Wednesday 16 March 2016

Close calls

This weekend I was reminded just how invaluable my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) really is, and of how precarious the balancing act we have to live by really can be.

I love gym classes - anything by Les Mills, really, but particularly the Body Combat series.  Structured as separate 'tracks' to loud music, it is a high-intensity class which makes me feel strong and powerful - in a flappy-armed, mistimed-stepped kind of way.  I am 'that girl' who can be seen close enough forward to see the instructor without squinting, but far enough in the corner not to stick out like a sore thumb when then instructor shouts 'Right!' and I go left, with great conviction, into the oncoming traffic of coordinated folk.  But no-matter that my actual combat ability is second-to-everybody else, I love the class.  And it gets results.

Since the birth of the small my weight, body image and fitness levels have started to bother me on an increasing scale.  It won't be long before the beautiful whirlwind becomes mobile, and while I am pretty fit for my size in a gym class, crawling around on the floor and helping her beautiful, fascinated soul discover the world is a no-go at the moment, so I have every motivation to get back to the gym.

Two nights ago I hit my favourite Body Combat class.  I had told myself I would 'go easy' so had lowered my basal expecting that my blood sugars would drop like a stone in a mid-intensity range.  Twenty minutes in and with music blaring, sweat pouring and calories burning, I was giving it all I had to give without a second thought. The funny thing about having children is that suddenly a gym class, one I may normally have groaned my way through constantly checking my CGM because it was all I had to worry about, becomes an hour of God-given freedom.  Without even realising it I had forgotten all about my diabetes and of taking off the reduced basal - one which would now be far too low given the adrenaline steaming around my body.

Post exercise blood sugar debacle
Back home two hours later and I was frustrated at the high sugars I should have seen coming. SRSLY!! I'd had the best time at the class, my ears still ringing from having edged too close to the speakers, but I now faced the prospect of sleeping with a BG heading skywards, so I took a cursory 2.5 units to bring it back down again, and headed to bed.  

I am incredibly grateful that the Dexcom has a 'last chance saloon' alarm even when in quiet mode.  I've had it on quiet mode ever since the small arrived for fear of waking her up, but at 1am two nights ago something sounding like my Dexcom alarm stirred me from a deep, deep sleep.  I recognised it as the one, long, loud beep telling me my readings were too low for the Dexcom to read.  As I opened my eyes, that feeling instantly hit me.  I could feel myself already convulsing.

I stumbled out of the bedroom as quickly as I could to get away from baby's cot, and got myself to my living room, Jamie swiftly in tow.  I had managed to drink a bottle of Lucozade before getting out of the bedroom, but something was badly wrong.  By 1:05 I recognised my mother's voice at my side (there are benefits to living like modern-day Waltons), but could no longer see and had immense feelings of panic striking through me.  Sat on the edge of the sofa, pale as a sheet and barely conscious (I am told), I could feel the convulsions, each one feeling as though someone was shaking me at my shoulders. I became aware that my mother was on the phone to the ambulance service.  Out of the corner of my eye I could make out Jamie unwrapping a Glucagon injection.  After what felt like a lifetime I started to regain my sight, and my breathing slowed.  As my mum finished her call to the ambulance, still on route to give me an MOT, the tears started to stream.  Why does it have to be like this?

NHS MOT: Still alive and kickin
After a visit from two of the most professional, warm and comical ambulance crew it was decided it was safe for me to stay at home.  I'd had two good BG readings since the ambulance had arrived, I was making sense and I had a ridiculous number of people around in case of a second emergency.
 My full MOT (courtesy of the NHS) came back peachy, and I seemed to be on the road to recovery. But I still felt fragile.  I still feel fragile, emotionally and physically.

I often wonder what I would miss least about diabetes if a cure came about. Would it be the daily grind? Wearing medical devices? The blood tests?  For me, it's the close calls.  The times when my mortality is put to the test, or I get a glimpse of what heading into a coma feels like.  The total loss of myself in a hypo and that dreadful feeling of, 'What if?'.

I am confident that my CGM saved me from an unconscious hospital trip that night.  Had I not been stirred by the CGM's 'final call' alarm, I doubt I would have awoken.  It wasn't my symptoms which woke me, and I was so tired between the demands of a five month-old and the recovery sleep of an excessive gym session that nothing was bringing me out of that sleep.  I've sometimes wondered if CGM really would save my life given how good my symptoms have been up until now, but two nights's ago I saw firsthand how one little alarm can give you that five minutes head-start on a vicious hypo, and can save a life.

It's the close calls I could happily live without.