Blood Sugar Trampoline

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 4 What brings me down

This week is the 8th Annual Diabetes Blog Week and my second year participating. Diabetes Blog Week was started by and is still instigated by fellow type 1 Karen Graffeo in Connecticut who blogs at Bitter~Sweet Diabetes​.

This week is as a way for Diabetes bloggers (well over 100 participants from ALL OVER the World each year!) to share a huge variety of perspectives on issues relating to our illness. Learn more about Diabetes Blog Week here.
#DBlogWeek

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 4 – What Brings Me Down

Today let’s revisit a prompt from 2014 – May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks again to Scott for this 2014 topic.)
I seem to be in a good place with my diabetes management at the moment, as I’m blogging less about my own diabetes experiences and more about what is going on in my wider diabetes bubble.

So my “What Brings me Down” blog post is more about all the things that are frustrating, overwhelming and make me want to cry in the world of diabetes advocacy.

However, there is one area that does bring me down recently. Several nights, not in a row, of CGM alarms disrupting my sleep are bring me down. Is it just a phase or is it a new trend? Being overwhelmed with the night time alarms not being consistent so I can’t use the information to make changes is bringing me down.

Oh and the thoughts of doing basal rate checks is bring me down too. I’ve no problem doing, no, I’ll correct that to, I have the least resistance in doing basal rate checks at night. Go figure that one!

My anxiety levels elevate a bit when I consider doing basal rate checks during the day because I’m always running around and I “chauffeur” during the day (school dropoffs and pickups). So, and please don’t be horrified by this, but in my 7 years on an insulin pump I have not done basal rate test in daylight. But since I learned more about Sugar Surfing last weekend I have a renewed ambition to tackle this.

What seriously brings me down is trying to explain what living with diabetes is like for me and not receiving compassion or understanding. Being met with the challenge of lack of knowledge and being met with a lack of empathy because the tabloid media and some health care professionals continue to reinforce the myth that diabetes is a self-indulgent condition and therefore deserved.

What brings me down is trying to fundraise for anything related to diabetes, especially to improve diabetes health care services in Ireland, in a world that doesn’t seem understand or want to understand why we need those things. What brings me down is how heavily we rely on our own community to fundraise when we are such a small one.

What brings me down is hearing that a new, much needed, health care professional has (finally) been appointing in a diabetes clinic only to find out that a vacancy or funding is pulled from another clinic in another part of the country. Case and point here;

“– In Waterford, the vacant Consultant post there was advertised last year and we have to wait over 6 months for interviews to be held and possibly up to a further year for the post to be filled.

– Following the transfer of a Consultant from Sligo Hospital to Limerick University Hospital, nothing is being done to date to recruit a replacement in Sligo.

– In Galway University Hospital, we are waiting for interviews to take place for the vacant Consultant post there which was recently re-advertised following the withdrawal of a successful candidate who was returning from abroad and who had accepted the post in 2015 and was due to start in 2017.” Source Diabetes Ireland

What brings me down is the fact that our health service published a standard of care document for children with type 1 diabetes in December 2015 and have absolutely no progress or indication that it will be implemented any time soon.

And finally, what brings me down is the fact that there is NO standard of care document for adults with type 1 diabetes and even if the health service ever gets around to publishing the delayed since June 2016 document for us, I feel like it will never, ever be implemented and I am on my own to advocate for myself.

It’s the never-ending-ness of the work needed in the diabetes advocacy world and the constant two steps forward, one step back and sometimes two steps back, that brings me down the most.

But I suppose it keeps me distracted from my own type 1 diabetes getting me down.
:-S

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 3 The Blame Game

This week is Diabetes Blog Week which is in its 8th consecutive year. This is my second year participating. Diabetes Blog Week was started by and is still instigated by fellow type 1 Karen Graffeo in Connecticut who blogs at Bitter~Sweet Diabetes​.

This week is as a way for multitudes of D-bloggers (well over 100 participants from ALL OVER the World each year!) to share a huge variety of perspectives on issues relating to our illness. Learn more about Diabetes Blog Week here.

#DBlogWeek

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 3 The Blame Game

Have you experienced blame and judgement from your healthcare team or someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger. Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had. Now, the game part. Let’s turn this around. If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself? Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us! (Thank you, Brian, for inspiring this topic.)

I tend not to judge the friend, acquaintance or complete stranger too harshly when the say something that doesn’t particularly sit well with me. I find when I use this moment as an educational and awareness one we both walk away happy… I hope.

