I was first diagnosed with diabetes by my family doctor while visiting my parents on a weekend home from college. Not having dealt with many cases of T1D, my doctor referred me to the Barbra Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes. She said she would contact some of her colleagues there and set up an appointment for me for the end of the week. And then she gave me a meter and sent me on my way, without a prescription for insulin (not that I would have known how to use insulin even if she had given me one).
I made the two hour drive back up to Fort Collins later that day. I had no idea what else to do. I had been sick for six weeks, what was a couple more days? And besides, I had already missed one day of school. But there was a problem: Now I had a meter. knowledge is power, right? As it turns out, sometimes it's better to stay in the dark.
That night I ate a modest meal (I now knew that carbs were the enemy, but, like most of the population, I had a very warped view of what carbs were and where they were found). My doctor had instructed me to test my sugars before bed and call her if my levels were above 300. After washing my face and brushing my teeth, I pulled the meter out and set it on the bathroom counter. I carefully pulled out a test strip and stuck it into the strange looking device just as I had seen my doctor do earlier. I pricked my finger with the lancet, panicked for a moment when no blood came out, pricked it again with more conviction and pushed the red bubble up to the strip. The little machine beeped and started thinking. After a moment, the meter beeped again and a message appeared on the screen. "HI" was all it read. What? What the hell does that mean? Is it broken? Should that say "81"?
I pulled the strip out and inserted another one and tested again. Again the screen showed "HI." I raced into my room, hands shaking and a cold sweat breaking down my back. I pulled the instruction sheet from the meter box and started flipping through the pages wildly. Finally I found it: "'HI' will appear on the screen when blood glucose levels test to be over 500."
Tears started to gush from my eyes as my body sprung into full panic mode. I grabbed the vile of test strips and struggled to remove the cap with shaking fingers. Just as the lid came loose I dropped the whole vile into the sink. I scrambled to collect the test strips before they got wet and began to cry even harder.
By the time I got a test strip loaded and a decent blood bubble ready to test, my bathroom counter was littered with soaking wet test strips and streaks of blood. The third test agreed with the previous two and a moment later I was on the phone, frantically dialing my mother. While she called my doctor to relay the message, I called my friend and told her to stand by because I might need a ride to the hospital.
My mom called back. Yes I needed to go to the emergency room. She had already called my brother (who was attending the same college) and he would be by soon to pick me up. Within ten minutes my driveway was packed with cars as my brother and his girlfriend and my friend and her boyfriend all swooped in to my rescue. Still in my pajamas, I jumped in my brother's car and we were off.
By the time we reached the hospital my disposition had flipped completely. I was calm. Everyone around me panicked, but I was calm. I had one very simple realization hit me on the drive: My blood sugar was dangerously high, but that was unlikely to be anything new. I had been symptomatic for six weeks. I had been gorging myself for six weeks in the face of starvation in the midst of plenty. I had eaten way bigger, carb packed dinners than the one I had had tonight. And I felt fine, well, as fine as I had all month. In fact the only thing that had changed was the meter. I wasn't going to keel over or slip into a coma. I was fine.
In the ER the nurse knelt down before me and tested my blood with her much bigger, much fancier glucose meter. After a few seconds the machine beeped and the screen flashed. 598. But I was fine. I was fine.