"of Dexcom on the nightstand.

I'd been ignoring the down-trending arrow for awhile, assuming at some point my dinner would kick in and start boosting my blood sugar. But that hadn't happened, and now I was dropping dangerously low.

Two straight down arrows. Already Below 55. And then, it dropped into the 40s.

Nothing in the backpack or quickly-packed dufflebag, I discovered. An out-of-state work trip a couple days earlier meant that on my one day off, I hadn't restocked with a cracker pack or anything of substance to keep my BGs balanced.

In my Hypo Mind at that moment, I didn't realize that I did have a jar of glucose tabs but it was buried in my duffle bag.

This was a smaller hotel just outside of the college town I was in, and the vending machines in the hallways only had drinks. I bought an orange juice with the $2 in my wallet, but this wasn't going to keep my sugar steady and it would start dropping once I actually went to bed.

I needed food.

This low I could feel. It wasn't completely impacting me yet, but I knew it would be minutes before that started setting in.

So that meant going outside the hotel to the gas station a block away, on the corner. I choose to drove and not walk in order to not risk going lower thanks to the exercise. Keep in mind, I'd already gulped down half a bottle of Sunkist juice from the vending machine, so I knew it was just a matter of time before I would see the surge upward.

 Pulling up to the gas station, the pumps were already dark and I could tell it was almost closing time. But I needed food.

Once I walked inside, it was a simple task -- once I could focus enough to figure out what I needed to buy -- of grabbing a few snack items. Pop tart, a candy bar, another OJ, and a pack of Nutter Butters.

Stuff that was all in one place on a shelf corner, and had some substance in case I dropped lower overnight at any point again.

"Is that all?" the gas station attendance asked me, once he put his mop down and was behind the register.

"Yep, just these. Nothing fancy."

"Some late night snacking, I take it..." he offered, searching for more of a reason as to why I barged in disrupting his mopping routine.

"Pretty much. Stocking up."

That's all I said.

In my head, I fumbled around with thoughts of justifying my purchase. Maybe that this was pretty much for medical reasons, and how this could be a moment of diabetes advocacy. I felt guilty. Both for the thought that I was contributing to society's perception of unhealthy late-night eating, and also that I didn't "advocate" or anything.

But nothing more needed to be said in that moment. I had my food, paid and let the attendant go about his closing-time mopping.

And I went back outside, ripped open the Nutter Butters, and began mopping up my low blood sugar symptoms for the night.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Formative First Years of Coffee

I don't remember the first cup of coffee that ever crossed my lips.

But I do remember when coffee first became "a thing" for me, something I craved and wanted to drink up. Simply put: It was all about Coffee & Conversation, and the two went hand-in-hand.

Everything came together at a local open-all-night diner dubbed Linda's Place, in my hometown of St. Clair Shores. That was the spot that became a second home of sorts back in the mid-90s, especially during my latter years of high school. A good friend and I would make a plan to go there at all hours -- whether it was in the not-so-late evening hours, the after-midnight hours when our writing pens would magically come alive, or even during the morning or afternoon hours when we were supposed to be stationed at school.

Sure, I may have tried coffee before then and tasted it every so often, but never did I enjoy it the way that I started to in high school. Coffee was an acquired love, one more about the experience than just the java itself.

That was also about the time that my creative writing and poetry started evolving into newspapering, and so the whole "coffee and journalism" pairing couldn't have been more perfect.

Really, it was just that coffee made all the conversation better. Those were the years when we found ourselves sitting in The Corner Booth, talking about life and politics and all things possible. We wrote spontaneous poetry and prose on white napkins. We shared stories about hopes and dreams, plans and fears and all that you do when you're teenagers. We learned who we were, and the coffee just made it seem more "grown up" and real.

Coffee & Conversation is the way it's supposed to be.

You can probably tell that all means something to me, given that it's in the name of this blog and you can see that story in the "Why the Corner Booth?" tab. And hell, my image at the top has a coffee mug in it... not to mention my home office, that has a sign on the door that says "Coffee Understands" and in the corner my Riley Dog has a pillow and blanket with coffee mugs all over it.

And in the diabetes context, I've even gone about a so-called Great Coffee Experiment to explore how it impacts my blood sugar.

Yep, coffee is important to me.

Coffee & Conversation is the way it's supposed to be, and for me it all began with that corner booth in the Shores and stretching to most of the places I've worked in ever since.

Of course, I remember when we weren't in that corner booth, but settling for a cup of joe in some other location -- a home, classroom (yes, it happened), actual coffee shop, or just out on-the-go. There was even another Linda's Place on the opposite end of town that we'd gone to a number of times. In particular, that above-mentioned friend's house was one of those spots that stands out, these days specifically.

You see, her mom was one of those people you could lose yourself in conversation with. She was witty, funny, a natural smartass but someone who loved a good chat. And the coffee that went along with it.

Here's where I make an important point: She taught me it was OK to drink black coffee.