However, I actually feel a lot of judgement from a select few people with type 1 diabetes on all that I do to manage my diabetes. I was reminded of this by these words:

“You know, someone at my work has diabetes and they don’t seem to have all the things you have to manage it. Maybe you should try to simplify what you are doing. You don’t need all of those things.” from Diabetogenic.

I immediately thought of a conversation I’ve had that was so similar but this conversation was with a person with type 1 diabetes.

It was during the time that we were organising the very first Thriveabetes Conference. We sent out press releases to every media outlet we could think of, and a researcher from a very well known radio programme called me to, you know, do research. I immediately launched into my Thriveabetes “Sales” Speech about the power of peer support in helping people with type 1 diabetes and why I believed the event was so important.

It was only when I talked about the mental burden that living with type 1 diabetes can sometimes bring that this person revealed that she was a person with type 1 diabetes. She went on to challenge what I had said by saying that she disagreed with my personal experience of living with type 1 diabetes. She did not feel that way at all. She said that just got on with it, diabetes didn’t get in the way of her life at all and she didn’t think about her type 1 diabetes much at all. I did respond that I thought that was great for her but my experience and a lot of people I knew shared my views.

She made me feel like a failure! She implied that I was doing way too much to take care of myself and making a big fuss about an illness that she found easy to manage. I choose to believe her because I don’t know this person. Who am I to challenge her about how well she manages her diabetes? But I felt I was not getting the same respect.

It was so hurtful! And I didn’t know how to respond! I think that I may have gotten her back up a little with whatever my flustered response was because we never got a call back to do an interview.

This wasn’t the last time that similar conversations have happened. But I now feel that I handle them better. I jump in straight away with compliments on the diabetes knowledge and commend them for finding their way. I express my mild jealousy on how easy they have it. If this person allows me to explain a little about how I feel, that should be all I need. I hope that this is enough to illicit a smidge of respect and understanding that not all people with diabetes are the same.

Thankfully, it’s only a few select people that I have had these types of interchanges with, and the Diabetes Community is overwhelmingly the best bunch of people to hang with whenever possible. As experience at the recent #SugarSurfingDublin workshop 😀

Diabetes Blog Week – The Cost of a Chronic Illness

This week is Diabetes Blog Week which is in its 8th consecutive year. This is my second year participating.

Diabetes Blog Week was started by and is still instigated by fellow type 1 Karen Graffeo in Connecticut who blogs at Bitter-Sweet Diabetes.

“Karen created this annual week-long blog carnival as a way for multitudes of D-bloggers (now more than 100 participating each year!) to create an unprecedented sharing of perspectives on issues relating to our illness. You can learn more about this effort, and sign up yourself if interested, here.”
#DBlogWeek!

The Cost of a Chronic Illness

Insulin and other diabetes medications and supplies can be costly. In the US, insurance status and age (as in Medicare eligibility) can impact both the cost and coverage. So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care. Do you have advice to share? For those outside the US, is cost a concern? Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care? (This topic was inspired by suggestions from Rick and Jen.)

I’m one of the lucky ones. I was born in Ireland. I’ve lived there most of my life. But I’m not lucky because I live in the Gorgeous Green Kingdom. I’m lucky because 50 years ago a bunch of people who live with diabetes got together at a meeting and said that their mission was to provide free insulin for everyone living in Ireland who needed it. (Yes, we pay for it through our taxes but really, it’s free.) And two months later it happened.

Then in 1971 all other diabetes medication and supplies became free. This is why I am lucky.

I’ve been following the American coverage of the cost of insulin with a broken heart and feeling of helplessness. And I know that there are countries in the developing world where a vial of insulin is a number of days of walk away from the people that need it.

I did have difficulty accessing diabetes technology in the form of an insulin pump and a cgm and diabetes education is still difficult to access here but this seems so insignificant compared to not being able to afford or get your hands on insulin.

I read the book “Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle” over the Christmas holidays and it detailed those first few years where Insulin production was unstable and there wasn’t enough for everyone. Neither of the manufacturing companies couldn’t make it fast enough. Access to insulin was because there wasn’t any.

My diabetes doesn’t cost me anything but my time. This is sometimes a bit of a weight on my shoulders as my clinic appointments happen when I am supposed to be collecting my children from school. But it’s also a huge relief.

