Lows at work

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but one of my biggest fears is that my co-workers will think I can’t do my job. I’m a zookeeper. I’ve wanted to work with wildlife since the first time I saw Kratt’s Kreatures as a kid. When I finally got my zookeeping job it was a dream come true. All of the accredited zoos (the ones worth working for if you care about conservation) want to hire people with experience, but how the hell do you get experience if no one wants to hire you?! I went through 2 years of grueling, unpaid internships and 3 years as a vet tech at a biomedical research company to get here. All of of my jobs were physically demanding and very few had regular schedules or routines to help with my diabetes mangement. One emlpoyer had me working 90 hours/week. And another told me that zookeeping might not be the right line of work for a diabetic. But I want more than anything to work with Przewalski’s horses someday and I was determined not to let my diabetes get in the way. Now I have a job I love (accredited zoo, reliable hours, liveable wage) working with large wildlife. No horses yet, but zebras and camels, among others. Still, most of the animals I work with can be dangerous and I need to be alert. I can’t take care of them if I can’t take care of myself. Fortunately, I have great hypo-awareness. Unfortunately I have lows way too often and haven’t been able to correct the problem so far, despite multiple dosage changes. Normally I can just have a snack and go about my day, no one the wiser, but yesterday I had a mild low (63) right before a big veterinary procedure. I was supposed to help restrain an ostrich for a physical exam. My BG had been high at breakfast and I’d been feeling sick all morning so I decided to check my blood sugar before we started just to be sure. It would’ve been my first time handling a bird that size and would’ve been a great learning experience, but I couldn’t do that in good conscience without knowing that my blood sugar was OK. One of the other keepers or the bird could’ve gotten hurt if I wasn’t on the ball. We always have a meeting with the vets right before starting any big procedure. They arrived as I was checking my blood sugar. I was hoping to just let my boss know, quietly, because I knew I would probably be fine by the time I was actually needed, but I was the last one to arrive at the barn and everyone else had already gathered so I had to tell them all. Everyone was really nice about it, but I got stuck on “radio duty,” which basically means watching and relaying messages to the rest of the staff should someone try to get in touch with us. One of the newer keepers took my place for the actual procedure. And the worst part was that I was fine by the time the keepers were needed, just like I said I would be. I missed out on a great training opportunity and I wasn’t there for one of the animals in my care when he needed me to step up. It was humiliating and frustrating and I wanted to cry every time someone asked me if I was feeling better… Do they know I was trying to do the right thing? Or do they just think I screwed up?

So sorry to hear that you had to miss the ostrich procedure! I’m pretty new with diabetes, and have already had to have a couple conversations with my coworkers about it. It wasn’t so bad to tell them what to watch out for, but the looks on their faces made me feel like I was a total freak. Try to tell yourself that things happen for a reason, and hopefully another opportunity will come up for you real soon!

I am a 72 year old diabetic. I have a daughter who was diagnosed at 10, she is now 32 and her son was diagnosed at 8 month; he is now 8 years old. After much experiment and years of joining listserv groups with some of the best physicians and researchers, I have found some things that work for me with A1c, and lows. I read a book called Diabetes Solutions by Dr Richard Bernstein. He is one of the top doctors in the world and a Type I diabetic. …Following his ideas, …I went low carb. I eat 6-8 carbs in the morning, …12-15 carbs at lunch and dinner. Eating 30-38 carbs a day…I only need around 15 -16 units of humalog a day, …and about 12 units at night of lantus. Because I am so few carbs, …I do not need a lot of insulin…and I do not get the swings that eating lots of carbs will give. My A1c is 5.4-5.6. If I never cheated I believe I could get it to 5.0. Every time I eat more than 20 carbs, …my estimate of what I need for a dose is difficult to figure out, …and digesting more carbs means I will stay high in blood sugar longer,…etc Generally I run from 80 -110 even after eating. When I play golf I tended to go low, …so I started eating only an egg and bacon in the morning of golf and taking NO insulin with that. Then my blood sugars stayed at around 110 the entire 18 holes. I get lows when I eat more carbs…and have to have bigger doses of insulin. Dr. Richard K. Bernstein - YouTube
Many people find his diet too extreme. I got cookbooks by Dana Carpendar, Atkins, South Beach …etc
and after promising to follow a low carb diet for 6 months I discovered how to cook low carb and make dishes just as tasty …and I almost feel nondiabetic because I need so little insulin…yet I make none myself…All of this means rarely having lows. …ps I never hide having diabetes, …and take my sugar almost 7 times a day. I have glucose in my purse. If you take extreme care of yourself, …which this diet will teach you, …you will not only help yourself, …but help the many diabetics.
Most people just complain about their diabetes and few take care of it. I am a athlete…and have no problems with it…BECAUSE of Bernstein,…and experience with my child and grandchild.

