I set out to run a few errands and when I returned home I had a weird feeling in my gut that came out of nowhere. I started sweating and had the chills at the same time. I immediately thought COVID, but before I could administer a home test, I began projectile vomiting.
Rewind a few steps – before I left the house my blood sugar was low so I ate lunch without shooting up (aka bolusing).
I consumed roughly 40 carbs and waited until my blood sugar reached 90 before going about my day. By the time I returned home my blood sugar was damn near 300 which is really rare for me. I gave 7 units of Novolog and kept chipping away at my to-do list.
Fast forward – Now I am vomiting and have a lot of insulin on board. I laid down and the sharp pain in my abdomen was excruciating. I could barely sit up to throw up again. I immediately called a dear friend who is an RN and overall health guru. I shared my symptoms and she demanded I get my happy ass up and to the ER as she feared it was an appendicitis. My mother picked me up and we were off to the hospital.
I grabbed my purse, insulin, a red gatorade and a roll of glucose tabs. When I checked into the ER my blood sugar was 92 which would normally be great, but there was still a lot of insulin in my system and I couldn’t keep anything down. The nurse who checked me in was a little concerned about my BG, but could not give me juice in case they had to do emergency surgery. I kept an eye on my Dexcom numbers the whole time and kept my mother and nursing staff up to date.
The medical team checked for ketones in my urine to see if I was in DKA, ordered an IV to help with fluids and a CT scan to see if I had a ruptured appendix. I did everything asked of me with a friendly reminder here and there that I was a little worried about my blood sugar dropping quickly. The CT nurse entered the room and I quickly shared I was wearing a CGM. She asked me to remove it. I refused because watching my numbers was the most important thing and she did her due diligence by explaining the scan might destroy the device. Noted.
Thankfully, my sensor was on my arm and the CT scan was on my abdomen. Upon returning to the ER room, my blood sugar dropped to 76 with an arrow slightly down. I called the nurse and said we need to take action. I had three options.
- Start a sugar IV drip.
- NO WAY!
- Wait to see if the arrow stabilizes and keep my fingers crossed.
- Too risky.
- Eat glucose tabs and hope to keep them down.
- The nurse approved this option because the tablet(s) would go straight into my system and not my stomach.
The four tablets left in the canister were just enough to stabilize my blood sugar. I was sitting at 94 with a straight arrow.
The nurse who oversaw my visit was AWESOME. At one point she said, “You understand how to manage your diabetes better than I ever could so please let me know what you need.” She let me take the reins and went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable.
The ER doctor came in to share the results and explained I did not have an appendicitis, my organs look fine, but they were inflamed. She ruled out DKA because I did not have ketones and diagnosed me with Enteritis, an inflammation of the small intestines with many cases infectious enteritis being caused by four pathogens, Norovirus, Rotavirus, Campylobacter and Salmonella.
My time in the ER waiting for results brought back many memories of past hospital visits in my 38 years of living with this disease. I’ve only been to the ER a few times in my life, all of which were associated with vomiting and dehydration. I share this story because diabetes was front and center and this particular experience was very different. Wearing a CGM and knowing my numbers in real time saved my medical team a lot of extra work and gave me peace of mind because I knew when to take action, and when to ask for help.
Gosh, last time I was in an ER the nurse would not allow me to tell her my CGM value. She said she did not want pollute her records. I swear pollute her records? I nearly died laughing. I said hey if you need a stick, stick. It was one point more than my CGM.
Well anyway, like you it was a virus. I needed 6 bags of fluid and two days in the hospital to recover. Hey make me better because I was sick.
Oh well sick and so better. Thank goodness nothing more.
I will take a virus over a “serious” medical condition any day.
Oh goodness, Amber! That sounds scary! I’m glad you are alright. And what a helpful situation that the nurse was so open to you calling the shots with your diabetes. Being in the hospital is one of my nightmares regarding diabetes management.
Thank you Scott. It was pretty scary, but I think I was in shock so the severity of the situation didn’t set in until a few days later.
Your experience illustrates how we- with diabetes – must use our knowledge for our self-care and with clinicians, as you did, in the ER. I have learned to speak up as you did. I am glad you are ok, Amber.
Thank you Joyce.
I am so sorry to hear this news but SO GLAD your ER providers recognized you knew you!
Self-advocacy and technology for the win. Those moments always turn into humbling gratitude that we have so many options to keep us alive and kicking.
So glad you are feeling better!
Thank you Patricia. It took me a few days to fully realize how rare this type of experience is. I shared this for a number of reasons and hope the medical community takes a moment to read it.
Wow, what a terrible experience. Glad you’re alright. Thank you for sharing. Good ideas for managing while in a tough situation. You are doing a wonderful job helping others, while managing your own challenges with having T1. Thanks for what you are doing.
Thank you Laurie for your kind words.
Happy to hear it was not appendicitis!! I have a special bag of diabetes supplies- in case of emergency and I need to leave my home (weather, power failure, family needs , etc) . A few months ago, I had a hard fall and had to go to ER – with my diabetes supply bag. I had to remove Dexcom for X-rays and scans … 😫. And had no sensors or manual testing device in my bag. I was uncomfortable the remaining time at ER! Lesson learned!!! Keep a sensor in the Bag !! Lucky for you that you had used your arm for the sensor !
I never even thought about packing another sensor, but it is definitely on my list now. Thank you for the reminder.