I’ve had a handful of surgeries in the past 20 years since being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned that have helped immensely:
- I want to be the FIRST surgery of the morning. Since you’re supposed to stop eating/drinking anything at midnight the night before, it’s much easier to manage blood sugars for a short amount of time in the morning before a surgery rather than attempt to manage sugars all day on an empty stomach, risk potential lows you might have to treat with food/drink, thus negating the whole not-eating-after-midnight thing.
- Better to risk running high than running low. The night before surgery, I usually cut back my basal rate to about half of what it normally is. I don’t do any corrections for high blood sugar unless it starts running over 200. Then, I very conservatively correct – again, give myself about half of what I normally would to correct it.
- FILL OUT PAPERWORK ahead of time that says YOU take responsibility as soon as possible after surgery for your own diabetes/insulin/blood sugar management. No nurse or doctor knows how to work my insulin pump and CGM better than I do, and I had no desire to go back to getting injections at the whim and on the time-frame of nurses who don’t understand MY diabetes.
- Take at least 1 brightly colored piece of paper with you that states you are type 1 and notes your management regimen. For example, mine said, “TYPE 1 DIABETIC, on Insulin Pump and Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM.) Please NO acetaminophen – it disrupts my CGM.” This worked very well for me during this stay – had several nurses comment that it was very helpful for them to see that in my chart and know it immediately when they were treating me. (It also led to several educational moments where nurses had never seen a CGM before, so of course, I showed them and explained the whole she-bang.)
- Ask if it’s OK for that surgery to keep on your insulin pump port-site, and/or your CGM sensor. For my c-section, my OB preferred I didn’t have anything foreign on my skin or body, but for this surgery (since it was obviously way higher up on my torso), every nurse, doctor, and anesthesiologist I talked to said I could keep them on.
Now, onto gastric sleeve surgery …..that morning of surgery, I kept my pump hooked up – running on 1/2 my usual basal rate – and also kept my CGM sensor on and the receiver with me until the very last minute when they were going to wheel me back to the operating room. Then, I relinquished my pump and CGM receiver to my husband for safe-keeping.
I was running in the 180s right before surgery, which was perfectly fine with everyone involved.
Immediately post-surgery in recovery, I have no idea what my blood sugars were there – I was just trying to get reoriented and awake from anesthesia, and make sure they gave me some more pain meds. Thankfully, they got enough pain meds into me fast enough so I wasn’t very uncomfortable for long. Waking up from a surgery – always surreal for me.
Once I was in my own room and my husband gave me back my CGM and pump, I fingerstick tested (just to calibrate the CGM for good measure), and I was somewhere around 270. I knew I wouldn’t be eating or drinking anything for the rest of the day, so I wanted to be very careful about correction bolusing. I gave myself about 1/2 of what I thought I needed to bring it down to 150. Waited a couple hours. I had a decently steady downward-heading arrow on the Dexcom, so I just kept doing little correction boluses until I got down to 150, then I stopped.
Amazingly, for the next 24 hours, I had steady and decent blood sugars. Of course, I consumed literally NOTHING on the day of surgery – not even a sip of water (thank goodness I was on IV fluids, but my mouth felt like a desert.) And the following day, I could start on clear liquids, but that meant broth, water, sugar-free lemonade, and the like that had zero carbs and minimal calories. You can see my Dexcom graphs below, but it doesn’t show what I was doing with my insulin and boluses. Short answer = I kept my basal rate at close to 1/2 of what it used to be (for me, that is 1 unit per hour), and made only teeny tiny correction boluses here and there (of like, 0.5 unit) if my sugar started sneaking upwards.
Now, the 3rd day after surgery, I was allowed to start on “full” liquids again, which meant the nasty protein shakes, 1% milk, sugar-free Jello, chicken broth, sugar-free Popsicles, and all that sort of stuff.
That is when blood sugar management got….interesting. The second I had a protein shake that morning with milk in it, my blood sugar RACED up to the mid-200s. Seriously, it was like dawn phenomenon, the breakfast spike, and who knows what else all came into play at once. You know how many carbs were in that shake? Like, a measly 13g. And the spike happened after I’d taken only maybe 2 or 3 sips, so I’d be surprised if I had consumed 1g of carbs at that point.
- Note: I had not returned to taking my Metformin, but decided to start back after a couple of days of these spikes. Realization? My insulin-resistance wouldn’t just suddenly disappear after surgery, it would take time to lose some weight and hopefully get it down that way.
- Another note: On all liquids, whatever I intake now hits my system *almost immediately*, and I had gotten into the habit of bolusing right when I eat, using dual-wave boluses, etc. Nope, NOW I need to bolus well *ahead* of eating/drinking, so that the insulin has some time to get into my system before I consume something that takes zero time to digest.
- Crap, one more note: I waited a couple days post-surgery before I reset my basals back to the rates they were before surgery. With the weird spikey spikey happening, I guessed (correctly) that I needed a higher basal rate back again, regardless.
I hope this is all making some sort of sense. Today, I’ve actually had a pretty decent blood sugar day, and my spike this morning was not nearly as bad! I am hoping I’ve turned a corner in understanding how fast my stomach is digesting things now, and can take insulin accordingly/ahead of time to help stave off that spike. BUT, I know things will be changing in the weeks to come as I introduce “regular” food back into my diet. For reference, here is the upcoming schedule of how I am working up to eating regular food again while my stomach heals from surgery:
It’s going to be a wild ride on the roller coaster of blood sugars, I’m sure!
Even more notes: I am NOT a doctor or medical professional of any kind, and am just sharing my personal experience. Individual bodies are different, and just because this is how MY body is working as a Type 1 post-surgery for gastric sleeve, it doesn’t mean that everyone else’s will work this exact same way! Your Diabetes May Vary.