Blood glucose and the stress response

My travels to Ohio last weekend were more exciting, but very related to, this post’s title. I have been less interested in travel over the past year, as the COVID overlay has made everything just a little bit more tiring, both in the lead up and the recovery. Wearing a mask all day in the airport, making sure I understand the ever-changing travel requirements, and just being worried in general about the virus has discouraged me. But this past weekend I was happy to be getting out of NC and headed to Columbus for a dear friend’s wedding.

I arrived at the airport a little less than 2 hrs early and made it through security in less than 15 minutes. I settled into the gate to wait for my departure, when it became clear that the flight would be slightly delayed. My connection would be tight, but I’ve made tighter, so it didn’t seem problematic. But then the flight was delayed further. Now we would be arriving at my connecting departure time. Obviously, this would not do.

Before learning that there was no way I would make my connection, I had been entertaining myself by scrolling through my mind to see if I could find something to worry about. I get this way on travel days. I think it comes from the necessary process of asking myself, “do I have everything I need to survive over the next X days?” I usually stick a post-it note inside my front door: “insulin; a way to get insulin into my body; test strips, poker (lancet device), and backup meter; charging cord; contacts; glasses.” If I’ve got this stuff, I’m gonna survive, so I’m good to go. Still, the packing and double-checking leaves me with this feeling of, I’ve surely forgotten something important and, subsequently, a vague sense of unease. But, what I love about travel is that it’s unpredictability almost always jolts me into the present.

This was true when I learned that I would not be making my connecting flight, and even truer when the agent on the phone said, “We’re going to do everything we can to help you,” followed by, “I’m sorry, but there’s really nothing we can do,” in the same conversation. There were no seats on later flights that day from Charlotte to Columbus. “Could I fly into Dayton, OH and rent a car?” the airline agent asked. “Only if the airline will pay for it,” I countered. “Oh, I’m not in charge of that, you can write to customer service.”

We all know that when a company that has its own app and operates giant flying machines wishes for you to write somewhere, this means they intend on doing everything they can to not give you any money.

So I declined Dayton and also declined the option of leaving Charlotte at 10:30 pm Friday and arriving in Columbus at 10:30 AM Saturday (“What? how could this even be possible?..” you ask. The layover would have been in Phoenix, AZ. Don’t fly to Phoenix from NC to get to Ohio. Just don’t do it.)

The point of this story isn’t the weird details of how I got to Ohio, although I did make it. Ultimately, I decided to take the risk of getting on the flight (inspired by my previous success) and making it standby for a later afternoon same-day flight. The point of the story though, is what happened to my blood sugar during this whole ordeal.

Graph Alert!

Graph 1 shows my blood sugar during the hours before and after finding out about the flight delay. Notice how I spike around 11:45 and stay above 200 for much of the afternoon.

Graph 1
Graph 1

Graph 2 shows that I had to take 41 units of insulin that day to keep my blood sugar in range. The other bars show a useful comparison of ‘typical’ days.

Graph 2
Graph 2

Now, don’t let me fool you, there are no truly ‘typical’ days with diabetes, but to give you a reference, my average short-acting insulin use per day has been about 25 units a day over the past few weeks. So, even allowing for the necessary amt. of typical variability, 41 units is an extreme anomaly. Graph 3 shows how many units I used on my return day, which went off without a hitch. Graph 4 shows my blood sugar on a more stable Friday, one week later.

Graph 3
Graph 3
Graph 4

What is it about stress that tends to make blood glucose spike and also makes us more resistant to insulin? Well, it comes down to a few things interacting together.

First, let’s disentangle the state of being stressed from various potential stressors. It’s the process of becoming and being stressed that raises blood sugar – aka the response. I like the definition of stress provided in here, “Essentially, stress can be considered as anything that tends to change the control that you have over our body and our emotions.”1 While I don’t much like this article’s terminology or conclusion, I do like this definition because there is a synthesis that has to happen between a stimulus and the stress response in our body. Some people are stressed by holidays – it’s not that holidays are inherently stressful – it’s our associations with them. When I heard that I would not make my connector, the associations I made were:

  • I’m going to miss the wedding
  • I’m going to let all my friends down
  • I’m going to lose the money I paid for this ticket

All of these thoughts were very paralyzing. I was also low at the time that I was trying to rebook my ticket and literally couldn’t figure out the order I needed to do things in. Interestingly, it was diabetes that got me back on track. Once I recognized that I was low, I stopped frantically flipping between my American Airlines app and my web browser, and hung up the call line I was waiting in. I ate some Annie’s gummy bunnies (sponsor me, Annie’s?) and took some deep breaths. I then realized that I would survive and everything would be fine.

