The Descent.

All low blood sugars suck, but there are some that suck more than others. Like the one we’ve all had after Thanksgiving dinner where you bolused out of your ears to cover all that food, and then it turns out it was too much insulin so now you’re extremely full and have to eat again. That’s a pretty annoying low. Lows in the middle of your favorite workout are always particularly obnoxious. But I’ve got a brand new one to add to the Top 10 Most Annoying Low list: The Airplane Descent with Turbulence Low. Let me explain.

Last weekend was the tail end of what shall be known as Snowmageddon here in Portland. Portland, although used to rain, is entirely unprepared for snow. So when a foot of the fluffy white stuff fell over the course of a few days, the city sprang in to a veritable mayhem (and by that I mean no one went to work, but the bars were full. At like, 10am…go figure).  I was fortuitously in San Diego at my company training for the bulk of the storm, happily bypassing the bulk of the inconvenience. Until I had to get on a plane last Saturday to come back to our Winter Wonderland.

The flight was shockingly on time, but getting to Portland amidst a variety of passing storms in our flightpath made for one of the bumpiest flights of my life. Now I don’t have a fear of flying, and turbulence doesn’t scare me. But I am, unfortunately, totally prone to motion sickness. The flight attendants tried twice to bring the carts down the aisle and both times had to return them to the back of the plane and take their own seats. I was seated only a few rows back from the very end of the plane which meant that the carts never got to me AND our seats had even more bounce to the ounce as we flew. By the time we started our descent, I was feeling so green I thought it was only a matter of when I would toss my cookies, not if.

It was near 8:30pm and I had not eaten since noon. I had bolused for a post-prandial high though around 5pm before my flight, meaning I still had a little active insulin on board. I checked my CGM mid-flight and had been steadily moving downward, but still over 100mg/dL. Somewhere between that check and the descent though, my BGs also started taking a descent. As the plane rattled back and forth, I felt my brow start to sweat, and a little lightheadedness kick in. I wanted to reach for my CGM under the seat in front of me to see just how low I was, and possibly grab a GU pack, but I felt so nausous that if I leaned forward I thought I’d lose my lunch for sure. I couldn’t even bring myself to reach for the barf bag in the seat pocket in front of me.

I had to make a decision – risk going lower and wait until we landed, or risk yakking and getting my CGM. I decided I would be on the ground in less than 10 minutes, barring any interference and that I’d wait it out. I slowed my breathing and leaned back in the chair, trying to concentrate straight ahead as the plane bounced around. Finally, I heard wheels deploy and seconds later, we were touching down. As the plane braked, I felt my body relax a little, and about a minute later enough nausea had passed that I was able to reach for my CGM and see this:


I grabbed a GU and choked down the contents as the last waves of nausea passed over me and moments later I started to feel better. I am sure the people next to me thought I was a little off between the deep breathing, inhaling a pack of GU, and me staring straight ahead for the better part of the flight. But hey, they probably would have liked me less if I’d thrown up on the them, right?



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Aren’t all lows when you are feeling sick-to-the-point-of-hurling the same, though? Aeroplane, boat or stomach bug …

Personally I’d have gone for the sugar earlier.. some will still help (even if you were to get rid of some), and those nifty little paper bags are quite useful. Or don’t they come with aeroplanes any more?

I find when I know I’m going low and can’t get any food on board the anxiety of going low accelerates going low (kinda of self-fulfilling prophecy). I know it’s a whole different story for me as T2, but the metformin suppresses liver gluconeogenesis so it ends up being a similar response to a T1 with insulin on board. I truly empathize with the terror of being trapped in a plane while the BG goes out of whack – happened to me with flight delays, service delays like yours due to turbulence. I have pushed the call button and said I need OJ stat at their first opportunity , regardless of cart servce. And yeah, low BG nausea + turbulence nausea = major misery.

T1 or T2 Rich the feeling is the same – and the NEED is the same – carbs, STAT. I was lucky that the GU was in reach, but my level of nausea was preventing me from getting anywhere near it. About two minutes longer I would have hit the call button for sure though!

Floh, if you can find me an airplane that is handing out sugar packets I would be AMAZED. I’m shocked they don’t charge for water 🙂

*grin* With you on the charging for water, but that is airplane policy. The other end is still human stewards and -desses, who will probably do their human average of helping out. And they work in an aeroplane, not on the internet 🙂

I read a very interesting article about “baggage claim lows,” ( you know, the lows you always tend to get after flying and when you’re getting your rental or baggage). I always chalked it up to travel, etc. This article shed some light for me:

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