The Great Mowing Mystery

Yay, more crazylife stories. (By which I mean, NOT yay.)

It’s a mystery no doctor yet has been able to explain. Nearly every time my husband mows the lawn, he has a severe insulin reaction.

He checks his blood-sugar carefully beforehand, and makes sure to eat some carbs to sustain him. He often dials down his insulin pump to try to compensate. It happens when it’s cool, when it’s hot, when it’s humid, when it’s not. We have a self-propelled mower, so he’s not exactly powerlifting, here.

Yes, his transplant meds make him more sensitive to the sun. But he can go for walks, picnic, go fishing, and usually all is fine. Indoors, he can vaccuum the whole house without issue.

A WTF Thing

One reason we bought this house, was the yard was small enough to mow in an hour. (We thought the huge, obstical-ridden yard at the old place might be the cause. And I can’t do it with my damaged wrists.) The smaller yard doesn’t seem to matter.

Lately, about 30 minutes into mowing, I hear the mower stop, and I go out to find him standing, dazed, doused in more sweat than his body should be able to produce, and mumbling that (gee, really?) his blood-sugar’s low.

We’ve asked and asked.  It’s just one of those WTF things the docs ignore because they really have no idea why.


We had a small window between rainy days, and my hubby wanted to get as much lawn mowed as he could. He checked his blood. He ate a snack. He walked the mower more slowly than usual, and mulched instead of having to dump the clippings in the barrel. He stopped midway to take a break. He was going to beat it this time.

After getting something light to eat, he decided to extend his break and run get more gas for the mower before starting the back yard.  He felt fine.

Five minutes later I got a call. My panic died when I heard him say he’d only brought one credit card with him, and that account was low. I grabbed our other type of card, hopped in the car, and met him at the gas station within five more minutes, so glad it was something easy to fix.  (Ahem.  Shut up, Murphy.)

Fun And Games At Kwik Trip

Between the time I spoke with him, and the time I arrived, he’d descended into full insulin reaction. He was soaked as if someone had dumped a bucket on him. He couldn’t focus, was swaying on his feet, stumbling over his words. His pupils were pinpoints.  He knew what was happening but without cash he couldn’t even buy a candy bar to fix it, or explain clearly to the clerk what was happening.

The clerk – they do know us there – had held my hubby’s purchases behind the counter – bread, bananas, and some donuts. Obviously when he’d started shopping, he’d known it was starting. It just descended so damned fast.

I paid for everything, including the gas for the mower, and my hubby trailed me out to his car, where we sat as I watched him laboriously eat a couple of donuts – wouldn’t have been my choice, but time was crucial and I wasn’t going to argue. After a while, his head stopped bobbing, and he remembered his insulin pump and checked it. Amazingly, he’d been aware enough at first that he’d suspended the insulin intake, otherwise things might have been even worse.

No Third Donut

We sat in that car for another fifteen or twenty minutes, talking quietly, his speech slo-o-o-wly becoming more normal and logical. Customers came and went around us. The clerks probably wondered why we were sitting there, both in his car (and my car sitting empty), doing nothing. He became aware of his surroundings. Of the chocolate on his shirt. Of the slight puddle of sweat on the armrest; even the backs of his hands were clammy with it.

He eyed the third donut. “If I eat that,” he said carefully, “I can finish the backyard.”

“Oh, no you won’t.”

“Really. I’m okay.”

“I don’t think so.  Your pupils are still this big.”

“No, I’m actually fine.  Just give me five more minutes, I think.”

I peered at his face.  He was getting there.  “Okay, if you want, when we get home, let’s fix you something better, maybe a bowl of cereal, and then you can decide.” (Something that’s not all lard and sugar, easier to calculate for insulin intake, and won’t burn off immediately.  Or make him sick … I mean, three gas station donuts?  Shudder.)

Finally we reached that moment when he felt he could drive again safely, AND I believed him. I got in my own car, and followed him home.

And … To Bed

In the end, he agreed he was done for the night. The after-effects of a bad reaction were hitting him: the chill, the aches, the exhaustion. I helped him put the mower away, and he went straight to bed, too tired to stay upright to shower.

I don’t think we’ll ever understand it – why mowing, of all things?

He did everything right. There’s no reason he should have bottomed out, and so quickly he didn’t have any warning. It really scares me sometimes.

I guess it’s just a crazylife mystery.

We’ve got plenty of those, after all.


Works Like A Charm (except when it doesn’t)

Insulin Pump Tech and Real Life

First off, I want to say, my husband and I are not slaves to tech. Geeks, yes; slaves, no. (To medicine, yes; to tech, no. )

Secondly, I want to say that getting an insulin pump four years ago was a real game-changer for my husband. It has made so many things so much easier, restored flexibility to our lives, and improved his A1Cs dramatically. We love the insulin pump.

Except when we hate it. Like this past weekend, when visiting his mom in the hinterlands of North Dakota.

Sunday Rising

Things were going fine until Sunday morning, when, while getting dressed after showering, his pump somehow unhooked itself and he didn’t notice. We ate breakfast; he dialed his insulin dose, unaware nothing was going in. His blood sugar climbed. We picked up his aunt, and all four went blithely to church. His blood sugar climbed. We met more family for brunch; he dialed up appropriately, and ineffectually. We lingered over coffee. Dropped off his aunt. Took Mom plant shopping. (Mom’s 95 years old. We take our time with her.)

By the time we returned home, ready for a rousing afternoon of Pinochle and planting flower beds, my spouse was feeling pretty crummy. He tested his blood sugar: 457, and rising. He immediately checked everything out and discovered the hookup issue; reconnected, and dialed in enough insulin for a four-course meal. An hour later, he was still in the 400s. More insulin. An hour later, still high. Another dose. Finally, it began to come down.

Feelin’ It – not in a good way.

So we spent the afternoon playing game after tentative game of cards: he felt like absolute crap (flu-like symptoms, aches, mild fever), feeling too bad to do anything active like yard work, but too worried about watching the blood sugar to lie down and rest (also that wouldn’t help much). Trying not to worry his mom, who – being just like my mother – got frustrated if she couldn’t fix the problem by feeding it (absolutely the worst thing in this case). In the end, it balanced out, but he had to miss out entirely on his mom’s dinner, and then get up in the middle of the night to eat when his blood sugar bottomed out – a boomerang effect. Fortunately it evened out by morning, and we didn’t continue the roller-coaster into the next day.

Not So Common

Now, this isn’t a common scenario. Pretty rare, in fact. Probably aggravated by the switch in insulin forced on us by the insurance company. Plus, if we hadn’t been traveling, hadn’t been focusing on his Mom, and on family activities, we probably would have caught it sooner. And in a pinch, we always travel with an insulin pen, so we can do it “the old-fashioned way”. After all, he did it that way for a decade or more, and before that, with syringes and glass vials since he was nine years old.

It is a reminder that we can’t get too complacent about all this wonderful technology, though. It makes it no less wonderful (when it works), but at least we know what to do when it doesn’t.

Diabetes & the midnight sweat-storm

photo: Creative Commons CC0(Sounds like a band name, doesn’t it?)

Here I went tempting fate again. In a recent poem I mentioned coping with waking in the night to find my husband far into an insulin reaction and soaked in sweat.

So guess what happened tonight? I’m writing this at 2:30 am, and he’s sleeping now, if a bit mumbly and restless. He’ll ache in the morning. I always try not to think too hard about what might happen one of these times when I’m not here.

[If you live with an insulin-dependent diabetic, please read on: you need to learn more about this!]

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