Dr. Beckett, Your Bad Practice/Dodgy Ethics Is Showing!!!! (3/?) -
McKAY: Well, why now? I mean, if it's possible, we need as many people with the gene as we could get.
BECKETT: Well actually, without proper F.D.A. approval, it was virtually impossible on Earth to... Let's just say it's, uh, legal here in the Pegasus Galaxy.
Oh for the love of... Ding ding ding, That’s the sound of warning bells there Rodney ”I’m the smartest man in two galaxies” McKay. Score on the Dodgy AF metre 1000/10. *sigh*
What Hypoglycemia looks/feels like, from someone who has it (for writers/artists who wish to include the topic of Hypo in their SGA (or other) art/stories)
I'm making this post as a resource for fellow writers in the SGA fandom (and others in general) because I've come across one too many fanfics which explore Rodney's hypoglycemia but do so in a... let's just say less than realistic fashion. Now I have nothing against these stories, they're still fun! and cool!, and it's not the writer's fault most of the time that info on what Hypo is like can be quite misleading online, but I wanted to make this quick resource for anyone in the SGA fandom, writers/artists in general or just curious people who want an overview of what hypo looks like (to an outsider), feels like (to the person suffering it) and what the signs/symptoms are + how to treat it!
First off, let's dispel some myths!
"Only people with diabetes/pre-diabetes get hypoglycemic"
False. Hypoglycemia can occur in anyone and there are various causes. Let's get rid of the fancy words for a second and remember that hypoglycemia just means low blood sugar. If anyone avoids eating sugars & carbs long enough, their blood sugar will drop dangerously low and they will become hypoglycemic. However, people who *have* hypoglycemia typically mean they have a condition which causes their blood sugar to drop dangerously low more often than most or despite a healthy diet. People with diabetes are at risk of hypoglycemic attacks if they take too much insulin for example, but diabetes is not a requirement for the condition and many (like myself, and presumably McKay) are not diabetic.
"You have to go without food for a long time to get a hypoglycemic attack"
False. When considering non-diabetic hypoglycemia (which is what I'll mainly be covering because it's what I have) there are 2 variations of conditions which cause hypoglycemic attacks.
The first, and the one from which the above presumption is created, is called "fasting hypoglycemia". In this condition, your body constantly produces slightly too much insulin which will gradually drop your blood sugar levels (but faster than what is considered "normal" for a non hypoglycemic person). People with this version of the condition will typically start experiencing symptoms 8-12 hours since they last consumed sugar/carbs, and the symptoms will show & progress more slowly compared to the second condition variation (you might feel light headed, then an hour later a bit sick, then another hour later more sick etc etc).
The second variation is called "reactive hypoglycemia", in which your body normally produces the correct amount of insulin (thus fasting is not a major risk as with the 1st variation), but your body does produce substantially too much insulin specifically in response to a large influx of sugar in your system. People with this version will experience symptoms only 2-4 hours after an influx of sugar/carbs (sugars tend to trigger attacks faster, carbs tend to trigger slower), and due to the sudden nature of the insulin spike, symptoms can appear and worsen rapidly (it can take as little as 5 minutes to go from "I'm a bit dizzy" to "get me a bucket or I'll spew on you").
NOTE: of course, each person's condition will differ and how they present/progress will differ too.
"Hypoglycemia isn't a serious condition"
Ok I have to include this because it's just plain wrong. Hypoglycemia is often not severe if caught early, and the fact that the cure is literally just consuming sugar (eg. drink some juice) it can come across as no big deal or even silly, but make no mistake, hypoglycemia can and does kill. Without sugar your brain will eventually shut down and you will die. Don't make fun of me, just give me my juice, thanks.
OK, now that that's out of the way, on to the meat of this post!
What does Hypoglycemia look like to onlookers, and what does it feel like to experience it?
Depending on the type of hypoglycemia someone has, the presentation of their symptoms will vary. They can either have a slow or rapid onset, and remember that not everyone will show the exact same symptoms. The nature and severity of the symptoms will also depend on the stage of the hypoglycemic attack. While this isn't official, I personally categorize my hypoglycemic attack into 3-4 stages, and they appear as follows below. Each stage can last either mere minutes (5/10/20 minutes) or hours depending on the nature (fasting/reactive) and progression (rapid/slow) of the attack. Note, I'm getting my "onlooker" data from my amazing partner, who has to deal with my sorry ass, and my experience data is of course mostly from my experience, though I try to include other possible/common experiences too, but keep that in mind your experience may differ <3
Stage 1: Mild
This is the first stage of a hypoglycemic attack and will have the least severe symptoms. For many the symptoms might be so subtle that they go unnoticed, possibly up until the next stage of the condition, especially if your condition advances rapidly. A person in stage 1 will 100% still be able to eat/drink foods/drinks with sugars in them by themselves and will not need a glucose drip yet, just give them some juice.
