Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh, sugar, sugar.

Last week, I finally made an appointment with my doctor to have him take a gander at my low blood sugar. Having read the previous sentence, I can only imagine some of you are thinking “Low blood sugar? As in, you’re hungry? Quinn, you are the kind of person who is driving up my health-insurance payments. Just eat something!”, after which you would mumble something about idiots who live in Los Angeles.

Take my word for it, my blood-sugar isn’t normal. Better yet, take Consort’s word for it. This poor man has been stuck with me in a car when the last usable calorie has left my body. Five minutes earlier, had he asked me whether I was hungry, I would have answered jovially “Oh, I could eat a little something” Now, I’m sweating and dizzy, with shaking oven mitts for hands. Worst of all, I’m hostile and irrational:

QUINN (Suddenly, through gritted teeth): We need to eat.

CONSORT: Sure. After we look at the dishwashers, we can get some lunch.

See, he thought I meant “We” as in “Me and the man I love”, when I actually mean “We” as in “Me and the new personality who has taken over my autonomic nervous system”. My voice grows more guttural.


Consort, having previously made the acquaintance of Quinn the Destroyer of Worlds, remains calm.

CONSORT: We’ll get you some food in about three minutes.

Destroyer of Worlds grows emotional.

QUINN (Near tears): Just let me out here! I’ll find food!

CONSORT: We’re on the freeway.


I am eternally grateful and puzzled that he stays with me. But, clearly, the blood sugar thing merited medical attention of some kind. It seems to have gotten worse over the last year or so, so I did what any mature, responsible person would do.

I ignored it.

I ignored it until I found myself standing in the middle of a grimy bodega in a questionable neighborhood, peeling open a bag of the first thing I could find -- salted mangos -- because I couldn’t count on getting all the way through the check-out line of drunks and professional Quick-Pick lotto players before I passed out. This was the sort of place where armed robberies happen with predictable frequency. Was I prepared to deprive my child of a mother for an urgent dosage of exotic carbohydrates? Apparently, yes.

Finally, grudgingly, I made a doctor’s appointment.

Having made the appointment, I became smug. Look at me, I crowed to myself, taking care of my health! Being all… pro-active about my blood sugar! Not waiting until I fall down from hunger and cut open my head and get dragged into an emergency room where a resident does a less-than-aesthetic job closing the wound! I will go to the doctor, and he will check me out, and we’ll have an answer and spit-spot, I’ll be on to some other mature and foresighted activity, like getting my tires rotated!

My doctor is a wonderful man. My doctor’s innate impulse to actually care for his patients means that he talks to each one of his patients. This is soothing and comforting when you are the one with whom he is speaking. When you are waiting outside, and ninety minutes have passed since your appointment time and you aren’t in a paper gown yet, his need to connect is less charming. Being as he is a cardiologist as well as a GP, he sometimes has unscheduled walk-in patients complaining about a crushing pain in the chest and a general feeling of ill-health, not to mention a desire to walk towards the light. Then, what little schedule exists goes all to hell. One terrible day, I waited over two and a half hours.

I really like the doctor so I try to outsmart the system. I make the first appointment in the morning, the first appointment after lunch, or in the case of this most recent visit, the last appointment before lunch. When the receptionist called the day before to confirm, I verified I was the last appointment before lunch. I chuckled smugly, “Well, everyone will want to go to lunch, so I know I’ll be getting in on time”.

“It should work that way”, she said hollowly.

I chose to ignore her lack of faith in my planning genius and was about to ring off when I heard a small voice yelling “Quinn? Quinn?”. I put the phone back to my ear.

“Just confirming you won’t eat or drink anything after midnight tonight”

I blinked.

“I’m sorry, did you say no food?”

“We’re doing a blood-sugar test. We have to do that on an empty stomach.”




