Imagine it, at the age of 13 being told that you are type 1 diabetic and that realisation that you can never it chocolate or sweets again........................ That was me 17 years ago. I remember the day well, it was around 6 months after losing my dad to cardiomyopathy and I had been feeling ill for about a week or so, I would find myself drinking pints upon pints of water constantly but then passing it straight away. It was actually a friend of the family who said to me that I should go to the doctors – so I did. Less than 24 hours later I was in hospital being monitored and being told that I was going to have to inject myself multiple times every day for the rest of my life – this wouldn’t have been so bad if I wasn’t scared of needles. I remember my mum used to go round the supermarket looking at the nutritional information on the packet for every single item we would have at home making sure that nothing had more the 3g of sugar per 100g as this is what I was told by my dietician was an acceptable amount.
Fast forward 17 years and I think I have done Ok, I now have 4 injections a day – 1 with each meal and 1 when I go to bed. It took me about 5 years before I first went into a hypo (when your blood sugar falls critically low and this can cause a coma and even death), it was quite strange because you almost just lose your head and have absolutely no idea what is going on – quite similar to having 15 pints of beer on a night out (I would imagine). Fortunately these events are few and far between. The technology has come on so far in the last 17 years and I now find myself where I am in a position where I can eat and drink anything I want (within reason) because I do something called carbohydrate counting which essentially means if I want a chocolate brownie I can adjust the amount of insulin I take to compensate for that. There has also been the introduction of insulin pumps which can actually monitor your blood sugars and constantly pump insulin into you to control your blood sugars – although this is not available to everyone. The biggest bit of technology which I have seen and been fortunate enough to use is the continuous glucose monitoring kit – this is basically a patch about the size of a £2 coin that sits on my upper arm and has a constant reader on it meaning it monitors my blood sugars and I just swipe my phone over the sensor whenever I want to read my blood sugars and it will show me a graph of what levels it has been at for the last 8 hours. It is absolutely fantastic for monitoring trends etc in your blood sugars to see where any adjustments need to be made. The only downside to this technology is that not all NHS trusts are supplying it on prescription, it is essentially a lottery. I come under Morecambe Bay NHS trust and we are not eligible but all trusts around me are – it is very disappointing to see that we are put in a lottery like this and for me to self fund these readers it will cost me £100 per month yet someone 10miles away as the crow flies can get it free on the NHS? You can see more about this software here https://www.freestylelibre.co.uk/libre/ I really would recommend it to anyone if you can get it.
Being diabetic has had its drawbacks and serious health risks though, I remember going out for a drink one night and I only had 2 pints (I promise) and was walking home, the next thing I knew I was in the back of an ambulance, my blood sugar had crashed so quickly that within a 200m walk I collapsed into a hedge and a taxi driver nearly ran over my head but luckily missed and essentially saved my life. The only other major incident I have had is after going away for a romantic weekend away with my partner to Paris, I left my insulin pen in the xray tray at the airport and stupidly didn’t take a spare. Trying to be clever I made my own insulin pen put didn’t actually know how much insulin I was giving myself, instead I was just guessing, I gave myself that much my partner woke up to me fitting and sweating profusely on the bed in the middle of France where no one spoke English, credit where credit is due though the hotel staff called an ambulance and somehow I came back round quickly but had to me admitted to hospital for a short time to stop it falling again as we did not know how much insulin I had actually given myself, luckily I was able to get a new insulin pen from the French Hospital – not quite sure why I didn’t do that to start with??
It has been a learning curve these last 17 years as a Type 1 Diabetic but I truly have got used to it and although I have to consistently be conscious about what I am doing to make sure my blood sugars are OK I lead a perfectly normal life, I have took part in 40mile charity walks with no issues, played football, even travelled to Australia and managed with the difference in time zones for adjusting my insulin accordingly. The one thing I will never get used to though is the feeling when after having a hypo and not being able to recall the event the embarrassment of not knowing what you have done (quite similar to going on a night out and your friends telling you the next morning how embarrassing you were), not knowing if I have said something offensive to someone who has been trying to help me etc, my family never really understand why I am embarrassed about it and don’t like talking about it after the event but I guess it is one of those situations where unless you have experienced it you don’t know what it is really like.
Read more about Diabetes on Diabetes UK here: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/