Treating low blood sugar isn’t easy at the best of times, like when you’re at home with a bottle of Lucozade, but it’s far worse when you’re out and about. Trying to hold a conversation while treating a hypo is a diplomatic art, particularly in situations when you’re, for example, giving a presentation, being intimate or even talking live on radio.
Hypos are one the most challenging aspects of diabetes management, we’re looking at some of the more unexpected hypo stories, with narration straight from the subjects themselves.
What happened: BBC journalist Alex Ritson was introducing BBC Radio 4’s The Newsroom in December last year when he experienced a hypo and was unable to read the script in front of him.
What he said: “I should apologise at this stage for the slightly confused start to this programme. I have type 1 diabetes and I had a low sugar attack, a ‘hypo’, just as we came on the air which caused me a little confusion in my opening sequence, so many apologies for that.”
Alex withdrew from the studio and consumed a dozen sachets of sugar, then six minutes later – ever the pro – Alex was back on air.
He explained his situation in an interview with BBC News and helped raise awareness of hypo symptoms so people can tell when someone with type 1 diabetes might have low blood glucose levels. It may have been a “nightmare” at the time, but Alex’s story has had positive repercussions.
Heather Carson Calder
What happened: Heather experienced a severe hypo and collapsed on her 18-month-old son, Elijah, before her 4-year-old daughter Ariah-Grace saved the day.
What she said: “I had collapsed on my face then rolled over Eli and Ariah pulled him out from under me. She got Lucozade, opened it and fed me and tended to her brother while being wary of keeping the baby gate closed.”
Ariah-Grace saw what had happened and ran to get “mummy’s medicine juice”, handing it to Heather who was able to drink it and stand up again. This act of initiative under pressure was quite extraordinary.
Suki Zayer (Content Author, Diabetes.co.uk)
What happened: Suki thought she had just injected her long-acting insulin, but injected 20 units of the wrong insulin.
What she said: “I was staying at a friend’s house, not long after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, when I made the simple mistake of getting my insulin pens mixed up. I ended up giving myself my long-acting insulin dose, but I used my short-acting insulin by accident!”
Suki told her friend what had happened and after consulting with her diabetic nurse took some fast-acting glucose and tested her blood glucose regularly to make sure she didn’t drop too low.
“This sort of mistake can easily be prevented by taking the time to do insulin injections without distraction,” Suki said. “At the time, it would have been best if I went somewhere quiet so I could concentrate on what I was doing. Luckily, I learnt my lesson and have not made this mistake again!”
Katie and Pip
What happened: The relationship between 15-year old Katie Gregson and her dog Pip was turned into a stage show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
What she said: “When my blood sugar goes too high or too low I give off an odour, but no-one else can smell it, only dogs can because their sense of smell is up to a billion times better than ours.”
Katie was given border collie Pip when she was 10 and, incredibly, taught her to recognise when she had a hypo. When her blood glucose goes high or low, Katie gives off an odour which Pep can recognise. After a year Pip was a pro at telling Katie when she was having a hypo.
Katie and Pip’s story was turned into a one-hour show, developed to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes and invisible disabilities.