But my blood glucose had already received the signal that it was go time. And in truth, it was. I had to make calls, decisions, perhaps hustle from one gate to the other, so it was great that my body was ready for that. When we get stressed, either physiologically or mentally/emotionally, the body releases certain chemical signals and hormones, namely epinephrine and norepinephrine, to prepare itself to take action.1,2

Brief aside – I hate the term ‘fight or flight.’ It’s overly binary and it leaves out freeze. Personally, I first exercised freeze, as previously described, and then I chose to fight respectfully on the phone with the first American Airlines rep who I talked to, before moving to schmooze, which is really another key omission in the term. After schmooze, I finally landed on plead, which was really the ticket.

Anyway back to stress hormones. So when the body releases these ‘stress’ hormones, they stimulate the liver to actually produce glucose (what, the liver can make glucose? Read about that here and see some cool diagrams).3 The liver releases that glucose into our blood stream, thus raising blood glucose levels.

So at this point, maybe you’re making some conclusions. Perhaps you’ve decided that stress is bad for blood sugar. This used to be my perspective too. Now, however, I would say that it depends. In truth, my body is doing what it’s supposed to do – preparing me to handle a situation. Wow, thank you, body. An important conclusion though, is that your response to stress really matters on a physiological level (I’m looking at you too, people without diabetes). There are a couple of ways I’ve learned to manage the effects of stress that I typically deploy with varying success. During my travel day, I tried to keep some perspective on the issue at hand. I had a support network to help me out if I was stranded, I had a cellphone to call customer service, and above all, I’ve been through things like this before and been just fine. So I reminded myself of that, did some deep breathing, and remembered quicker than I could have that I could handle the situation. The second thing, and this is the most important in my mind related to blood sugar, is that I no longer get as stressed about being stressed as I used to. Earlier on in my diabetes days, I would be watching my blood sugar climb over the course of the day and get so distressed about higher than normal levels. This would then perpetuate the stress cycle and I’d be left with higher than usual blood glucose levels for days. I think that over the course of my time with diabetes, I’ve lessened my expectations for consistency in how I feel day to day, moment to moment. I’ve also tried to let go of that idea of perfect, normal blood sugar, and employ more gratitude for my body’s efforts to get back to stability. I don’t always succeed, but it’s been a relief to try.

The sources linked here will provide you with more information, but remember that no source is perfect or absolutely complete and that no one person’s experience of diabetes is representative of the whole.

People with and people without diabetes, please let me know in the comments how your blood sugar/body reacts to stress and some of the ways you deal with it!

Sources:

  1. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/stress-and-blood-glucose-levels.html
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1425110/
  3. https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type1/understanding-type-1-diabetes/how-the-body-processes-sugar/the-liver-blood-sugar/
“And the pitch, it’s a delayed flight! She knocks that stressor out of the park!”

65 mg/dl

On the second day of blood sugar my meter gave to me, a 65 mg/dl at 6:45 AM!

I would say last night I accomplished the no eating after 8 pm feat again (there were a few almonds, but who’s counting?)..

Let me explain a little more what the function of this goal might be in terms of nighttime blood sugar management. I want to be clear that it’s not just self-restraint for general health purposes.

‘Insulin on board’ is a term to describe the amount of insulin you have previously injected that is still working in your system. In general, insulin takes 20-30 minutes to become active in the body and has a duration of action of between 2 – 4 hours. That’s a big range, but I’ve noted that the max action of insulin is typically over for me after about 2 hours, and I don’t think much past 3 hours back when I’m considering insulin on board.

All this means that if I stop eating at 7 pm, like I did last night, then when I check right before bed, the number I’m dealing with will be more static, and thus easier to alter without as much unpredictability.

Last night I had a beef taco and a chicken tostada with a friend of mine at a taco stand, before going to a concert and puppet show in a shed. It was a little weird, but it fit just fine into my health resolution, so that must be a good sign.