Diabetes Discrimination in Career Choices

Lucky for me, or maybe for the world :-O, I never aspired to be an astronaut or an airline pilot for my career. But I have met just a few people with diabetes who did. In particular, a couple who all they wanted in life was to fly airplanes. But when they were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they ruled it out.

At the Diabetes Hands Foundation MasterLab 2016 conference there was a fantastic presentation on “Diabetes Discrimination in the Workplace”  that prompted me to feature this issue. I’ve divided it into two posts though as it was getting a bit long.

The first of which is how diabetes may affect your career choice. The second post will feature discrimination in your workplace and what your rights are.

Did you know that it’s only since 2015 that a person with type 1 diabetes can apply for An Garda Siochana in Ireland? But there are still difficulties for people with type 1 diabetes who want to join the defense forces, emergency services, railway workers and some careers at sea? What this probably means is that no one with type 1 diabetes has succeeded in passing the fitness tests to qualify for any of these careers. (source; Diabetes Ireland). But other countries don’t have these restrictions. Why can a person with diabetes be a member of the police force in the US and not be in Ireland? Well, it’s because these rules are being challenged in those countries and winning!

In the UK, some NHS Ambulance Trusts, still have restrictions in place on people with diabetes who wish to be ambulance crew. But these restrictions are being challenged.

In the US a person with diabetes CAN be a firefighter or a police officer! You CAN be a commercial pilot in the UK and Canada but not in the US. This is being challenged also.

My point is if you have a dream, if you know what you want to do with your life, don’t let people put you off. If you feel that you are right for any of those careers, then go for it! Where there is a will there is a way!

Here’s the video from MasterLab 2016 – well worth a watch!!

I had hoped to publish part 2 of Diabetes Discrimination along with this post but Ha! Intentions were good but time did not cooperate. Part 2 next week!

Blood Glucose Diary Faker

Renza from Diabetogenic wrote this piece on “fudging” our bg numbers in our blood glucose diaries and it fuelled my fire. It’s such a coincidence that we both attended conferences where the “Fake” blood glucose diary of a person with diabetes was held as an example of a “bad” patient! Renza’s piece is well worth a read on how she handled the situation and spoke up for all of us. She rocks!!

My experience was more of the sitting quietly at the back in disbelief that this was how this conference was beginning. The conference I attended focused on changing the way care is delivered to young adults with diabetes.

I was diagnosed as a young adult – age 20. The instant I saw that photo and heard those words I had vivid flashbacks. I remember doing that! I even remember why! I remember that every out of range blood glucose number in my diary was questioned, I felt interrogated and I never knew the answer. Back then, there was no carb counting and no one told me that if I ate more food but still took the same amount of insulin that my blood glucose levels would be higher. It wasn’t bad behaviour or poor choices – it was ignorance. I remembered being lost, feeling so isolated and not knowing anything about diabetes, let alone how to manage it. I remember that I never felt I could ask for help with my diabetes from my health care team.

I did it because I didn’t want to be judged or reprimanded for something I thought had no control over. I was letting my diabetes team down.

This conference, supposedly, about health care professionals finding a better way to deliver care but this made me feel like the reason young people with diabetes were not doing well was their own fault.

What should have been said, and said clearly, was that if a person with diabetes feels they have to hide their blood glucose numbers from their diabetes team the patient is the one being failed. That the diabetes team are to ones letting the patient down. That your reaction to people’s blood glucose diarys need some work. That the fact that a patient has actually written down their blood glucose numbers at all is an achievement to be celebrated. That you, despite your best intentions, are being judgemental.

Thankfully, these days, I am much older and wiser and more assertive these days. And of course, there’s the fact that I don’t care very much what other people think of me. I do ask for help – it’s not always available but I keep asking. I also have a team that seem to be a bit more open to conversation about what I need. But I am a little perturbed that 20+ years later, young people with diabetes STILL feel that they have to cheat to pass their diabetes test?

Oh and BTW, I ALWAYS use the same pen to write down my BG numbers cos I keep the same pen in the case with my bg meter!! So this is not an effective way to flush out or prove a diary is being faked.

Pen stored inside Blood Glucose meter case. Photo credit Blood Sugar Trampoline
Pen stored inside Blood Glucose meter case. Photo credit Blood Sugar Trampoline

How many people actually use a written diary these days not anyway? Aren’t we all uploading to software programmes or using Apps?

Empowerment and Diabetes – My Journey

Last May, I was asked by the organisers of the Future Health Summit to give a presentation on how I became an empowered person with diabetes. Some friends asked if I could blog about it.

