Drama Queen for a Day

I have a tendency to be drawn towards the dramatic. Because of this, I've always assumed that if I ever found myself in a disaster or life threatening situation I'd go off the deep end.  I'd be the one flapping my hands and yelling, "We're all gonna die!" until someone slapped my face and shouted, "Get a hold of yourself!"  I'm pleased to say that it turns out I was wrong about that.

After yesterday's catamaran trip,  I was quite burnt despite the 60 spf sunscreen and valiant attempts to stay in the shade. When I looked at my red face in the bathroom mirror this morning I said,"I think the best place for me today will be in the house with a wet towel over my head." My husband was scheduled to go diving in Los Frailes this morning and I was scheduled join him, but I would snorkel rather than dive.  

I assured him that I'd be fine at home and would enjoy some time to relax and catch up on laundry.  At 8:30 my husband departed in a muddy red van, looking forward to trying out his new regulator and BCD.  I turned the TV on for background noise and discovered the National Geographic channel was in English with Spanish subtitles.  I wandered around picking up books, and the paraphernalia of travel  scattered around the main floor.

Outside on the shaded deck I read for a bit,  scribbled in my journal and ate some lunch.  As I climbed the stairs to collect dirty clothes and strip the bed I felt tired and it was a little hard to breathe so I gave myself a little zap of insulin from my pump, since I sometimes feel that way when my blood glucose level is high.  My glucometer was downstairs, and I planned to test myself when I got back down, and make the necessary adjustments.  Of course that thought left my mind once I began stuffing dirty clothes and sheets into the  washing machine, trying to make sense of the Spanish control panel that resembled the dashboard of an airplane.  

Through the window I could see the sun was now in a good spot for me to take some photos of the pool area and I played photographer until I felt the sun prickling my skin.  I returned to the safety of the deck.  I sat at the table scrolling through my photos and out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of the door.  Something was wrong with this picture.  Why was the door shut?  I felt my heart sink. Though there was a handle on the outside, there was nothing to press or turn to open the latch and we'd been warned that if you shut it, you'd be locked out.

"No, no, no," I mumbled as I rushed over and pulled on the metal handle.  The door didn't budge.  I said a bad word.  Out loud.  Accent on loud.  How could I be so stupid?   

I walked around the house to the front door, hoping I hadn't locked it behind my husband. I certainly didn't need to, the house was surrounded on all sides by a wall a good ten feet high, and the only way out was two heavy, locked metal doors; one for people the other for cars.

Still, I didn't really expect the door to open and it didn't.  OK, the side door that led from the carport. Even less likely...still it was worth a try....but  no luck there.  My eyes scanned the windows thinking if I really needed to, I could break one.  Would that set off the alarm?  No dummy, the alarm's not set because you're in the house.  I had also forgotten the fact that there were heavy iron bars on the inside of all the windows, but with the glare of the sun I couldn't see them on this side of the house.

I noticed I was sweating and wondered if it was just the heat or if my body was flushed from anxiety or adrenaline.  I returned to the back of the house.  I was beginning to worry a little, but not for the reasons you might think.  It was 12:30 and my husband was due back before 3:30.  Three hours was a long time to be out in the scorching heat and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a good 30 degrees with the humidity, but there was lots of shade and a pool to cool off in, and lord knows I'd drunk a lot of chlorinated water in my time.  Dehydration was not going to be a problem.

But I needed to get back in the house.  Even if I could climb over the wall (unlikely with my frozen shoulder and the weakness in my hands and arm) and borrow a neighbour's phone to contact the property manager, he only spoke German and Spanish.  Perhaps the French "Oh secour!" and "vienez ici!" were close enough to get the message across - but for now the point was moot.

You might think boredom was going to be my biggest challenge.   I'm an avid napper and a nice two hour nap would eat up a lot of time, but napping was the last thing I wanted to do in this situation. I needed to be at the main entrance to the property when my husband got home, so I could tell him to make sure the van didn't leave allowing him to hitch a ride down the hill to the property manager's house. The only keys we had, for every door in the place, were inside the villa.  We'd only been given one set. Would my husband remember which house the manager lived in?  And would the manager be home?

I looked at the kitchen window.  Just this morning we had commented on the ledge below the window meant for passing drinks and food out to the people on the deck.  "The plates would have to be pretty narrow to get through the bars," I'd joked.

"The bars can be slid across from the inside."

I pulled a chair over to the window, slid the glass open and reached for the latch holding the sliding bars together.  A heavy padlock held it shut.  I looked longingly at the cupboard door where the bread was, far out of reach.  Below me in the sink, well within my reach, the rind of a lime mocked me with an evil green grin. I tried a couple of other windows with the same result...locked.  I knew it was highly unlikely I'd get in that way, but you never know until you try. 

I returned to the front of the the house, hoping for inspiration of some sort. "Don't panic,"  I reminded myself.  My mind searched out my favourite psychological thrillers, where the protagonists find themselves in dire straights.  Jessie Burlingame made a bloody escape from her handcuffs after two days without food and water in Gerald's Game.  Paul Sheldon was held captive tortured for weeks but eventually escaped the crazy lady in Misery.  Nine year old Trish McFarland was able to maintain her sanity and survive for days wandering around in the woods in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  Surely I could survive three hours locked out of a villa in Margarita.

