The Diabetic Partner Follies, Act 12: Frazzled in the UK

Welcome, one and all, to the dozenth edition of the Diabetic Partner Follies.  Here we invite the loved ones and partners of people with diabetes (PWDs) everywhere to share their experiences.  Almost all our recent stories seem to be about hypos (otherwise known as blood sugar lows).  We welcome these and any other types of venting you all care to share.  Today, a note from a wife in the UK who’s at her wit’s end.  Hopefully just knowing we are out here “relating” can help…

Hi Amy,

I just happened to stumble across The Diabetic Partner Follies as I was searching for information about type 1 diabetes.  I am so very glad I did.  Such hearfelt, touching stories and wonderful humour.  Thought I was going to fall off my chair laughing at the account of the armed police turned up to the poor chap who was trying to get his wife out of a hypo.

My partner has type 1 diabetes and we had become complacent.  I did not have a clue about diabetes when we first met and wish he had informed me more about how to help if he ever became hypoglaecemic.

I woke up one night and he was drenched in sweat.  I don’t know what prompted me but I asked him to check his blood sugar.  His sugar was too low at that point for him to respond properly and he just looked at me in a confused, dazed sort of way.  I thought he might be drunk.

We had had a few drams to celebrate something that evening but not enough to reduce him to that seemingly paralytic state.  I dialled 999 conscious that something was really amiss here and explained that he was diabetic.  Confirmed that we was not in a coma. I was told to give him chocolate (editor’s note: no! chocolate was the first bad advice) or something sweet to eat which I duly did but obviously not enough to get his blood sugar raised again.

I was given the number of the National Health Helpline who were worse than useless.  I explained that he was slipping into inconsciousness and that I was afraid to give him more chocolate in case it would harm him.  I really did not know at that point that more chocolate could have saved him (stupid me).  They really ought to have advised me better.

He became aggressive which scared the living daylights out of me because he is a nice guy really.
This was one of the most terrifying nights of my life.  Dialled 999 again and they said an ambulance was on its way.  By this time my partner was behaving like a crazed animal, banging his head on a table and falling out of bed.  A snowstorm had brewed outside and much as I love snow, I really hated it that night.  Several more panic calls to emergency services.  Their sattelite navigation was wrong and I lived in a cul-de-sac where the entrance was very easily missed.

Thankfully he recovered and despite several more scares in the following weeks I was more informed and aware of what do do should another hypo occur.

Tired_eyes Two years passed and nothing major happened until last week.  Strange grunting woke me up.  Cold sweat.  I knew what was happening but he was too far gone to drink the fruit juice I tried to entice him with.  He was coughing and spluttering and seemed he was going to choke.  I found a ‘crunchie’ chocolate bar.  Probably the worst thing I could have given him but all I could find in my panicked state.

I was frantically searching the fridge for an orange plastic box containing an injection to bring him round and could not find it.  Still kicking myself for my complacency in allowing the darned thing
to wedge itself behind cheese in the cheesebox :(

Paramedics were wonderful and arrived so quickly though it felt like hours.  Bedroom was a total tip but they were unfazed by it. Just getting over that terror and trying not to paw him every two
hours during the night checking for tell tale signs of persiration when wham!

We were at the hospital this morning.  I was due to have an operation and had seen the anaesthetist, had my painkillers in advance of the op and was just about to get dressed in a hospital gown when something was not right.  It was that glazed look in his eyes.  Perspiration beads on the forehead.

Nurses were fantastic and had a blood sugar monitor there.  Blood sugar already as low as 1.2  (I don’t understand the system you all use in the USA) and if you don’t understand this one, trust me that it is low.  Very low.

Operation is postponed until after the New Year now.  There is no way I could have gone to surgery and left him after that.

I am furious that he came out of the house without his BG monitor. With no mobile phone and with no medication whatsoever on the assumption that he was only going to be gone for a short time.
What is annoying me is that he still seems largely unrepentant about the stress this causes me.  He did not even want to go and see the doctor at our group practice because he is not the expert on diabetes at the clinic and the doctor who is was not working today.

He reluctanctly dragged along at my insistence and had to admit that the GP knew way more than he would have given a GP credit for before.  It has put my mind at rest somewhat but I am frazzled.  I’ve only had around 2 hours sleep and still full of adrenaline.  Of course I shall be afraid to sleep soundly tonight incase of another hypo.

He has been quite uptight and angry today.  I don’t know if this is a result of the hypo or my nagging?
I have so many questions but have rambled on quite enough now. 

Thanks for listening/reading.

– Heather B.


9 Responses

  1. Bernard Farrell
    Bernard Farrell December 15, 2006 at 8:46 am | | Reply


    One of the tricks we’ve learnt over the years is that when my wife asks me to check my blood sugar, I will always do it.

    Similarly, when she tells me to drink some orange juice (or other juice), I will do that.

