Milan, Diabetes Style


I’m in Milan using the slowest Internet since the days of dial-up.  For 25 I can upgrade to a speed that might actually load the homepage of ASweetLife.  For 1,450 I can buy the dress I like in MiuMiu.  For 1,050 I can buy a beautiful Gucci bag.  The black spike heeled pumps I adore are at Saint Laurent at 685  .   Prada totally disappoints this year.  The only reasonably cute shoes look like they were made from the leftover fabric of a picnic tablecloth.  And finally, I must tell you about the brown logo-print Louis Vuitton bag is the thing to have here.  It’s like every woman is a seventh grader who wants to wear the same thing as the popular girl. I went into the LV store to try to understand the obsession .I left without answers, but I did pick up some Japanese while browsing.  

I’m calculating carbs I could have here, too.  For two units of insulin I can have a few pieces piece of flat bread with olive oil and salt.  For three units I can have pizza.  Four units would get me the risotto with Parmesan and saffron.  With five I’d have ravioli and a scoop of gelato.

That’s pretty much sums up my time in Milan so far: observations and calculations of things neither my wallet nor my body can afford.

Milan's Duomo

That said, the Duomo, from the small glance I’ve had of it, is impressive and definitely worth seeing.  Since Mike and I arrived there on the heels of one of Mike’s most wicked lows, I can’t say I was able to really take it in. 

On our walk toward the Duomo Mike had been cranky and I was getting annoyed at him.  I kept my annoyance to myself, attributing his grumpiness to pre-marathon jitters.  As we passed by the Ferrari store, I suggested we go in to see if there was a toy car to buy as a souvenir for the kids.  The store was hideous.  It was overheated and the lights were so bright I had to squint.  Music of the sorts used to torture prisoners was blasting at nightclub volume.  Everywhere I turned there was a tacky red toy car.  I can promise you that Santa does not make a stop at the Milan Ferrari store when he does his annual gift shopping.  It would make him suicidal, and there is nowhere to park the reindeer because there are a couple of real Ferraris on the street in front of the store.  

Mike said he was feeling sick. He began to panic that he was coming down with something.  I said I felt bad in the store, too.  It was just the store.  Outside would be better.  When we got out Mike looked a little disoriented. “I really feel sick,” he said.  I could see the fear in his face. He was worried he was going to miss the marathon.  “Wait,” he said.  “My blood sugar.”

Mike tested in the middle of the street.  I held his bag and he held the kit.  He pulled back the lancing device with his teeth and pricked his thumb.  After having spent hours around 250 thanks to a carby lunch, and giving tiny boluses to bring his BG down, Mike was at 60.  It was clear he was 60 and dropping fast.  There was an unappealing café across the street.  “We’re going there,” I said.

At first Mike just stared at me, looking confused.  Then he said he didn’t want to go there.  He wanted to keep walking a bit and find a better place to get something to eat.

Usually, I don’t object to Mike’s blood sugar related decisions.  He is responsible and he knows his body very well.  From my own experience I know that just as it is with the weather, there are lots of factors involved in how your body feels.  Sometimes 70 feels like 50 and sometimes 60 feels just fine. I don’t like to second guess the way Mike’s feeling.  This time, though, intuition told me to interfere.

“We’re going over there,” I said, pointing at the café.

Mike was standing in place, not objecting, but also not responding.  I took his hand and pulled him along with me.  When he started moving in the right direction I ran ahead to get food.  I tried to explain to the man behind the counter that I needed food fast.  There were cookies and pastries in the glass case below the counter.  I got the man’s attention with lots of hand gestures and pointing.  I said things like sugar, fast, cookies, hoping I’d get something across.  As Mike stepped into the place I asked him if he wanted juice.  He arrived next to me and pointed at a little raspberry pie.  Mike said he would like it in a bag.  “You’re eating it now,” I said.  “We’re not waiting until you drop below 40.”

Milan - The NICE Cafe

I’m not sure the servers in the café understood what the problem was, but it was clear they realized we were having a problem.  As I paid for the little pie, the cashier took a piece of chocolate and handed it to Mike.  A gift of sugar.

The most important calculation of the trip: one too many units of insulin can kill you, and one little act of kindness can save your life.

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Scott K. Johnson
9 years ago

While I hate that Mike had to deal with a scary low like that, I love the story. 

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