Tuesday, 25 July 2017

6 Months On Insulin Pump Therapy

I've been using an insulin pump, Accu Chek Spirit Combo, for six months (doesn't time fly) and although I still face my wobbles, it has become part of my life so naturally.

One of my biggest concerns before starting insulin pump therapy was being connected to a device 24/7, 365 days of the year. Which is quite ironic really as I've never felt as free as I have over these last 6 months.

Pancreas in a box

I wake in the morning and stretch as I begin to prepare myself for the day ahead. I run my hand over my stomach and feel my cannula, still very much intact, I follow the tubing down with my hand, blissfully unaware until I am met by my insulin pump no more than a meter away from me, laying freely in the bed. This little device is effectively my 'pancreas in a box' that keeps me alive, I do all the hard work but I guess it's a little like a life support machine. Without it, I wouldn't be here.

Sleeping has not been a problem, there is something utterly therapeutic about letting the pump wander between the sheets, otherwise it'll sit comfortably in my waistband whilst I sleep happily without disturbance. It trickles small amounts of insulin down the tubing and into the cannula every hour of every day.. it'll beep randomly and I smile as it feels like a bittersweet reminder that everything is working as it should be.. well done pancreas in a box, as long as you keep doing your job I think we'll get on just fine.

I get out of bed and prepare my breakfast, I test my blood sugars on my pump handset, enter the amount of carbohydrates that I plan to eat and watch as my meter uses its bolus wizard to calculate the specific dose of insulin I need. Within no more than a minute my insulin is delivered, with no needles having entered my skin. I unknowingly smile to myself as I remember just how lucky I am to be in this position and wait for my bolus to kick in.

I get dressed in the morning and feel like a badass

After breakfast it's time to get dressed, staying mindful as to whether I'll have a pocket to keep my pump in, or if I'll need my multiway body band to fasten under my top. I pull up my jeans, remembering to be gentle with the tubing hanging from my stomach, and place any excess tube in my back pocket along with my insulin pump. I get dressed in the morning and feel like a badass, part robot, ready to take on the world. I walk down the street proud of my little box, which will stay in place all day as I can bolus from my handset.

In a day and age where everyone is glued to their mobile phones, it feels no different to use my pump handset to bolus for my lunch, in fact no one turns a blind eye, it's oddly satisfying. There's no panic to find the nearest toilet so I can inject, or having to worry about which site to use, or which is the most accessible. That's not to say that I ever felt different or self conscious when using injections, but my quality of life has greatly improved.

Being part robot is pretty cool too. What's not so great is when I rise in the middle of the night and forget to bring my pump with me, but with time I find my hand is always there to fumble around until it reaches those oh so familiar walls of my insulin pump, a safety net if you will.

Image result for change your perspective quote Out of the ordinary?

I re-read this post in fear it all sounded a bit... normal and in fact I am here to tell you that life is just the same with an insulin pump. My medically equipped body, which all felt a little unfamiliar at first, is quite ordinary and that feels so good to type, 6 months on.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Everything You Need To Know About Type One Diabetes

*As always, by reading any copyright content on this blog you are agreeing to the terms and conditions stated here. Do remember all content is based on my personal experience only and is not intended as medical advice.*

It never fails to baffle me just how little people know about Type One Diabetes, so I guessed a quick-one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about T1D, whether you're an employer, friend, family member, partner or just nosy, may be of some use to direct people.

So here it is, your quick guide if you know a person living with Diabetes and want to clue yourself up. Read below some short, simple statements in attempt to answer your questions and cover the basics.

What is Diabetes?

Insulin injection pens, needle and blood glucose meter

Type One Diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas stops producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin is used by the body to turn food into energy, which your body then uses as fuel so you can go about your normal day. Insulin keeps your blood glucose levels in range so you can function and perform everyday activities. 
People with type one diabetes need to manually input insulin into their body every day by using insulin injections or an insulin pump and have to monitor their blood glucose levels using a blood glucose meter. They have to take a dose of insulin every time they eat.
Insulin Pump

Type Two Diabetes, is substantially different, and develops when the body cannot produce enough insulin or for whatever reason, the insulin that is produced doesn't work properly. Type two diabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes, diet and medication. 
People living with T2D may be moved to insulin injections in some circumstances.

What does living with type one diabetes mean?