The reason for my topic choice was because the theme of the conference was Empowering the Patient, Information, Choice & Accountability and I decided to focus on Empowering the Patient element for my presentation. I feel like I am one, that diabetes does not have power over me, I have a lot of power over it.

The journey towards being an empowered patient didn’t happen overnight, for me. I would like to think that a person with diabetes diagnosed today would find empowerment much quicker than I did. But the two core elements that were pivotal in my journey didn’t really exist when I was diagnosed. Those elements were Diabetes Education & Support.

Obviously my Journey Began with diagnosis 23 years ago – 1993. Diabetes Education was extremely basic in Ireland back then, if it existed at all!

My diabetes management involved;

  • – Injecting a fixed amount of insulin twice every day
  • – Eating the same amount of food at the same time every day
  • – Checking Blood Glucose levels just twice every day
  • – And I was taught How to recognise & treat a hypo

For those first 6 years I felt like I blindly coasted through my diabetes care. I did what I was asked to but I had no idea why I was doing any of it, except to stay alive.

So what changed? What prompted me to get on the bus to empowerment?

This is going to sound corny but it was love. In 1999, I met this bloke.

Phil

This is Phil. We weren’t going out very long but he already had notions about our relationship and we weren’t going out for very long when he asked me for books or leaflets where he could learn more about helping me manage my diabetes. I was stunned! And for three reasons;

  • – He was the first person I met who didn’t expect me to educate him on something I barely knew myself.
  • – That the relationship was moving a bit faster than I had thought and
  • – that I had nothing, absolutely nothing to give him when it came to information.

What I did have was access to the internet at work. So the next day, during my lunch break, I “AltaVista’d” type 1 diabetes. If you don’t know what AltaVista is, google it! 😀

I couldn’t believe what I found – the list of websites containing information was so long. I found all of these organisations with websites that had tonnes of practical information such as the Joslin Diabetes Centre and the world’s leading research organisation, the JRDF. I had never heard of these places before.

I started reading all of this information before handing it over to Phil and it got me thinking that there might be a better way to live with diabetes. But that thinking got shelved for a while as this journey is not an express route and it required a couple of transfers to reach my destination.

1st Transfer–Diabetes Education

You’ll be happy to know that I, very quickly, realised Phil was a keeper and by 2003, we had been married a couple of years, had moved to US and we were thinking about starting a family. As soon as my endocrinologist heard this he marched me off to a dietitian to learn about counting carbohydrates, insulin dose adjustment and sliding scales.
Family 1family 2

I had been diagnosed 10 years by the time I found diabetes education which now seems too long. But this knowledge gave me some of the control over this thing called diabetes for the first time. And I felt supported; supported by my diabetes team and supported with knowledge. I didn’t realised it then but my diabetes team in the US was the first I experience of patient centred care.

2nd Transfer–Diabetes Peer Support

The 2nd transfer on my journey towards empowerment was finding peer support.

By 2007, we had moved back to Ireland, had our second baby and I was increasingly frustrated and unhappy with the diabetes care I was receiving. In June of that year I found myself at my lowest point after leaving the most humiliating diabetes appointment I’ve ever experienced. But it propelled me into action. I knew there had to be someone out there who would make me feel listened to.

I went home and remembered a recent newspaper article about a new branch of Diabetes Ireland being set up in Clare. I called the number in the piece and the lady who answered was a fellow person with type 1 diabetes. What are the odds? She had had her second baby around the same time as I had and we were both new to Clare. We instantly connected and during the course of that conversation we realised that we both wanted to meet more people like us and to do this was to set up diabetes support groups.

By the end of 2007, we had diabetes support groups and they continue to be a source of information, motivation and inspiration for me. And they, with some information from Diabetes Ireland helped me find a diabetes team that works amazing for me.

support group

Destination Reached – Person Empowered

This is where I feel my journey towards empowerment was completed. I had reached my destination.

Yes, I took the scenic route to being an empowered person with diabetes. An empowered person with diabetes who can drive her own diabetes. And I became that by finding two very simple, very basic diabetes resources but yet they are not accessible to everyone with diabetes in Ireland.

The first necessity is Diabetes education is as important as giving someone who wants to drive a car lesson and some theory. Would you really put a beginner in the driving seat of a car without it? And not just structured diabetes Education, like the university style of lectures. This education has to be an ongoing 2-way conversational style of learning, where a person with diabetes can grow in confidence, drive their own diabetes and the instructor takes more of a back seat each time.

