World Diabetes Day blog – don’t let it control you
On world diabetes day, our new Head of Communications and Engagement outlines how having diabetes should not have a negative impact on day to day life.
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was 18 years of age. I had just passed my driving test, completed my first year at University and everything was going the way I wanted it to.
Having got back from a break away to America with my family and my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, I felt a little jaded and put it down to the fact that we’d had a long flight.
A couple of days later, I felt tired, exhausted and thirsty. I thought nothing of it and continued to work, as I did at the time for my local supermarket. As a student, I was fortunate enough to fund my own university fees but had to work lots of hours during the holidays! During an afternoon break, I remember a friend at work saying – “Paul, are you OK? You really don’t look yourself today…” I just replied and said, “No I’m fine, I’m just tired from the flight and the amazing holiday that I’d just returned from.
Two days later and I ended up making an appointment to see my GP. He wasn’t happy and sent me to my local hospital in Halifax for urgent tests. Within a couple of hours, I was on a drip and receiving treatment for severe hyperglycaemia.
The hospital staff were brilliant and were both amazed and shocked that I was still conscious.
Immediately, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and prescribed insulin for the rest of my life. My life changed from that day. At first, it was hard, difficult and I regularly said to myself – why me? I don’t eat sweets or particularly have a sweet tooth.
I didn’t really know of anyone who had diabetes and as the days, weeks and months went on, I slowly became used to injecting myself after every meal, checking my blood sugars and coming to terms with thinking about what I was about to eat and how it would affect my blood glucose levels.
I’m not writing this blog to scare anyone or prompt people to feel sorry for me. It’s very much the opposite. On world diabetes day, you will see lots of posts, messages on social media and news stories that share people’s experiences of diabetes. And today is my attempt at capturing some of my thoughts and feelings to help others in Doncaster understand what living with diabetes is like and how it needn’t prevent you from doing the things you want in life.
24 years later, I am sat writing this blog with my blood glucose levels usually under control. My life couldn’t be any better.
Along with many priorities in my life, my growing family and my job, my diabetes is remains one of those that I take seriously. Before every meal, I follow the same basic principle that every diabetic should follow; check my blood sugar, take into account what I have just eaten and inject insulin corresponding to the food I am about to eat.
I am fortunate to have an Accu check wireless insulin pump which has made my diabetes so much easier to control.
It allows me to check my blood glucose levels, and adjust my insulin accordingly, usually by giving a certain quantity of insulin, or reducing my insulin delivery rate.
My blood glucose is usually well controlled, but that’s not to say that all days are easy – some are much harder than others. Sometimes, my blood glucose levels can be too high, so having a few biscuits with a coffee isn’t always the best thing to do. Sometimes, my blood glucose can be quite low, which means that swimming with my youngest son or running around the local football pitch with my seven year old has to be put on hold.
Ultimately, it’s a choice in terms of how you live with Type 1 diabetes. It’s not fatal, and by no means the end of your life. It requires a great deal of patience, discipline, perseverance and whole lot of support. I’ve always had that from my family, my friends and colleagues.
Even though I work in the NHS, I don’t have any clinical advice on how to deal with Type 1 diabetes – that wouldn’t be right for me to do. But what I would say is to remember a few basic things. Take it seriously and be responsible. Controlling your blood glucose as effectively as you can not only means that you can keep yourself healthy, and have the odd cake or bun when you like, it also helps to protect yourself against heart, liver, kidney and eye problems. I can’t stress how important it is to take care of yourself.
In Doncaster, there are many different services that provide help and support – you aren’t alone and for most, they too lead healthy and happy lives. Some of the most important health care professionals that support me are my local practice nurses. They see me on an annual basis but are there at any time if I need them.
The most important thing I have learned from that day when I was admitted to hospital is be determined to get it right and control it, don’t let it control you.
For more information about hospital and community led services relating to the management, treatment and support for diabetes, please visit the Doncaster, Bassetlaw Teaching Hospital’s and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber websites.
Further information and advice is also available for those at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes via the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme