Explaining Your Diabetes to Non-Diabetics: A Personal Story

Kerri Sparling Health Guide
  • I was looking through old posts on my personal diabetes blog in search of examples of the kindness of strangers.  There have been many, many examples in my recent life with diabetes of people who have gone above and beyond in helping me out when I wasn't prepared for a diabetes-related emergency.  (Yes, my fault for not being prepared, but it's nearly impossible to be prepared at all times.  We do our very best, and thank goodness for people who are willing to help us when we stumble.) 


    I wanted to share this post from back in 2006, after I had just moved to a new town and was getting to know my surroundings and my new gym.  This nice guy behind the counter made my day.

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    Last week, I had a pretty sneaky low pounce on me while I was on the treadmill.  Readings have been steadily improving but aren’t back on track yet.  So I’m erring on the side of caution as much as possible.  This is resulting in many “dead test strips.”

    My initial meter reading when I started my workout was 170 mg/dl.  The pump was stashed in my purse and I had a bottle of juice and my kit on the treadmill with me.  (Not running beside me, mind you, but in the little holder compartments.)  Fifteen minutes into my workout, I was 100 mg/dl.  That’s quite a drop.  Sip the juice, keep going.  At the thirty minute mark:  84 mg/dl.  Hmmm.  I’d rather finish my workout at 200 mg/dl then have to stop because of a low, so I finish the juice off.  Forty minutes:  113 mg/dl.  Spot on.  No problems.  Fifty-three minute mark … all of a sudden sweating like a maniac.  I was reading the closed-captioning on the TV screen just a few minutes earlier, but now the words are dancing along the bottom of the screen.  Headache.

    We know where this is going.

    Turn off the treadmill.  As the machine stops scrolling back, I prick my fingertip.  51 mg/dl.  Damn it.  113 mg/dl only thirteen minutes earlier.

    Reaching into my kit, I grab the only money I have on me:  a one and a ten dollar bill.  Walking determinedly towards the juice machine, I notice that juice is two dollars in this (god-forsakenly expensive) Connecticut town.

    “Excuse me.  Can you please break a ten?”

    “Sure thing.  You want me to break it like I’m a ninja?  Put my hand straight through it?”  The guy behind the counter grins and means so well, making jokes with me, the New Girl at the Gym.

    “It’s okay.  Just ones are fine.”

    “I can make it into a paper crane.  Watch my paper crane.”  He starts to fold.  I lean on the countertop.  This will not be a repeat performance of the Showcase Cinemas episode.

    The money shift under his hand and I watch as wings take shape.  I’m running out of time to wait.

    “Listen, I’m a diabetic and I’m having a low bloodsugar reaction.  I need to buy some juice.  It’s okay.  Just please give me a dollar and I’ll come back for the rest of my change.”  I smile.  I’m not a completely hypoglycemic mess so it’s easier to be in control this time.


  • “Sorry.  Here.  Here you go.”  He casts his eyes down, hands me a five and five ones and I wander off to the juice machine.

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    I drain half of the bottle.  It’s going to be just fine.  A few minutes pass.  I test.  94 mg/dl.  Back on the climb.

    I walk back over to the counter, where the man behind the counter is deliberately not looking at me.

    “I’m sorry if I was short with you.  I just needed a hand.”

    He didn’t look at me.

    “I appreciate your help, you know.”  I start to walk away from the counter.

    “Hey.”

    I turn around.

    He gently places a paper crane made from a post-it note on the countertop.  Wings flutter from the ceiling fans.

    “My cousin has diabetes.”

Published On: March 11, 2010