The second is Diabetes Support and for me that comes from three sources;

  • At home – I may be the person with diabetes but my whole family lives with it. The more supported I am at home the more successful I will be in my diabetes management.
  • My Diabetes team – My journey has taught me that I need a health care team who listens to me, acknowledges all that I do to manage my care and doesn’t just focus my failings. A team that continues to teach me and a team that continues to learn.
  • My diabetes Peers – the most undervalued, underused resource available for people with diabetes today. Who else knows what it’s like to live with diabetes than other people with it. We learn so much from sharing our experiences, so much that can’t be taught in a hospital appointment.

So while my journey towards empowerment has been completed, my life with diabetes journey still continues. And I hope to continue that journey for many, many decades.

Diabetes 1 Now Study

Diabetes Educators?

Last week was completely mental for me. Definitely not the life of a stay at home parent and way too  exciting.

Wednesday, a bunch of us diabetes advocates went to Leinster House to meet with our TD’s and Senators. This is the equivalent of meeting with congress in the US, kindof. I won’t go into detail here but if you’re interested in what happened I posted about it here on Thriveabetes last Tuesday.

Thursday was the complete opposite, live moving from a developing country to a developed one. One day, I was asking government to approve the funding needed to improve our diabetes services, the next, I was in the world of research and science. Not a world I’m very comfortable in but I learned a lot about peer support and specifically this research project that Prof Sean Dinneen is leading on how to create a programme for young adults living with type 1 diabetes called D1 Now Study.

“This event was to provide a forum, lead by a diverse group of keynote speakers including Young Adult with T1D, for sharing experiences and developing ideas around the management of t1d during the challenging years of young adulthood.”

It was a jam-packed day with lots of international studies talked about from around the world about type 1 diabetes and their findings.

From The Role of Family in Supporting the Young Adult with Diabetes by Clea DeBrun Johansen from Denmark Diabetes Academy.

Among this study’s findings were that “The influence of the family continues to be very prominent during emerging adulthood, especially the college years.”
Her study also concluded that;
– Parents play an important, yet complex, role for emerging adults with type 1 diabetes.
– Parents can contribute positively to diabetes self-care and psychological well being.
– Parents can also negatively influence life with diabetes for emerging adults (absence, disinterest in diabetes, acting in a controlling manner).Interview Findings
Emerging adults do not want to be too dependent on their parents – they want parents to be available when needed.

Clea ended with this quote but I would argue that you can do diabetes alone but nobody wants to.

You can't do diabetes alone
You can’t do diabetes alone

Next up was Barbara Johnson who discussed WICKED, a new diabetes education programme in Sheffield. This has to be the coolest name for diabetes education. EVER!

Workin with Insulin, Carbs, Ketones and Exercise to manage Diabetes.

Prior to developing WICKED, Sheffield realised that young adults were taking responsibility for their diabetes often when changes are happening – starting work, moving away to uni, drinking alcohol, having sex and that they may not have received education targeted at them before.
They asked for education that was relevant to them.

Will Hadfield from King’s College Hospital, London, told us about their Transition Clinics for adolescents with diabetes.

His description sounded very much like an afterschool club with peer activities organised by the patients. He also mentioned that a large number of young adults don’t want to received anything diabetes related in their social media feeds. I can understand that they want to keep at least one zone or area of their lives free of diabetes. I have some of those too.

Sarah Simkin from Jigsaw Galway gave a very enlightening talk about how their

A Service Designed by Service Users.

From the design and layout of the building to how the service would be delivered. They really adopted the “Nothing about us, without us” motto that has been circulating for a couple of years and they owned it.

Young Adults with Diabetes Panel (YAP)

Then we heard from the first of two young adults with diabetes who are involved in the D1 Now study. Monica Mullins, a student in Galway, told of how she became a member of the Young Adult Panel (YAP) and the training they received to become researchers. There was a lot of training and it does make them more effective in the research but now I feel that they have altered their typical YA with diabetes demographic, making them not so typical now. Maybe an an additional YAP is needed so that they research team learn to communicate with them.

Our second voice of diabetes, Liam McMorrow designed a survey on “Understanding Young Adults preferences for Diabetes Clinic care”. It was really interesting and I had a couple of questions about his fantastic questionnaire but there wasn’t enough time to answer many questions.