I knew I’d be a bit high because I took a conservative insulin dose so I wouldn’t have to deal with low blood sugar while driving. When I got home later in the evening, my bg was 167. I took a unit of insulin but did not come down at all over the next hour. I took another half unit before bed.

65 is a little low. Below 70 is considered hypoglycemia. Times like these I wish I had a CGM so that I could see if I’ve been low for hours or if I had just gently arched down to this level right before bed (the latter being a preferable outcome).

I’ll explain more about ranges later. It’s important to remember as a reader, that management is highly individualized, and this is just my particular style.

Happy Monday.
Katie

119 mg/dl

On the first day of blood sugar my meter gave to me!

a 119 mg/dl at 9:20 AM.

9:20 AM?! – I know! Who gets to sleep that late in adulthood? The weekends are my sleeping time. I am like a bear, storing up for the next 5 days of waking up at 6:30 AM.

NOTICE: I am going to use “bg,” “blood sugar,” and “blood glucose,” interchangeably in these entries. They all mean blood glucose.

So how did this 119 mg/dl come to be? Well let me tell you, it was hard fought.

When I came up with this bg blog reporting idea, I didn’t consider the fact that it would expose my schedule and social activities, or lack thereof. Last night, Saturday night, I had no plans, which was exciting, so I cooked dinner, finished before 8 pm, and thought, “I’m well on my way to one of the four days!”

At 8:30 my bg was 96 mg/dl. Whew! I love a 96. Sometimes when I feel down about life, I check my blood sugar and it’s in the 90’s and I think, “Well, I’m sure doing something right!!!”

But I did not trust the stability of this reading. At 9:30 I checked again, just to see the trend. 149 mg/dl. Hmm, a slow rise that could very well have stabilized. “Great,” I thought, maybe I’ll even dip back down a little before bed.

At 11, I checked once more, just prior to laying down. 220 mg/dl. “Ugh”. Not good. So you know, my ideal range for prior to bed, if insulin action has ceased is 90 – 130 mg/dl. That’s just me. I was well above that.

I chose to take 2 units of fast-acting insulin. I also took 2 units of long-acting insulin, because on weekends when I sleep in past my morning dosing time, if I don’t take a little the night before, my bg will creep up in the AM hours.

At 2:30 AM I awoke, still caught up in my dreams, and feeling a little confused. 2:30 AM is sort of confusing time of day anyway, but I decided to check just in case. 101 mg/dl. Hmm. “Great!” Right where I wanted to be. I went back to sleep.

5:30 AM, I awoke again. Slippery mental state. Definitely low. 59 mg/dl (I hate to admit this, because night time lows scare people, but my body is great at waking me up…thanks body). So I ate 2 small spoonfuls of honey (about 1 tbsp in all), 2 cheddar crackers, and half a spoonful of peanut butter. Not scientific, just going on feeling.

Back to sleep!

I expected to wake up around 8 and be a little bit high. When I woke up at 9:30, I thought, “Ugh, I’m going to be really high.” But! But!? Somehow, 119 mg/dl.

So, there you go.

That was tedious huh?

Thanks for sticking it out.

Until tomorrow,

Katie

 

Diabetes Resolutions

I’m a person who loves resolutions. I love the celebration of shedding old parts of ourselves and adopting new habits built on all of the tremendous self-growth of the past year. That’s what the New Year symbolizes for me. Whereas other times of the year we resist change, both in the external world and the internal world, right around 12/31 we start to act like we think it’s the greatest thing ever.

So I was asking myself, in addition to my all of the resolutions I’d like to make in every other realm of my life, should I have a diabetes resolution? And then I decided, no. Basic diabetes management is a big enough resolution. It’s like asking your friend without diabetes what their health goal for the coming year would be and them saying, “Well, I’d like to start pricking my finger 8 times a day and counting all the carbs I eat and explaining very intimate details about my body to both my closest friends and to complete strangers multiple times a day. I’d also like to introduce a lot of self-shaming and restraint into my eating, exercise, and general lifestyle habits.”

I mean that’s big enough right?

