14th November is World Diabetes Awareness day
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is the only diabetes charity to solely on Type One Diabetes (T1D).
T1D is an autoimmune condition, affecting over 400,000 people in the U.K every year. Thats enough people to fill Wembley stadium 4 times over (JDRF, 2010).
The human immune system starts to attack the insulin producing cells on the pancreas. This means the body cannot reduce the sugar levels in the bloodstream by moving it to the body’s cells, liver and muscles. So that is why insulin injections are needed for survival.
I discovered I was diabetic at the age of 12. It was a shocking moment in my life which I did not take very well. I’m now 23 and had a few different insulin regimes to live off. My averaged total of insulin injects for this time is 20,075. That’s not including countless finger pricks for blood testing; not forgetting sleepless night whilst dealing with low blood sugars (discussed further on) and a ridiculous amount of time attempting to work out how many grams of carbohydrates are in meals so I can inject the correct amount of insulin.
High blood glucose levels can be fatal if left untreated. As the body cannot utilise the glucose in the blood for energy, the body starts to break down fats; hence weight loss is a massive symptom. this then produces something called ketones. Ketones decrease the pH in the blood so it becomes acidic. This is called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Long term high blood sugars can lead to amputation, kidney failure, retinopathy and premature death.
I’ve had DKA several times throughout my life, and ended up in hospital.
Low blood sugars (hypoglycaemia) are when the blood glucose levels are too low. It can cause sweating, lack of concentration, fainting, slurring, seizures and a whole host of other symptoms. It’s unique to each diabetic. This can also be fatal if left untreated. Night time hypos are the most worrying. Normally, when most people wake up they’re groggy and can’t concentrate. Imagine this at 3 in the morning when you cannot think straight, you’re drenched in a cold sweat, and can’t stop shaking. You need to neck some lucozade and then jump in the shower to raise your body temperature before you get pneumonia. Then go back to bed and wake up at 6 for your normal day. Imagine that every night for a month while you try to get your insulin levels correct.
I’ve had bad night time hypos, and once my parents should’ve called the ambulance. I was hallucinating, I was in work making a latte for a bloke in the corner of my room. My mum came into my room because I was screaming. I don’t recall any of this. I didn’t make any sense with what I was saying. My mattress and bedding was soaked through with sweat. My body temperature was so low I had to be stripped and put in the shower by my mum and dad. And then I slept until 3pm the next day, missing my shift in work. Diabetes is forever taking control of my life.
I owe my life to my parents, several times over.
Also to my partner who has dealt with more night time hypos than anyone else who has known me.
T1D is a lifetime of work and management. It’s the only condition where you’re given medication and told to go home from hospital.
They say that T1D rules your life. It does in a way. The run down check as I leave the house: lucozade? cereal bar? insulin? blood glucose metre? medic alert bracelet? hypostop gel? glucotabs? needles? lancets? needle clipper? have I taken my basal insulin for the day? did I take my rapid acting insulin for breakfast? what’s my activity levels for the day like? who am i sitting by in lectures or labs incase I need help?
And the normal stuff like keys, phone, money, wallet.
The most frustrating thing about it isn’t the actual injecting and checking. It’s the idiotic ideas about T1D.
“You have Diabetes? Oh, my nan had that and she had both her feet amputated”
“Should you really be eating that?”
“Type One, is that the one with too much or too little sugar?”
“Oh that’s because you ate too much sugar as a child and now you’re overweight!”
No. Just no. If you don’t know much about it, ASK.
There is so little awareness about T1D and that’s the most stressful thing for some of us.
There isn’t a cure. Insulin injections just manage it.
And no, at a restaurant I will not go to the toilet to inject. I refuse. Only if you go there whilst you’re secreting insulin because you’re lucky enough to have a working pancreas.
I hate being diabetic. It sucks. There’s no other way to say it. But we manage. We live day by day, injecting, changing sites for pumps and constantly pricking our fingers to draw blood to test what our levels are doing. We do this to survive.
I have days where I literally don’t want to inject. The days when you don’t want to go to work, and pull a sicky just to chill and watch netflix all day. We can’t do that. Diabetes is there everyday, all day. No breaks, no holidays, nothing.
I haven’t mentioned the good things. OK, so injecting 5 times on a daily basis isn’t the best, and nor is going low in the middle of an exam, or in the middle of my shift in work. The good thing is massive community that we have.
The Diabetes Blue Circle group is run by one of my friends here in Cardiff, and it’s where we can chat, compare lifestyles, give each other advice on certain things, and have a cheeky giggle about some the hypo moments we have. My best hypo moment was in the middle of the night; Kath (my partner) woke me up and told me to test. Obviously I tried to oblige. But instead of using my lancing device to prick my finger I was trying to stab my finger with my other finger! And it didn’t make sense why the blood wouldn’t come out! not funny at the time, but hilarious after. Another time Kath had to slap me to wake me up. She didn’t tell me until to weeks after the incident.
This is what diabetes is. It has it’s low points, it has it’s high points. It’s not a fat person joke. It’s not a picture of too many cakes on one plate. And it’s definitely not what anyone of us wanted to happen.
This is what T1D is.
This is what T1D looks like.
T1D looks like me.
Donations to find a cure would be appreciated by those 400,000 people in the U.K who had the bad luck to have those genes that caused the susceptibility, and the environmental factor that caused those genes to switch on.
Even if you just wanted to find out more about T1D please follow this link: www.jdrf.org.uk
Also learn what Type Two Diabetes is while you’re there. It will probably save someone from hitting you: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Type-2-diabetes/
JDRF. (2010). Type 1 Diabetes Facts. [Online] Available at: http://www.jdrft1.org.uk/page.asp?section=255§ionTitle=Type+1+Diabetes+Facts [Accessed 6 November 2015]