Awkwardly avoiding awkwardness
My office building is home to probably nine or ten different companies. The cafe on the first floor serves all of them. I had just started my dual-wave bolus and placed the order for my lunch when I felt the unexpected and repeated vibration coming from my hip.
Bvvt. Bvvt. Bvvt. Bvvt…. (I’m not sure how many times, but it was a lot. Also, is that how you spell the sounds of a vibrating insulin pump?)
When I checked the pump to see what was up, it turned out to be a Motor Error. It was the first one in a year, I think — I certainly haven’t been plagued with them as I was at an earlier time. Having been through these in the past, I didn’t panic. But I did have a bunch of thoughts go through my mind.
- Did I bump it or go near any strong magnetic fields lately? (No.)
- Do I have time to run to the restroom and restart the pump before my food is ready? (No).
- Could I possibly remember all the variables I just so meticulously calculated into my dual-wave bolus, and then factor in what’s been delivered already, so that I can do it again? (No.)
- Are the insulin gods conspiring against me in retaliation for filling a medical device with an alcoholic beverage this weekend? (Possibly.)
My thought-process was then interrupted by a voice coming from my right, asking a person behind the counter if he could see the package of whole-wheat wraps. He wanted to check the carb-counts.
This was an older gentlemen, slightly taller than me and very thin. If he wanted to know how many carbs were in the wrap, it certainly wasn’t because he was on a weight-loss diet.
As he read the Nutrition Facts off of the plastic bag, I looked over his shoulder and commented that I also was interested in the carb-count (file this one under “Everything you always wanted to know about…but were afraid to ask”). He mentioned that for people who count carbs, it’s important to know these things, and he counts carbs. And then added, in a quieter and somewhat hurried voice, “…because of diabetes.”
I revealed that I also had the same reason for wanting to know. I forget if it was a proud “I also have diabetes!” moment or a subtle “me too”, but I suspect it was the latter. Meanwhile, my pump was again vibrating to remind me that it had ceased operation.
He read out loud “forty-seven carbs, and three grams of fiber. That comes to… three starch exchanges, right?”
My response (of which I’m a bit embarrassed because there may have been a subtle subtext of judgment) was “Yes… for those who use exchanges.”
I caught my right hand subconsciously rubbing my pump. Not in the way a model would show off a brand new car! to a gawker-filled audience on The Price is Right; but more of a gentle and reassuring “get well soon, everything’s going to be alright” kind of way. A part of me wanted to sing its praises and tell the gentleman that ‘I use this pump and it does all the math when I put in the carbs, and it gives me so much more freedom than when I used to use exchanges, and I can’t imagine life without it… but right now it’s broken.’
Instead, I turned the conversation back to the carbs. The voyeur in me wanted to figure out if he was Type 1, as the evidence seemed to lead but was far from conclusive. The leather-pouch clipped to his belt did not have a tube emerging, so it was most likely a phone (besides, a pumper who uses an exchange-diet is a rare find.) So I confessed that the carb-count “is good to know. I always tend to under-estimate it.” He responded that he always over-estimates the carbs in a wrap, because when he gets to the end of the sandwich and is left with a scrunched up wad of dough, he ends up throwing it out.
Signs definitely pointing to Type 1.
That was the end of the discussion. I retreated to a table to untuck the corner of my shirt and disconnect my tubing from the infusion site so that I could do a Rewind-Prime and get the pump started again, praying to God (not the aforementioned “insulin gods” that it would work) that it would work. It did, so I re-programmed the remaining bolus and stuffed my shirt back under my waistband.
I looked around and didn’t see my new Probably-T1 acquaintance anywhere (perhaps he retreated to a restroom to take a shot of insulin, as was proper “manners” for his generation). But I did see a bunch of other co-workers, so I joined them as I ate. I did see the tall, lanky gentleman a bit later, but didn’t say anything.
Afterwards, I was a bit embarrassed about how I had handled the whole situation. Yes, my pump abruptly crapped out on me and left me a bit frenzied. But here I was, interacting with another (probably) T1 who – unlike me – was confident enough to ask to see the carb counts, and here I was, mister “let’s talk about diabetes”, too ashamed to advance the discussion. (Can a guy with a broken pump really advocate, or would that just serve to discourage? was the excuse I gave myself.) For a proud and confident person with diabetes, I was acting like anything but proud and confident.
But I did make restitution – sort of. In my own mind, anyway.
Before lunch, I’d figured that I had enough insulin in my pump to last until I got home. But thanks to that unexpected rewind-prime Motor-Error-recovery, suddenly I was caught short and needed to do a site change. So I did.
At my desk, right out there in the open.
For the first time in my life. Ever.
A part of me wanted to make sure nobody saw me doing it. Another part of me was hoping someone did. (I’m pretty sure it went undetected).
To be honest, it was really no big deal, and I’d probably do it again. But I wonder if the distinctive aroma of the insulin made it over the cube walls.