But I was writing in my journal this morning and as I always do I made a note of my morning bg (this is not a ‘health journal’, just my journal journal), and I was moved to also note that the elevated number was likely due to late-night snacking. Now here, I want to make a critical explanation, because I hate overly simplified diabetes rhetoric. It makes it seem like, “Well, if those people with diabetes could just do what they were supposed to do, it’d all be fine!” No! my blood glucose could just as easily sneak high in the night without me having a late-night snack, if I didn’t have enough insulin in my system to cover the sugars my liver is naturally pumping out all the time (just like everybody’s is). And sometimes, not eating after dinner makes this more likely to happen – especially if I finished dinner early and had less insulin in my system overall, perhaps because it was a dinner particularly low in carbs.

The complexity of diabetes is what originally inspired me to write a blog. It’s like being part of a secret world – the ins and outs of blood sugar. I imagine myself like Mrs. Frizzle. taking her class to the pancreas for a day. So I thought, why not make a diabetes resolution and a.) use my blog for accountability, and b.) take you all along on the complicated journey that is every blood sugar reading.

I realize this plan has some flaws. People with T1D are gonna be like – “why would I want to read about her blood sugar when I have to manage my own?” And people without T1D are gonna be like – “why would I want to read about her blood sugar when I don’t have to manage my own?” But whatever, this is my resolution.

So here it is, stated clearly, my small diabetes resolution-experiment:

  • 4 out of seven days of the week, I will cease eating by 8 pm unless I have a low blood sugar and have to treat it (treating it means eating something, FYI).

What this really means for me is that I’ll be prompted to eat dinner earlier and eliminate post-dinner snacking on those days.

I’ll post my BG every morning along with a brief explanation of my theories behind the number. I could be right, I could be wrong, and we’ll literally never know!

Revisiting my new year’s resolution

I’m using the bonus hour that I acquired this morning when a low blood sugar woke me up to write this post. Last night I couldn’t fall asleep. I was pleased that my blood sugar was in the 80’s, having come up from a slight post-dinner low and stabilized at this most ‘normal’ of levels, but I had the nagging feeling that it wouldn’t last through the night.

See here is my big blood sugar-sleep dilemma: earlier in the week I’d had a bedtime snack close to bed and woken up with high blood sugar the next day. I was frustrated by this, but I had slept wonderfully. I find that the snack helps me fall asleep, but presents the challenge of usually requiring a little bit of insulin. Just the right amount though – too much and I’ll wake up low in the middle of the night (which is kind of dangerous you know), too little and I’ll wake up parched and drowsy the next morning (high bg).

So last night, I managed to avoid the bedtime snack. I’d brought up my low with a little bit of fruit right after dinner and then coasted. But being so close to 80 mg/dl made it hard to fall asleep and then I dropped over night.

Instead of sleeping this morning I’m doing research. I want to experiment with some of the food recommendations made by Adam Brown in this month’s issue of Diatribe. I think if I can find more foods that fill me up at dinner time without spiking my blood sugar, I’ll have less of a desire to snack later on.

There is always something great in Diatribe! I am amazed at how much I enjoy it and find useful diabetes wisdom every time I drop in. Check out the links above to see for yourself.

Finally, just in case you aren’t already in awe of sleep, I’ll leave you with this Radiolab podcast about its powers.

Choices

On my first day of grad school, my pod alarmed in the middle of an orientation session and I had to rush home, still unsure if the bus I’d chosen was the right one to get me to my apartment. On the way, my iPhone 4 and I struggled with the spotty internet to email my advisor and let her know I wouldn’t be able to meet her – technical difficulties. That’s not really what I told her of course. I explained it all – because you can’t just explain a little bit of diabetes once you get going. It’s hard to just say “My blood sugar was low” or “My insulin pump malfunctioned.” I always feel like I sort of have to justify that statement with, “Oh and I have Type 1 diabetes. And I’m ok – I’ve just got to handle this.” The good-hearted people of the world want to know that you’re ok, which is touching. It can be really hard to give people who want to help and be there for you some reliable protocol to follow, because so much of diabetes is adapting to the moment. So much of it is being in-tune with your own body and responding in what might seem, to an outside audience, like a contradictory way from how you responded before. Sometimes I eat cake, sometimes I don’t. That doesn’t mean that in one situation I’m thinking about diabetes and in the other I’m not. It’s always there, presenting choices or at least weighing in on them.