CHOICE

Last but not least was David Chaney who is the National Director of Diabetes UK Northern Ireland and the only other Irish person I met at the Friend for Life Diabetes Conference in America last summer.
David, with diabetes teams across Northern Ireland, developed CHOICE, (carbohydrate and insulin collaborative education). CHOICE is a structured education programme for children and young people with diabetes (aged 0-19 years) and their parents / carers.

I don’t think there is a parent of a child with diabetes in Ireland who does not know about CHOICE. David took us on the journey of how CHOICE came to be and how it has developed and adapted to meet the needs of children and young people with diabetes.

He told us that when a child is diagnosed with diabetes all the education is directed towards the parents, so when a child transitions into the adolescent and young adult service we expect them to have absorbed all that information by osmosis. Barbara Johnson earlier reinforced this point. David believes, as many of us do, that diabetes education is the cornerstone to good diabetes management.

We are kind of putting our young adults with diabetes into the driving seat of their diabetes without giving them a few lessons and a bit of theory. But, you wouldn’t put a person in the driving seat without giving them a few lessons and a bit of theory first. Then as their confidence grows the diabetes team backs away but if there whenever they are needed. CHOICE is teaching adolescents and young adults to drive their own diabetes.
David also provide The Best Slide of the conference in my opinion. “If HCPs don’t provide diabetes education, others will” Diabetes Educators?

I did get a little frustrated and “irked” about half way through the conference because it was starting to feel like I was being talked about while in the room but not being included in the conversation. Maybe I needed some YAP training to fully participate? Again, it’s not a world I’m very familiar with so maybe that was it? I also wasn’t able to attend the Hackathon that followed the Conference. And I am looking forward to seeing where the research goes and how it develops.

On a personal note the stress of travelling across the country, plus trying to find “volunteers” to look after my children had left the building, along with the high blood glucose numbers:-)

Things I’ve Learned about My Diabetes with a CGM

I have been using a Continuous Glucose Monitoring device (CGM) for six months and I feel that I have enough information now to share what I have learned about my diabetes management in those short months.

A couple of weeks ago I shared how I came to get my hands on this little golden nugget and you can read about that here.

So here it goes, in no particular order, what I have learned.

Rapid acting insulin is not that rapid at all!

If my blood sugar levels dare to go ⇑ and beyond, it could take up to 4 – 6 hours for the insulin to bring them back to normal. It is a major exercise in patience!!! And can lead to rage bolusing (i.e. getting extremely frustrated and bolusing more that reason dictates).

Before CGM, I would take a correction dose of insulin, go to bed, only to wake up in the morning to realise that it hadn’t lowered my levels as much as I had hoped and I had spent at least 8 hours with elevated blood glucoses levels.

Breakfast Blood Glucose

Hypo treatments don’t work fast either.

Glucose, even in its purest, most rapid form doesn’t work fast enough. This can lead to over treating but thankfully the CGM can help curb the overtreatment.

Angle of Arrow Interpretation ⇑⇒⇓⇖⇗⇘⇙

Interpreting what the angle of the arrow next to my blood glucose reading, means in terms of where my blood sugar levels are heading is not that easy but after a bit of trial and error can be achieved.

The alarms can be annoying.

The alarms! The alarms, in the beginning, were, can be annoying and did interrupt many nights of sleep. But they are there for a reason. And very good reasons at that.

The alarms are very useful learning tools.

I tried not to get frustrated with the alarms, especially the low glucose one, which I have set at 4.4mmols. This give me enough time to prevent an actual hypo and I’m still rational enough to decide how to deal with the impending train wreck.

Mostly I use the alarm as learning tool on how to adjust my insulin dose to avoid them. And it’s worked. Six months ago my high blood glucose alarm was set at 16.6 and now I’ve gradually brought that down to 13.3, it only very occasionally goes off (touch wood). They are especially helpful for dealing with days out of my routine and for food that I don’t have very often.

I’m self conscious about my gadgets and gizmos.

Since the weather warmed up I’ve been wearing short sleeves and my sensor, which is placed on my upper arm, attracts a bit of attention. This does make me think about wardrobe choices a bit more and if I really want to talk diabetes.

I sleep less.

This is both good and bad. Bad because I might be woken several times a night because of the alarms and good because I know that I will never have a hypo again without being aware of it. Sleeping through hypos was a huge concern of mine and the reassurance that my CGM gives me is invaluable.

Sometimes my CGM is not reliable.