Breakfast was okay. I sometimes wait until I get Daughter off to her day’s activities before eating so missing breakfast isn't a problem. But by 10:00, my body was puzzled, verging on disgruntled. I spent a lot of time staring into the cabinets, thinking about how black olives were an underappreciated snack. By 11:00, I was sitting on the couch at home, breathing shallowly through my mouth, trying to move as little as possible; I’d call it hibernation except, of course, animals going into hibernation eat. At 11:30 I drove across town, alternately dabbing the sweat off my brow and being annoyed at the sensation of sunlight and the sight of so many people flaunting food. Stupid al fresco diners. How I hated them. My hatred fueled a sort of metabolic generator which allowed me to drive the last few miles.

My appointment was at 12:30. I arrived at 12:28. There were three people waiting in the waiting area. The good news was that none of them were rubbing their left arm or giving off any indication of myocardial infarction. The bad news was -- how does one say this politely? -- they were all old. I mean, in their nineties old. There was a good chance these people had fairly intricate and lengthy problems to discuss with the doctor and there was an equally good chance this appointment was the high point of their day. Who wants to rush that?

I sat down between an elderly woman and a seemingly even more elderly man. The man was wearing sweat pants, slippers and a t-shirt with a cartoon logo on it. The fashion sense of the very young, the very old, and the flu-stricken are uncannily similar. Slowly, methodically, he removed each slipper and put them on the table between us. Not under. On. He then stared down at his toenails, leaned forward and tried to touch a scab on the top of his foot. Between his hunch and his fragility, I was terribly concerned he would just continue to lean forward until he did some sort of Methusalean somersault, but my calorie-depleted brain couldn’t think of a graceful way of saying “Sir, I don’t think you need to touch that scab right now. It’s not going anywhere”. I promised myself I would put my hand out if his head went past his knees, and grabbed Good Housekeeping.

I read half the article on why Meredith Viera is supposed to matter to me when the words started swimming on the page. I let my head rest against the back of the seat, and shut my eyes. My new scabby friend starting trying to clear mucus from his throat. I'm guessing about six years worth by the sound of it. This is new, I thought dispassionately, my eyes can’t focus and I’m getting nauseated. My appointment was an hour ago, I haven’t eaten in -- I checked my watch -- seventeen hours, and now I’m going to pass out into a pair of old-man slippers.

With my eyes shut, I eavesdropped on the conversation of the woman next to me. She had been brought by a woman in her sixties who seemed to be her daughter. I was caught between admiration for filial devotion and a desire to throttle them both. It was probably the plummeting blood-sugar at work, but I was convinced they were having the most inane conversation ever uttered in the history of the world.

DAUGHTER: You sleep okay last night?

MOTHER: Oh, yeah. Went to bed at ten, got up at seven.

DAUGHTER: You seemed to be sleeping good.

MOTHER: I was. I was.

DAUGHTER: I came in to check on you.

MOTHER: I didn’t hear you. I was sleeping.

DAUGHTER: I know. I checked on you. Nothing like getting some sleep.

MOTHER: Yes. Yes.

(Silence. But a topic this rich couldn’t end there.)

MOTHER: I like to sleep.


MOTHER: Yeah. I always feel so rested after a good night’s sleep.

DAUGHTER: Me, too.

MOTHER: Oh, would you look at that.

Something accosted my brain. It was a smell. Since my nose doesn’t actually work, the fragrance must have been overpowering. It was a glorious, seductive mix of ginger and garlic and soy…

My eyes snapped open. Chinese food was being delivered to the nurses and receptionists. Many bags and trays went into the inner offices. I didn’t know whether I hated the nurses more for eating, or the bags more for going inside while I was still stuck out here. My sense of the almost Olympian unfairness of it all propelled me toward the front desk. The receptionist was biting into an egg roll; its glistening skin a perfect golden brown. I spoke very slowly.

“I am here for a blood-sugar test. I am taking the blood-sugar test because I become very sick if I don’t eat. I have now not eaten since eight o’clock last night. My appointment was an hour and ten minutes ago. You are torturing me.”

I rested my shaking hands on the counter.

“Please take my blood before I pass out. I suppose you could also take my blood after I pass out, but I will become extremely nasty before I finally lose consciousness and will probably focus all my rage on you.”

She stared at me, a drop of soy sauce resting on her lip. After a moment she said delicately, “I’ll see what I can do”.

