Recognizing Diabetic Shock


Last night was a helluva night for me. After going out with a friend I came home to discover the door locked. I had left it unlocked so I assumed my dad must’ve locked it on his way out the door. I banged on the door just to be sure and when I didn’t get an answer I went down to get the emergency key from the front desk. I opened the door to discover my dad sitting in a chair in his bedroom. I thought he was mad at me and that’s why he hadn’t heard me banging on the door. I went back in the room, but something was nagging me to go check on him. I walk in, his head is back and his eyes are closed. When I walk towards, him his eyes snap open and he tries to sit forward and get back on his laptop.  He slumps backwards. I get over to him and kiss his forehead. He’s burning hot and sweating profusely. I ask him was he ok, he shakes his head. He takes off one of his shirts and leans back in the chair. I ask him did he want me to call someone he says no. I ask was he ok again, he shakes his head. Now he can’t open his eyes. His speech is slurred. For the third time I ask him if he wants me to call someone and he finally agrees. I call 911. I get an ambulance on the way, meanwhile I keep talking to him trying to keep him conscious. I pour cold water on a towel and use it to try to cool him off. He briefly opens his eyes when the cold towel hits him but he still can’t speak. His hands are clammy, but I keep grabbing his hands and rubbing his leg to keep him conscious until the paramedics arrive. When they arrive they check his heart and his blood pressure and find them normal, but when asked what he had eaten all day, he admits to only having eaten some popcorn and cookies and drinking coffee and soda. In other words my dad had sent himself into diabetic shock.

Now I had never seen someone in diabetic shock before. I can tell if you haven’t seen it now, it is a very frightening thing. I don’t know how I stayed calm or knew what to do, but I knew if I panicked things would only get worse. So to help you not experience what I went through last night, let me give you some of the early warning signs of diabetic shock:

1. First off my father had complained to his girlfriend earlier in the day of feeling very sluggish and tired and didn’t want to go out that evening. He has sleep apnea and diabetes so some tiredness is expected, but my dad is not one to blow people off, so if you notice your loved one being more tired than normal, pay attention to it.

2. My father couldn’t sit forward or stand up, he closed his eyes. He was feeling dizzy and was having trouble breathing. These are also signs of diabetic shock.

3. My dad’s heart was racing and he was sweating profusely. His skin was hot to the touch like he had a fever and his hands were clammy.

4. As I was trying to talk to him his speech became more slurred, almost like a drunk. In public people in diabetic shock are often mistaken for being drunk because of the slurred speech and loss of coordination. If a person hasn’t been drinking this is a sure sign that something is terribly wrong.

5. As I’m trying to ask him if he wanted me to call someone he became agitated and kept saying no until I kept insisting. Irritability is another sign.

Now that I’ve told you the signs, let me tell you some things to do to help.

First off call 911. I know some sites may suggest you try other things and use calling paramedics as a last resort, but I wanted someone here in case something went wrong he could be rushed to a hospital. So always call 911 even if you feel confident that you can handle the situation.

Whatever you do stay calm and try to convey the information clearly to the 911 operator. I used to work as a 911 operator and maybe the training is what kicked in. My cellphone was in my pocket, but I called from dad’s house phone so in case the phone died they could still trace his location. If this is not an option, don’t worry, just be sure to speak slowly and clearly and give the exact location where you are.

Be sure to know the medical history of your loved one and any medication they take. Thankfully my dad has this typed up on a piece of paper on his desk which was very helpful to the paramedics. Answer any questions the 911 operator and the paramedics may have, how old, what happened, what was he doing, what did they eat, etc. This may help to eliminate other potential health concerns.

Now some websites will suggest you get orange juice or a cookie or soda into a diabetic when they are in shock. This only works if the person is conscious enough to still be able to eat. In my case my dad was slumped over and blacked out for a period or was barely conscious when I could get him to open his eyes. If your person is conscious enough to do so though, please be sure to get the sugar into their system and this will help to level them off enough to be checked out.

Apply cold compresses and remove excess layers of clothes. My dad had on three layers of shirts. Before blacking out I did get him to remove one. After he blacked out I went into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of cold water and poured it onto a towel and used that to press it on his face and the back of his neck. The stem of the brain is at the back of the neck so applying a cold compress here can help to bring the temperature down. As soon as I applied to the base of his neck, his eyes reopened so I knew it was working.

Get the person to eat and drink water. After the paramedics left I made my dad eat some spaghetti and meatballs and a salad and drink a glass of water. He then laid down and went to sleep and slept all night. Diabetic shock will leave them exhausted so let them rest.

I slept outside my dad’s room most of the night so I could check on him but he slept fine and was ok this morning. I made him eat breakfast and pack a lunch before he left. When dealing with loved ones especially older loved ones, please know they are stubborn so it will be work to get them to do the right things but you have to be diligent. I want my dad around for a long time so I’m going to help him do that.

Whatever you do, know the warning signs of diabetic shock and try to make sure you or your loved ones eat right and eat all day. I know we get busy sometimes in our lives, but those with diabetes need to be extra careful about not forgetting meals. Hypoglycemia is very serious and can lead to coma or death so please know the warning signs and take care of yourself.

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