I highly recommend getting a CGM, ideally one from Dexcom (the most accurate one available). it is perfect for situations like this, when you have to know what your blood sugar is (and most important, its direction) at all times.

I have had Type 1 for over 30 years. I have had a CGM (Dexcom) for about a year and a half. I can’t even imagine my life without the CGM! It would be ideal for you.

I can sympathize with what occurred. In the past, I’ve had both the challenge of telling others about my condition (particularly in the work place), and the challenge of knowing - based on a finger stick - how quickly my blood sugar level was moving in whatever direction it was heading. I’d like to share that once I began (as a regular practice) letting people in the workplace know that I was a diabetic and let them know what measures I may - at times - need to take so I could take care of myself and be of better service to the organization, I have found the people I’ve shared this information with (bosses, co-workers, even - at times - customers) to be very supportive to me. I used to have all these mixed up ideas in my head (will they think less of me, will I outcast myself, will they think I cannot do my job as well, etc.) and ALL of these ideas have proven to be false. If anything, people WANT to be helpful to others. And when we open ourselves up to others (becoming vulnerable), we create openings for us to become closer and make stronger connections. You sound like a dedicated employee who is passionate about your job. Any supervisor worth his or her salt is going to be GRATEFUL to have you on their team and you being open about your condition and what your specific needs may be at times, will only strengthen their appreciation for having you on their team.

Additionally, I also have been using the Dexcom Continuous Glucose Meter for about two years now (and I’ve had T1D for 27 years), and it has CHANGED MY LIFE as I now know where my blood sugar is at any point throughout the day and what direction it is heading, and how fast it is moving in that direction. So, if you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest you do some research online and talk about it to your doctor.

All the best,

I have changed jobs a couple of times since I was diagnosed Type-1 in 2001. Like you, I was concerned that my new co-workers would think less of me if I were to be open about it… at first. My strategy was to prove myself in their eyes first as a competent, dependable worker before opening up about my situation. My work involves varying amounts of physical activity and an unpredictable work schedule, which makes managing my BG a real challenge. In my current job, I was forced to out myself when my insulin pump became detached at work and I did not have supplies with me to reconnect. On the whole, I think being open and honest is best. But I really did not want the diabetes to define me from the beginning.

It has been helpful to wear a continuous glucose monitor and to discuss my work challenges with my doctor and nurse educator. On days when I do more physical work, I lower the basal rate on my pump. Over time, I have learned to better balance insulin usage with physical exertion. My doctor also suggested I head off lows by drinking juice as needed during periods of increased physical activity and I supplement that with snacks to steady my BG. Everyone is different, and what works for me is just that.

I owe it to myself and my co-workers to be honest about how I am feeling at any given moment and would never want to put anyone’s safety in jeopardy, including my own. I test before attempting physically challenging or risky work. If my BG is low or headed low or I do not feel up to the task at hand, I sit it out until I can get my BG back up. I have noticed that my colleagues have become mindful of my situation and are supportive of me. The better I am at managing my BG and the more honest I am with myself and others when I am out of range, the more reliable I am as an employee. More than a diabetic, I become known as as hard worker and a person of integrity.

