Exams and Unexpected Hypos

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If someone asked me what my least favorite part of college was, I would say it’s the exams.

I understand they’re a necessary evil to evaluate my knowledge, but there are few things in this world that are more anxiety-provoking to me. As a result, I get sweaty palms and restless feet the moment the dreaded Scantron and exam packet are placed before me.

The other day, I had a communications exam that evoked all of these symptoms about an hour prior to the exam. At first, I brushed it off as nerves. But when it evolved into feeling shaky and a little dizzy, I realized I might have a bigger problem on my hands.

It couldn’t have been a more inconvenient low. I had just finished eating an early dinner a half hour before, so it didn’t seem possible to me that the insulin had already started working that quickly. I tried to ignore how I was feeling and study my notes, but an inability to concentrate forced me to test my blood sugar.

Yep, I was going down – I was 71 and perplexed. Just 45 minutes before, I was something like 191. Usually, I have to wait about 60-90 minutes to really see my insulin kicking in, regardless of whether or not I’m high before taking the shot.

In addition to freaking about my exam, I was now freaking about my blood sugar. The fact that I had to leave in about 20 minutes to get to the exam room in a timely manner wasn’t helping me keep my cool.

As my CGM started to alert me to my falling blood sugar, I shoved four glucose tablets in my mouth and decided to call my mom. I explained the situation to her and she talked me through it, mitigating some of my concerns. She gave me advice that I already knew to follow, but I still found it comforting to hear it from someone else as affirmation that I had a good plan to follow from that point up until my exam.

Fifteen minutes after the 71 reading, I tested to see if I was coming up at all. I went up to 87 – a minor increase, but it was just what I needed to see and I got ready to head out. I packed my bag, putting an extra juice box as well as a granola bar and Humalog pen in with my regular set of supplies (it couldn’t hurt to be prepared for anything). I set off for my exam, wondering all the while whether I was more worried about doing well on it or what my blood sugar would be doing during it.

A short while later, exams were being distributed by my professor: it was officially go time. Gradually, my mind shifted focus from my diabetes to each of the 100 multiple choice questions. It was all over within an hour, during which time my CGM did not go off once. I walked home and tested again, with a blood sugar reading in the 170s. Not my best, but I was proud of myself for catching the low before it got worse. And I’m pleased to report that I did just fine on the exam, proving to myself again that I can overcome just about any obstacle associated with my diabetes, which is an A+ in my book!

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