Just like any other piece of technology I have noticed that there are times where I should double check my CGM reading with a finger prick check. The times this most often happens is usually the first day of a new sensor and when my blood glucose levels are rising quickly or falling quickly. So I still do 7 finger prick tests a day.

My blood glucose levels are within their targets 65% of the time.

Finger prick blood glucose tests give you a snapshot of where your levels are at that point. The CGM tells you where your blood glucose levels are ALL of the time. It’s the difference between having a photo or seeing the whole movie/book. Now that I have a starting point I can try to increase that percentage and spend more time within a healthier blood glucose range. I also appreciate knowing that number is over 50%.

My CGM does influence my behaviour.

That little graph display does influence my behaviour around food and it also helps me stem the spike in my post meal blood glucose levels. It influences decisions about my treats, such as helping me determine should I choose a full bar of chocolate, just 2 squares of the good dark stuff or on warm sunny days the ice cream. My cgm really helps me spend more time within my blood glucose target range.

It has helped reduce my HbA1c!!!

Yes! I had my lab work done at the end of May and I have had the lowest HbA1c that I have had in four years and the time before that I maintained close to this level while I was pregnant with my first child 12 years ago. I have not been able to stabilize this level at any other time. I have been using an insulin pump for 6 years and hadn’t achieved a lower number. Insulin pumps should be available to those who want them and it should be very much about a personal choice. But CGM’s, in my opinion, are way more valuable a tool for managing diabetes and should be strongly encouraged. Even if it’s just for a couple of months. I know they are expensive but in the long run they would reduce the number of hospital admissions for both hyper and hypoglycemia.

 

All in all, I am never giving this device up! Knowing where my blood sugars are at any given time has been so reassuring and relieved so much anxiety.

On a promotional note, I attended a presentation by Thriveabetes 2016 keynote speaker, Gary Scheiner on “Making the Most of Your CGM” where I learned lots of useful information and he has published a book on it, “Practical CGM“. You can register for Thriveabetes 2016 here.

How I got a CGM

The end of May marked six months since I got CGM’d. WOW! It just flew by. 

Bouncing on the Blood Sugar Trampoline

After two years of persistence, I finally got my CGM on November 27th 2015. When I announced this on social media I has a number of queries about how I managed to get approved and how difficult others were finding their quest.

As always, the one thing that the diabetes community is brilliant at, is sharing knowledge through our personal experiences for the benefit of others. So, here is the story of how I came to have a CGM.

How did this quest begin? Well, it began with an insulin pump (and that was another long drawn out “quest”) in June 2010. I wrote about that journey here on 29th March 2011.

I use the Animas Insulin Pump and as soon as Animas announced that they were rolling out the Animas Vibe with CGM integration in the UK and Ireland, I was on it like sticky on a toddler.

My pump was due for an upgrade in 2014 as the warranty runs out at 4 years and because the pump software would not continue past January 2016. I called my Animas rep to find out how, or if there was a chance that I would get a Vibe as part of this upgrade and she said yes! Great! But wait!

Hiccup no. 1. However, between hearing this information and my next appointment at my endo’s office, my Animas rep, the only Animas employee in Ireland at that time,  took a 12 month sabbatical. That combined with having only 3 visits per year to my endo doesn’t give me much of a chance to get things done. I did get my Vibe in June 2014 and immediately started chasing down how to get the CGM component.

Hiccup no. 2. My Animas rep returned from her sabbatical the following August BUT then my fabulous endocrinologist left her position at the hospital I attend! I decided to use this opportunity to migrate back into public health care for my diabetes. My children were both in primary school and it was doable to fit clinic visits during school hours. I had also heard of a clinic that was only a one hour drive away that had an insulin pump clinic and DAFNE

CGM 9.1

Hiccup no. 3. Fifteen month waiting list!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not kidding! By the time I got my referral sorted out to my new clinic and waited I had been without medical care for 11 months. I was doing fine but I was starting to get a wee bit unsettled. Thankfully, when I called to chase up my referral they squeezed me into the Type 2 diabetes clinic in April 2015 but at least I was in and on the books.

June 2015 – I set up a trial before purchase with a Dexcom CGM for two weeks and I was hooked. And now I had data, with the help of my mathematical husband, to strengthen my case for getting one permanently.

October 2015 – I presented my case and there were a couple of breakdowns in communication but the paperwork was put through to apply for funding approval from the HSE and on the 27th November I was live on a CGM permanently.