Before then, I didn't know anyone else who drank their coffee straight up. Most coffee-drinkers in my world at that point added something to their java -- cream, milk, sugar, sweetener. Even her daughter, my good friend, did this coffee pollution. And so it always amazed me to think about how great it was to see Judi taking her coffee the way it's supposed to be.

I owe a lot of that to my friend Kari and her mom, Judi. Even if I didn't know it back then.

This all comes to mind recently, as the world just lost this woman who was such a beacon of hope and goodness for so many. Seriously, coffee aside -- you want to read a good story, read up on Judi Navarra. She made a difference in lives, and was someone we should all strive to be.

All of this has made me think about my formative years of coffee, right here in my hometown of St. Clair Shores, Michigan.

That time in my life taught me to appreciate how much I love the pairing of coffee and conversation, that mixture of smooth dark roasted coffee with an aroma that could make your sleepy eyes want to be awake for some conversation. It meant sophistication, intelligence, depth and all those things you look for when you're a teenager.

Into the college and adult years, coffee became more of a way to stay awake and get a boost of energy when needed for whatever task was ahead.

I like my coffee black, and mildly hot... but not scorching hot, because I don't want to burn my tongue
and want to be able to start drinking and appreciating my coffee right away, especially when there's conversation to be had or work to be done. So, you might even see me toss an ice cube or two into it... just to get it to that perfect temp.

I'm also sure that my type 1 played into my dislike of adding any creamer or sweetener to my coffee, since from the time I was a young kid sugary or sweet-tasting drinks were never in my wheelhouse. I just liked it the way it came, and the stronger the better.

For me,  coffee is just a standard. And it's not even just about what it's in the cup, but the people you're sharing that coffee with.

So, I raise a cup of black coffee to those in my world who have come and gone, who have been a part of one conversation or another. And to all those who come to the proverbial corner booth down the road.

Here's to continuing the coffee & conversation.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Low Blood Sugars, A No Hitter and the Michigan Move

For those who weren't aware, I just made a move from Indiana back to Southeast Michigan.

It's been an adventure packing everything up for the move, which just happened this past week. And I wrote about some of that fun over at DiabetesMine the other day.

Photo made by me, so I'm posting it here. Since it's my Moving Day, D-Stuff, and Dog.

When Moving Day arrived, I had my trusty Dexcom G4 connected along with my data-sharing CGM in the Cloud setup. You know, to keep tabs on where my blood sugars were at during this move between states.

As is typically the case, the low blood sugars came at the most inconvenient time.

The first was just as we were getting on the road for the 5+ hour drive (more like 7, thanks to the 20' moving truck slowing things down).

Everything looked fine as we were leaving the house, as my G4 happily told me that I was part of the 100 Club with a 100 mg/dL at that moment. Like, the move was meant to be!

We were all good to go, and my moving truck cab was well-stocked in case of any diabetes emergencies -- with my Dexcom at my side, Nightscout on my wrist and sharing data to my wife's watch in the car behind me, plus a cracker pack and Gluco-Lift tabs in the cleverly-marketed t:slim tin. Also, had a cooler with my insulin supply and some juice. Not to mention some other goodies, all with the vacuum and flatscreen TV occupying the passenger seat next to me.

I was ready.

Of course, within 10 minutes as we left the neighborhood, that's when I started going Low... Figures.

It was nearly dinner-time, so before hopping on the interstate, we decided to stop for some fast-food chicken and wait the Hypo and Rebound Effect out for a bit... not to mention the early rush hour traffic.

I am happy to also point out that after treating my Low before the drive, I didn't rise above 180... a small diabetes victory sprinkled throughout all of this! Woot!!

Suzi was driving in the vehicle behind my truck, with our Riley Dog. The drive was uneventful, both generally and relating to diabetes. Made a couple stops to rest, fuel up, and let the Riley Dog just get out and burn off some dog energy.

We stayed the night at the half-way mark, then finished off the move early the next morning and made it to the new house in more than enough time to start moving everything inside.

And again, Dexcom began vibrating that a Low was setting in.

This time, I swear could feel the low symptoms. But a fingerstick told me I wasn't actually Low, and I realized that I actually wasn't Low but had set my low alert to 90 for that afternoon just to make sure to catch any impending lows. It worked, and all was good!

After all the big boxes and heavy work where done for the day, I re-set my low alert back to about 70 and it made for a better BG trend for that entire day.

Our move went well, and we love the new house in Michigan!

Magically, I was impressed that the new fridge actually has TWO butter compartments -- as if, it's designed for someone with diabetes to have one compartment completely for insulin, and another actually for butter or dairy. Outstanding!!!


I've insisted that we need to label them, one that says "Insulin" and the other that says "Dairy." I'm told we won't be doing that, but since I work from home...


That first day, after the move-in, I was pretty impressed with how I'd managed to achieve a Michigan No-Hitter (something our Detroit Tigers haven't been able to do in far too long, btw...) Looks like moving agreed with my blood sugars!

