Diabetes: A Story About A Terrible Sugar Low & What To Do If This Happens

The Crazy (AWESOME) Hehners
The Crazy (AWESOME) Hehners – Doug Sr. and Bonnie. And Abby the dog. 🙂


As those of you who follow my blog know, my husband and I recently moved in with my in-laws. Long story–short, we are  essentially trying to save money for our first home. We are so blessed that they welcomed us into their home. We are so thankful! But, living with them was never in our plans. I don’t think anyone “chooses” to live with their in-laws, but I do believe in destiny and “What’s suppose to be, will be.”

Doug’s dad – Doug Sr. – is a diabetic. Diabetes is one of the worst diseases, in my opinion. It has come a long way and is manageable for the most part, but if it sneaks out of control it could become fatal within hours.

Diabetes And Sugar Lows

Years and years ago, I had a patient who was in a very bad sugar low. I remember it was the very beginning of my shift and I went in to introduce myself. I was a new nurse; I had only graduated nursing school a few months prior and it was my very first job as a Registered Nurse. When I said “Hello” to my patient she just kinda stared blankly back at me. She wasn’t responding appropriately at all. I knew she was diabetic so I checked her blood sugar. I don’t recall the exact number, but it was below the normal limits (70-99 mg/dl).

When a patient is in a sugar low the ‘textbook answer’ to fix this is “orange juice” and then “peanut butter and crackers.” Since there was orange juice on her night stand I quickly stuck a straw in it and brought it up to her lips. “Drink this!” I begged. She just blew bubbles into it. She was so out of it.

I hate to admit it but, I kind of panicked. I ran out to the nurses station and told our charge nurse that my patient in room such and such was having a terrible sugar low. While she went to assess her I ran to our clean utility room and grabbed a bag of “D 50 W” which is 50% dextrose (sugar) mixed with water in a sterile IV bag. By the time I got back to the room my charge nurse had called for the doctor and he was on his way. Together we began pumping sugar water into her veins and her blood sugar began rising quickly. By the time the doc arrived she was no longer comatose and was beginning to act more like herself.

Thankfully I had a team of skilled nurses and doctors to help me with this incident. And Thank God (literally) that I learned about diabetes way back in the day. Never did I know that I would need those skills almost a decade later for someone so important in my life: my father-in-law.

The Right Place At The Right Time

My husband, Doug, and I sleep in the room across the hall from my in-laws. A few nights ago I went to bed early. I threw on my pajamas and curled into my soft blankets. My hubs was playing a video game. The brightness from the T.V. usually keeps me awake so I thew on my sexy blue sleeping mask and zonked out. I fell asleep faster than usual – I didn’t even have to count sheep. My head hit the pillow and I was out like a light!

Waking Up To “JAMIE!”

I woke up with a startle at midnight. I pulled the mask up and saw Doug lying next to me. He was still playing his video game. I asked, “Did your mom just say my name?” He said he didn’t hear anything. I sat there in a daze trying to figure out if I had dreamed his mom screamed my name or if she actually had?


There it was again. I knew I wasn’t crazy. Bonnie, my mother in law, was screaming my name with the worst worry I’ve ever heard in her voice. This time Doug heard it, too. He jumped out of bed and I threw on a sweatshirt. We ran out of our bedroom to see Bonnie running around frantically. “Doug’s in a really bad sugar low!” She had the phone in her hand – she had either just called 911 or was about to.

I walked into their room to see my father-in-law, Doug Sr., in a comatose state, sweating profusely, lying face down with drool falling out of his mouth. When my husband shook him and yelled “Dad, wake up!” his dad just lay there limp, motionless, and with no response.

Grandpa and his baby.
Grandpa and his baby.

Scary Doesn’t Even Begin To Describe This

My husband and I ran downstairs to grab anything SUGAR. My hubs threw the fridge doors open and grabbed some green frosting (lots of sugar in frosting) and I yanked the honey out of the cupboard. Together we ran back upstairs. Bonnie gave me Doug Sr.’s glucometer which is a fancy little device that checks his blood sugar level. You just have to prick his finger and squeeze it ’til a little puddle of blood gathers on the tip of his finger. Then you hold the strip to the tip of the blood so it can collect it. It will then analyze the levels.

My hubs tried feeding his dad the green frosting while simultaneoulsy pricking his finger. His dad just lay there drooling out all of the green frosting onto his arm. Because my hubs was shaking so bad, the glucometer couldn’t read the blood sample. Right about now I am wishing there was a clean utility down the hall with a bag of “D50W!”

Diabetic Sugar Low

Bonnie looks at me with so much worry and sadness, “Jamie I can’t lose him!” I tell Bonnie “He’s going to be OK!” while inside I’m hoping and praying that I am speaking the truth. My husband brought in the drawer of his dad’s diabetes meds. I noticed the red package that says “FOR HYPOGLYCEMIC EMERGENCIES.” I haven’t worked with a patient in a bad sugar low since all of those years ago, but I immediately knew what this was – It was glucagon! I read the packaging and told Doug his dad needed this. It was a vial of dextrose (sugar) to be mixed with sterile water and injected in either muscle tissue or fatty tissue.

As I begin to insert the sterile water into the vial of dextrose Bonnie walks into the room and screams “No! He can’t have that!” She must have thought I was preparing insulin. And she’s so right about insulin and diabetic sugar lows. Doug Sr. couldn’t have more insulin – that’d make his sugar levels go even lower! That’s the biggest mistake people who are unfamiliar with diabetes make. They assume that because he’s diabetic and relies on insulin that he just needs more of it. What they don’t realize is that giving a diabetic who is going through a sugar low more insulin would kill them. 