This post is meandering because my thoughts are meandering right now. If there could be a central theme here, it’s choices and how they fit into our otherwise unpredictable lives. Diabetes reminds me that I make many choices in the day, from how I treat my body to how I communicate my identity, positionality and needs to others. It also reminds me that no matter how fixated we become on one choice or path or reality, our pod could always alarm right in the middle of it and we’d have to respond. This is another diabetes metaphor, but please don’t let that prohibit you from translating it to your own life if you are a person without diabetes (or not, maybe you don’t like metaphors). I’m just grappling with this – the contradiction between writing and reading our lives, both of which (I’m gently arguing), are quite necessary.

Everything in life I ever needed to know…

“I decided many years ago that a high blood sugar does not define me any more than a great blood sugar defines me. For 42 years I have been chasing the perfect blood sugar. It has never happened for more than a minute just the same as the really high ones do not last any longer.”

– Rick Phillips

I want to give a shout out to change. Year after year, change has stood by me. More than that, change even visits me day to day and moment to moment. So here’s to change: a truly dedicated friend.

Obviously, I also want to give a shout out to Rick Phillips, whose response to last week’s question is today’s featured quote. A big thanks to everyone who responded and added to our conversation around high-blood sugar blues and how to pick yourself up from them. Rick’s quote jumped out at me because of its utility for maintaining perspective as we manage (versus ‘control’) blood sugar and also as we manage (versus ‘control’) life. Last week I was talking to a fellow graduate student, job seeker and swimmer in the sea of uncertainty at a social for public healthers in my program. She mentioned that it’s taken her a year and a half to feel like she’s truly gotten her footing here and now it may be time to shift everything once again, perhaps even in a totally new place. I thought of Rick’s quote – how many ladders of learning and accomplishments and life experiences do we climb up, only to reach the end and realize we’ve moved not to a new plateau of constancy, but simply on to the next challenge? That sounds a little pessimistic I think, but it’s not intended to. Blood sugar management from the accept and let go perspective can sound a little pessimistic to – like, no matter how hard I try, even if I check my blood sugar and get that magic 90 mg/dl, it’s already changing, I can’t hold on to it. But! BUT! In truth, this is a comfort too. This wisdom of letting go is so helpful in diabetes and in life, because it directs us back to the process, not the product.

I think I’d like to make one of those posters like you see on the wall of dentist’s offices: ‘Everything in life I need to know I learned in kindergarten,’ except it would say: ‘Everything in life I need to know I learned from diabetes.’ That’s a little over-simplified though. In truth, not knowing has led me towards these conversations with friends and others that help me to break free from dichotomous thinking and see that there are ways of seeing and thinking about challenges that I have not even considered yet, which is itself a comforting thought.

So change, you may be a wildcard, the guest who comes to the party in sequins, carrying a jello-cake and two days early – but, you might as well come in.

¿Por qué bailar solo?

Hay mucho sobre que pudiera escribir, pero quiero empezar con una discusión sobre la palabra ‘prójimo.’ Esta palabra ha entrado mi mente y mi mundo mucho recientemente, y estoy pensando en lo que significa ser una buena prójima. Otra palabra que ha entrado es comunidad. Fui a una comunidad ayer adonde es evidente que hay esta idea de vivir, en las palabras de una residente, “de una manera interdependiente.” Es, dice ella, una alternativa de vivir tan independiente, sin reconocer que somos dependientes el uno del otro. Por qué es tan dificil en nuestra cultura (en todas las culturas?? Algunas más que otras??) a aceptar que no podemos hacer todo por nuestra cuenta. Por qué se da tan mucho miedo ser vulnerable y aceptar ayuda? Pienso que es una funciona de nuestras percepciones sobre la relaciona entre nosotros y los demás, o sea, entre nuestro mundo interior y mundo exterior. Es aquí adonde traeré diabetes entra la conversación. Está semana me caí por las escaleras. Le di un asusto a la mujer que estaba subiendo desde la otra dirección. Fue interesante que mis movimientos y la acción a mi cuerpo podría moverla también – que estábamos conectadas en esta manera. Luego, en mi clase de bailar con mi pierna doliendo mal, me di cuenta que mi azúcar fue muy bajo y que posiblemente era por eso que caí. El nivel de azúcar dentro de mi cuerpo influye mis movimientos en el mundo. Esta es una metáfora perfecta para la influencia que tenemos en nuestros aldrededores. Nuestros pensamientos, creencias, prejuicios, y historias personales tienen un impacto en el exterior sin nos guste o no. Somos conectados. Solo podemos operar en el mundo sin reconocer que dependemos de otros mientras tenemos poder, o sea, hasta que perdemos el control. Para mi, cuando me caí, perdí control. Fue una experiencia humillando, que me transformó en otro cuerpo temporalmente. Este viaje, pienso que es valioso, porque permite empatía. Esto, empatía, pienso que es el ingrediente clave (para mi) de ser una buena prójima. Obviamente, hay otra moral aquí también para mis amigos que tienen diabetes tipo 1 (o 2 realmente), que es, por favor, mide tus niveles de azúcar frequentemente y cuídate cuando tienen bajos. Ahora mi pierna se siente mucho mejor y estoy otra vez pensando en como podemos usar la palabra gratitud como un verbo. Tal vez, si estamos luchando por encontrar empatía, podemos pensar en todas las cosas en nuestras vidas por lo que deberíamos tener gratitud.

