Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I hate wearing my medical alert bracelet. I have been know to refer to it as the Mr. T bracelet. Mine is simple. It is a thin white gold bracelet, with a small id tag, and my name, type 1 diabetes, and my parent's phone number engraved on it. Nonetheless, I still do not like wearing it.

I have only taken this off once since I got it. My mom bought it for me, for my first birthday after I was diagnosed. Most people wouldn't be happy to get something like that for their birthday, but I love getting new diabetes things. I get excited when new pump supplies are in, when I get a new diabetes book, or even when I get a new glucometer. I know, I am a dork.

Never did I believe in the power of the medical alert bracelet, that is, until this past Sunday. I had been traveling for work, I went to the Nebraska JDRF chapter's gala, (by the way, we raised $618,000 in one night, for diabetes research!) and I was finally coming home. My first flight was fine. I ended up in Denver with just enough time to board my connecting flight and head back to Oklahoma. The plane finally took off and I was in the middle seat between two men I had never met in my life. Did I mention, I was traveling alone?

I checked my blood glucose 97. No active insulin in my body.

Perfect, I thought.

After we had been in the air for maybe twenty minutes, I noticed my blood glucose was feeling a little low. Rather than checking again, I just pulled a juice box from my carry-on and drank the entire thing. I went back to reading my book, Needles: A Memoir of Growing Up with Diabetes, if you haven't read this book by Andie Dominick, you should, it is totally worth the read.

I started to feel really hot, and then my knees started to sweat. I knew this was getting bad. The bad lows cause my knees to sweat.

It hadn't been 15 minutes since I had drank my juice, so I figured it was just taking longer to kick in, I didn't want to over do it because I hated to have to run to the restroom on the plane every ten minutes on this two hour flight. Then I started to get extremely dizzy.

I weighed my options, it was either going to be passing out in the middle seat between two guys I don't know, or making it to the back of the plane for assistance from the flight attendant.

I decided to make my way down the aisle.

"Excuse me," I tell the person sitting to my right. He acts annoyed as he has to stand to let me into the aisle.

Holding my pump in my hand and steadying myself with the other, I begin to make my way down the aisle. I begin to panic. I am getting worse by the second. My vision is blurry and I can feel the hot tears of embarrassment sting the back of my eyes.

I make it to the back of the plane. No one is paying attention to me. I lean against the cool wall as the flight attendant turns around to face me.

"Do you need in the bathroom?" she asks.

I shake my head no.

"You can't be back here, return to your seat please," she tells me.

I shake my head no again. This time is it even harder to do.

"Are you okay? Do you need something?" Now she is acting annoyed.

I open my mouth to say juice, but it comes out jumbled. By this time tears are streaming down my face and I feel as if I am going to go down any second. I can't even form words to tell this woman what is wrong with me.

I finally realize, I am wearing my medical alert bracelet. I point to the bracelet.

It occurs to her what is wrong with me.

"Juice?" she asks, looking worried.

I nod my head yes.

She places the orange juice into my shaky hand as I drink as if I have never drank anything before. Within seconds I can feel myself climbing back to normal. The flight attendant immediately tries to usher me to my seat, explaining that she is not allowed to let anyone stand in the back. Worried, I explain to her that I am too hot to go back to my seat.

She tells me she will turn the air on for me, immediately a million sarcastic remarks come to mind, like I didn't already do that. She fills a cup full of ice for me to have and then helps me back to my seat. She explains to the gentlemen I am sitting between about my insulin reaction and checks my air vent, which was already on high, until you experience a low like that, people do not realize how hot you really are. You feel like you are on fire.

The flight attendant redeems herself by checking on me every ten minutes until landing. I am eternally grateful. I cannot imagine where I may have been otherwise. Still embarrassed from the scene I caused, I go back to my book, pretending this ordeal never happened.

Thank you mom for my medical alert bracelet. I now value the use of it and I don't think I will ever complain about it again. If you do not currently have one, I would suggest everyone get one. They are more valuable than you think.