What is type 1 diabetes? Simply put, it is when the pancreas no longer retains insulin-producing cells. When a person without diabetes eats sugar (in any form- carbohydrates, fructose, etc.) the pancreas regulates the amount of insulin to produce. Insulin converts sugar in the blood stream into energy for use in the rest of the body. Without insulin, excess sugar remains in the blood causing damage to the heart, the eyes, the brain, and the kidneys. The damage doesn't happen all at once but rather over a period of many years. For instance, a person with type 1 diabetes is bound to see some side effects from the disease at one point or another. Even under the strictest care, diabetes takes it's toll.
Of course, we all need some sugar in our blood for the brain to work properly. So how does a person with diabetes get the right amount of insulin? When you're diabetic, YOU are responsible for manually injecting insulin into your body. The pancreas isn't doing it, so you have to. You are also responsible for checking your blood sugar before and after you eat to make sure you are giving the correct amounts of insulin. It seems like a daunting task, but it's only a few extra minutes out of an entire day.
As you can imagine, dealing out insulin is tricky. It's a balancing act. Every time you eat, you have to figure out how many carbs you eat. Based on that number, you need to calculate the amount of insulin to inject through a syringe. Or if you have an insulin pump, you simply program the amount of carbs into the pump and the required insulin will be calculated for you. You also have to manually check your blood sugar a few hours after you've eaten to ensure you've given yourself the correct amount of insulin. If you didn't, your blood sugar will either be too high or too low. If it's too high, you may feel groggy and tired so you'll need to give yourself more insulin, If your blood sugar is too low you may feel confused, shaky or unable to concentrate. Before you're blood sugar gets too low, you'll need to consume quick-acting sugar like natural orange juice or fructose to bring your blood sugar level up to normal.
I've had my fair share of "low blood sugar" moments. Some of them have even resulted in what is known as a "diabetic seizure," though it is not a real seizure like someone with epilepsy would experience. For a diabetic, when there is not enough sugar in the blood, the brain cannot properly function. The brain needs sugar, but when there is not enough, the brain's main responsibilities cannot be met. System start shutting down- the first being the nervous system. This can result in one or a few of a myriad of symptoms, including but not limited to the following:
- body twitches
- loss of vision
- rapid heart beat
- loss of self-awareness
- loss of understanding of immediate surroundings
This is when being diabetic is scary. This is when a pancreas transplant sounds like the best thing in the world so you don't have to experience another low blood sugar moment.
I'd like to share with you the most alarming low-blood sugar moment I've experienced. This is not a normal occurrence nor is it an experience I imagine happening again, but it is one reason to be hopeful for a successful pancreas transplant in the near future.
The following is an entry from another of my blogs called "Story of M." Source: http://tunnelscene.blogspot.com/
April 9, 2010
I should be dead. I don't know how I'm still alive, but I am VERY THANKFUL to be here. YOU CANNOT KILL ME!! I CANNOT DIE!!
That was my Facebook status update last night after I got home from work.
Yesterday on my way home in rush hour traffic, my blood sugar plummeted and I lost track of reality. For 15 miles of heavy congestion, I was oblivious to my surroundings. I sped in between lanes of cars and road construction, I ran a red light, and somehow pulled a wild U-Turn. Finally, I slowed my car down and smashed into some wild giant bushes growing from the median of a busy street. And I don't remember any of it.
Luckily, I didn't hit anyone, and nobody hit me. The only damage are a few scuff marks on my drivers side door from where I ran into the bushes.
After the paramedics revived me, the police asked me what I remembered.
J: "The last thing I remember was being in Fort Union... I was on my way home, which means I was traveling south, but I have no idea how my car is facing north."
Lady cop: "I man in a pick up truck followed you from Fort Union. He thought you were drunk. He was behind you as you drove all the way from Fort Union to Draper, where you turned around and continued back in the opposite direction. Eventually, you brushed against the bushes right there and stopped the car. Do you remember that?"
J: "No. Did I hit anybody?"
Lady cop: "Luckily, no. Another woman pulled up after we got here and said she witnessed you speeding through lanes of traffic, making your own lane. She saw you drive through a red light at 9400 South and 1300 east."
J: "Oh my God!" (Looking down at my body.) "In rush hour traffic?? How am I alive?"
Lady cop: "I dunno. It could have been a lot worse."
I examined my car. Amazingly, it looked perfect. Another officer pointed out the scuff marks on my door. I couldn't see them until I leaned down and strained my eyes.
Lady cop: "I'm giving you a ticket for INCAPABLE OPERATOR."
J: "Oh no... Is that like a DUI?"
Lady cop: "No. It basically means you were incapable of operating your vehicle due to being asleep or ill. I could write you up for speeding, reckless driving, and running a red light, but... We'll just leave it at that."
J: "Yeah, OK... I can't believe I'm not injured."
Lady cop: "You are very lucky."
J: "I feel like I should be on that show, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE! Hey, is the man int he pick-up truck still here?"
Lady cop: "He gave us a statement and left."
J: "Oh... I wish I could have thanked him. Most people would have flipped me the bird and drove off. It was really nice of him to follow me to make sure I didn't hit anyone. He probably saved me from being rear-ended when I finally stopped the car."
Lady cop: "Don't worry, we thanked him for you."
J: "I put a lot of people in danger. Can you believe I'm still alive? I should be dead! I'm really glad I didn't hurt anyone. I'm really glad I'm still here."
My cube mate at work told me I was being watched by angels. I don't know about angels, but thanks to a few good people and some great police work, I am here. I've always thought of life as kind of a 'BONUS,' you know? But now it feels EVEN MORE like a BONUS! It's time to party!"
It's time for a kidney-pancreas transplant!