My New Favorite Diabetes “Free Food”

I want to start off by saying that I’ve never liked the term “free food,” whether that refers to an edible’s effect on diabetes management, weight, or anything else one might be concerned with. That disclaimer aside, I use the term to mean a food I can eat without immediately and involuntarily thinking about how it will eventually raise my blood glucose, even if only slightly. The list contains beverages such as water, tea, and coffee (although some people say caffeine has a noticeable effect on their bg, it does not seem to raise mine). I do not add anything to my coffee and put only a splash of unsweetened almond milk in my tea.

Which leads me to my newest craze, and revolution, inspired by a friend of mine who does not have diabetes, but who calls this his, “bedtime drink.”

Whole Foods Brand Unsweetened Almond Milk, heated.

It’s just that simple.

I heat it until it’s almost boiling, like as hot as I would drink tea. If it’s right before bed I have it plain. If it’s earlier in the day I’ll stir in a little bit of unsweetened cocoa (antioxidants!) and then sprinkle, carefully, a dash of cayenne on top.

It’s not a sweet drink, and the carbs are minimal: 2 – 3 grams max. My favorite thing to pair it with, depending on my blood sugar, is 2 blocks of any number of varieties of dark chocolate.

I don’t do the cocoa and cayenne at night because they keep me awake. Also, for people who are sensitive to spice, cayenne can be hard on the stomach. After working at an Indian restaurant for two years and learning to enjoy vindaloo sauce, I learned to love spicy.

Lest you be concerned that I’m promo’ing Whole Foods arbitrarily, this brand in particular is my jam because it does not contain carrageenan, which is an additive derived from seaweed that has been linked to cancer in some studies.

Please note (aka Disclaimer #2): I am not a dietician/nutritionist/or otherwise medical expert. My posts are not meant to advise, but rather to simply share my experiences. 

With a Minute to Spare

Chapter 2

So at 8:05 pm I’m sitting on the plane to Miami muttering, “Come on, come on,” under my breath, and hoping they start the engines soon. By 9:00 I felt like I had aged several years and my cortisol was jumping up and down like a jack russell terrier. I had one of those little in-flight tracker screens right in front of me, and although I enjoy many traditional flight hobbies like writing in my journal, doing crossword puzzles, and reading SkyMag, this time all I could bring myself to do, literally, for two hours, was watch that little plane icon move slowly through my home state (Georgia), and onwards towards the tip of Florida.

At 9:05 the estimated arrival time had jumped back from the original 10:15 (which remember would leave me with a total of 5 minutes to make my connecting flight) to 9:44 pm. I would have, calculating time for deboarding, at least 20 minutes of straight running time before the gate to my second flight closed. At this time, I did decide to update my journal. In it I wrote:

24 minutes to destino. Quick update, I’m on the plane. BG (blood glucose) is 320 mg/dl. Was so low in Raleigh that I couldn’t think. Didn’t take insulin for a long time. We are set to arrive @ 9:44 and then depart at 10:20. As long as no gate change I’ll be at F25 (only 20 gates away from where we arriving). I’m going to write an update at 10:40 pm saying I made it, and my BG will be perfect. Then I will fall into a nice sleep until 4 am, then write for an hour. Someday I’ll learn Portuguese.

This was my last journal entry for four days.