Thank you for the advice and support, everyone! I really appreciate it. Especially those of you who have had positive experiences sharing with coworkers. I’ve actually always been pretty open about having diabetes. I’m not sure if all of the vet staff knew, but all of the other keepers and my boss know that I’m diabetic. They see me check my blood sugar and take an insulin injection every day during lunch and a few have asked questions about what it’s like. But when those questions bend towards lows and how often they occur my heart starts to beat a little faster, partly because of stories I heard about diabetics being fired and partly because of that employer who told me to consider a new career. Never having had a hypoglycemic episode during the short time I worked for him he still felt the need to tell me that if I’m “going to get sick every time there’s an emergency” then I should consider another line of work. Obviously I ignored him, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget him. Anyway, when I first started working at the zoo my control actually improved because of the increased activity level. This was the first time that I’ve actually had to bench myself and I hated every second of it.

@walkgal, I’ve considered a low-carb diet, but I try to avoid meat (because I don’t think eating it often is sustainable) and I don’t care for most meat-substitutes (eggs and most forms of soy for example), so without carbs I tend to get hungry again shortly after each meal. Salads are pretty disappointing after mucking out a barn. I also hate taking small injections. I would sooner either go without or eat a snack to increase the amount of insulin in the syringe rather than take an injection with less than 4 units in it.

I’ve also spoken several times with my healthcare team about CGM’s (and pumps) over the years, but we’ve always decided it wasn’t the right path for me. First, as strange as this may sound, I’m terrified of needles and tubing and bodily fluids… It took me 5 years (after already being diabetic for 4 years) to learn to give myself my insulin injections and even now - after 23 years as a diabetic - I have to use an Inject-ease or I can’t take my insulin. They’re hard to find now so I’ve stockpiled about 8 of them in case they break. I can’t imagine setting up a CGM or a pump. I can’t even watch other people do it. Ask me to do it to a pig… Sure! No problem! (Although I did almost pass out learning to draw blood from rabbits.) But on myself? Absolutely not! I had an endoscopy a few years ago (to diagnose Celiac) and I never once looked at my right arm while the IV was in. Second, the physical nature of my work concerns me. Especially when I was working at the lab with pigs. They chewed on everything! My boots, my pants, my shirt, my electronic keycard… On top of that whenever the girls were in heat they would try to mount me and whenever they got itchy they would use me as a scratching post (super cute but also really annoying). Now at the zoo I’m not usually in direct contact with the animals but there’s still a lot of heavy lifting and tight spaces to squeeze through. And I get pretty filthy over the course of the day. The thought of knocking the CGM/pump off and having to reapply it all the time is off-putting. I would have had to take them off for the ostrich procedure, too, had I had a CGM/pump and had I actually helped with restraint like I was supposed to. We can’t wear anything that might get stuck on something and hinder our movement or hurt the bird. Hence the need for someone to be on “radio duty,” as we can’t wear our walky-talkies either. And finally my A1c was under 7 for several years and my hypo-awareness is quite good (I haven’t needed help treating a low in over 15 years). My CDE and I have always felt that if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. An A1c of 6.5 - 6.9 is nothing to be ashamed of, so she’s never pushed me to try a CGM or a pump. The last time I saw my endo she also suggested switching from lantus to another type of insulin (I can’t remember which). I have a feeling she’s going to bring that up again when I see her next month. Maybe it’ll help.

Hello there! Talking about eating a low carb diet. I am a personal trainer and fitness coach and also T1D. My job is an extremely active one on top of being extremely active in general. You mentioned not enjoying protein… Protein is an extremely beneficial way to sustain your blood sugars (as an alternative to carbs) however, FATS are a great way to fight off hunger and help keep those glucose levels level as well. Just something to look into!

In regards to alerting co-workers about your disease… I too struggled with this in several of my jobs. It can be an uncomfortable conversation. I tend to go into it with the mindset of proving them wrong if they do have negative thoughts about it. Showing that I am 110% able to do whatever they do with just as much passion and effort. Yes, I may need to take more frequent bathroom breaks to check my blood sugar and snack in order to sustain blood sugar levels. But that is OKAY! Be confident, you have this :slight_smile:

@makenzie.borchardt, can you give some examples of high fat foods that might help? Aside from nuts (which I do keep in my car and carry around with me during the day), the first things that come to my mind either include a lot of sugar or are meat products.