Monday, 30 January 2017

The Positive Impact of Diabetes Technology

Before I was on an insulin pump, I was oblivious to the benefits that came along with diabetes technology. I was plodding along using Multiple Daily Injections (MDI), not realizing how much easier things could be for me. Things like exercise, hormone fluctuation and having more freedom with food could be improved with the use of diabetes technology. Before, I would delay having a snack because it contained too many carbohydrates and I didn't want to give myself another injection. I would have to have extra carbohydrates for exercise that I really didn't want to have. If I had any extra hormones such as adrenaline, my blood sugar would sky rocket, and it would be really hard to deal with.

I moved onto an insulin pump from MDI around 8 months after diagnosis. I had read about them online, after reading online forums about how good they were and the benefits of them, I decided to find out more. At my next clinic appointment, I asked my team if I would be eligible for it, and they said I was, because I was young (age 15), I did sports and I was struggling a bit with food. 2 months later I started my training on how to operate the pump, and a month later everything was up and running.

Having an insulin pump meant I could go out for a coffee with my friends and have something other than water or diet coke, because before I didn't want to have to take another injection. It meant I could control my blood sugar during exercise. I used to do rowing, and having the insulin pump meant I could use temporary basals (changing the background rate of insulin) so that my blood sugar was more stable. It also allowed me to have the occasional sleep in, because I didn't have to have my meals at as regular a time as when I was on MDI.

My insulin pump with a graph of the data my CGM provided
When I started having Hypoglycemic seizures, that changed things. I had to quit rowing, because I would be putting myself in danger if I had a seizure on the water while I was rowing. When I had a seizure whilst on a flume, and put myself in danger of drowning, that triggered me asking my clinic about the possibility of a CGM (continuous glucose monitor, a device which would alarm if my blood sugar was dropping) because I was starting to get very anxious when doing anything that could potentially drop my blood sugar.

My diabetes clinic sent a business case to the hospital to request funding for a CGM. Not many people get funded from the NHS for a CGM because it is so expensive, but because of my special circumstances, I was funded for full time use. After a meeting with my nurse, I got my CGM and it made my quality of life so much better. Before, I struggled so much with walking to school by myself or taking the bus by myself, just in case something happened and there wasnt anyone around to help. When I had the CGM, which linked to my insulin pump, alarming if my blood sugar was dropping so I could prevent my blood sugar going low, and in the case of my blood sugar actually going low, my insulin pump would suspend the flow of insulin to bring my blood sugar up. It helped my anxiety about doing things myself, made me less apprehensive about having blood sugar that was in range but towards the lower spectrum of things.

Diabetes technology has made my life with diabetes better. I can control exercise better, by lowering my insulin beforehand rather than having to consume extra sugar. I can eat as much or as little as I please (within reason of course) without having to give extra injections all the time. I can handle stress slightly better (although this is still a tricky topic!). Most of all, diabetes technology, specifically my CGM, has helped me with anxiety about doing things myself. I do everything everyone else can do, such as having a job, going to University, having alcohol, doing sports and generally being a student.

I don't feel I would be able to do all this to the extent I do, because I have the reassurance of the CGM. Diabetes Technology has made a positive impact on my Type 1 Diabetes and on my life.

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x

Monday, 19 December 2016

Dressing with Type 1 Diabetes

This may seem like a vain topic, but it is a very important in order to feel confident. I personally feel weighed down by all the diabetes supplies and having to constantly carry everything around with me is hard. I wear an insulin pump with long tubing, and also wear a CGM stuck to my arm, so I often find it difficult to find a discreet place to hide my pump, whilst it still being accessible.

Here is a few ways that you can store your pump!

  1. In the front of your bra
    • This can be convenient and discreet, except when you go to take out your insulin pump. If you take it out in front of males they tend to look very shocked and look away as quickly as they can!
    • There can also be a problem  if you wear a crop top, the tubing will show. I get this a lot as I always wear my cannula on my stomach or legs.
  2. You can keep it on your waistband or in your pocket of your trousers or skirt. This is comfortable and easily accessible but I find that it draws too much attention to the pump for my liking.
  3. You can wear it clipped to your underwear if you are wearing a dress, but you have to have quite sturdy pants to make sure it doesn't make your underwear fall down under a dress! If you do this, you can make it more secure by wearing tights over it. I like doing this because my pump becomes almost undetectable, but it also awkward if you need to get out your pump to bolus for food!
  4. You can buy a garter for your leg in which you can store your insulin pump if your wearing a tight dress. I personally don't like this because it falls down my leg, and if I wear it over tights the tights end up snagging on the Velcro
  5. You can get belts for your waist, which is perfect if your wear a loose fitting top. If the clothing is tight-fitting, I don't like wearing it because it sticks out too much. It is also not very accessible
  6. You can also wear your pump clipped to the side or back of the bra. I haven't really tried either but it is always an option.