I teetered back to my chair. The elderly man was adjusting something in his sweatpants. I shut my eyes. The woman and her daughter were now discussing the gentleman who had just gone in. He had been talking to them when I arrived.

MOTHER: That was a lovely man.

DAUGHTER: Wasn’t he?

MOTHER: Yes. (A beat) I couldn’t understand a word he said.

DAUGHTER: He had an accent.

MOTHER: I couldn’t understand a word he said.

DAUGHTER: He said he was from South Africa.

MOTHER: But he was white.

DAUGHTER: I betcha that’s why he moved.

MOTHER: Lovely man. So cultured.

DAUGHTER: You know, all those Europeans are like that.

MOTHER: I didn’t understand a word he said, though.

The door to the examination rooms opened. Mr. Scab was summoned. I was pleased to note he took his slippers with him. Having reached the ninety-minute mark, I toyed with lying on the floor so my sudden descent into coma would be less bruising, but dismissed the idea in favor of curling into a ball and shivering in my chair. Noel Coward's mother and sister would, from time to time, look over at me in pity and some curiosity. Clearly, they longed for me to leave so they could talk about me. They didn’t know I now lived here .

After another ten minutes, I heard something familiar. What was it…oh my God, it was my name! I was being called towards the inner sanctum. I whispered, “I’m here!”, fearing she would give my spot to the conversational powerhouses to my right. I grabbed my purse, dabbed the hunger-sweat from my brow and I slowly, gracefully rose to my feet. With only the slightest wobble to my walk, I passed by the nurse. I looked over at the receptionist, and leaned against the inner counter. I pointed to the tray of food on the fax machine.

"Those eggrolls?" I said silkily, "They're mine".

I sailed into the first room, starved but stately.

P.S. My blood-sugar proved there is nothing wrong with me that keeping nuts in my purse won't cure. Or, rather, keeping nuts in my purse and eating them when I'm hungry won't cure. But don't we all know I'm going to reach for them in a panic one day and eat a few of Daughter's Polly Pockets shoes, which also live in my purse?


Anonymous Chris in NY said...

Funny, funny story.

You know, the only time I felt like you describe was when I was about 4-6 months pregnant.... it was like there were absolutely no reserves- when the food/energy was gone- it was GONE. So I feel for you.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

Quinn, I don't know if you are familiar with the blog Confessions of a Pioneer Woman (you'd LOVE her!), but she refers to this as Low Blood Sugar Cranky Butt Disorder, or LBSCBD. :)

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Skerrib said...

I'm glad your blood sugar's OK, or at least livable. I have a certain tone, that when I say "I need to eat NOW," my husband knows enough to immediately stop all teasing and find me some food.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

I think black olives are a fine and dandy snack.

Also, you should keep a whole grain granola bar in your purse . . . you're less likely to mistake it for a tiny plastic shoe.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

you know what else works really well? glucose tablets for diabetics..they can boost your sugar right now...and you won't mistake them for Polly Pocket zapatos.

but did you get your eggrolls?

5:33 PM  
Blogger Indigo Bunting said...

Oh god. I need to eat something. Right. Now.

2:23 PM  
Blogger leahpeah said...

dear quinn - i had the same type of symptoms and it ended up not being my blood sugar but my thyroid.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Firegirl said...

Yes, the sudden urge for food can be treacherous territory for spouses. Tell Consort I know exactly how he feels! (:-D
Peanuts, granola bars or apple/orange juice are great emergency snacks!

Please make sure they check your thyroid. Many symptoms can look like diabetes or hyperglycemia but are actually thyroid issues. Havin just gone through this w/ my husband, I'm a pro at spotting the symptoms.
Take Care. Don't forget to eat! You have an excuse now. (:-D

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

I laughed so hard at this and then reread it aloud to my boyfriend who has identical symptoms. His doctor also finds nothing wrong with him. I can spot the later symptoms in his face when it gets tired looking, flushed and forlorn. We usually eat at the same time but I always feel guilty when I am famished and then consider how he must be much farther gone than I am.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you do accidently eat a Polly Pocket shoe, know that they pass through my dog's system with nary a complaint.


5:16 PM  

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