Lessons Learned from my “LSD” (Low Sugar Delirium) Trip in NYC

Hypoglycemia Essay from Judith Jones Ambrosini

Low Sugar Delirium

While browsing through an old diabetes diary I once kept, I came across the September day I arrived home with a gigantic 5 lb. butternut squash wedged under my arm. Strange things can happen when a person with diabetes on insulin has a low blood glucose event, which some of us sarcastically refer to as LSD – Low Sugar Delirium. Appropriate perhaps. It happens when the blood sugar level plummets down and robs brain cells of the glucose they need. The person riding on this excursion can slip away into pretty scary territory without knowing it or having any memory of it. At its most serious stage it is referred to as hypoglycemic unawareness, and it can be quite dangerous.

The Backstory of My LSD Trip

To let you in on the background of that September day…I was an invited guest at a swanky New York luncheon put on by a nonprofit of which I was a board member. At first there was friendly chitchat between our board, volunteers, and representatives from the nonprofit hosting the luncheon. At the appropriate time, about 20 minutes before lunch was served, I took a shot of insulin (pre-insulin pump days) to cover what I anticipated to be a hearty meal. But soon I discovered the real reason for this friendly gathering. It was to let the group know that our annual grassroots walkathon had been voted out….given the axe. We were informed that from now on the nonprofit would be holding a more expanded nationwide walk, and of course they welcomed us to be part of it.

They all smiled. My heart sank as did the spirit of the volunteers. Our annual walkathon in New York’s Central Park was something we had developed and worked hard at as a team of diabetics, families, and friends, to make it the success it had become. It was at a time when charity walks were new and just beginning to become popular as a way of raising money for the various not-for-profit organizations. Our walkathon volunteers went out and secured donations of everything from t-shirts to sandwiches, aerobics instructors to do warm-up stretches before the 5K walk, music, celebrities, and Central Park itself.

This new edict just didn’t seem fair. Why must we give up our cherished project? I could feel my Polish Puss glaring at the crowd from National as I thought… Harrumph! I will show them. They thought they could appease us by treating us to a fancy luncheon. Well not this PWD (person with diabetes). I wasn’t about to eat their lunch and that was that, even though the insulin I had taken was busy at work lowering my blood sugar.

Heads hanging low, our group of volunteers left the luncheon, found a coffee shop down the block, and commiserated on what had just taken place.

Sometime Later…

I vaguely remember walking down the busy subway steps (an automatic ritual for New Yorkers) and finding, oddly, that things had changed. Nothing seemed recognizable and I couldn’t remember which train to take. I boarded an uptown train to Harlem instead of a downtown train to Greenwich Village. A heavyset man sitting near where I was standing tapped my arm and asked if I wanted to sit down. I refused the seat. He asked again. Are you sure? Harrumph! He thinks I’m not in good shape. Does he know I ran a half-marathon last week? I wondered if I should tell him as the train screeched and rocked, speeding through dark winding tunnels, taking me further and further away from my downtown home and deeper and into a hypoglycemic reaction.

When I came up from the hole in the ground I didn’t recognize anything. I saw a “Pizzeria Uno” restaurant and thought maybe I was in Chicago, home of the original Pizzeria Uno. I wandered aimlessly through the flutter of noisy pulsating streets, not actually feeling my feet on the ground. It was as though I was invisible.

Sometime Even Later…

Someone was shouting orders and shoving a glass into my mouth. DRINK MORE JUICE!! Where was I? Who was this person? I was home in my apartment and it was my dear husband Danny, force-feeding me a glass of fruit juice. It took a while to shake the feeling of confusion and disorientation.

Hypoglycemia is not a good trip to take, and this one was definitely an LSD experience. When I eventually regained my senses and came back to the real world, I noticed a gigantic butternut squash sitting on the table. Apparently I found it, bought it, or pilfered it somewhere along my LSD journey.

Years have passed and I still don’t know where or how or why I wound up with that 5 lb. squash. It was one of those lollapalooza low blood sugars that sent me traveling in space and time. It was a mystery to me then, and it still remains a mystery to me now. I did, however, learn a few good lessons from that hypoglycemic episode.

