Corona's hypoglycemia

MANILA, Philippines – What is hypoglycemia, the medical condition that supposedly forced Chief Justice Renato Corona to walk out of the impeachment court Tuesday, May 22?

Hypoglycemia is basically low blood sugar, said the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in a primer on its website. What causes it is too much insulin “when food intake is less than usual or physical activity is greater than usual,” the IDF said.

Corona's lead counsel, Serafin Cuevas, said his client had not eaten lunch when Tuesday's trial began. (Read: Corona walks out.)

“Usually, a person suffering from hypoglycemia, or a 'hypo', will feel nervous, shaky, weak or sweaty. They may have a headache, blurred vision and be very hungry. Some may become disorientated and even unconscious,” the IDF said.

In most cases, the IDF said “taking small amounts of food or drink containing sugar (helps) the person feel better within 10 to 15 minutes.”

Symptoms before trial

Cuevas said Corona already felt hypoglycemia's symptoms even before he delivered a 3-hour speech.

“I didn't realize that he was already suffering from pain (in the) chest, difficulty in breathing, and dizziness. In fact a couple of minutes before these things actually took place, your honor, he was already taking medicines. He can be viewed now by the court,” the veteran lawyer explained to a visibly irked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Cuevas even cited the death of his two brothers due to hypoglycemia, which made him “a little bit apprehensive for the Chief Justice.” (Watch Cuevas and Enrile's exchange below.)

In a press conference after the trial, his spokespersons also assured the public he left the Senate session hall purely because of his medical condition.

Enrile, however, remained frustrated. “He's the Chief Justice. He knows the decorum in the courts, and he could very well have said, 'I am not feeling well. May I be excused by this court' – not to me, but the court. But the fact is, he said, 'I am the Chief Justice. I want to be excused,'” Enrile told Cuevas, who immediately apologized.

Corona, who earlier wore a coat and tie, returned to the Senate session hall after 45 minutes with his clothes disheveled.

Treating his ailment is usually simple, however, according to experts. (Watch more in the video below.)

Glucose tablets can help a diabetic feel better, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) said in its primer on hypoglycemia. “Many people with diabetes like to carry glucose tablets. You gan get glucose tablets at any drugstore and at many other stores as well,” the ADA said.

Fruit juice, hard candies, pretzels, or crackers will also do, the ADA added. “The important thing is to get at least 15-20 grams of sugars or carbohydrates.”

Isang regular Coke in can lang ang gamot do'n, tapos na,” explained a nephrologist who declined to be identified. (One regular Coke should relieve that condition.)

Doubts

The doctor also cast doubt on the circumstances of Corona's condition.

He said persons afflicted with hypoglycemia can walk, but most of the time with assistance because they feel wobbly and dizzy. “Not the way he stood up, very brisk, without hesitation; not the way he walked, and to think it was even a ramp (so) he had to negotiate,” the doctor said.

The way he spoke his last sentences – “direct, controlled” – also proved uncharacteristic of persons with hypoglycemia, the doctor noted.

Other indications also raised doubts about his condition.

While he was missing, Rappler spotted his car waiting for him at the Senate basement, with his drivers ready.

CORONA'S CAR. Why was the Chief Justice's car waiting for him at the Senate basement? Photo by Natashya Gutierrez

CORONA'S CAR.

Why was the Chief Justice's car waiting for him at the Senate basement? Photo by Natashya Gutierrez

In a press conference after the trial, Corona's defense lawyers denied knowledge about why his car was waiting outside. (Watch video below.)

The dean of the Ateneo School of Government, Antonio La Viña, also treats Corona's supposed condition with a grain of salt.

“Being diabetic myself, and having suffered hypoglycemic episodes many times, I should sympathize with the Chief Justice. But I can't,” La Viña said on his Facebook page.

“Because precisely I know my limitations, I would have acknowledged that and not do what he did. I really am trying to be kind and fair here – applying the Kantian categorical imperative or the Confucian/Christian golden rule, but its hard not to make conclusions,” he said. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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