The night-time hypo strikes fear into the heart of most diabetic parents.
A hypo; for those who don’t know; is when your blood sugar drops below normal range. In Type 1 Diabetics this is usually because they have too much insulin floating round their system.
In the day the signs are obvious, sweating, paleness, confusion. Treatment is swift and fast: sugar – beautiful sugar that gives the insulin something to do and pushes the hypo away.
If we miss the hypo or don’t treat it, her blood sugar will continue to fall and the risks of seizures and unconsciousness start to rise.
Put simply – you don’t feck about with hypos.
But then night falls, and I put my beautiful girl to sleep with a prick of her finger. I check the numbers, give her a pump a quick glance and a familiar stroke, and leave the room.
When it is dark I can’t see the paleness, when she sleeps she can’t feel a hypo.
Can you see why we feel the fear?
So we check her blood sugars, all through the night.
A test at 10pm determines what we do at midnight, the test at midnight determines what we do at 2am. I think you get the pattern.
We give more insulin when she is high, then cross our fingers and toes and hope it is not too much as to send her low. When she is low, but not quite hypo, we test and test some more. At times her little fingers resemble a pin cushion.
Then sometimes it all goes wrong.
Last night, sleep was all consuming, my lids heavy and a blood sugar reading of 5.5 at 10am did little to improve my mood.
Hypo is below 4 – at 5.5 we can go either way.
Basically, it means the alarm needs to be set.
And so we did, mine for 12am, his for 2am, then sleep welcomed us like an old friend and I was silent, dead to the world until the shriek of the alarm moments later roused me violently.
The reading was 4.6.
Not good; dropping lower, but not low enough to wake her to force sweets into her in the middle of the night. When midnight feasts are allowed by mummy, they seem to lose their fun.
I stumbled back to bed, worried, but exhausted, this being yet another night of padding across the landing in darkness, of broken sleep, of fitful dreams.
I poked he who helped create them, ‘you need to go at one.’ I mumbled, ‘4.6.’
No more words were needed.
He groaned and expertly reprogrammed the alarm, then sleep abducted us once more.
I didn’t hear his alarm, I am programmed only to respond to my own. But at 1.10 I felt an arm shake me awake…
‘4.2, – I gave her a biscuit, you need to do 2am – check she is ok.’
Poor kid, eating the driest of snacks when all you want to do is sleep.
I grunted a response, flicked out my wrist, changed the alarm, spent twenty minutes fretting that a biscuit would not be enough. Then sheer exhaustion overcame me and I gave in to sleep.
Suddenly, I was bolt up right in bed, an icy hand squeezing my heart, the sensation of not doing something was suffocating. The alarm clock next to me was flashing loudly, mocking my mistake.
I had missed my alarm, ignored it, switched it off in my sleep.
It was 5.30, was she ok?
Had she gone hypo, was my daughter laying in a haze of low blood sugars only feet away. Had I failed her? was I as redundant as her pancreas.
Nothing is more terrible than the fear and guilt of a diabetic parent who fails to wake up to check their already low child.
As I walked the short distance between her room and mine, I felt the tension spread across my shoulders, tingling into my fingers. The worse case scenario of finding a fitting child was playing in my head. I held my breath, turned the handle, grabbed the blood sugar kit and hoped against hell that she was ok.
The relief was all consuming, the sight of my beautiful girl safely wrapped in her bed, teddy clutched against her sleeping frame.
This is a night with Type 1 diabetes, this is how the fear of night time hypos feels.
It is a little exhausting….