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Pavlovian Response To The Sounds Of Diabetes

It’s that well-worn tale of Pavlov and his crazy dogs, the ones that he trained to expect treats whenever a bell was rung.  And whether or not the treats were offered, the dogs learned to respond by salivating, waiting.

Diabetes has made me one of Pavlov’s dogs.  But instead of the chimes of a bell triggering salivation, it’s the sound of the Top Gun theme song coming from my insulin pump, making me check the status of my battery.  Or the sound of my Dexcom letting loose with a BEEEEEEEP!, making me reach for my glucose meter.  The sounds of diabetes are so ingrained in my brain that I don’t think before responding.  My reaction to certain sounds is visceral.

Sometimes the sounds of my diabetes are subtle – the quiet beep of my meter while it counts down to my blood sugar result, or the shunk of the Inset going into my skin on pump site change day.  It’s these sounds that I can hear in a quiet classroom as though they’re magnified,

Or at the airport.  Last week, while I was in at Pearson Airport in Toronto, I heard that unmistakable sound.  A sound that rose above the din of the airport.

Boop beep boop.

Salivate. I whipped my head around and saw a woman in an orange jacket adjusting something by her waistband.  To anyone else in the airport, it looked like she was checking a text message, or the time, or tucking in her shirt.  But I knew what was up.  I heard the sound.

Boop beep boop.

When we were standing in line to board the plane, I asked her one simple question.


She smiled.  “Yes?”

I lifted up the edge of my shirt to show her my silver pump.


For five minutes, we talked tubing, basal rates, and insurance coverage.  And then we went our separate travel ways, but not without confirming, once again, the poignancy of this community.

Diabetes in the wild never fails to win me over.  I think my Pavlovian response is to feel that swell of kindred spirits.

Oh, and to salivate a little bit, just for kicks.

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

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