Diabetes on the Job

March 17, 2014By 2 Comments

untitled76For all you non-diabetics out there, I have a task for you: next time you are getting ready to go into a meeting at work, or to present to a large crowd, or even maybe perform at a sporting event, etc., do the following first; Inhale all the helium from a balloon, spin around 10 times, hang upside down for 10 seconds, do a shot of tequila, walk into one of those creepy psychedelic clown houses at a carnival, and then have someone shoot laser beams at you…okay, ready?  Now go! This is just one example of how someone with diabetes feels when they are having an extreme low blood sugar.

I had a mom of a child with diabetes ask me the other day, “I just want to understand how she feels when she is low?”  It’s not that cut and dry of an explanation, as many people with diabetes have some different symptoms.  However, the above explanation sort of sums up some of the more common symptoms of shakiness, dizziness, blurry vision, dry mouth, confusion, weakness, and all out feeling like someone just hit you up the back side of your head with a frying pan.  For me, when my blood sugar drops suddenly and extremely low, I feel like I could black out at any second.  As my husband hands me the juicebox and says, seconds later, “Do you feel better now Hun?”  I am too busy staring off into space to explain to him again that it takes more than a few seconds for the sugar to kick in.

The other morning, getting ready for work and getting my daughter ready for daycare, I did the usual routine.  I checked my blood sugar, which was 99, okay, that’s a good way to start the day.  As I quickly threw breakfast on T’s highchair tray, I proceeded to eat her scraps…a scrambled egg with cheese and half a whole grain waffle with butter.  I bolused for about 15 grams for the waffle (bad estimation, probably too much…but I tend to need more insulin in the morning due to the ‘wake-up’ hormones in my body which always make my numbers high late morning no matter what).

I went on with my morning, dropped her off, and headed into the city to see customers.  At one of my first appointments, I felt perfectly normal the moment I walked into the office.  While I patiently waited in the waited room as the secretary informed me that the doctor would see me in a few minutes, I could feel it happening.  My heart rate increasing as my breathing shallowed, my mind slowly going numb, and the bead of sweat on my forehead.  What the heck?  Really?  I’m only going to be here for 10 minutes, can’t this wait?

Being in medical sales, you would think that the beauty of always being around doctors and medical offices, I could tell anyone, “hey, can we take a break I’m a diabetic and I’m low…do you have some juice or a snack I could scarf down quickly?”

It’s not that simple, in fact, it’s quite embarrassing.  In my line of work, I’m lucky if my customers give me the time of day, let alone invite me in their office for a detailed conversation.  Of course, wouldn’t you know, this was the day this particular customer invited me in his office, told
me to sit down and wanted to show me pictures from the vacation he just got back from.  This is often what some customers do that I have long-standing relationships with; we talk family and every-day stuff and then we get down to business and I do my sales pitch.  I was probably only in his office for a total of 10 minutes.  But as he started showing me pictures on his computer of his family vacation, I could only see flashing lights, and hear the voice in my head saying “oh no, oh crap.  Really?  That’s nice, lovely vacation, oh yes the birds were beautiful, but now if I pass out right here right now would you know how to get a hold of my husband?” I took slow deep breaths, knowing I had been in this position before, and knowing while my time was limited before getting to a point of no return, I knew I did still have some time.  I don’t like to push my luck with my lows, but after 25 years I have never had a seizure and I know my body really well.  That said, you are all probably thinking, why in the heck didn’t I just politely excuse myself, tell this person with a medical degree that I needed to go treat my low and that I would try to come back later?  Because it’s friggin annoying that’s why.  I’m trying to get a lot of stuff done in a short amount of time when I am working.  I am a multi-tasker.  I need to accomplish my objective with this customer and with my day so that I don’t need to back-track.

I politely somehow was able to switch the conversation to business after looking at the picture of the toucan for the third time.  Somehow, while my head heard the words coming out of my mouth like a foreign language, I was making sense.  I said what I needed to say during our business discussion, and then that was that.  I slowly made my way to my car and calmly opened a juice box and took a cookie out of a nicely wrapped dish that I was bringing to my friend in the hospital who had just had a baby.

Just another day in the life of a person with diabetes.  Is it preventable?  Am I setting a bad example by telling you all that I just continued about my conversation when I probably should have excused myself?  No, because we all do it.  We just put diabetes in the back of our minds when we are trying to just get something done.  It doesn’t always mean its safe, and often the consequences are more than just embarrassment.  Sometimes the consequences can mean failing miserably at that sales call and making a fool out of myself, or maybe for others it might mean coming in last in a swim meet or failing an exam or forgetting the words when your singing on stage, or worse, passing out in public and having a seizure.

It’s not fun and it plain sucks on most days and not many people truly can relate to how we feel inside.  However, I always try to remind myself that everyone has ‘something’.  There are lots of people who suffer from other chronic disease that don’t complain, that suffer in silence.  It is not up to those around us to empathize or even stop and help us recognize we are not feeling good.  It is up to us decide if we are going to let diabetes truly affect the outcome of our day.


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  1. Jennifer says:

    This is all so true!! We all do it and it does totally suck! …even though I don’t normal use that language…sometimes there is simply no other description!
    If nothing else, it helps to know that there are others out there with freakishly similar experiences! Rock on, girl!

  2. Beth Shapiro says:

    I imagine there is also the pressure not to relinquish a hard-earned spot on the physician’s calendar once you’re in the office either….making it even more difficult to excuse oneself from a meeting….a fine balance between pushing through something and knowing yourself well enough to call time out….

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