Wow! I have so much to tell you about! Of course, I’d love to go through all of the details of my trip to Spain last week, but there simply is not enough room in one blog! We saw the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, tasted traditional Spanish food like paella, visited Morocco (Africa) and watched snake charmers with cobra snakes, ate traditional Moroccan food including baklava, rode camels, visited some really important places in US history such as the palace (called AlHambra) where Christopher Columbus was knighted by Queen Isabella before sailing to America in 1492, visited the famous Rock of Gibraltar (United Kingdom) and had the native monkeys jump on our backs….I could go on and on! If you are a friend on Facebook, you can see the photos on my profile. If you are not a friend yet, feel free to “friend” me!
What I’d really like to share with you is something diabetes-related that happened on the trip that really impacted my mood in a negative way. To get to Morocco from Spain, you have to take what they call a “fast ferry”. This ferry travels back and froth from the southern tip of Spain (Tarifa) to the northern tip of Africa (Tangier) in 45 minutes. The ferry staff is entirely Spanish-speaking and Chris and I know only a small amount of Spanish. We had no issues on the ferry ride over to Morocco. However, on the ride back, I was sitting quietly beside my husband reading a book on my Kindle and my husband was taking in the scenery. All of the sudden, I heard a big thud followed by gasps from women on the ferry. When I looked up, there was a young woman lying on the floor a few steps away from the café. I immediately asked my husband what happened. He said that when the woman came down the stairs she was very unsteady, but he thought it was because the ferry was rocking a bit. After reaching the bottom of the stairs and taking a few more very unsteady steps, she collapsed. Naturally, as a woman with diabetes, my first thought was, “Oh no! I hope she doesn’t have diabetes. She was headed toward food/drinks.” The ferry staff immediately scooped her up and laid her on a bench. Even though my Spanish is not good, my anxiety level continued to rise because I could tell the staff was not trained to handle medical situations like this. As I tore through my bag and fished out one of my snacks for her (just in case), my husband said, “They’re giving her juice, so she must have diabetes. She has crackers too.” My husband is very tall so he can see over most people, therefore, he had a good view of what was going on with her. Ah! I felt a sense of relief. But then, I felt anxiety again. “Is she fighting it?” I asked Chris. “Yes”, he replied. Of course, the untrained staff didn’t know that they needed to “make” her drink the juice. “I need to do something to help her”, I said to Chris. At the same time, Chris and l looked at my meter and a light bulb went off. Chris said, “Just go over to her and hold up your meter…that’s a universal sign among people with diabetes, right?” So, with all eyes on me, I walked to the front of the ferry and held up my meter to her. She immediately shook her head ‘yes.’ Luckily, the first staff member I walked up to spoke some English. I explained that if she has diabetes, I can check her blood sugar to see if she is out of the “danger zone”. (Note: I took appropriate safety precautions and had a new, unused needle in my hand. I showed the woman that I was changing the needle before I poked her.) She held her hand up for me to stick her and within 5 seconds, we had a reading. 119 was the number on the meter. I gave her the universal “thumbs up” sign and she smiled. Although I couldn’t see her, my husband said that she put her hands together and bowed to show me the universal sign of thank you. Apparently, the English-speaking staff member thought I was a medical professional (since I had medical equipment!) because he started to tell me the woman’s situation- which absolutely broke my heart. According to him, the woman, who looked to be in her late 20s or early 30s, had diabetes, was three-months pregnant with her third child, and her husband was dying. And, she was traveling on this ferry alone.
Feeling that this woman was stable (due to her normal blood sugar reading), and my work was done, I returned to my seat. Unfortunately, about 5-10 minutes later is when the real tragedy occurred. The woman began to look agitated again and began to rock back and forth. Then, she fell to the floor, holding her stomach, and screaming out in pains that you normally only hear in a birth room. The staff did not know what to do and we were still 15- 20 minutes from shore. Someone came across the loud speaker and began asking for any doctors on board to report to the café. Unfortunately, no one appeared, and the woman continued to scream in agony every 30 seconds with the group huddled around her rubbing her head and trying to calm her. Tears welled up in my eyes. It was obvious that she was losing her baby and there was nothing anyone on the ferry could do to help her. I kept thinking about how, as a woman with diabetes, that could be me. I have never witnessed anything so dramatic or tragic for a fellow WWD (woman with diabetes) in my entire life. The staff eventually put her in a wheelchair and carted her to a secluded part of the ship. When we arrived at shore, an ambulance was waiting for her.
The events on the ferry affected me for the rest of the day. My husband kept assuring me that “there was nothing else you could have done to help her. You did everything you could.” In my mind, all I could think of was that I had seen how chaotic it can become when a person with diabetes passes out and no one knows what to do. And I had also likely witnessed the child of a woman with diabetes lose its life. Both are incredibly sad.