One Side Effect from a Low Blood Glucose

Before I begin this week’s blog entry, let me state the following for people who may have found this link while looking for actual side effects from a low blood glucose: The subject of this piece isn’t really (I don’t think) a legitimate side effect from a low blood glucose. Instead, it’s probably part of some personal quirk or idiosyncrasy. Who knows.

Early last week, I had a nighttime low (which, if you’re interested, you can read about in last week’s entry, “Regarding the Diabetes”[1]). My worries about that hypoglycemic[2] episode must have taken root in my psyche over the next few days, because later in the week I had a series of odd moments while driving home from work.

It was a commute that started out just like any other drive home. I left work close to 5 o’clock, walked two blocks to the parking garage, and headed home down the back roads I often take on the outskirts of the city (I live about 10 miles from the office). I drove along listening to some early Springsteen and, because I hadn’t eaten lunch, I was thinking about my empty stomach and how I really wanted to get home and eat dinner.

Five minutes into my drive home, my wife phoned me to let me know she was on her way to karate and wouldn’t be home until 9. When I answered the phone, I noticed on the cell’s display that I was down to one bar of charge on the battery…and once it hits one bar, my phone’s not long for this world.

I told Kathryn my phone was about to die, and we ended the call (I don’t have a car charger, and I don’t want a dead cell phone while on the road if I can help it; you know, just in case).

A mile or so later, my low-fuel light came on. I was down to my last few gallons of gas, and although there was little chance of running empty for at least 50 miles, it didn’t matter. I started to worry that something was going to go wrong (stuck in traffic, for instance), and, for a few minutes, I fixated on this.

For the record, my low-fuel anxiety is one I’ll blame on my wife: When she’s in the car with me when that little amber light comes on, there’s a pretty high need to refuel as soon as possible. I used to be cool with the light for a good 20 or 30 miles. I would flirt with fumes. But, as both of us have seen happen, some of our worries have, over the years, become part of one collective anxiety. The running-out-of-gas neurosis is now mine, as well.

A mile or so later, my insulin pump[3] buzzed. I felt it on my hip and maneuvered around the seat belt buckle to bring the pump out into the open to see what the alarm was for. The insulin[4] reservoir was low; less than 15 units remained—which is actually enough to get me through at least 10 hours. And yet the low cartridge alarm, following as it did on the heels of a low cell phone battery and low gas gauge, added just enough weight to the circuit in my brain that deals with things related to “low,” and by then that circuit had started overheating and was sizzling slightly.

I’d checked my blood glucose before driving, and it was well within the normal range, yet in the confusion of trying to determine which evening-commute low to triage first, I began to feel as if my blood sugar was dropping. Yes, I know, and I knew then, that none of these lows were, of course, immediate. But remember: I was hungry, too, which no doubt contributed to my inability to quickly grasp what was going on.

I wasn’t freaking out or anything, and I was not, at any point, driving unsafely (lest the tone of this blog entry make it sound as if I was frantic and weaving all over the road, juggling cell phone and insulin pump while trying to find a gas card).

The power of this commute and its many lows, however, did a psychosomatic number on me, and I noticed several symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode coming on (weak legs, some sweating). For a few minutes, my brain confounded me on which low was which; for a few seconds, I was certain that I needed carbohydrates.

Then I came back to my senses.

Another test of the blood glucose a few minutes later at home confirmed I’d never been anywhere near a low blood sugar.

  1. “Regarding the Diabetes”:
  2. hypoglycemic:
  3. insulin pump:
  4. insulin:

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Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)

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