Yesterday was so awful that I feel the need to get it off my chest, before I catch you up on Our Most Eventful Week Ever (capital letters intended).
It was without doubt the worst diabetic day I’ve had since I came out of hospital post-diagnosis.
Before I begin, let me explain some numbers, so that what I say makes sense to you:
Non-diabetics (normal people) have blood sugar between 4 and 7. Diabetics should always aim for below 10 – 7 is the magic number, but I’m happy anytime I test in the 8s too. Between 10 and 12 is high, over 12 is really high, over 16 is dangerously high and I start panicking. I’m hardly ever over 16 – it means something has gone very wrong (i.e. my insulin isn’t working).
Yesterday, Thursday the 10th of December, promised to be a somewhat challenging day before it began. We woke up in Cemoro Lawang, the mountainous village not far from Gunung Bromo, the most famous volcano in Java, Indonesia. The plan was that at 9am we would catch a public minibus down the mountain to Probolinggo (1 hour), then catch a train to Banyuwangi (5 and a half hours), then catch a ferry to the port of Denpasar (45 minutes), a bus to Denpasar city (3 and a half hours), and a taxi to Sanur (20 minutes), where we would finally be in Bali and wouldn’t move for 5 days. That’s what was keeping me going: the thought of staying put for a few days. I’ve had a cold all week, so my blood sugar has been slightly high the last few days (I blamed it on infection and simply took more insulin). All in all, though, I was feeling strong.
Everything went smoothly till I tested my sugar two hours after breakfast (we’d just boarded the train) and found it was 15.9 – crazy high considering I’d taken slightly more insulin than usual at breakfast, because of my cold. I thought maybe I was going high because it was so hot (SO hot, like sitting in a humid oven, and we’d been waiting on the platform for an hour) and took another 3 units of insulin, which would definitely take me down to below 10. So far, not too worried.
Two hours later, I tested to see if the insulin had worked (you have to wait 2 hours for it to get into your system).
It hadn’t. I was still really high – 13.4.
So I deduced that the heat had killed my insulin, and took a fresh pen from the cool pack in my backpack. Not too worried. Fresh insulin would sort me out in 2 hours. I had a small lunch, took a generous injection, and waited.
2 hours is a long time to wait when you’re not feeling too well and not sure what your blood sugar is going to do.
When I tested at 3.45pm my blood sugar was 18. The highest it’s been since I came out of hospital over two years ago and figured out carbohydrate counting. The 2nd pen had obviously also been heat damaged, and wasn’t working at all.
And this, dear friends, is when I freaked out. Because if an insulin pen that was in my cool pack wasn’t working, that means that all the insulin pens in my cool pack might not be working. I’ve been as careful as possible with my insulin, but as you know it was left out of the fridge for 2 days last month, and most of the places we’ve been staying in lately haven’t had fridges, so it’s been going in a communal fridge. The weather is so hot here that to take it in and out of the fridge probably doesn’t help, and I’d come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t as effective as fresh insulin. But if it wasn’t working at all that was dangerous. Really dangerous.
We were only due to arrive in Sanur after 10pm. If the next insulin pen didn’t work I wouldn’t be able to eat anything until we could find a hospital or emergency room that could sell me insulin. We’d have to buy insulin to last the next 3 weeks. Who knows if that wouldn’t get heat damaged too – Bali is having its hottest summer ever known.
But on top of all these fears racing around my head was one clear question: Were we idiots for trying to do this? Was 4 months too long to travel in sub-tropical climates with diabetes? Was I being really stupid and careless with my health? For the first time since we left home, I felt scared. I wanted to go home.
But of course I couldn’t. I had a ferry to catch. Two hours later, on board the ferry to Bali, I checked my blood sugar again, and Hallelujah, Praise Every God in Heaven, it was fine. Totally fine. So now I’ve found a magic insulin pen that still works perfectly. I need to test all my others so that I don’t have another yesterday happening to me again in a hurry.
When we finally arrived after 11pm last night, I was completely exhausted and hollowed out. I can handle travelling with a bad cold and stuffy head. I can handle a 14 hour journey. I can handle high blood sugar for 8 or 9 hours (although I’d rather not have to ever again, thank you very much). But a 14 hour journey with a bad cold and high blood sugar is too much for me. Being that high is so awful. I couldn’t stop crying, my head felt full of clouds, my body felt weird and hot, and there was no sense of balance in me, no rational thought to cling to. I honestly haven’t felt scared of being diabetic since I got my eating plan and got it under control over two years ago. Yesterday was the first time that I really felt the weight of my condition.
Poor Mark was wonderful. Calm and soothing and practical, figuring out how we could get to a doctor or a hospital as soon as we arrived, and not getting freaked out by my constant tears.
And now, today, I feel shaky. My blood sugar is fine and I’m eating really normal food to keep it that way. I’m going to test the other insulin pens over the next two days and chuck out anything that doesn’t work, so I’m pretty sure this won’t happen again. Yesterday, of all the days of this wonderful trip, is one day I would not want to repeat. Not for anything.