Talk Story Tuesday

Like the title?  Me too.  My time in Hawaii endeared me to this practice of shooting the breeze, telling stories, and generally just enjoying people.  So that’s what Tuesdays are for on this blog.  Hopefully having something akin to a deadline each week will “encourage” me to write consistently.  These will generally be stories about me, (surprise!) but if I hear a good one from somebody in my circle I’ll definitely share.

Why I Never Volunteer to be the Diabetic Victim

The camp that I worked at for the greater part of my high school summers and beyond was really big on safety training.  Considering we ran a number of high-risk activities (rock climbing, whitewater rafting kayaking, etc), safety was something we needed to emphasize, and we did by taking one week every year to refresh various skills.  That week I was helping with the training for rope course cut aways.  Well, I was doing the training as well…it was a little fuzzy.  On camp we have two static rope courses, the high one sits about fifty to sixty feet in the trees and dismounts via zipline, the low one resides about twenty feet in the branches and dismounts with a simple leap of faith attached to a top belay.  Because we were training (and being trained) to cut someone’s safety ropes and lower them to ground on a separate rope system, we were on the low static.

Now, I love being a part of scenarios.  Generally I like running them or being a victim, there’s no pressure and you can watch everybody else freak out.  It’s great!  Anyway, for this training we needed reasons for the campers to be cut away, serious reasons, like they can’t function reasons.  So, of course being a helpful little pseudo-instructor, I volunteered to recreate a low BG scenario.  Now we had been out in the trees for at least two hours at this point so it’s completely possible that my number was low anyway, but I wasn’t feeling low and if there’s any medical scenario I can accurately act out, it would be a low.

I realized about half-way through the scenario that this was no longer a scenario.  And it was a bad idea.  It’s like asking an epileptic to act out a seizure.  Not good.  For some psychosomatic reason me acting out my symptoms and signs of being seriously low (altered mental status, increased heart and breath rate, being slow on the uptake, not able to follow simple commands) induced the feeling of actually being low.  I was helping by doing other things, sign-wise, like blinking slowly, shaking my head, staring quizzically at my “rescuers”, watching my hands, concentrating on a word or a phrase I wanted to say but couldn’t, etc.  I began to panic a little.  No biggie, just me freaking out in my head up here, BECAUSE I’M ACTUALLY LOW!  I was completely convinced that I was going to pass out dangling from the tree with two high schoolers figuring out how to lower me down, and no one would know.  Well, I should have thought about how the situation and my low-ness contributed to my state of mind, because when I reached the ground and sat up amid the wood chips I realized life wasn’t that bad.  My mind was whirling trying to decipher what my body was telling me and sort out what was real and what was left-over from the scenario.  Turns out, I didn’t pass out, and I wasn’t nearly as low as my body thought.  I had acted so well my subconscious brain had convinced my body that I was actually experiencing a low and my body had acted accordingly.  Fun, uh?

I don’t think this would have happened to a normal person acting out the signs and symptoms of a low…We’re special, gents!

During my EMT class the following fall, I was reminded of the situation when our instructor cautioned us to not mimic for very long the breathing rates we were assigned for scenarios.  He explained that because most of the breathing rates were based on bodies responding to trauma (i.e. fast) if were didn’t slow our breathing down every couple of minutes we would actually begin hyperventilating and experience all the signs and symptoms associated (i.e. light headed, dizzy, eventual fainting, heart rate increase).  Oh.  Okay.  That makes sense.  I was slightly low, I had adrenaline pumping through my system when I realized I might actually be low, and I was doing my best to convince my “rescuers” I was actually low…basically a big snowball of somatic and psychological goodness!

And THAT’S why I will NEVER volunteer to be the “diabetic” victim.

Some of my peeps hanging out on the low static.

Some of my peeps hanging out on the low static.

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