It started off as an innocent trip to Staples. I bought packing tape because we’re moving. That was easy. Then I began rushing home because it was time to feed Maya, and here’s what wasn’t easy: navigating through the crowd in the Union Square Farmer’s Market with a low blood sugar. It was one of those sneaky lows. No progression of symptoms. Just sudden blurred vision, shaky hands, and the thought, Gee, I might actually faint. I haven’t fainted from low blood sugar since age 14 (two years into my diabetes diagnosis), but still; it’s a valid concern. I reached into my bag to feel for my glucose tablets. I felt nothing.
I began to panic.
I usually carry a big fat bag because people with diabetes have A Lot O’ Stuff. But I was only going on a quick errand and wanted to treat myself to a light-weight bag! The rebel that I am, I ditched the juice box. I wished I hadn’t because my glucose tablets were missing or stolen. Reward if found.
Meanwhile, I felt myself going in and out of consciousness. I was seeing splotches of black and white, followed by flares of fluorescent green. I was only two blocks from my apartment, but I knew I wouldn’t make it.
As luck would have it, remember, I was in a farmer’s market. And I was standing next to a stand selling jam. I approached the farmer and urgently asked, “Can I please have some jam?”
She looked at me funny, probably because I was unsteady. I may have even sloshed my words. Maybe she thought I was drunk at 11:00A.M. on a Saturday morning, holding a bag from Staples. She reluctantly handed me a popsicle stick for tasting, which I dipped into something red and shiny, probably strawberry. I couldn’t taste it because when I’m very low, my taste buds are dulled. In fact, all of my buds are dulled; my whole body feels numb.
One taste of jam wasn’t enough. I asked for a fresh popsicle stick so that I could take another taste without double dipping. The farmer said no. I’m not sure why. Farmers are usually friendly.
I felt myself dropping. I thought, Just give me the damn popsicle stick!!!!! I never wanted jam so badly. I composed myself as best as I could. I said, “Please! I have diabetes! I need sugar! It’s an emergency!” Her face froze in fear—apathy—constipation; who knows.
Thankfully, a passerby overheard me and said, “Hold on.” He zipped away, then quickly returned with a cup of apple cider. It might have been iced tea. I gulped it down and felt the cold rush of sugar surge through my body. Within seconds, I felt that after-low-sweat emerge on the nape of my neck. The fog was lifting from my brain. I could think.
I knew that I was out of the fainting zone, but I knelt down and waited to feel 100% better before walking home. I felt so vulnerable. After seventeen years with diabetes, it still has the ability to bring me to my knees.
The man, my new hero, said he’d wait with me. But I told him I’d be okay. I could hardly look him in the eye. I thanked him through my embarrassment and watched him go on his way. The kindness of strangers.
I knew I was home when I heard the familiar sound of the heavy door slam behind me. Safe and sound. I dropped my useless, sugarless bag on a cardboard box labeled ‘KITCHEN. FRAGILE.’
I washed my hands and then picked up my daughter. I nuzzled her soft baby cheek against mine. I thought, What if I had actually fainted? I’ve got a little Maya now. She depends on me. Fainting is not an option!
I told Gary about what had happened. Once he confirmed that I was okay, he got all stern and serious. He said, “You should really always carry a juice box, Jen.”
Rgh. He was right.
I told him that even people with diabetes make mistakes.
He was not amused.
I settled down on the couch to feed Maya. I kissed her and I told her that I’d always carry my juice box.