If I'm wearing jeans, I'll just place my insulin pump in my pocket or clipped to my waistband but if I have a tight top, I clip my pump to the middle of my bra. It may stick out a little, and I may look like a robot when my pump lights up in between my chest, but it is discreet. Most of the time, if I am going out or wearing a nice outfit I will wear it in the middle or my bra.

As for my CGM, it is hard to hide, but I find that if I act confident about it, even if I'm not feeling confident, it is easier. If you act like you don't care about it being there, not many people will notice it or ask about it!

Everyone is different, and has different ways of dealing with things. Often I find it hard when I just want to enjoy myself and not think of diabetes, and so that is way I place my insulin pump in my bra, but it is personal preference!

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x

Ps I use a Medtronic Minimed insulin pump and Enlite CGM

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Moving Diabetes Teams

Moving Diabetes Care is scary. You have to start off fresh, explain every aspect of your care and bond with new Health Care Professionals. I was apprehensive to move diabetes teams when I came to university, because I wasn't sure if it was worth it, or if the new team would be good, but I'm really glad I moved.

It took a while for me to be referred to the new hospital. I had asked my old team to refer me, and I hadn't received an appointment yet, and when I had a problem and needed help, I didn't have a new team. I called my old hospital, and they told me they couldn't help me because I had been referred and was no longer on their system. I remember being so upset, because I didn't have my GP set up yet, I didn't have a new diabetes team and I was in limbo. I was floating between health boards and no one was really responsible for me.

I got an emergency appointment at the GP I had registered at, and they put in an emergency referral to the diabetes team. The following day, I got called by a nurse at the new hospital and got a face to face appointment straight away. I was really impressed at the pace in which the new hospital handled things. I remember at my old hospital it took a while to even get in touch with anyone, and the speed that the new hospital handled things was really impressive.

When my new team surprised me!
After my appointment with the nurse, I came away calm. The nurse I saw reassured me, helped me with my problem and applied for funding for my CGM straight away (which was another reason I was nervous about moving hospital, I was scared I wouldn't get funding). I was given all the contact details for the team, and told I would get a clinic appointment soon.

I got seen by a doctor at a clinic appointment within the month, which in terms of clinic appointments is really fast. I would have to wait at least 3 months before I got an appointment before. At my appointment, I got my annual bloods, height, weight and hba1c, the full works, done. I also saw my nurse for a full hour and got to see the doctor. We made a lot of progress, and I was really impressed by how the clinics were run, because my old hospital wasn't as smooth.

After my first clinic appointment
Since my clinic appointment last month, I have already had 3 appointments with my nurse, and calls in between to check how I'm doing. After I ended up in hospital from a hypo seizure, my nurse has been trying so hard and working with me to make sure it doesn't happen again.

All in all, I was so nervous about starting with a new diabetes team, having to reiterate every bit of my care, but I'm glad I moved. The hospital is really nearby, have made an effort to get to know me and have already helped me a lot.

Moving teams is nerve racking, but in my case it was worth it!

Until next time,

Alyssa x

Monday, 14 November 2016

World Diabetes Day - Hypo Seizures

Today is world diabetes day, used to raise awareness about all things diabetes. This year I'm gonna talk about hypos (low blood sugar) and what effect it has on me, and more specifically what effect it had on me last week. #IHateHypos

Every type 1 diabetic has experienced a hypo before. It isn't the most fun experience, usually makes me feel shaky, weak and verrry hungry. But for me, they are so scary because they cause me to have seizures. Hypos happen, and it is really hard to prevent them. Having too much insulin by miscalculating how much food you ate, or walking a little bit further than planned. So as much as I tried to prevent hypos, they are unfortunately inevitable.

Last week, I decided last minute that I needed to walk into town and pick up a few things. Before I left, I checked my blood sugar was fine, and set off. Unfortunately on the way back I had a hypo, which cause me to have a seizure and split my head open.

Me in hospital featuring my split open head
Just before it happened, I remember thinking, "Wow, I haven't had a hypo seizure in over 6 months", and this was a massive achievement for me. I had begun to imagine the day I would be able to drive, and do any sport I wanted without worry. It was an amazing thought.

