LIVED THROUGH THIS
Last Night, I Saved My Husband’s Life. Again.
Illness and spousal caregiving inevitably challenge a marriage
Last night, we came home from a grocery shop at Safeway and my husband had offered to make us shrimp bucatini. But it was 5:45 p.m., a little too early for dinner, so he decided he’d head outdoors for a quick 30-minute bike ride before returning home to cook. While he was out, I replied to a few emails, fed our kitten, and saw the sky darken through the windows. I looked at the clock; it was 7 p.m. He said he’d only be gone for half an hour; something wasn’t right. That familiar fear came upon me: “He’s probably having an L.B.S. (low blood sugar — code for a hypoglycemic episode) and is passed out somewhere… or worse.”
My husband is a Type 1 diabetic who suffers from severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) and hypoglycemic unawareness. I’ve been in this situation — or some variation of it — at least 50 times in the 11 years we’ve been married. I’ve called 911 on five occasions. I’ve had to calm him down and coax him into drinking a sugary soda or juice when I notice symptoms of a severe drop in his blood sugar levels. When he has an L.B.S., he dashes in front of cars, or slings himself around lamp posts, or jigs and screams like a drunkard on public streets or restaurants. I’ve found him slumped in the bathtub unable to move, drenched in sweat. I’ve found him hiding under the bed like a scared puppy. I’ve listened to him spout gobbledygook with absolute conviction that he is lucid and rational while his eyes bulge and his face takes on the expression of a mad man. I’ve been barked at, accused of being naggy, angry, and neurotic when I’ve tried to get him to eat himself back to a healthy blood sugar level. I’ve had to inject him with glucagon during hypoglycemic seizures, and I even got my finger bitten once attempting to feed him during an L.B.S.
I’m amazed at how few people know anything about Type 1 diabetes, and also how different symptoms can be from person to person. When I say my husband is diabetic, some people start talking about overeating and the importance of cutting down sugar. I tell them that my husband was diagnosed with the disease at age nine, that Type 1 diabetes is genetic, that he is a healthier eater than me, that he…