Lesson # 1

The most important lesson was that, in the case of diabetes, timing is always of the essence. Whether you take shots, medications, or wear an insulin pump and CGM, the timeline of balancing food and insulin must always be respected. Violating that rhythm can lead to disaster.

Lesson # 2

Another lesson that has stuck with me from that butternut squash day is to always, and I mean ALWAYS, carry quick carbs such as candy or glucose tabs or a juice pouch. And anyone with diabetes who takes insulin should also have glucagon on hand (and know how to use it) in case of emergencies.

An Ounce of Prevention

These simple ounces of prevention, although I had been educated about them in the past, took hold when reality struck.

The final learning point that came out of that day was figuring out what to do with a big September butternut squash. I created a terrific curried butternut squash soup that I continue to make to this day. You can find the recipe below!


Judith Jones Ambrosini is the author of the book “The Sisterhood of Diabetes …. Facing Challenges & Living Dreams”. She also authors Judith’s Cyber Kitchen on diabetesnet.com.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Servings: 9  8oz. servings


  • 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 4 generous cups butternut squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped (I like Cortland or Mac)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3–4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • salt & pepper to taste

Optional ingredients to top soup: plain yogurt and chives


  1. Sauté butternut squash, onion, and apple in a large soup pot until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the spices  and continue to cook for another few minutes.
  3. Add the apple cider and bring to a boil. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot & cook for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Puree until smooth in a blender or food processor.
  5. Stir in the half & half.  Adjust seasonings to taste, and enjoy!

Kitchen Tip:  Instead of peeling, scooping, and cutting a whole squash, you can buy butternut squash already chopped.  I won’t tell anybody!  Also, when you serve the soup, a little dollop of plain yogurt and some snipped chives add a nice taste and texture bonus.

Approximate Nutritional Information for 1 8oz. serving (using 4 cups of chicken broth):

Calories: 107, Fat: 2.5g, Carbs: 19g, Fiber: 3.5g, Sugar: 9g, Protein: 1.5g


Additional Resources:

Lifesaving Tools to Prevent and Treat Hypoglycemia

Educate Your Inner Circle on Hypoglycemia: It Could Save Your Life!

Video Vault: Type 1 Diabetes and Hypoglycemia

Video Vault: Type 2 Diabetes and Hypoglycemia

Expect the Unexpected When It Comes to Severe Hypoglycemia in T2D

  1. Avatar

    How did she get home?

    If she couldn’t remember where she was, how did she end up at home, instead off laying down in the street someplace?

    The story is very interesting, and scary, but seems to me that there’s still more to it .


    • Avatar

      Hi Edward,
      She said somehow the T1D fairy guided her home safely, though she really has no recollection of it!

  2. Avatar

    I experienced LSD while in Germany many years ago and, to this day, can’t figure out what happened. While window shopping I realized I was low and by myself in a foreign country where I could not speak their language. The glucose tabs with me were not enough to solve the problem and I remember walking in a store futilely seeking help. I “came to” sitting on the steps of some building without a clue of how I got there or what had happened. It remains a mystery. Since then I’ve had glucose tabs and other forms of quick carbs stashed throughout my home, car and purse at all times.

    • Avatar

      And thankfully there are now easily transportable forms of glucagon to carry or have on hand nearby as well. Scary situation, for sure.

  3. Avatar

    I’ve had a couple of close calls before. Pre-pump/cgm. The first one was when I was at an appointment (ironically to see if I could get help with diabetes meds) and as I was leaving I realized I was low. No stores nearby so I made it over to the bingo hall across the parking lot. I don’t remember what I grabbed.. I could barely see so I trusted the lady to take the money out of my hands.
    The second one was on the way back from a diabetes appointment (a bad one on top of it), sitting on the bus and felt myself go low. I texted my boyfriend that I was low and in a panic got off the bus downtown. I could not figure out for the life of me where I was. Thankfully he worked downtown so I just told him the building I was in front of and he found me. I have other stories but these are the two when I was out and about all by myself. Lesson learned: Don’t go to diabetic appointments alone.

    • Avatar

      Glad you were okay in both of those situations, Kelly. Also a good to have glucose tablets or fast-acting carbs (and glucagon when possible) with you!

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