Overdosing and Overcoming: A Story of Insulin, Hiking, and the Worst Breakfast I Ever Ate

There are two ways to tell this story.

The first way is this: once, on a lovely morning in which I was preparing to hike a local mountain, I accidentally dosed myself with 24 units of Humalog. And it totally sucked.

I was thinking about the trail as I went to inject my daily Lantus, happily imagining the breeze on my back and the rocks under my shoes. More than that, I was going to start my day with a hike – so healthy! So fit! Such a good diabetic! I may as well have been humming a song as I set the stopper, stuck my thigh, and shot the insulin in. But my carefree daydreaming disintegrated when I looked down and realized, with what felt like a punch to my stomach: I had grabbed the wrong pen.

This was set to be an emergency and, after an initial moment of shock (by which I mean my heart seemingly skipped twenty and a half beats), I started prioritizing. First things first: I hadn’t eaten anything. That needed to change. At about 7:30 a.m., I cracked open a Coke and chugged the whole can. Leftover brownie on the counter? Not anymore. A couple slices of sourdough bread; that’s like toast, right? I don’t remember everything I ate in that preemptive panic, but it included chocolate pudding, applesauce, peanut butter, a juice box or three, a popsicle, and of course, a banana – got to have a balanced breakfast.

We Type 1’s are good at multitasking so, while I was feasting, I was also thinking hard. Should I go straight to the ER? How likely is it that I’m going to pass out? How often should I check my blood sugar? Should I call my endo? Where’s my glucagon pen? I was living with my parents at the time and promptly told them the situation so they were aware should I, you know, pass out. I called my endo and did the same.

And, because we Type 1’s really are exceptionally talented at multitasking, I also cried. A lot. This disease, one I felt I had under control, had suddenly reminded me in a rough way of its difficulty and dangers. I lay on the couch for hours, feeling the blood sugar battle within me and pricking my finger every 10 minutes. I regularly checked in with my endo. I slowly added Lantus to my system. I carefully nibbled on snacks. It took about 4-5 hours for my blood sugar to stabilize, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the end of it.


I said there are two ways to tell this story.

The second way is this: once, on a lovely morning in which I was preparing to hike a local mountain, I accidentally dosed myself with 24 units of Humalog. And I kicked ass.

Accidents happen when you’re living with Type 1. We have so much to keep track of that mistakes are inevitable. And when mistakes happen, all we can do is make our best prediction at how to fix it, note it for the future, and keep moving.

Don’t get me wrong – that morning sucked. It really did. I felt like I got kicked in the face, the gut, and the heart, repeatedly, for the entire morning. It was an incredibly frightening experience. But as I lay on the couch, tears dry, blood sugar finally stable, and knowing I was going to be okay, I began feeling proud. T1D is always hard, and that morning it was even harder. But I made it through. I took a difficult situation, faced it with determination, and worked out a solution.

That pride made me a little giddy. That giddiness made me antsy. And that antsy made me lace up my shoes, pack my bag, and – carefully, and more slowly than usual – hike the mountain.

On the mountain’s summit, looking over the city, I thought about how this disease is full of highs and lows. But I also thought about how we are greater than all of them. We are more than our blood sugar readings, and we are more than we are at our best (that day, at the top of the mountain) and our worst (laying on the couch a crying mess). Both ways to tell the tale are accurate, but only together are they the whole story of what it means to live with Type 1.

I know not every emergency will be remedied so relatively painlessly. I know sometimes I won’t be able to climb the mountain.

But T1D will never stop me from trying.

Sarah Durrand has lived with type 1 for 5 years.

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    Hi Sarah–thanx for your stories as they humanize how we all try to cope with our Type 1 diabetes–somwtimes, given that we’re human, we make miatakes that put our lives at risk. How you responded In your case was excellent. I’ve had my illness for 48 years and have had countless lows and perhaps 10+ episodes of insulin shock–in the past year I’ve been using a continuous glucose monitor and it’s a game-changer re: much fewer lows and no episodes of insulin shock. We all want to do the best we can regards to managing and reducing our risk of complicsations. Congratulations to you for noticing the error and treating such appropriately and effectively!

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    This. Is. Fantastic. Thank you, fellow T1.

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    Thank you! I did the exact same thing once, It was my bedtime dose and I woke up in the ER. I was 2 months pregnant at the time. Thankfully my son was born healthy. Thankfully, my husband woke up and called 911.

    • That is so scary Farley! Thank you for sharing your story – we are all doing the best we can and are only human. We’re so glad you and your son are okay!

  4. Don’t feel alone in 40yrs I have done this twice. Both times I ate a lot of sweets drank a lot of water to stay hydrated an recovered both times without hospitalization!!

  5. I have also done this once. It was truly scary, but with attention to details, realizing the issues, and notifying people immediately (after sucking down as much sugar as humanly possible), move on and move forward. I have had diabetes for 26 years (diagnosed at age 3). Nice to hear stories to know we are not alone and all in the struggle together. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    I am so proud of you Sarah for taking control, AND sharing your story. This happen to me last spring while on vacation in Mexico. Thinking about the fun day ahead I took 26 units of humalog, instead of Lantus. Fortunately I had seen the post that Dr Petus posted when he had done the same thing, and what he did to get control. I brought my glucagon pen – and quickly went over the instructions again with my husband when he noticed the glucagon was expired! Fortunately I have CGM so I decided to keep track of my numbers while eating at the hotel restaurant – I had fruit juice with packs of sugar and pancakes with syrup and peanut butter, etc. But importantly I was scared but not like I would’ve been had I not seen Dr Petus’s post, and had I not had a CGM. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    This is a very moving story, told with great power and emotion. Thank you for sharing this.

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    Thank you Sarah for sharing this. I have had the same experience a couple of times. First time was about 5 years ago when it was still possible to put Humalog capsules in the same pen as for Lantus. My wife was luckily sleeping next to me and woke up when I was “jumping” in the bed, unconsciously. She didn’t have glucagon because Japanese doctors don’t think that that is necessary, but she called an ambulance. She got me awake before the arrival of the ambulance by putting glucose tablets inside my cheek.
    The thing is that I didn’t figure out why I had a hypo and the next day I took my Lantus shot with the same pen, with actually Humalog inside… with the same result. It was only the third day that I finally found out that I had mistakenly put a Humalog capsule in my Lantus pen. 40 years diabetic in Japan.

  9. I did the same thing two years ago. My husband was having a health concern, and I had driven him to the ER. I was so stressed out, worrying about him, that I took 10 units of Humalog instead of Lantus. Well, at least I was already in the ER. My I:C is 15, so I realized I needed to eat 150 grams of carbohydrate! I ate several packs of Skittles from the vending machine. BG was OK, but I felt nauseous. Luckily had my CGM. (Have gone back on a pump since then.)

  10. I did something simular with too much insulin due to rage bolusing. Since I live alone and didn’t have a glucagon pen, I drove to and sat in the local Emergency Room waiting area, testing my blood sugar until I was sure it was stable. I didn’t register or plan on telling anyone at the hospital unless I absolutely needed to, and fortunately I stabilized and went home.

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    We are not alone. I’ve also done this, quite terrifying. It is truly a rollercoaster ride of challenges, pain, frustration and small victories. Keep on rocking it!

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