Each time a person with Diabetes eats they need to take a dose of insulin. This is calculated manually by a ratio agreed with their medical team. People with Diabetes can eat whatever they want, as long as they calculate the carbohydrate content in every meal, snack or sugary drink.

After a diagnosis of type one diabetes you need to ensure your blood glucose levels are at a safe level so you can go about your usual activities. As those with diabetes are replacing what is an automatic function from a healthy organ in a non-diabetics body, the room for error with insulin doses and meals is increased. This means we can have high blood sugar (HYPERGLYCEMIA), when there is too much glucose in our body, or low blood sugar (HYPOGLYCEMIA) , when there is not enough glucose in our body. Each are treated differently.

Symptoms of  high blood sugar include but are not limited to:

  • Extreme Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Irritable

High blood sugars usually require what is called a 'correction insulin dose', this is usually a small amount of insulin to bring down your blood glucose level into a safe range. Drinking fluids may also be used to re-hydrate the body.

Symptoms of low blood sugar include but are not limited to:

  • Shaking
  • Slurred Speech
  • Confusion

Low blood sugars require fast acting glucose, like Lucozade, to stabilise the blood glucose level into a safe range. People experiencing a low blood sugar may need 15-20 minutes in a quiet room to treat their levels.

Will I ever need to ring 999?

There is two circumstances where you may need to ring the emergency services. 

1. If a low blood sugar becomes so low that the person with diabetes cannot give themselves fast acting glucose. If blood glucose levels drop too low the individual will have a hypoglycemic fit, because the brain is starved of glucose, and in turn cannot function properly. 
The general rule is if the person becomes unresponsive, call an ambulance.

2. If a high blood sugar goes too high, the glucose in the blood will turn acidic and may lead to a fatal condition called DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS. If you are aware the person with Diabetes has a high blood sugar, and cannot keep food or liquids down, they need to go to hospital. 
Once admitted through A&E, they will be treated with IV insulin and fluids to re-hydrate the body.

Anything else?

Most importantly, having type one diabetes is not a label, and it does not stop you from doing anything.

Friday, 31 March 2017

If I Should Have A Daughter

Inspired by the wonderful Sarah Kays' 'If I Should Have A Daughter' ...

I often think about if my child were to be diagnosed with Diabetes, how I/they would cope, how it would feel and ultimately how I could help. Now I know the statistics are pretty slim, less than 5% chance  but it is something that occupies my mind regularly. Those of you who have their eyes open will know I am just 18, and do not have a child, but that does not stop me fantasizing about my future. I got thinking about all of her potential, and what she will be capable of and what I would want her to know. Her life will be valued and precious and exciting. So this is a letter, a metaphorical one perhaps, but I hope to silence my thoughts on the matter.

If I Should Have A Daughter

Darling girl,

Let me start by saying this, you are no less of a person because you have Diabetes. You are no less of a person, just like your Great Granddad was more than his injections, and like your Mother is more than her bruises. You are more than the blood and the lumps. You are more than your averages and the scores on a height and weight chart. You are more than the length of your hospital appointments and the attendance records at school. You are so much more, you are my Daughter and your parents love you very much.

For when you don't have the energy, for when your mentality cannot take anymore..look to your Mother. And when you feel okay about it all, I will teach you to stand on your own two feet, with my hands either side of you. My sweet girl, I will do my upright best to ensure you never feel alone, and that your dark days are always brightened by the sheer fact that if I can do it, you can too. I will hold your hand every step of the way, and dry our tears at every hurdle. I would never wish this condition on anyone, but I hope you can look at your Mother one day and think 'although this is crap, at least we are in it together'.

I promise to provide reassurance when it feels like you can't take anymore. I promise to supply limitless empathy and time when all you need to do is shout about how rubbish you feel. I promise to advocate on your behalf, darling, and to follow your lead in whatever you choose to do.
I promise to have your back, around every twist and turn, whatever the destination. I promise to be your number one fan, at the end of the day- good or bad, high or low, positive or negative.

I vow to never make you feel any different to any other child on that school playground, even if you like that you get to eat in class sometimes. I hope we can make Diabetes fun, and use sticker charts each time a needle scrapes your skin. I hope we can have Mummy-Daughter days where we don't flinch at the beep of a machine, or the tug of tubing or the numbers appearing on that all-to familiar screen. I will ensure you spend your days laughing, smiling and fighting for what you believe in. There is so much goodness in your heart and I don't want you to ever stop sharing that. I will fight for the best care available and encourage you to let your voice be heard. I will explore every avenue with you, every sentence that feels to painful to utter and each prick that feels like it could be the last.

