Autumn Serenity: Inside a T1 Diabetics Insulin Reaction

The view from the window leaves a snapped image in my memory. Bronzed foliage contrast with periwinkle sky. Clouds dot the horizon like unpainted spots of canvas. The trees and sky are all I remember. But I know the window also contains a side view of our neighbor’s house, the green swing-set and the emerald, gold and russet patchwork quilting Nebraska autumn lawns. At the time, all I focused on was the sky.

This picture of autumn serenity is marred as the sky crashes down on top of me.

Panic twist about my awareness like a spiderweb. My breathing is short and ragged, catching in my chest, held by some invisible force. I feel the twitching seizure begin, clawing at my body.

A pulsing erupts in my belly like a punch delivered from inside. Panic now takes me under, leaving me terrified, knowing I have no control over what is happening—what is still yet to happen.

I scream for my mom. No, no, no, no, I chant to myself, a supplication never answered. I slip into a type one diabetic insulin reaction.

I can feel a chill coursing through my veins, anchoring me where I stand. Sweat glides along the vertical topography of my nine-year-old body, and I know it’s too late.

My hands twitch like two goldfish out of water. My brain seems to jerk independent of my head, like a pinball ricocheting in random patterns. Tears join the rivers of cold sweat as my slim limbs jerkily collide with the floor. My trained dancer’s body does not understand the combinations of twitching controlling my arms and legs and torso.

“Mommy!”  This is all I say before screaming erases the defined edges between articulation and wild animal sounds.

The world around me is a quiet whisper as my consciousness is ripped in two. Like an angel guarding its charge, I look down, watching the scene unfold.

My mom cradles me in her lap as I struggle to reconcile the images in front of me. I still see the autumn sky in its blue brilliance, but a proscenium stage is now stamped in the forefront.

An audience of one endures the nightmare performance repeating incessantly before me. Screams punctuate each scene, and my fists and feet curl into balls. Aware of both reality and fiction, I have no control.

Years later, I’ll learn people have similar experiences while on hallucigenic drugs. I’ll wonder why anyone willingly puts themselves through this.

“Brooky, get the sugar jar then get Daddy- he’s outside in the garage.”  Mom assign’s duties like checking off from a chart. Her calmness permeates my panicked thoughts, but I’m not able to control my body, my mind—now my memory.

“Bridgey, its okay. Brooky, hurry!”  Even in this state, I hear her voice catch. “Bruce, in here!”  Mom directs Dad as he rushes into the house.

Running from the front door, he wipes sweat from his swarthy face.

A well-oiled routine, Dad holds my head and body, prying my tiny mouth open—my twitching body a challenge for his muscled arms. I can’t stop screaming as Mom spoons sugar into my opened mouth.

“Brooky, I need you to get the Glucogon.”  Mom’s voice is steady, but still a frenzied, frantic tone hides behind her words. “It’s okay Bridgey,” she repeats to my twitching body accompanied by grisly screams. “Bruce–” her voice a whimper contrasting with her expertly maneuvered actions.

A momentary thought flits in and out of the terror seizing my mind; is my seven-year-old sister scared?  Does Brook understand what’s happening?  I’m worried for her and our brother just beginning to toddle around. We never speak about this—we never will.

A wave washes these imprints away, drowning me in panic.

The world imprisoning me is misted with phantoms weaving in and out of reality. My mind continues to churn out a never-ending performance of fear. Captive in my own body—my own mind, I’m unaware of the large needle puncturing my arm.

As quickly as the sky crashed down, it lifts off my chest.

A sluggish warmth replaces the chill marbling my skin purple. The terrifying performers recede into the black depths of my mind. I float gently down, feeling a blanket embrace my now still limbs, whole once again. My vision fuzzes like a Monet painting until a brief slumber leaves me in peaceful repose.

The Glucagon has done its job as the clock ticks by minutes, but it feels like hours. Waking from deep, black solitude, my mom calls my name, her voice muted. Distant and foreign, she calls me back to a bright, sharp reality.

My long light brown hair sticks to my neck and the sides of my face. A grainy, sticky substance has stiffened leaving my neck in a solid encasement. It’s the sugar dumped down my throat, an attempt to stave off this nightmare.

Shivering again from sweat-soaked clothes, I come to, aware only of what is tangible, real. Mom and Dad hover above me, two faces surrounded by the mid-morning sun light beaming in from the window.

“Bridgey, are you okay?”  Mom smoothes my hair back. “Let’s get you something solid to eat, then a bath.”  She smiles as Dad props me into a sitting position.

“You okay, sweetie?”  Dad rubs my back, his large, strong hand circling my boney frame.

Contained worry lingers in the back of their eyes. They’re checking me, searching for injuries caused by the seizures, ensuring themselves I’m fully awake. Never wanting to scare me, this is one of the few times I’ll ever be aware of the hidden concern they share for their diabetic daughter.

Acquiescing with a nod of my head, responding to their question, trying to comfort myself as much as them, I wonder when my next insulin reaction will happen.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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