Public Display of Hypoglycemia: Can I Have Some Jam, Please?


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.   


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9 years ago

I started crying at the end of your story.  I guess just because I could totally identify with that feeling of having “cheated death” and survived to tell the tale – and promising your loved ones that you’ll take good care of yourself so you’ll be around to take care of them!  And we’ve all had to rely on the kindness of strangers occasionally.  Thanks for sharing.

LeAnn Secen Gardner
LeAnn Secen Gardner
9 years ago

GREAT post Jen.  I try to remember to always have Skittles with me, but I admit I have done this same thing and have been sorry for it! So glad everything worked out and the little one wasn’t with you!

9 years ago

Thanks for sharing your story. It really hit home (especially since USQ is my stopping grounds as well and had the exact same experience in staples myself about a month ago- stopped at the corner and bought a coke). Please don’t beat yourself up about forgetting the sugar.  Everyon makes mistakes and all you can do is try your best not to make them again. I now use a contunous glucose meter and it has been a life saver at detecting low before they go too bad.   Glad your ok

Leah M
Leah M
9 years ago

I am participating in a diabetes and driving study right now, and was surprised to learn that glucose tabs or gel actually work much faster than candy, juice, or other sweets for raising lows. I’ve started keeping liquid glucose (made by Dex 4) in my bedside table for those awful middle of night lows. I was pleasantly surprised when I drank it that it didn’t taste awful. And it worked fast! The moral of this story–try glucose tabs! They are small, lightweight, and work quickly.

James Ron
James Ron
9 years ago

Thank you for sharing that. What a scary story. 

Scott K. Johnson
9 years ago

Oh man, what a scare. I’m sorry you had to go through that. 


9 years ago

Thank goodness for kind strangers.

9 years ago

That’s so scary! I hate those sneaky lows, I’m glad you made it back safely! Of course it happens the one time you don’t have anything with you.

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