Sunday, May 30, 2010

Plight of the Honey Bear

My son says it is one-hundred-seventy steps. I may have that wrong; it could be he said one-hundred-seventy-two steps. My doctor says that I need to exercise. When I visit with her I try to express that some days I sit, and some days I don’t sit. She says that I should at least walk every day. I think, “That sounds good. The dog will like it.” My son says she means cardio exercise, to get my heart to push.

So on this summer morning that is not too terribly hot I grab hold of the fifty pound roll of self-sticky bituthene waterproof membrane and walk up the six flights of stairs to the roof. At fifty-seven that is exercise. My biological father had at least two heart attacks before he was sixty.

Once done with that I don’t want to do it again. I don’t even want to go down to the ground to the truck to get a drink of water or eat a granola bar stashed in the cab for emergencies because I know that even if I carry nothing on my trip back up onto the roof, I will need to carry myself, and for starters that is enough. Diabetes has a lot to do with weight.

Diabetes management is a constant struggle to know what is going on with one’s body chemistry.

Exercise burns up sugar. Sitting does not burn up sugar quite as much as doing any sort of exercise, even if it is only typing at a computer keyboard. But if you are doing pretty much nothing out of the ordinary it is easier to know what is going on internal to the body on an hour-to-hour basis.

Up on the roof while waiting to catch my breath I mention to my son that I am having trouble to figure where my sugar is at. I often forget to carry a monitor with me and I am left to figure it out from the inside. Am I thinking straight? Are my legs wobbly? Do I feel like fainting? Is there something else going on? Is this hay fever? Did I put on enough sun screen? Should I not stand too close to the edge of the roof?

He tells me that our Marine buddy told him to always carry a honey bear, one of those little plastic bottles that looks like a bear that you squeeze honey out of the top. My first thought is the time the sorghum bottle broke inside my luggage during a flight back from Indiana – what trouble can I get into with a bottle of honey?

Honey equals complex sugars. He tells me about a fellow in his Jeet Kune Do class who had only eaten a cheeseburger and smoked a cigar before class and with the stress of exercise nearly fainted... until my son offered him a shot of his honey bear. My doctor told me if my sugar goes low to drink a cup of orange juice as the sugar gets to the blood real fast that way. I don’t very often drink any fruit juice just for that reason.

I bumble my way through the remainder of the day dealing with ups and downs. I am supposed to eat something every two hours, but that rule does not take into account that I am walking up and down six flights of stairs today. I manage.

That night at home my wife makes me bacon and eggs for dinner. I’m not too sure about the cholesterol but I am certain about the lack of carbohydrates. On a normal day this would not be such a bad routine. I had previously told my doctor that I often have a problem at night with the diabetes medication in my sugar level dropping too low, like around 70. Every diabetic’s low level is different. At 70 I begin to shake and feel unstable on the feet. My doctor told me two hours after I eat dinner I should test my sugar level. If it is below a certain threshold I am to eat a 100 calorie granola bar. I like that idea. I would like that idea better if I managed to stay awake for two hours after dinner. Usually I fall asleep in the middle of Rachel Maddow talking about the fate of the world.

At 12:30 pm my wife is engrossed in playing World of Warcraft with her guild. The Guild Master a paraplegic, or something like that, in Nova Scotia or wherever and her fellow teammates scattered haphazard around the northern hemisphere. I wake up on Long Island and feel real lousy. Blaringly loudly CNN tells us about Obama grabbing his Louisiana oil balls. I shake and uncharacteristically sweat. I test my sugar level and find that it is 32. This is the lowest that I have ever seen my sugar level, ever.

If it goes too low, or too high, I could be in a coma and not know it. I don’t care for this too much.

I look in the frig for the orange juice. I had seen some in there the week before but this time I see none. Sometimes we run out. Some times my wife gets bored and I think for family entertainment value she changes her recycled containers. One time I find the OJ in what had once held grated cheese. I enjoy to pour out the juice through the side of the lid with the little holes as I think of Hoover Dam. This night it can be disguised in a basmati rice container on a totally different shelf that I don't see behind the dill pickles. Pickle juice won't make it tonight.

So I grab the milk. Milk has lactose, that is a sugar, and though milk is not as good as orange juice for a quick shot, it will serve in a pinch. Problem is I can’t think very well with low sugar. I wobble and stagger around the kitchen. I feel like a passenger on a torpedoed boat not quite being able to figure out where the life vests are stored so I grab hold of a fire extinguisher and wrap the nozzle around my neck as a second best life saver. I am prepared to jump as I stagger over to the counter when I remember there are granola bars in the cabinet. As I grab a ripe banana I down two of those. Rip the foil wrappers in a mad scramble. The only time I ever need to open these things is when I am unfit to open anything and I am always frustrated with the impenetrable nature of foil wrappers. I need to save my teeth so I do not bite them.

I pour milk in the blender. I unpeel the banana (easier than a foil wrapper but still done clumsily) and then remember I have some unsweetened ice cream left over in the frig so I grad the container of Neapolitan and spoon that into the blender. Remembering that part of it is chocolate so don't let the dog get it. Mind you, I am trying to devise a life saving cocktail to bring back my sugar level to a normal non-comatose position. I am in a bit of a hazy panic. I sweat and stumble from counter to freezer to garbage can. If my unbelted pants fell down in unison it would not be unexpected. Then I see the honey bear in the collection of bottles and small boxes on top of the frig. I grab that little critter and squirt a few good doses into the blender. Whirrrr. Whirrrr.

Unexpectedly the drink tastes like crap. Sometimes I will put nutmeg in, but this is something else altogether. I am not happy. I don’t feel good. There are several jars of all-natural unsweetened peanut butter on top of the frig. I grab a nearly empty container and spoon a few gobs of peanut butter into my mouth. Now I gum a wad of dry peanut butter and my mouth is all stuck up. So I grab the milk and pour another cup of that in hopes to melt the peanut butter and prevent a case of choking to death. Then I look at the honey bear and realize that it was not honey in the bear... now I remember that I had put extra-virgin olive oil in the bottle with some herbal materials. I have no clue what the hell that crap is at the bottom of the bear. I continue to be in a delusional panic. Now I really want to find life saving honey bear. A real one!

And I do.

I go to squirt out honey into a spoon but find out that this is a brand new honey bear with the paper still inside the cap. I manage to extricate the paper, and squirt two spoons of honey and quickly suck them down. A problem with these emergency procedures is that usually the panic and the faulty thought that goes into the science of spontaneous concoctions leads to an experimental overload of sugar. So I put everything sort of back in place, well, good intentions I thought to put everything back in place, and then I stagger into the bathroom to find my meter and check my sugar level.

I prick my finger.  I apply the blood to the test strip. I wait for the reading. I am conscious and not in a coma. I am happy to be me. It is really cool to be alive. I don't know what else I would want to do with myself. Now I am at 451... this is the highest that I have ever seen my sugar, ever. A normal person never ever gee willigers ever never goes over 140. I have seen myself at 260 or 321 but never 451. I am sitting there freaking, “Now what I have I done to myself.”

Then I realize that I had just tested my blood from a finger stuck with honey. I wash my hands. The retest comes in at 301. Not good, I may need to take a really long walk, but better than 32 and not nearly as bad as 451.

I go back into the living room and sit down. My wife says, “Are you having a sugar problem.”

“Yes,” I say.

She says, “I knew that I should have given you toast with your dinner.”

“Yes,” I say, “that may be a good idea next time.” Then I tell her this story.