I am not going anywhere sweetheart, not until I can feel your bones swelling with brightness, until I can see your eyes glistening with adventure and watch your mouth dance with anticipation. Your Mother raised a warrior with a heart of gold, a helping hand and a beautiful, beautiful urge to strive.

Don't ever stop trying, sugar-pot. Your love will take you far. I have no doubts about that.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Busting Misconceptions About Insulin Pumps

Before I started insulin pump therapy, there were certainly worries, queries and misconceptions that I had about insulin pumps which were huge points to consider when it came to the key question 'Do I want an insulin pump?'. The examples below are just some preconceptions I had in my head, which I now know are simply not true.
I am writing this primarily for those who may be contemplating a pump. I hope my brutally honest truths will provide you with reassurance that these little niggles that seem like a big deal right now, wont be a problem in the near future. Your body just needs time to adjust.

Misconception 1. The constant attachment is not something I can deal with and plus, I'll get tangled in the cannula line??
I must admit, the constant attachment was a huge point of consideration for me, and to put it bluntly, I think you've just got to bite your tongue and get on with it. Really, it's a very small compromise, for the amount of accuracy you can get from insulin pump therapy, and in turn, improved quality of life.
In terms of the actual attachment, you'd be surprised how aware your mind will become of where your cannula is, and what length tubing you are using. Although I've had my fair share of the swinging pendulum of dooms*, I find the tubing easy to navigate once I got over the initial 'OMG I CANT MOVE' period!**

*the swinging pendulum of doom is a technical term for when you forget to pick up your insulin pump, and it swings from your cannula site, which is quickly followed (in my case at least) by expletives and short gasps of pain.

** rest be assured, this period in the first few weeks of starting insulin pump therapy is perfectly common, and expected. This will ease with time as you adjust to your new buddy!

Misconception 2. The insulin pump will get in the way and annoy me.
Again, your body will quickly adjust to the whereabouts of your infusion set, and what length tubing you are using. Your subconscious will be aware of just how far you can move without having to grab your pump, although it does take practice.
In terms of storing your pump, it becomes routine in no time at all. I have a body band which I wear on days I'd rather not faff around with where exactly my pump is going to sit all day, or I just tuck it into my waistband or the pocket of my jeans.
There are times I get frustrated, and feel like a dog on a lead, but I am quick to remind myself what a blessing this technology is.

Misconception 3. I will feel healthier from the get-go, an insulin pump is a cure for Diabetes!
I'm afraid this one is simply not true, and is a huge misconception about those 'out of the know', so to speak. Often insulin pump therapy goes beyond the knowledge of those without Diabetes themselves, to a point they think it's so complex it must be a cure. Unfortunately, this is not the case, at all.
Pumps are (arguably) harder work than injections in the initial setting-up-stage as it requires constant monitoring and data analysis to get things right. And like anything related to Type One Diabetes, things are right until they go wrong, and you have to change all of your settings again. That's just life with a chronic condition, there is no cure for this. I know, it sucks.

Misconception 4. I am not comfortable having a physical, and obvious sign of my Diabetes 24/7.
Being a young person who has grown up with Type One her whole life, I never really talked about my Diabetes, until very recently, so the thought of everyone now knowing I had Diabetes, without it being my choice to tell them, was disencouraging. It's not that I was ever ashamed of my condition, but 'telling people' was always an element I had control over, and suddenly that would be taken away from me.
Well I've got good news, a pump is surprisingly discrete, and I know you won't believe me, because everywhere you read it says the same thing, but trust me, for a big, bulky pager-type device, it's easy to hide. The majority of the time it just looks like a phone in my back pocket, and when I've got it in my body band, the only person that can see it is me!

Misconception 5. I'm not cut out for this.
Image result for you get out what you put in quoteA simple answer, but only one you can figure out for yourself, you get out, what you put in.

The same goes for MDI, if you don't inject at the right time and do not calculate the carbs, your blood glucose levels will not be fab. Fact.
You're right, everything you read about how challenging starting on an insulin pump is, is correct and no, that's not what you want to hear, but if I was being dishonest, the only person I'd be fooling is myself.
The hard work is worth it, with anything, give it time and you will watch your dedication follow through.