I tell Bonnie that this is glucagon and not insulin. Then I ask my husband to read the package aloud while I continue to prepare it just to make sure I am right. One mistake could cost his life! After we all agree it’s safe to give it to him I give him the shot of glucagon. At this point the cops have arrived. Thanks goodness!

Soon after the cops arrived I checked Doug Sr.’s sugar – it was 31. That’s after I had given the glucagon. At this point he began grunting and since there was no more glucagon to administer I began feeding him honey with my finger. A few minutes later he began making more noise. I knew he was recovering when he said “Enough of the honey, already!” It was SO nice to hear him say ANYTHING!

Bonnie came back in as Doug Sr. was coming out of his sugar low. She just began yelling at him – so happy he’s out of the low and so mad that he ever got in one to begin with! Ha! All Doug Sr. had to say was “Why is my arm green?!”

That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever witnessed. Like I said, my husband and I never planned on moving in with my in-laws. But I believe in destiny and everything happening for a reason. Thank God we needed to move in with my in-laws otherwise we wouldn’t have been there and been able to help. Whew! That was seriously so, so scary!

[bctt tweet=”If you know someone who’s diabetic share this to spread awareness. #Diabetes #SugarLow ” username=”jamienotis”]

If you’re a diabetic or live with a diabetic, PLEASE make sure you have glucagon at all times. (Doug Sr. didn’t even realize he had glucagon. He said that vial of glucagon had been in the fridge for years. If he hadn’t had that glucagon this story could have ended very differently!)

The Hehner Men. ;-)
The Hehner Men. 😉


American Diabetes Association Gift of Hope

I’ve partnered with the American Diabetes Association Gift of Hope program. It is an annual Holiday Gift catalog whose funds go to support the mission. They fund research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes. They deliver services to the hundreds of communities that are at high risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes. They provide objective and credible education and information to those recently diagnosed with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Gift of Hope Catalog began in 1971 when several Minneapolis-area parents of children with diabetes wanted to do something to fight the disease. They started selling holiday greeting cards to raise money to support the mission. Since then the program has raised more than $26 million. Many of the holiday cards are designed by or dedicated to people with diabetes. Now named the American Diabetes Association Gift of Hope and the program thrives due to the passion of people who care.

If you want to support this cause and you still have some holiday shopping to do you’re in luck! By ordering a christmas gift from the American Diabetes Association Gift of Hope program you will be giving your loved one a great gift while supporting an important cause. Head to ShopDiabetes.org to get started! 🙂

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  1. Thank you for sharing this story! My father was diagnosed with juvenile type 1 diabetes when he was 8 years old. He always told me that OJ is best for low sugar. I can’t imagine what you went through luckily this has never happened to my dad he’s had low sugar but not as low as Doug’s dad. I believe everything happens for a reason and it is amazing that you and Doug were there during this traumatic event.

    1. OJ is great … but if it gets too low they can’t swallow (and tend to drool) so getting them to hold anything in their mouth is tough. Just an FYI for ya God forbid this ever happens to you dad. (Praying it won’t ever!) P.S this is so random – but I love your name. I think the name Kayleigh is SO pretty! 🙂 xoxo

  2. I hope this is the area to comment on this article. I was wondering if your father-in-law is type one or two? Jamie do you think he would be OK with you sharing this info?

  3. Hi Jaime! I am a big fan! Love what you write about. My son and his wife live in Howell. They just finished their first round of fertility treatments and underwent IUI. Friday she goes in for a blood test to see if it worked and she’s pregnant. They too lost a baby two years ago. I also am a nurse and helped give her the injections she needed. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we finally get the rainbow baby we have wanted! And thanks for the lesson in Hypoglycemic episodes. I needed a refresher!

  4. As the momma of 2 type 1 diabetics (ages 14 and 6), this is my absolute worse nightmare! Thank you for sharing this story and shedding some light on this disease and how dangerous it really is! So glad your fil is ok!

  5. my dad was a bad diabetic, we experienced both high and low blood sugar, 60 was his lowest and 500 was is highest, it is pretty scary, since it runs on both sides of our family, we knew what to do, but doesnt stop you from shaking after its all ok, he passed Dec 2012 of other complications, I miss him dearly. I’m so happy that your father n law is ok and there is nothing wrong with living with relatives, it helps each other and it creates a closer bond with that family member ….thanks for your blogs

  6. Oh, how scary! As hard as it is to hear when in the midst of pain and grief, there really is a reason for everything we go through. So often those reasons aren’t even for us but rather for someone else. Your in-laws needed you just as much as you’ve needed them. So glad he’s okay and that you were there to help. I bet you brought a much needed spirit of calmness in addition to your medical knowledge and training.

  7. Jamie this story was great & helpful. I didn’t realize administering more insulin when the blood sugar is extremely low is harmful. Make sure your FIL keeps glucose tablets around even in all the vehicles. My hubby is a diabetic and he keeps them in his pocket. Also, tell him he needs to eat & snack constantly to keep his sugar from falling. Let your MIL know one of the signs his sugar is low is a drastic mood swing (some diabetics get mean when their sugar is low), at least that’s one of the signs I notice when my hubby’s sugar is low. I’m a firm believer things happen for a reason & let’s all thank the good lord you & Doug are their roommates

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