Have a look at pretty much any diabetes website, and the instructions for treating a low blood sugar will look something like this:
Eat six jelly beans OR 100ml of lemonade (not diet) OR three teaspoons of sugar. Wait 10 minutes, recheck your BGL and if still low, treat again.
That is lovely and pretty and neat and sensible.
Hypos are not lovely and pretty and neat and sensible.
And hypo-brain cannot compute anything, much less how to measure out 100ml of liquid. Or how to count to six.
Also, waiting 10 minutes when you are pretty sure that you are about to die unless you mainline sugar is not gonna happen.
The reality of treating a hypo is messy, disorganised and agitated. It might look a little like this:
Eat six jelly beans. Then another six. Then another six. Oh, what the hell, eat all the jelly beans in the house.
Find lemonade. Try to open bottle. Cannot open bottle because cannot work out which end is the top and which end is the bottom of bottle. Eventually work that out and with superior hypo-strength, open bottle easily. Because you have been shaking bottle (trying to work out which end is up), lemonade explodes and splashes everywhere. Skull whatever is left in the bottle. Lick counter top of all lemonade. Look at the floor and consider licking the floor, but realise the dog beat you to it.
Open fridge and see that there is a juice popper in there. Unable to work out how to use the straw, so grab a sharp knife (possibly stabbing yourself in the process) and pierce a hole in the top of the box. Throw head back and squeeze contents of juice box into your mouth, and down your face and down your top (all the while convincing yourself that of course you look like a sexy swimsuit model in a soft-drink commercial!).
See a jar of Nutella on the countertop. Open it. Grab a spoon. Look at spoon. Realise spoon is superfluous. Use fingers and scoop chocolate-hazelnut goodness directly into your mouth. And around your mouth. And probably in your hair. And up your nose.
Decide it might be the time to check your BGL now. Meter shows result of 34.5mmol/l. You realise the blood on the strip is mixed with Nutella, lemonade, juice and jelly bean residue and therefore probably not accurate. Wash hands; wipe on legs. Re-check. 2.9mmol/l.
Clearly you are still about to die.
Open pantry door and curse yourself for all the healthy food in there. Grab a bowl of cereal, grab milk from fridge and pour over cereal, and force it down your throat, wishing that you had Crunchy Nut Cornflakes or Coco Pops instead of stupid, healthy high-fibre crap that tastes like cardboard, but you have convinced the kidlet is delicious and the best possible start to the day.
See half-empty packet of dried apricots. Cannot ever remember buying a packet of dried apricots. Cannot focus eyes to see use-by date on packet of dried apricots, but assume they do not ever go off. Eat three of them before realising that dried apricots should probably be orange in colour, not grey. Throw remainder of packet back in cupboard. For use when next time low.
Notice a jar of honey. Open, throw head back, squeeze jar, emptying about 100ml down the back of your throat. Choke slightly.
Eat five nectarines. Swallow stones of two of them.
Pull flower off stem of gladioli in middle of kitchen table. Start to eat. Just because.
Look at sponge on sink and wonder if there would be any glucose stored in there that could help get this effing low over and done with. Consider eating it.
Start spooning sugar directly from sugar bowl into mouth. Lose count at spoon number 15.
Check BGL. 3.4mmol/l. Looking good! Decide to make toast just to be sure.
Eat toast spread 1 inch thick with jam. Also eat a dozen spoonfuls of jam straight from the jar. For good measure.
Collapse on nearest chair, realising you have just eaten your body weight in glucose. But still wonder if you have beaten this low.
THAT is the reality of treating a hypo: the frantic, adrenalin-fuelled grab for anything and everything in sight. There is no concept of having to deal with the aftermath – because we believe that if we don’t eat and eat and eat there will be no aftermath. With our heart thumping, our blood rushing and all our senses on heightened alert, we eat until we either cannot eat another thing, or feel confident that we have eaten enough to bring our BGL back up to a safe level.
To feel safe. That’s all we want. Desperately want. To feel safe.