So I was thinking about going back to FINALLY trying to talk about my trip, and reminisce about stuffing my face with Spanish ham but some of
the responses I got to my post on my recent hospitalization,
particularly over at TuDiabetes
(I wish there was a way to combine my comments so everyone could see
what everyone else was thinking) convinced me that there’s a lot of
interest in discussing the way hospitals manage diabetes, and diabetics.
First, some more detail on my experience:
If you want the synopsis of what got me to the Emergency Room, you can find it here. The diabetic portion of the story starts at around 8pm Sunday night
(after being in the ER since noon, and not having my BG tested once by
the hospital, though being monitored by me). When I was being
transferred from the ER to the OR, I told the OR nurse that I was
diabetic and I wanted to make sure someone was going to be monitoring my
blood sugar while I was unconscious, and also to make sure that no
glucose fluids were put in my IV. She asked how many times they had
checked my sugar so far, and I told her none. The surgeon came in to
speak to me before I was taken to the OR, and I asked him about my
diabetes. He asked me what I took, and I told him Lantus and Humalog.
He asked when my last dose of Lantus was, and I told him around 11pm
the night before. He told me they’d give me Lantus after the operation.
I was wheeled into the OR prep room to meet the anesthesiologist. I repeated my concerns about my blood sugar while I was under general
anesthesia, and he asked some questions that made it clear that he was
very well educated about diabetes. We tested my sugar, it clocked in at
114, and he told me that since I was only going to be under for 90
minutes tops, that I would be fine. I trusted him, and away we went.
When I was recovering back in my hospital room I had my first conversation with my night nurse (it was pushing 11:00 by this point)
about diabetes. She tested my blood sugar using a MALE (Most Awful
Lancet Ever) and a big Accu Chek meter than scanned my hospital bracelet
and test strip bottle (price check on appendixless diabetic in room 413!),
and needed more blood for one test than I put in my Freestyle Lite in 3
days. I rang in at a respectable (all things considered) 168 (all
numbers rounded to the best of my narcotically dampened recollection).
She disappeared to go consult her chart, and came back to tell me that
she would be giving my 4 units of Humalog.
My normal correction factor is about 1 unit to 50 mg/dl, so, even in my drugged state, I was able to some rather frightening math that put my
blood sugar at -40 in a couple hours, which sounded an awful lot like
being dead. I told her I’d like my 6 units of Lantus and maybe 2 of
Humalog. She disappeared to call the doctor. When she returned, she
apologized, and said that the doctor wouldn’t change his orders. I was
on the “resistant chart” (out of sensitive, moderate, resistant) and so
for 168, for my height/weight (I guess) I was supposed to get 4 units. I
could refuse it, but I could not get a different amount. Really? A
6’6″, 180lb Type 1 is in the most insulin resistant category? Sounded
I refused it, and when she left the room, I gave myself one unit of Humalog from my own pen (I hadn’t thought to bring my Lantus with me to
the ER, since I wasn’t expecting to stay at the hospital for more than a
few hours). She came in a bit later to tell me that if I gave myself
any insulin, I had to tell them. So I told her about the one unit. She
then took my wife (who was very kindly waiting with me until she felt
the whole insulin issue was resolved) aside, and, with the help of the
managing nurse (I’m sure there’s a more accurate term) gave her quite a
lecture on why I couldn’t be giving myself injections there and how it
made them liable for blah blah blah, to the point that my wife actually
came in and took my kit with her when she went home, which would not
normally be her nature to do.
I asked the nurse (who I should mention was very sweet and clearly feeling very conflicted about the position the hospital had put her in)
to test my BG again about an hour after I took my one unit. 197.
Clearly we were dealing with non-standard insulin action post-surgery. I
decided not to do anything. But at this point, I was more than 24
hours past my last dose of Lantus, so I knew that I had to have insulin
within about 3-4 hours after I took my last Humalog. As that moment
approached, I asked the nurse again what my options were and if, knowing
that I had given myself a unit already, they could give me 3 instead of
She did bring the head nurse in to talk to me, and I basically gave the most eloquent speech I could about how hard I’ve worked to learn
about my disease, and treat myself, and how I only have myself to rely
on for care 99% of the time and how good my numbers have been recently
and how, of all the places I’ve devised contingency plans for (beach,
airplanes, foreign countries etc) I never imagined that the place I’d
have the most trouble would be a hospital. In my mind, it was very
articulate and persuasive, but I was on a lot of dilaudid at the time,
and may have been drooling on myself.
Anyway, they said they did not have the power to change doctor’s orders, so it was 4 units or nothing, but that they would monitor my
sugar as often as I’d like. I asked if I would be given IV glucose if
there were a hypoglycemia problem. They said yes, or maybe crackers.
The meter scanned my bracelet, I’d just had surgery on my abdomen, there
was an IV already in my arm, and they were going to use crackers. I
said I had to take the 4 units, because I had to have insulin in my
system, especially as I was trying to heal from surgery, but that if
they noticed my BG dropping rapidly, I wanted glucose, in my IV. No
crackers. They said OK, and I took the shot.
The irony (if you want to call it that) is that even with those 4 units, my sugar stayed pretty stable just below 200, which, normally
would not be acceptable, but I talked with my endocrinologist the
following morning, and he said that under 200 was ok, and that it was
best not to fight with them about the insulin, since they weren’t going
to change, and I needed them to do a lot of other things for me while I
Anyway, I won’t go through step by step the rest of my luxurious stay in the hospital, which did include a meeting with a diabetic nurse
specialist (who really knew her stuff and got me on basal, prandial, and
correction insulin), and convincing the nurses to let me lance myself
with my Multiclix
instead of the MALE which was leaving big awful bruises on my fingers.
Still, I wanted to tell the story of the first night because I think
many of us would have taken for granted that we would get good diabetes
care (or at least be allowed to manage our own) while in the hospital.
I would love to hear what others experiences have been.