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Wait, Did Dee Dee Blanchard From 'The Act' Have Diabetes IRL?

  • In the latest episode of The Act on Hulu, Dee Dee Blanchard is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
  • It turns out, the real Dee Dee Blanchard also had diabetes.
  • Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body’s blood glucose (blood sugar) levels become too high.

Hulu’s The Act has had a laser-like focus on Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s fictional health problems, fabricated by her mother Dee Dee. But now, it seems that Dee Dee had health issues of her own—and they’re rooted in facts.

In the fourth episode of The Act—a creative telling of the true story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee—Dee Dee is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In one of the first scenes of the episode, Dee Dee is seen having her finger pricked to test her blood sugar levels.

“Your blood sugar shouldn’t be this high,” says Dee Dee’s doctor. “As I’ve repeatedly told you, Ms. Blanchard, you need to be getting in at least 30 minutes of walking a day to start managing this.”

Clearly, this isn’t a new issue for Dee Dee. “We’re going to have to put you on insulin, and you’re going to have to check your own blood sugar several times daily, at least until we can get you under some control.”

When Gypsy (who’s with Dee Dee at the appointment, obviously) asks if that’s bad, the doctor replies: “It’s not great. Your mom is really sick.” The doctor also tells Gypsy that, in the worst-case scenario, Dee Dee could die. “Type 2 diabetes can be fatal,” she says.

Being a mother is an impossible love, and the worrying never ends.

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A troubling diagnosis? Definitely—but it seems like Dee Dee plans to use it to her advantage. When told that she’d need to give herself daily insulin injections, Dee Dee calls on Gypsy to help. “I’m sorry, Gypsy baby, but I’m gonna need you now—every single day,” she says.

Throughout the episode, Dee Dee becomes progressively sicker. She’s seen feeling woozy and lightheaded at the mall, and eventually faints in front of Gypsy’s friend Lacey. Gypsy also needs to prick Dee Dee’s finger to take her blood sugar levels when Dee Dee starts to feel sick.

“Is 72 low?” Gypsy asks, and Dee Dee replies, “Real low; but I’ll be okay, just stay with me. (FYI: Dee Dee also uses this moment to ask Gypsy to sign papers—which is actually paperwork to become Gypsy’s power of attorney—in order to “protect” her.)

Whew, that’s a lot. First, did Dee Dee have diabetes in real life?

So apparently there is some truth to Dee Dee’s type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

According to a search warrant obtained by the Springfield News-Leader, which reported on the case when it occurred in 2015, authorities were told that Dee Dee was diabetic and had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The same search warrant also stated Gypsy’s conditions—”a muscular disease that prevents her from walking,” as well as leukemia and her need to use oxygen at night—which later turned out to be false.

Define diabetes for me again??

Diabetes means your blood glucose levels (a.k.a. blood sugar levels) are too high, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). This happens when your body doesn’t make enough (or any) of a hormone called insulin, which helps the glucose from food get into your cells in order to be used for energy. When glucose doesn’t reach your cells, it stays in your blood, per the NIDDK.

In Dee Dee’s case, she has type 2 diabetes, which means her body doesn’t make or use insulin well. It’s the most common type of diabetes and typically occurs in middle-aged or older people. It’s often caused by lifestyle factors (poor diet and lack of physical activity) and genes.

And Dee Dee’s doctor was right: Type 2 diabetes can be managed through physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day), taking insulin or other diabetes medication, and checking blood glucose levels regularly, per the NIDDK. Type 2 diabetes can also be fatal. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to a bunch of problems like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, among other issues.

So if diabetes means your blood sugar levels are high, why were Gypsy and Dee Dee talking about low blood sugar?

Right, so, low blood sugar (a.k.a. hypoglycemia) happens when the levels of glucose in your blood drops too low. According to the NIDDK, for many with diabetes, that number is 70 milligrams per deciliter or less (but the NIDDK says that number can vary, so it’s best to check with your health provider to find out your own level).

According to those standards, Dee Dee’s reading of 72 isn’t necessarily “real low,” though, again, nothing can be said for certain since optimal blood glucose levels can vary per person.

Still, Dee Dee’s symptoms definitely mimicked someone suffering from mild or moderate hypoglycemia (like confusion and disorientation, weakness, and tiredness, per the NIDDK).

In those with diabetes, hypoglycemia can occur if you take your insulin or other diabetes medications incorrectly, along with not eating enough carbohydrates, skipping or delaying meals, increasing physical activity (if you’re not also adjusting your medications accordingly; physical activity also lowers blood glucose), per the NIDDK.

In all, it appears Dee Dee did actually have diabetes, but it’s unclear just how severe—and whether she was exaggerating symptoms just to keep Gypsy even more indebted to her.

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