Back on the plane, as we declined in elevation towards our destination, I looked at the screen, then back at the overhead compartment, then at my purse, then at all the people around me, in a nervous loop. There were so many people in front of me, and I knew I had to get off of that plane. A flight attendant walked by. I asked her if she could help me. I said, “Hello there…I know this might be a weird request, but my connecting flight leaves at 10:20, and that lady up there, hers leaves pretty soon too, and if there’s any way we can get off this plane, like, first, or sooner, that’d be great.”

She agreed to make an announcement over the loudspeaker. She was very kind.

5 minutes later, as people rustled around and the captain updated us of our status repeatedly, a quiet announcement urging passengers to allow those with close connecting flights to depart first, was made. The attendant warned me that most likely, people would take little heed, especially those in first class.

And yet a door opened. Behind me, a couple on their way to an island off the coast of Florida, anticipating their vacation, had heard my anxious request. “You’ve got a close connector too?” One of the women asked. I sighed. “Yeah, it’s pretty close…” “Yeah ours got crunched with the delay. What’s yours?” she asked. I told her. “OH, that is close. That makes me feel pretty good about ours.” Despite this, she was very sympathetic. ”Here’s what you need to do,” she said. Follow us off of here and we’ll get you pointed towards the Sky Train. You’ve got to get on the Sky Train because where we are, you’re never gonna make it on foot all the way to your next gate. This airport is a giant.”

Now remember, our flight was arriving considerably early. It was 9:40, and we were descending towards a gentle landing. At 9:44 we touched down.

At 9:55 we were still waiting behind several other planes on a slow, slow pathway towards deboarding. Our huge machine idled in the queue. I began to feel flushed and frantic (noticing a theme?).

My friends from a few seats back knew that everything wasn’t going to go as smoothly as they’d originally presented. They amended the plan. “Ok, here’s what you’ve gotta do. As soon as we get up there, and they turn off the seatbelt sign, we’re gonna stand up and make an opening for you so you can get your backpack and get off of here. And then, don’t look back. Don’t wait for us, we’ll just slow you down. You gotta get off this plane and run like hell. You gotta get to gate 11 (9 gates away) and get on the Sky Train. I think you’ll have to go up some stairs…”

At that moment we docked.

The seatbelt sign went off.

My friends stood up, and I began to act.

I heaved my Osprey backpack from the overhead compartment and hiccupped down the aisle, meeting the line as it slowly moved off of the plane. I stepped onto the connecting bridge and could see the light of the airport at the other end, but I was still blocked by a throng of passengers. I tried to wait patiently because I don’t like pushing through crowds or running around other people who I could potentially crash into. So I slowly trudged along, until suddenly, in the Miami airport, at what was now 10:08 pm, I saw an opening, and I made a break for it.

My backpack was flapping on my back because I hadn’t buckled the waist strap and my purse was bouncing repeatedly into my stomach. If I had ever pushed myself this hard in high school track, I might have placed in a race. I had never run like this before. I also had never run before wearing a 35 lb. backpack. There was no one in the airport, no one out in front of me. Which is sort of a figure of speech because there were a few others, walking on the moving sidewalks which had been disabled because of how late it was. After about two minutes of running, my hair flying into my face, cheeks red, eyes wide, heaving breaths from the exertion, I see a business man and I think, he must know how this airport works. As I pass him on my right, I turn my head like a frenzied bull and with panic in my eyes I scream, “Where’s the Sky Train?!” “What?” he queries back. “THE SKY TRAIN?!!!”

I still don’t know where the Sky Train was. He failed my question a second time and I waved my hand at him in dismissal before continuing to sprint through the deserted airport.

Up ahead, one of those little cars was sitting horizontal in my path. As I approached it, I yelled to the conductor, “Please, sir, I’ve got to get to gate F25,” and instead of dodging it, I jumped on (not recommended behavior).

I learned my friend’s name, and where he was from, and that he had no faith that I would make my flight because moments before he had taken the last passenger who they were calling for over the loudspeaker to the very same gate.

I disagreed with him, but I was grateful for his kind presence and effort, nevertheless. We sped (at 5 mph) through the airport. My hair flew behind me, finally out of my mouth and eyes. I began to try to breathe again, although my lungs burned and my chest was tight. I was invigorated, I was going to make it. I had 1 minute before they would close the gate at 10:10 pm as we neared F25.

…To be continued.