When I was working on a story for Cafe magazine about Type II diabetes. Just so everyone knows, Type II and Type I are different. In Type I, the pancreas no longer secretes insulin. In Type II, the cells inside the body are resistant to insulin that is secreted by the pancreas. The consequences and effects are the same for both, though, although the causes are not.
Moving on. I interviewed this man who was going blind because he didn’t take care of himself. The build up of sugar in the system doesn’t have to just affect the feet and heart like you hear a lot about, it can affect anything. He stopped taking his medication after a while for multiple reasons. 1. He had a pact with God and if he was supposed to have this disease, and he was supposed to die from it, so be it. This is a very Latino way of thinking, by the way. 2. He didn’t trust the doctors because they continued to mix and switch up the pills he was taking. He thought they were going to kill him. 3. He felt like he had everything under control.
So, when you have high blood sugar, your body gets used to it and learns to function as is. As a Type I or Type II diabetic, the number one symptom is abnormally high blood sugar. Normally, someone’s blood sugar should be between 70-120. As a diabetic who isn’t taking care of themselves, this can shoot up to 500 and some people have been recorded at 900. That’s dangerously high. Imagine someone functioning normally at 300. When that person takes their medication, it brings it down to a normal number. When this happens in the body, it’s a lot of stress and it makes the body shake, sweat and feel faint.
This man would take his medication, come down to a semi-normal level, “get the shakes” and eat a candy bar. See, the way one doctor put it, it’s scary and any non-diabetic would never understand how scary it is to have your blood sugar drop. It’s also easier to die from low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) than it is to die from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Here’s something else for you to chew on: When your blood sugar drops and you “get the shakes,” it takes your body 24 hours to normalize. When someone’s blood sugar drops, they “go low,” then if they do what he does, the blood sugar “shoots up.” Can you imagine how your body feels after something like that, being thrown around? Your blood sugars on a graph would look like a peaked mountain.
Because of the shakes, he stopped taking his meds. Let’s throw some numbers out there. If he was at 400, then came down to 150 with the medicine, he gets the shakes and eats a candy bar shooting him back up to possibly even 500 where his body “feels” normal. What would he have to do to actually normalize the blood sugar? Deal with the shakes and shivers.
I sat there with him and asked him a few questions. Do you check your blood sugar? Sometimes. If anything, this is the main way of controlling diabetes. The answer should be all the time. Do you go to the doctor? Sometimes. He couldn’t find anyone who “knew what they were doing.” Do you take your medicine? Sometimes. He would forget, not take it and it would just keep going like that. As I left his house, I hoped that he had learned something from what I told him. He told me that I should keep on with what I’m doing because it seems like I know how to take care of myself. I assured him that I would.
I still get the shakes sometimes. This could be caused by taking too much insulin (one unit can be too much), doing too much exercise (but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t) or not eating enough (which doesn’t normally happen anymore). My body recognizes my low blood sugars as much as it recognizes the high ones. With low blood sugars I sweat, shake and sometimes feel faint. With high blood sugars, I pee a lot, get bad headaches and feel tired. If I ever feel any of these symptoms, the first thing I do is check my blood sugar. At night, if my blood sugar drops, I can’t sleep. I wake up and as soon as I start moving, I get a cold sweat and start dripping. It’s crazy. But as soon as I feel that, I run to check myself and drink milk or juice.
Another thing diabetics don’t realize is that it doesn’t take much to get your blood sugar back up. You don’t need a candy bar. You need juice, milk or a piece of bread with peanut butter. As soon as something is placed in the mouth, you’re good. My grandmother felt terrible one day after a nap. When we checked her blood sugar, it was 49, which is drastic. My aunts didn’t freak out because I was there. I gave her juice and had her drink it before moving. As she walked from one chair to another, she said, I still feel it. My aunts wanted to give her more. She didn’t need anymore because it was going to take at least 10-15 minutes for the juice and sugar to hit the blood stream. After a few minutes, she felt fine. “Thank God you were here. You’re the expert,” said one of my aunts. Not because I want to be, I said, but because I have to be.