Kate Lambley
4 min readSep 15, 2023

I do not know how to pray: A description of a diabetic hypo

I do not know how to pray: (Description of a hypo)

Early one evening, I am walking through the town after work. I take the scenic route home via the Cathedral grounds. My legs start to feel heavy and I am incredibly tired. It starts to rain. Warm rain. I slow down as the Cathedral bells start ringing for evensong. I stand still, swaying a little. Then slowly lean forwards, lose balance and fall gently onto my knees. I lie face down and close my eyes. That’s better. I just need to rest for a moment.

The rain soaks through my shirt and my sandals are a waste of time. All my clothes stick to me. I don’t care. The rain is warm and it runs down my hair and neck and showers my back and legs. I get warmer. I can’t feel the water any more. It has become part of me. Temperature rises and it’s almost too hot to breathe. Salty sweat runs into my eyes and makes them makes sting a little but it doesn’t matter. Can’t wipe it away. I vaguely sense a few people step over me in their hurry to say their prayers. Their words echo senselessly.

“Jeeeesus — look at her!”

“it shouldn’t be allowed; In the Cathedral grounds too! Has anyone called the police?”

“Where are the night pastors? They’re meant to clear out this kind of riff raff”.

“Someone needs to do something about this. The town’s over-run with drunks and druggies”.

“I’ll be glad to get back to the Mendips. I’m only here visiting my son”

The echoes quieten and fade out. A wet dark blanket of stillness muffles the world and covers my face. Blades of grass prick my lips. Fleetingly I remember eating bright green sugared angelica strips when I was little. Back then I used to think they were made out of grass. Mum used to keep them on the highest pantry shelf next to the glace cherries and hundreds and thousands. I would climb onto a chair to reach the shelf and steal the gem-like sweeties. They were so pretty… The fragment of memory floats away as peaceful grey descends. Then black.

“Hellloooo” Hello, Kate — can you hear me? — Has someone got her bag?”

Loud words. Too loud. A man is talking.

My eyes are sealed shut. Lids too heavy to lift. Harsh noises all around. Where have I landed? I don’t like it. I am still below the surface of life although rising and beginning to feel panic. Now, other loud voices. Loud whispers I cannot decipher. I stay perfectly still and hope they go away and leave me alone. Underneath me I notice the ground is hard — harder and drier than before.

“Kate — Katie? it’s ok — you’re going to be all right. Have you got an emergency number? Who’s your GP?”

What a question. How would I know that?

Loud ‘clip clop’ footsteps. Boots and shoes. This isn’t grass. It is hard — wooden. Am I in a boat? The rain has stopped and I am freezing cold. Did the rain wash everything away? I want to go back to the swirling warmth. The peaceful grey sea. I sense lights and shadows through my closed eyelids. People in shoes are stepping over me and walking away.

I hear more words I can’t interpret. Who ARE these people? I try to open one eye, slowly, fuzzily. It hurts to let light in. Electric light. I squint and see an arm. Right next to me. Is it my arm? Covered in blood with a plastic tube sticking out of the vein inside the elbow.

“Ahh — she’s coming back.”

“Sorry, Kate, lovey — couldn’t get the cannula in first time. Made a bit of a mess I’m afraid. You’ll have a nice big bruise tomorrow.

-Do you know where you are?”

Crazy question. How could I know?

“Do you know what day it is?”

I don’t know and suddenly feel embarrassed. It is a test and I have failed.

I try to answer but am not sure how.

“You’re inside the Cloisters Restaurant”.

I am none the wiser.

“Someone found you outside on the verge and managed to get you in here before you collapsed. It had started to rain.”

With difficulty, I try to focus on the man.

“I’m Gus. I’m a paramedic, Kate. You had a hypo. I’ve injected glucose intravenously because you were fitting and unable to take liquids by mouth.”

I still have not spoken. What could I say? I don’t understand anything or anyone.

Strangers leave the restaurant, walking around me, trying not to stare. That horrible feeling of not wanting to be here creeps into my throat. Tears of shame well up ready to burst out. Oh to be dry and warm. My clothes are soaked through. The warm, wet, sliding embrace into nothing a lifetime ago has turned biting cold and I shiver. The man with the voice, Gus, puts a foil blanket around me. I am now oven-ready.

“Blood glucose is up to 2.3 mmol/l. Let’s give her another 5 minutes…”

I close my eyes. I hope I will be dead before I open them again.

“Okay — that’s good — it’s up to 3.8…

Can you speak now, Kate?….”

Notes:

Type 1 Diabetes is caused by auto-immune failure.

A hypo or hypoglycemia happens when blood glucose levels fall dangerously low due to too much insulin. A severe hypo occurs when glucose falls rapidly and can end in a coma.

A common symptom of hypo is excessive sweating, confusion, and appearing to be drunk or drugged.

Some people with Type 1 diabetes can have seizures during unconscious hypos.

I have lived with Type 1 diabetes for the past 45 years.

Kate Lambley

Writer. Coach. I write poems and short stories to make sense of life’s absurdity - I can create most things (except insulin!)