Walking home after I had been into the town centre, I began to feel weak, and sick, and ultra-hungry, and very hypo. I was almost home at this point, but even so I reached in my bag to retrieve my Glucotabs (Which are sugary tablets I use to treat my low blood sugar). I never got there in time. Then I remember being in a fast response ambulance surrounded by people, with blood dripping down my face.

I had a seizure 10 feet away from my front door, hit my head and split it open, which needed glued shut. I was found by the staff who worked in my accommodation. My insulin pump alarmed that my blood sugar was low, suspended my insulin, which meant my blood sugar would eventually come back up.

Someone went to my flat ten feet away and told my flatmates, Alex and Mel, what had happened, so that I wasn't myself when everything was happening. I remember being very confused and not remembering what day it was, and what I was doing prior to the ambulance being called.

After a seizure I feel like lead. All my muscles hurt so much, and my limbs feel heavy. I have a thumping headache, and in this instance, a head wound to make things worse

My flat were brilliant. Alex and Mel came with me, and Katie, Ruaridh and Stephen all came to see me afterwards, and they all made sure I had everything I needed.

The flowers and chocolate my flat got me!
I hate having to rely on other people. As I was by myself, I had to rely on a stranger to call an ambulance and make sure I was okay, and it's a scary thought. I could do everything possible to prevent hypos, and it could still happen, and it's a scary thought.

This is part of my reality, and it hangs over me all the time, but I just have to get on with it. I can't stop doing exercise because it may make me hypo. I have to live my life to the full, and that's what I intend on doing.

Until next time,

Alyssa x

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Diabetes Burnout: It's Real

Diabetes Burn Out. Diabetes UK describe diabetes burn out as: Diabetes burnout, also known as diabetes distress, is a natural and rational response to living with a demanding, long-term condition.
 It’s the term given when people feel frustrated, defeated and/or overwhelmed by diabetes.

So many people I have talked that have Type 1 Diabetes have experienced this at one point or another. Everything just builds up and get on top of them, and it becomes harder and harder to control. And even though it happens to so many people, it is still a very stigmatised topic and something that is difficult to talk about. People end up feeling isolated, and frustrated, and overwhelmed.

Me Modelling "I am greater than my highs or lows" T-shirt
It is something I feel like I am experiencing now. I don't want to have type 1 diabetes anymore, and I get so frustrated and annoying by it. It does hold me back, and that's is the worst part. I can be surrounded by people, and still feel alone because no one will understand how I'm feeling. And I feel like I'm isolating myself, because I do become unwell quite a lot. And I don't want to be feeling like this anymore, but I can't help it.

Fact - Type 1 Diabetes is 24/7

There isn't a moment where I can forget about my diabetes. I have to think about my blood sugars and if I've given my insulin and if I have to adjust my insulin for the walk to the shops. It's exhausting. It is part of my reality and I find that so difficult to comprehend sometimes. It is draining having to put health on top of everything that sometimes it is easier to put it to the back of your mind and deal with it later.

The photo shown above is an amazing painting done by my best friend Lydia Parkhurst, who also writes a blog called "The Backpacker and the pod". On the left side it, shows the external appearance of someone suffering diabetes burnout. It just looks like a normal, smiling person. On the right, it shows how someone suffering diabetes burn out feels on the inside. The picture on the right shows the true feelings of the person, rather than the mask they wear on the outside.

Lydia said, "We put this pressure on ourselves to be normal and never let diabetes get in out way. I do this with my diabetes and I'm sure many other people do too. There is no such thing as a perfect diabetic! It's impossible. Yes, we all want a low HBA1C because we want to have the lowest risk of complications but at the same time Type 1 Diabetes is unpredictable."

Lydia and 1 at a conference
Her painting is amazing because it is so true. Diabetes burnout is real, but we often want to hide it from people, so we wear a smile and pretend everything is okay. But it is okay to feel this way!

I asked one of my good friends, Julia Edwards, to tell me her experiences of diabetes burnout, because she is also Type 1 Diabetic, and it is something she has been through and eventually overcame. She said "Over time I have learnt that there is no reason to beat ourselves up about this. It happens to more people than you probably realise." She also said, "DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. You are not alone. You do great 24/7. It's ok to have an off day. Be kind to yourself."

I find it really reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who I going through this or that has gone through it. It's natural. Having a chronic disability that affects someone all the time will eventually become draining, so I just need to remember that it is normal, and I will get through it.

Julie Edwards aka Jules
If you know someone who is struggling with controlling their diabetes, please don't judge. Diabetes management is hard, and they may be struggling. It is a very personal thing, and it's something I struggle to talk about, so just support them and be there for them.

Be patient and don't judge anyone experiencing Diabetes Burnout!