The symptoms: In this stage you typically start with the emotive/mental symptoms, described as "feelings of unease" etc. You might also experience mild physical symptoms such as feeling peckish or being a bit jittery, but not much so.
How it feels: You might feel jumpy, anxious, annoyed, irritable, and have a general sense of being on edge. For some this expresses as anger, for others fear, and it's not always the same each time. You might feel a little bit hungry and your mind might be a bit more scattered than normal, but generally you'll feel fine if a bit uncomfortable.
How it looks: Due to the mild nature of the symptoms in stage 1, it's very possible that onlookers will totally miss any sign/symptom in this stage. Your best bet is noticing that the person is more irritable or jumpy than normal, but otherwise it's likely to go overlooked until stage 2 hits.
Stage 2: Moderate
This is the 2nd stage of a hypoglycemic attack and is typically the stage where both the person suffering from the attack and onlookers are most likely to first notice the symptoms and piece together that a hypo attack is occurring. The symptoms in this stage is slightly more severe and physical symptoms start to present more prominently (allowing onlookers to notice what is happening). A person in stage 2 will likely still be able to eat/drink foods/drinks with sugars in them by themselves and will not need a glucose drip yet, just give them some juice.
The symptoms: At this stage physical symptoms become more prominent. Most sufferers will have constant tremors in their limbs, making it difficult to do fine work as their hands will become clumsy and shaky. Their breathing might also be shaky/uneasy as a result. Rapid heart rate and what is known as "hot flashes" (sudden spike in body temperature, causing the face to become warm, flushed, and the skin to become clammy) will likely occur. This stage also typically features feelings of fatigue, moderate to severe nausea, disorientation/confusion and weakness.
How it feels: Absolutely fucking terrible. Stage 2 is the worst feeling of the 4 as you are typically still lucid enough to know how shit you feel while feeling worse than in stage 1. You will feel hot, feverish, and the feeling of hunger will typically be replaced by being sick to your stomach. You will likely throw up. Your brain will start to go foggy and it will be hard to concentrate/work. You will feel tired, but too uncomfortable to fall asleep. You will likely feel uncomfortably hot and sweaty. Your hands will be shaking too badly for you to do much (drinking water becomes hard because liquid gets shaken out of glass) and your arms/legs will start to feel heavy. If you're not sitting already, you will want to sit down soon because legs no work.
How it looks: The person might be flushed with a sheen of sweat on their forehead, clammy shaky hands, wobbly legs. They might also turn pale. They will look tired. They likely won't be able to hold a conversation, coming across as confused and disorientated. They will likely throw up. Imagine someone with a bad flu but they're also drunk, and that's pretty much what it will look like.
Stage 3: Severe
The third stage of Hypo, at this point the symptoms may become alarming and the person may not be able to consume foods/drinks themselves anymore and thus may need a glucose drip.
The symptoms: At this stage the person will likely become fully disorientated and incapacitated. They may be unable to walk/stand themselves and thus might need help moving around. If they haven't thrown up yet they probably will. They will likely be unable to focus. Their vision may become blurred or they may pass out. Slurred speech, loss of consciousness and severe confusion is likely. Mobility will be greatly limited.
How it feels: Surprisingly not nearly as bad as stage 2, considering you're out of it for most of the time. You might feel sleepy, uncomfortable, vaguely aware that you feel sick, but at this stage you will likely be so out of it that you'll be drifting in and out of consciousness for the most part. Things might feel vaguely off and you will have gaps in your awareness. You probably won't want to move much if at all and just sit/lay wherever you are and hope to pass out (because being passed out feels better than being cold and hot and clammy and shaky and btw you're tired and hungry and sleep sounds good right now)
How it looks: Fucking terrifying. The person will at this stage lose a lot of awareness and very likely start passing out/drifting off. They will likely stop responding, their speech will almost definitely be slurred and/or incoherent. They might still throw up/move but not with much will of their own. If you haven't gotten them medical attention yet at this point, do so, because they probably won't be able to drink juice themselves to get better.
Stage 4: Worst case scenario
This stage I have not experienced myself (thank the gods) and is reserved for some of the severe complications which can/will occur if someone isn't treated during stage 3.
Namely: Seizure, coma, death.
The person will NOT be able to consume sugar themselves at this point and will need medical intervention (if applicable), though ideally you want to get treated BEFORE then. There isn't really much to say on this stage because it's pretty much as labeled. Get them treatment or they will pass out and eventually (if still untreated) die.
So for all y'all wump writers out there, make sure to get McKay to Carson/Keller before then ;)
But anyway, I hope this can give some useful insight to people on what Hypo actually looks/feels like, and hopefully well have less stories where the symptoms and progression are all jumbled out of order and/or myths about how/when/why hypo presents will be reduced.
Take care and remember to carry an emergency juice box ;)