Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Driving in Ireland with Type 1 Diabetes

Recently, I read a story relating to a person with type 1 diabetes (T1D), who was involved in a minor traffic accident. While sitting in the car afterwards, they decided to check their blood glucose when they were approached by the gardai in an aggressive manner.

This person was very offended and initially I was too on behalf of all people with diabetes (pwd). But then, on processing the situation a bit more and imagining myself in it, I looked at it from a different perspective.

I imagined that I was the Garda, who did not have any knowledge about diabetes. Let's face it, most people who don't have diabetes don't know about it. Not an excuse, I know but it's a fact. And remember that the Gardai is one of the few remaining organisations that a person who uses insulin is disqualified from.

So is mise garda (forgive my terrible irish grammar), on the "beat". I come across a driver who has a small gadget in their lap, I might have even see blood. As a garda, I see all sorts of normal activity every single day but this is something I have never seen before. What is a normal activity for a person with T1D is not a normal activity for a person without T1D and with only approx. 20,000 people with T1D in Ireland (aged from 0 to 100+) how often would a garda come across this kind of activity?

My garda training kicks in and that is to consider if this person is a treat to public safety. I'm also a young garda which means I don't have a lot of people experience to draw from so I would probably be extra cautious. (this situation is totally fabricated by me and I'm making a lot of gigantic assumptions here).

I think that in a strange situation like this I would act first and ask questions when I had ascertained that the situation was safe to do so. What actually happened in the real situation here was that a senior garda came along and gave the young garda a bit of a scolding for his behaviour.

I know it was probably frustrating for the pwd to have had this experienced but also a missed opportunity. If we are to change the perception of diabetes in the general public and create more awareness we should try to use every opportunity we can to educate as many people as possible, one person at a time.

I've included a link to some practical guidelines for people with diabetes to consider before you get behind the wheel and remember the guidelines are not about making life difficult for people with diabetes but keeping us and others on the road safe. See the links below:

Let's be safe out there! And stay calm!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Throwing in the towel is just not an option with diabetes.

I've had type 1 diabetes for 20 years and I can confidently say that most of that time I have been in a positive frame of mind about my diabetes and the future. And I think this went a long way towards me managing my diabetes well.

However, for about 18 months now I've been struggling with my diabetes control and the struggle dragged me to a place I don't remember ever being before. That place where I had had enough of diabetes. I wanted a cure RIGHT NOW! I really, really wished I didn't have diabetes.

I became completely frustrated with my diabetes and so exhausted from all of the decisions around daily management. I would go through that long mental check-list when trying to figure out how much insulin to give, how much and what type of carb I was about to eat, was I going to be more or less active in the coming 2-4 hours and even though I had considered everything I thought there was to consider, there
was always something I would forget to account for. It felt like the if's, but's and maybe's were just too many.

I became fixated on my blood sugar readings, to the point that I would close my eyes as my meter counted down to reveal my blood sugar reading and hope that the number that came up would at least be in the single digits, which of course it hardly ever was. 

Now that I'm in a place where the light can shine in, I'm beginning to think that it was really the other health related issues that had accumulated over the 18 months that brought me to the bleak place. We had two tragic losses in our family that had a huge effect on me and some of the every day aches and pains that come and go, started to stay around permanently. Maybe my diabetes was a convenient victimizer, something more visible than emotional stress. 

Thank goodness for my wonderfully, supportive husband and my gorgeous children, who without their knowing it kept me going.

I suppose that even though I felt physically beaten, mentally, I didn't want to give up. I started reaching out for help. I read my copy of Dr. William Polansky's "Diabetes Burnout" to give me ideas on where to ask for help. I finally went to my GP to ask for help with the other health related issues I was experiencing such as neck and shoulder pain that was getting worse. And I started going to counselling for the emotional stress that probably started this whole spiral of deflation. 

It seems that once I did those things my diabetes just bounced back into decent control. I'm still amazed at how quickly it complied and I suppose I will never truly know why it became so out of control. I still have a ways to go to get back to full health but my diabetes management isn't standing in the way anymore.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Great "Sugar" Confusion

I thought I knew a lot about food and in particular carbohydrates and sugar. However, I attended a diabetes support group recently that sent my head spinning in confusion.

You see, I always thought that the word "carbohydrate" referred to the group of foods that have the most influence on blood sugars and that "sugary" foods would be part of that group. So when a gentleman remarked that white bread was full of sugar my head slowly exploded.

 Inside my head I was asking so many questions;
- do you mean sugar as in table sugar and that it's an ingredient of bread?
- or do you mean in comparison to wheat/brown bread?
- are you talking about carbohydrate and not sugar?
- are people confusing those two words?
- when dietitians talk about sugar; are they talking about sugary foods, table sugar or a subgroup of carbohydrates?

I started second guessing my knowledge and I couldn't respond to the comment which was then followed with other remarks about other foods, such as bananas that are also full of "sugar". Help! But of course none of us had the knowledge to sort all of this confusion out.

So off I went to Google university to try and figure out my confusion and find out once and for all what the word "sugar" actually means. I'm still not very wise but my opinion is that the word is being used in all sorts of contexts and that most of the other general public are confused too.

There's sugar as in table sugar, complex sugar or carb which is a type of carb (obviously) and the other one which is simple sugar/carb, sugars as in my blood sugars.

We have invited a dietitian to our next support group meeting and I think it's going to make for a very interesting evening and hopefully be enlightening.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Diabetics can't have sugar!

How many of us have been on the receiving end of this response? How often have you been offered a nice little treat only to have it whipped away from you because they just realised you're diabetic and OMG "can't have sugary foods"? I must have seemed deranged when I lunged forward across the table and grabbed the little chocolate bar from that lady :-)

I usually don't get too upset with people when they try to "protect" or "safe" me from myself but when my husband told me about his experience with this remark I was a little more peeved. Here's what happened....

He attended a cooking course recently which was attended by approx. 30 people where the course facilitator remarked more than once during the day about diabetics not being allowed sugar. My annoyance came about for two reasons.

The first is that it's just not true. Believe me - google it. Diabetics are allowed to have sugar, just not too much of it. But that is the guideline for EVERYONE, diabetes or not! Too much sugar is just as unhealthy for people without diabetes as it is for people with diabetes.

The second reason hurt me more because person is considered an expert in their professional field of food and has the ears of a lot of people, and is therefore feeding this myth. At my husband's course 29 people went out into the world reaffirmed that diabetics can't have sugar and ready to impart their new knowledge to any diabetic within radius.

I felt that no matter how much effort we put into diabetes awareness and educating the general public about the facts of diabetes it just take one person who has the attention of many to strike out all that good work. It's frustrating.

My hubby is outstanding though! He decided to write to the two organisations involved; Diabetes Ireland and the cooking school to suggest that they work together to raise some diabetes awareness and to put the course facilitator straight in the nice, polite way that he does things.

Hopefully this person will see that discouraging people with diabetes from enjoying her delicious cakes, puddings and scones doesn't make sense and start delivering facts instead of myths. I'm always the optimist.