As it turned out, I had conservatively reserved a 20-foot truck and it was too small to fit everything we were moving. The movers said: "Two more feet and we could've gotten everything in there!" So, we had a small portion left in the garage to transport, and so I rented a cargo van a couple days later and made a quick trip back to Indy myself. I couldn't get the truck until Noon, and had it through the next day at that time, so half my trip was pretty much at night.

The drive was 5 hours each way, and I was at the old house for less than an hour moving in the grill, lawnmower, outdoor tools, and other items.

Blood sugars were fine, and thanks to Nightscout, I was sharing all the data with Suzi while en route.

This was a sunset captured along the interstate, on the final drive from Indy to Michigan.

At the halfway point, roughly around midnight, Dexcom started vibrating that I was going Low. And before I knew it, we entered into the below 70 threshold. And I could feel this one, making me panic in the darkened night behind the wheel of a cargo van full of stuff.

Gluco-Lift in my pocket, but I had only grabbed a two-tab pack and that certainly wasn't enough. And I had nothing else with me to treat.

An emergency stop was needed at the nearest gas station -- and I wanted a well-lit, trusty station not a mom-and-pop place out in the middle of nowhere that was probably already closed at that hour.

It took me longer than expected, but after about 10 minutes I came across a well-lit set of stations at a major exit and made my stop. Orange juice, extra coffee, Combos to snack on.

And as I sat in the gas station parking lot in the cargo van, I could sense the gas station attendant watching me, wondering why I was still sitting there after five and ten minutes of coming inside.

It made me uncomfortable, especially since it was about 12:30 a.m.

Texted with Suzi, who was turning in for the night. Reassured her that all was OK, that I was treating my low and had enough on hand to tackle any more of those, and that I was going to wait until I hit the 100+ mark to get back on the interstate.

Two hours later: I was home, and my blood sugar was in the 300s. But I didn't care, because I was physically and mentally tired from all the moving and mental somersaults and just wanted to sleep.

So, I corrected and went to bed in my new house, ready to wake up a few hours later and continue with the unpacking along with working in my new home office.

I'm excited to be back in Michigan, eleven years after we left for Indiana.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trapped in a TV Show

A friend posted a question online the other day that got me thinking.

Certainly not a new question, as it's been going around online for years.

My answer: Well, it depends...

Mostly, on the rules.

Just how exactly am I going to be trapped in TV? Will this be like the movie Pleasantville, where I'm basically tossed into an existing story line but am really myself (except everyone seems to think I'm a particular character)? Maybe Quantum Leap, where I basically "leap" into other people's bodies and am confined to that reality and whatever limitations they may have (if they are a minority, or in a wheelchair, or a man or woman -- that's me for the time I'm in there)?

Or is it like Back to the Future, where I'm just plopped into some point and am just living my life as myself, except in the context of whatever show and time period we happen to be in.

These are important considerations in deciding on the show, I think. Because really, am I going to be a character or myself in that particular show? And if it's the latter, will I still be pancreatically-challenged and be living my TV character life with the additional adventure of managing diabetes?

Or do I suddenly just become a sugar normal?

The whole point about time is important, too.

While it may be fun to be transported into the world of the Brady Bunch for a month, I'd be putting myself into the late 60s and early 70s, a time when the "diabetes dark ages" was still playing out and there wasn't modern D-tech like blood meters, insulin pumps, and CGMs.

Sure, it'd be an adventure living in the world of Hell on Wheels, but then again that would be in the 1800s before insulin was discovered... so yeah, I probably wouldn't last a month.

Boardwalk Empire could be cool, but insulin was just making it on the scene, and so I'd probably be in the same boat because I wouldn't have access to this life-sustaining medication. Or I'd get knocked off by a gangster, since they were all over the place and I'd probably be in search of a good Prohibition-era beer to drink.

And that brings up an even more important big-picture rule question: What happens if I die before the month's up -- do I suddenly get pulled back to my own reality, or is my character just killed off and the show's cancelled?

That also helps me decide if other high-danger shows would be the best fit. Certainly, I wouldn't want to be on The Walking Dead, because I'd be the first to get zombified -- not even factoring in the "need to find insulin in an apocalyptic world" aspect. The same goes for Game of Thrones which is set in the medieval times, and with all the death and torture going on there, it'd be a bad month.

Probably best not to explore those kind of shows.

I really did love Burn Notice, but really I'd be a horrible spy and the danger factor is just too high even for that (assuming I'm either in that spy-group or just in danger by association). Smallville would also be interesting, and I'd certainly like to think I'd be safe by association to Clark Kent, but my luck I'd end up getting paired up with a meteor-freak or put in the crosshairs of some Lex Luthor scheme.

Maybe I'd be best to be in the world of How I Met Your Mother (before the ending episodes), which is basically this day and age and fun. A normal show, without much drama or danger... just good times, good friends, and so on.

Then again, thinking about all of this, I think my life is better than any TV show. I just need to learn to hit pause to cherish the episode a bit more at times, and maybe watch a few re-runs as I'm writing the screenplay for my future.