Rollercoaster ride

7:10am – I wake up. Before my alarm. Why? Why, on a day off from work, when I cannot even eat or have a cup of coffee to assuage my gnawing hunger, do I wake up early?

7:45am – Despite waking up early and not having anything to do except dress myself I leave the house later than intended.

8:01am – There are six people already waiting to drop scripts off at the hospital pharmacy. Six. I thought I was early but the worm has already been caught six times over. When it’s my turn I comprehensively confuse the pharmacist because of the sheer number of meds I am ordering for two different people. She is happy to see me leave, happier to hear that I won’t be back for a goodly number of hours, and that she can have a second cup of coffee (or more) to pep herself up before dispensing our meds.

8:15am – I turn up at the Endocrinology Unit and am met by the study investigator coordinating my oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). She settles me in a chair and prays fervently to her god that my veins play nicely.

8:30am – Cannulation attempt #1 = failure. My lucky vein isn’t feeling the love today.

8:36am – New nurse, different hand. “How do you feel about trying this vein?” she asks. “Well, you failed to cannulate that vein last year so we might give it a miss” I respond. She takes the constructive feedback on board like a champ, chooses a different vein… and misses that too.

8:50am – I have a relatively functional cannula in situ. We unanimously agree that I should tattoo the sweet spot for future reference. Perhaps I have a new lucky vein.

8:55am – I scull 100% pure glucose.

9:00 – 10:00am – I listen to a podcast. Enviously watch other people be cannulated with ease. Feel a bit sleepy. Have bloods taken at the thirty minute mark. Lament the entire lack of mobile reception. Experience withdrawal symptoms from not being able to obsessively check Facebook. Try to send a text message to Dave for twenty minutes. Give up trying to communicate with anyone located outside of the Endocrinology Unit.

10:00am – We take bloods at sixty minutes. My real-time blood glucose reading is high which confirms that my pancreas is having a slothful day as per it’s usual MO.

10:00 – 11:00am – My phone is still useless. I try to read. Can’t concentrate. Time passes slowly.

11:00am – More bloods! The blood flow slows as my cannula starts to die. My real-time blood glucose reading is higher than I thought it would be at this stage. Is this going to be the year that I am given a diagnosis of diabetes? The investigator starts to stress that I might not have a hypoglycaemic event, and she might not get any useful data, and she still has twenty-two people to recruit into the study which is basically impossible, and will she ever get her PhD done, and how the devil did her original research question evolve into this because she hates blood and needles which is really rather unfortunate since this study involves much blood and needles. And so on.

11:15am – In theory, this is the stage that my sugars will drop to a level that I will start to show symptoms of hypoglycaemia. A staff member walks by every five minutes to check on me. I start to feel fuzzy in the head. I think I might possibly be beginning to feel hot. I wonder if my sugars are dropping. We test them: they are.

11:30am – Another reading. “To see which way things are heading”, says the nurse. “Down,” I say, “things will be heading down.”

11:40am – Another reading. The downward trend aggressively continues. I’m definitely feeling hot now and I’m starting to get tunnel vision.

11:50am – My real-time blood glucose reading is almost low enough to abort the study, but not quite, so I keep on going. My cannula is almost dead. We resort to hanging my arm straight down and let the combination of torniquet and gravity force blood from the cannula which is captured into five separate tubes, drop by drop. It’s a slow and messy two person job to catch my precious life force. Meanwhile, a third nurse takes yet another blood glucose reading as I’m flagging. The investigator is trying her best not to faint. No one is going to pick her up off the floor. They are too busy coaxing out and collecting blood from me.

12:00 noon – More blood. “Three mL to go… two mL to go… last mL coming now…. done!” The cannula dies. As soon as the last drop of blood is captured I am handed a sippy cup of apple juice. My blood glucose level is the lowest it’s ever been.

12:15pm – Three cups of juice and two sandwiches have been consumed. My sugars are on the up, tunnel vision is gone, fuzzy head is clearing. The useless cannula is removed. The investigator is channeling Hillary Clinton. She is trying not to look too smug about the fact that my pancreas has wilfully and comprehensively failed to tolerate glucose in a Trump-like display of deranged behaviour and she has captured the data. I’m pretty sure she does a happy dance once I leave the unit.

12:20pm – I arrive for my gastroenterology appointment fifty minutes late. They are running fifty minutes late too so I couldn’t have timed it any better. We talk about poo. That’s what you do with your gastroenterologist. He decides I need another colonoscopy. I have no strong opinion on the matter, and although it won’t be the highlight of my life, I go along with his plan. I briefly educate him about the accumulated anxiety one feels after thirty-three years of invasive procedures and request deep sedation. He duly notes it. We both know that his note holds about as much weight as Cersei Lannister’s word. We individually and silently reflect upon this. In practice, my sedation level will be fully determined by the proceduralist who will care not one jot for my personal comfort but will instead be solely focused on getting me in and out of the room as quickly as possible so he can enjoy the coffee and cronut that his intern has been dispatched to fetch.

1:00pm – I have my first cup of coffee for the day. Sadly, I do not have an intern to fetch it for me.

2:00pm – I have my port flushed. I mention that Dave is my husband and the nurse (that I have never ever met before) knows exactly who Dave is. His fame is truly on par with the Kardashians.

2:30pm – I pick up our meds from a different but equally confused pharmacist. I trundle home with tens of thousands of dollars of medication. I don’t pay a cent thanks to the PBS safety net scheme.

3:00pm – I’m done. I give myself a pat on the back for fronting up to the rollercoaster ride that is the extended OGTT. It was a big ask, and I stepped up. Go me.



2 thoughts on “Rollercoaster ride

    • I don’t know because I haven’t seen my endocrinologist. I’ll see her in a month or so. She will want me to bring data about how my sugars react in the “real world”. I have a feeling that the results are worse than last year but if I manage ok in real life she’ll let it slide. Having insulin would be hard to manage with my spontaneous hypos. Basically my pancreas is *really* not normal but possibly not too abnormal enough to treat yet. We’ll see! I’ll let you know of course.


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