    By talking through this a lot and agreeing on this approach while my blood sugar is normal, it’s easier for me to follow her direction when I’m REALLY NOT FOLLOWING her reasoning (because my own is so flawed).

    She can now often tell if my blood sugar is low when I’m talking with her on the phone, which is amazing to me.

    Another suggestion, have you ever tested his blood sugar when he’s normal? If you do that a few times, then you’ll be better able to test it when he’s low.

    I hope that you and your partner will talk about lows and how they effect you and that he’ll agree to some approach that would make you happier.

    Best of luck.

  2. Neil
    Neil December 15, 2006 at 9:14 am | | Reply

    Hi Heather,

    I’m a Type 1 in the UK as well, and have been for the past 21 years. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know when I hypo and it’s bad enough for my other haf to have to help me, at the end I feel so guilty that it eats me up inside.

    But, as with most Diabetics I’ve ever met, the big D tends to give you a strong sense of independance, of self reliance, so when you’re bad enough that someone else has to fix it, selfish as it sounds, it’s a massive kick in the ego.
    Again, I can’t speak directly for him, I don’t know him, but with me, I tend to be surly and snappy after for a day or two… or at least I used too… because I feel like I let my parter down, that I should be the one looking after her and being strong and instead I was being a liability and endangering her.

    Slowly though, through her persistance and understanding, and her not taking no for an answer, she started to break on through the big old wall that Diabetes forms in my brain and we’ve started chatting about it, and I understand that she understands, and I’m becoming less and less stubborn and less and less akward and talking more about it.

    It’s a slow process, but we’re getting there and it’s helping me no end with my diabetes.
    So don’t lose faith or hope… most of us are like that… it comes with the deal. But it’s not intentional and it’s not ill meant… it’s just one more hill to get over with this.

    As I said, I’m a Type 1 up in Manchester, and have been for a long while, and have been through most of things it can throw at you (from teenage Ketoacidosis through to waking up with the ambulance crew more than once). If you ever want to bend someone’s ear about it, or want to ask some questions from someone on the other end of it, feel free to drop me an email.

  3. Anne
    Anne December 15, 2006 at 10:00 am | | Reply

    Instead of juice, sometimes I like to use the sports gels (GU, hammergel, PowerGel,e tc.) For me, they absorb quickly and have a pretty good punch (20-20 g carbs). They don’t require chewing or drinking. I don’t know how conscious one must be to eat it; I’ve never passed out from a low.

  4. Neil
    Neil December 15, 2006 at 11:04 am | | Reply

    Oh… I forgot to say… (thanks for the reminder Anne!) It’d be worth speaking to the GP and getting Glucogel put on the prescription.

    It’s the fast acting glucogon gel that can be used on less than conscious people (including myself). It’s free on prescription (as is everything), and each bottle has 3 doses in it and there’s no problem getting it put on the prescription any more than asking to change brands of insulin.

    One good squirt is enough to stop a reasonably bad hypo, half the bottle (same size as a small mobile phone) brought me back from more than 1.something hypos, and it’s absorbed in the mouth so can be given to un and semi conscious patients.

    Well worth a phone call to the docs!

  5. Shocked
    Shocked December 15, 2006 at 1:34 pm | | Reply

    All I can say is how irisponsable is he? I hope to God he never ever gets behind the wheel of a car.
    Hypostop/glucoseGell by the bed is a life saver just shove that in his mouth if he won’t help himself.
    Suggest he tests before he goes to bed and if low have a snack also insist he checks his blood sugar in the night every now and then. Without waking you.
    Personally I think he is very selfish

  6. vicki
    vicki December 15, 2006 at 5:43 pm | | Reply

    Clearly your partner’s diabetic education has been seriously lacking. This is important: YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE GLUCOSE TABS AVAILABLE AND USE THEM IN CASE OF A LOW. Glucose tabs are easily available in all drugstores in the U.S. and do not require a prescription. They are very inexpensive. I don’t know how it is where you are but you should check it out. Do NOT use chocolate; it has a lot of fat which tends to slow down absorption. If you can’t find glucose tabs get some kind of hard candy such as Life Savers or the British equivalent. He should carry them in his pocket all the time. If you’re with him all the time carry them in your purse. Those kinds of lows can be very dangerous.

  7. heather
    heather December 17, 2006 at 5:00 am | | Reply


    Many thanks for all your really helpful responses. I have read them out to my partner and he has taken all the comments and advice onboard.


  8. Jon
    Jon December 30, 2006 at 5:45 pm | | Reply

    Make sure your hubby isn’t taking too much insulin in the evening. I had over-night hypos which resulted in a “bounce” that yielded high numbers when I tested in the morning. That caused a vicious cycle of increasing night time doses to lower the morning sugar but actually making the problem worse. This is called the Somoygi effect.

    Also, a couple of times a week, set an alarm for 3am or so and test just to watch for problematic patterns.

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