There's a very important difference between me and those characters however.  They didn't have type 1 diabetes.  Unless you are a type one diabetic, or related to one, you probably won't understand my concern, so here's the deal.  I am a type one diabetic, one who had recently given herself a bolus of insulin from her pump and had no idea what her blood sugar level was at.  It could be on it's way up, which was actually not a bad thing in this situation.  It takes quite a while to go into a diabetic coma from high blood sugar.  You'd need to have little or no insulin going into you at all, and you'd need to be eating high carb food over a number of days for this to happen.  It's not fun to have high blood sugar, you have to pee a lot and you're thirsty all the time,  and you just feel...uncomfortable...but you're not going to die after three or four hours of it.  

The challenge of the Type 1 is this:  you don't have a functioning pancreas with insulin so your body can't process glucose.  Your brain (and other organs) need glucose to function, so you can't just give up carbs to fix the problem.  You have to take artificial insulin through injections or a pump.   You determine how much insulin you take by calculating how many carbs you are going to eat, when you're going to eat them and how much exercise you plan to get.  These things can change after you've given your insulin, and sometimes your hormones and liver also like to mix it up a bit by occasionally dumping some glucose into your system.  So there's some juggling involved.

If you have an excess of insulin in your body then you have an insulin, or hypoglycemic reaction.  Your blood sugar drops, you get cranky, you get tired, your skin gets clammy, you begin to slur your words, become uncoordinated and sometimes anxious or belligerent.  It's very much like being drunk, which makes sense because alcohol impedes your brain's ability to metabolize glucose.  The difference between the drunk and the diabetic is that eventually if the diabetic doesn't get any glucose, they loose consciousness, have a brain seizure and die.  This could certainly happen within a three hour period.

Just last week, after I'd given my husband the look that says You are driving me crazy, he mimed giving himself an injection and suggested that one way for me to bump him off would be to overdose him with insulin.

"Naw," I responded, "They'd be able to figure that out in an autopsy.  I think you'd have to give an awful lot of insulin for it to work on a nondiabetic."
"Would it hurt?" he asked
"Dieing from hypoglycemia?" I asked.  He nodded.
"I don't think so.  You'd just start to feel a bit drunk and get all uncoordinated, and you'd fall asleep eventually and not wake up...remember the 3 a.m. ambulance ride to the hospital about eighteen years ago?"

My groaning had woken him up and when he tried to rouse me, he found me drenched in sweat and unresponsive.  When I regained consiousness in the hospital my nightgown had a big spill of orange juice down the front where he'd tried to pour some into my mouth, but I was too out of it.  I can only imagine how worried he must have been.

That's why I had no intention of napping and that's why I was afraid that when my husband returned from scuba diving, I might be lying near the gate, unconscious (or worse), and while he shouted for me to come let him in, the van that had dropped him off would be driving down the hill, far away from us, leaving us alone in the boonies with my husband trying to climb over the ten foot wall to see why I wasn't answering the door.

I tilted my head towards the palm trees.  Ok, not the backyard ones pictured here, but there were some around front...much shorter...with coconuts, and I wondered if I could get one down.  Its milk and meat were certainly sweet enough to keep my blood sugar from falling.  There were a few coconuts lying around on the ground and I tried throwing them onto the flagstone path to get them to break but I just couldn't throw them hard enough.  I walked over to the garden shed and saw a machete embedded in one of the support posts.  I remembered Norbert our host in Rangiroa last year, swinging away at freshly picked coconut between his feet.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to risk chopping myself in the foot and bleeding to death.  Perhaps I could be super careful.  I'm a fairly linear, logical thinker and decided to make sure I really couldn't get into the house before I attempted a coconut massacre.  That linear thinking also kept me from realizing I should probably disconnect my pump as an added precaution, though I'm sure I would have thought of it once all hope of entering the villa was extinguished.

What I did realize was that I'd been exerting a lot of energy and this might not be the best thing.  I needed to try to find a way to get in the house.  My eyes followed the flagstone path beneath my feet as I headed around back once again. Is this seriously how my life is going to end? I wondered. Am I going to die from a hypoglycemic reaction while on a winter vacation?  Would I become a candidate for one of those Darwin Awards, where they honour people (posthumously) who died as a result of stupidity?  What a shame I had already procreated and passed on my stupidity genes.   I stopped walking for a moment and took a deep breath.  If this is it, why do I feel so calm? Shouldn't I feel a sense of doom and overwhelming anxiety? 

I've always believed in trusting my intuition; sometimes I call it my angels, sometimes I call it "the still small voice".  I quieted my thoughts and searched myself for the feeling that this was the end.  It wasn't there.

Ok then, there's got to be a way in...but how?  I quieted my brain again and watched a tiny yellow butterfly bob and spiral it's way across my path.  I felt myself drawn along the path again, towards the back door, not really knowing what I was going to do until I grabbed the handle and pulled as on it hard as I could.  I felt the door move a little, and saw the curve of the latch pulling out of the plate.  Not daring to let go, I gave one more tug and the door pulled free, swinging wide and hitching into the magnet against the side wall.

I was momentarily stunned but regained my composure and entered the house feeling relief, gratitude and adrenaline course through my body.  I was overwhelmed by an urge to thank someone, but who? My eyes were drawn to the TV where a brilliant orange butterfly filled the screen.  I smiled and  returned to the open door, eyes scanning the bougainvillea for a glimpse of yellow wings.  It wasn't long before I found them.  I was surprised to hear a quaver in my voice as I called out "Thank you Mom!"

My mom had a fondness for butterflies.  She had a number of broaches, cards and butterfly oriented collections.  Since her death last summer whenever I see a butterfly, I feel that whatever I might be worrying about will turn out fine.

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