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x

Lydia's Twitter: @lydiasara19
Lydia's Blog:
Julia's Twitter: @Jules1315

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Here's What you Need to Know about Type 1 Diabetes

I have met a lot of new people in the last month, and I have found it difficult to explain what Type 1 Diabetes is and how it affects me to so many people. Often I say to people I've only recently met "I don't feel well" and be very general about what's wrong and how I'm feeling. With type 1 diabetes, there are a lot of different scenarios that make me feel unwell. Here's the basics on what you need to know:

Low Blood Sugar

  • When my blood sugar is low, it means I don't have enough sugar in my body. I have to stop what i'm doing and replace the sugar. I usually use lucozade sport to do this.
  • It is really important that I don't just continue when i'm "hypo" or my blood sugar is low because that can make my blood sugar drop lower.
  • Things that can drop my blood sugar include exercise, alcohol, insulin and heat. 

High Blood Sugar
  • When my blood sugar is high is means I don't have enough insulin in my body. I need to give a dose of insulin, but that takes a while to work, so I may be feeling ill for a while.
  • When my blood sugar is high, I feel so sluggish, I have brain fog (so I may act ultra stupid), I am so tired and thirsty and I go to the toilet a lot. 
  • It takes a lot of effort to even walk up the stairs, so don't expect much from me in that period.
  • When I take about being "High", I am talking about my blood sugar, not drugs!

  • I wear an insulin pump to administer my insulin, and this is attached to my body through a cannula. It has replaced multiple daily injections which I previously used.
  • I count every carbohydrate I eat, which helps me figure out how much insulin to give for a meal. So if  you see me looking at a food packet nutritional information, do not just assume i'm on a diet!
  • Diabetics don't need to differ what they eat, just be healthy like everyone else.
  • I can still drink alcohol! I just need to plan, and make sure i'm safe throughout the night.

Type 1 Diabetes is really hard to control, so I can't always get it right!

Until next Time,

Alyssa x

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Dundee Freshers Week!

Freshers week: a week where universities tries to introduce themselves and encourage you to get to know each other as the first year starts university.

Before I arrived at my university halls, I found a couple of my flatmates on a Facebook group, Katie and Alex. They both seemed lovely and friendly, but that didn't alleviate my anxiety towards moving away and starting university. I feared not making friends and not being able to keep up, which I imagine are normal fears when starting university. When I arrived, after the madness of moving in and getting sorted, my flatmates and I sat down together, and they were so welcoming, and put me at ease at once. We were really lucky with the people in our flat. Everyone wanted to go out and be social, we even had a flat dinner out the first night.

My photo wall in my room so I don't get homesick!

What I found out is that freshers week isn't just about going out at night and drinking, it is about getting to know everyone, the city and what the university has to offer. I tried to take advantage of all the free events that were on to make the most of freshers week.

The first few days of freshers week was a blur. Lots of people were still moving in, and when we went to the nightclub in University of Dundee union, it was always packed. Dundee is a really friendly city, and it is crawling with students, so there was a great atmosphere. Everywhere you turn there is someone giving you a leaflet about the next event happening.

My Flat: Alex, Mel, Katie, Ruaridh and Stephen
On the Monday night, we decided to go to the union, and I had a bit too much too drink (I was trying to be careful). The morning after, I woke up with high blood sugar and ketones in my blood (Ketones happen when your body doesn't have enough insulin, and makes you really unwell). It gave me a shock, because I was just trying to have fun but ended up being really unwell and had to take a couple nights out of freshers week to recover. I have learned that it is okay to take a step back, know your limits, and stick to them.

There were so many events on this week. A sports and freshers fayre showing off all the sports activities and societies offered by the university, giving away free pizza and other food (one of the best parts), loads of acts in the student union including MTV, Nick Grimshaw and Blonde and an outdoor cinema showing Harry Potter (which was very cold!). All have helped me get to know the University of Dundee and the city.

Beca and I
Freshers week has been amazing, definitely a great introduction into student life. I'm dreading the workload of university now, having been given a full timetable and a long reading list, having to juggle work and social life, I feel it is going to be difficult. Trying to fit all these things in, as well as having Type 1 Diabetes, is going to be hard but I imagine it will be worth it.

Katie, Alex, Lucy and I in the Dundee Union
I have already made some amazing friends in my flatmates, Mel, Alex, Katie, Ruaridh and Stephen, and on my course, and have reconnected with a friend who I went to school with and has followed me to Uni, Lucy, and I imagine I'll meet lifelong friends.

Freshers week has been crazy but amazing!

Until Next Time,