High Blood Sugar, Again and Again and Again



High blood sugar was the subject of two recent posts on ASweetLife.  It’s not really surprising given how common high blood sugar is in people with diabetes, even in those who take very good care of themselves.  Oftentimes, however, we focus on the lows rather than the highs because lows are dramatic and they can take us down in just a few minutes.  But high blood sugar has its own dangers.  As Karmel Allison wrote last week, “The threat is real. High glucose levels wreak havoc, especially when combined with high lipid levels. The human body is not designed to handle that sort of slow, rich assault… Sure, a few high blood sugar measurements would go unnoticed over a lifetime. But it’s never just a few; diabetes is years of building up high blood sugars, of training my cells and my tissues to be pro-inflammatory.”

A few days after reading Karmel’s post about hyperglycemia, I experienced high blood sugar that wiped me out.  I blogged about it, but had a hard time describing how it felt.  Then I read Kerri Sparling’s post, Oh, High!, and saw that she did a great job of articulating the feeling of high blood sugar.  Many of you probably read this post when it ran on SixUntilMe.  If you didn’t catch it there, Kerri has kindly shared it with us on ASweetLife.  Thank you, Kerri!   –  Jessica Apple


Oh, High!

Sunday morning started off with promise – a fasting blood sugar of 99 mg/dL, a healthy breakfast of tea, a banana, and some scrambled eggs, and I remembered to grab my curling iron out of the fridge before meeting my ride to the airport.

I took an aggressive bolus for breakfast (because travel sometimes makes me  run a bit higher, for whatever reason), so I was surprised to see double-up arrows on my Dexcom graph while I was standing in the airport security line.

“Hmmm … 172 and double ups … with three units of insulin on board.”  The diabetes mental-math made sense to me. “I’m going to let this blood sugar ride out instead of rage blousing.”

But by the time I was in my seat on the plane, I was at 312 mg/dL.  I do not know why.  I calculated breakfast.  I bolused well before I ate.  And I didn’t feel stressed or nervous or whatever.

But now I was high. And I felt high.  High, high, high.

It’s a thick feeling in the base of your brain, like someone’s cracked open your head and replaced your gray matter with sticky jam.  I find myself zoning out and staring at things, and my eyeballs feel dry and like they’re tethered to my head by frayed ropes instead of optic nerves.  Everything is slow and heavy and whipped with heavy cream.

During the first hour of my flight from Austin to Baltimore, I tried to write but the words were stuck in my teeth.  I tried to read a book but I kept skimming the same sentences over and over again without really reading them. And I watched my blood sugar holding steady in the 300’s, despite my boluses.

Rage-bolusing is a hard thing for me to avoid, especially once I’m so deep into a high blood sugar that I’d do just about anything for a bottle of water and a 120 mg/dL.  When I’m high, my back aches.  My eyes hurt.  My breath smells like the glue you use to assemble model airplanes.  My whole body is wrapped in cotton balls and I’m reduced to a lazy, lethargic lump in a seat, without a shred of energy and zero desire to smile.  I want to bang on the buttons of my pump, ringing through a billion units. I want to know why my breakfast bolus didn’t make a dent, and why these subsequent “fix it” boluses aren’t doing shit.  Is my infusion set crapped out?  Is my insulin vial spoiled?  Am I dehydrated?  Did I miscalculate my breakfast bolus?  Did one of the fifteen thousand diabetes variables go rogue on me?

I didn’t want to swap out my infusion set in the bathroom on the plane and then have to wait, wait, impatiently wait to see if another bolus will hit my bloodstream.  I tested my blood sugar again and saw that I was up to 360 mg/dL, and the Dexcom graph didn’t show any promise of a drop anytime soon.

Which is how I ended up busting out my insulin pen on the flight, about two hours into my flight, sneaking in a quick injection into my belly while the girl next to me read her biology textbook.  (She didn’t notice.  Even after all these years on a pump, I can still manage to inject discreetly.)

The plane was up high ... and so was my blood sugar. It's almost too literal; I can't take it.

By the time I was on my connection flight, I had settled back into range. Was it the string of small boluses, finally catching up with me?  Can I thank the injection?  Either way, the molasses in my veins had been replaced, once more, by blood.  Game over for diabetes chaos.

And looking at my Dexcom graph, I realize that diabetes gives a whole new meaning to “mile high club.”

This post originally appeared on SixUntilMe.  Photos courtesy of Kerri Sparling.

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10 years ago

Kerri, Great post and thanks for the words to finally be able to describe to my family what it feels like to have a high like that.  These words : “Rage-bolusing is a hard thing for me to avoid, especially once I’m so deep into a high blood sugar that I’d do just about anything for a bottle of water and a 120 mg/dL.  When I’m high, my back aches.  My eyes hurt.  My breath smells like the glue you use to assemble model airplanes.  My whole body is wrapped in cotton balls and I’m reduced to a lazy, lethargic… Read more »

Donna Schindler
Donna Schindler
10 years ago

I meant  to type Great Article! Instead of great article? I need another cup of coffee!

Donna Schindler
Donna Schindler
10 years ago

Great article? Did you ever figure out what caused the high? I have read some people go high when flying, but who knows?

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