It took 17 months to complete this quest, that in the end when I had convinced my diabetes team why I wanted one took 6 weeks. Unlike an insulin pump, the training and education required before a patient goes live on a CGM is minimum. 

In February 2016, an additional piece of this quest was completed and that was the reimbursement of the monthly supply of sensors which comes not from the Core List F of diabetes supplies and medications included in the Long Term Illness Scheme but on the Special Product List. See here for more information.

And that is the complicated story of how I got a CGM. My next post will focus on what I have learn about managing my diabetes by using it and how I will be taking it to the grave with me.

If you want to find out more about what is a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) device is, watch here. There are two available in Ireland at the moment; the aforementioned Dexcom (with or without the Vibe insulin pump) and the Medtronic RealTime Guardian CGM. The newer Medtronic pumps all come with CGM compatibility but you can get the CGM component without getting an insulin pump.

Future Health Summit Review

I have so much to share from the Future Health Summit last Friday I really don’t know where to start. So. Much. To. Write. It was very much an honour to have the opportunity to attend and to get a glimpse into the health care professionals’ world and to have access to a diverse range of AM-azing speakers from all areas of health.

Friday morning, I arrived in, what I thought, was plenty of time to browse the exhibits but due to a minor mix up in the timetable I lost forty five minutes of that time. I met some really interesting people though, who do some very important work and some very interesting delegates.

The first part of my day was spent attending the Diabetes Ireland workshop, which was consolidated with the ARCH workshop.

I have to say that I feel a new & engaging phase of diabetes patient conferences evolving. The diabetes conferences that I had been going to in Ireland were stale for me. They were very much medically driven and about getting to know the basics. They were not at all engaging, or very seldom and I wasn’t learning anything new at them so I stopped going.

Future Health Summit Logo

In 2014, I had my first experience of what a patient conference could be when I went to my first diabetes conference where the speakers really, I mean really, engaged with their audience. It was almost like we were at a Baptist church service and I just wanted to stand up and sing “Halleluia”! I called these guys and gals Diabetes Rock Stars. And these guys blog, have websites, run organisations and are well known in the diabetes world. You know who I’m talking about because we are bringing a small number of them to Thriveabetes.

But in recent months, as I do more and more blogging and advocating and learning and meeting new diabetes people I’m beginning to realise that we are growing our own crop of Diabetes Rock Stars right here in Ireland. I can see it happening and it’s so exciting. The two I will mention today are Diabetes Ireland’s very own, Anna Clarke and Kate Gajewska (no she’s not Irish born but we are keeping her:-)

Kate’s “Top 10 Tips for living with Diabetes

Kate presented her “Top 10 Tips for living with Diabetes”. But they weren’t what you might have assumed they were. She told us not to forget to live and play, that diabetes is part of our lives – don’t let it become our whole lives. Become an expert in diabetes – find out what it is, how insulin works, how carbohydrate is absorbed – there is nothing as empowering as knowledge. They are just a couple of the gems she shared. And she told us her diabetes story of growing up in Poland and how her parents bought her first blood glucose meter when they first came out and then they bought her first pump. How expensive they were but that her parents know how much a difference they would make in her life. I hope to have more information about Kate in the coming months on the Thriveabetes blog.

Anna’s ” What to expect from you annual diabetes clinic appointment”

Anna Clarke gave us her version of what to expect from you annual diabetes clinic appointment. It was clear that Anna knew most of the people with diabetes in the room had type 1 and I think she also knew some of us personally. She delivered a talk that was specific to us. Us, who have been around the diabetes block for a while and do our homework for our appointments. So, she told us that we should not be afraid to speak up at our appointments, especially if we don’t feel listened to. That, even if our doctors and nurses don’t see us as equals, we should still see them as ours. And to focus on getting more time with our Diabetes Nurse Specialists rather than our Endocrinologists.

Shane O’Donnell & The ARCH Workshop

Next up was the ARCH workshop which was extremely interesting and gave me a little introductions to sociology presented by Dr. Shane O’Donnell was presenting it with his colleague, Dr Maria Quinlan.

ARCH is the Applied Research for Connected Health, and “is at the centre of an unparalleled connected health education and research infrastructure that spans a range of activities from gathering, analysing and interpreting data, through the development of new knowledge and care models to implementing and evaluating change.”

Shane, you might remember from a previous post, is Ireland’s representative on the International Diabetes Federation’s Young Leader in Diabetes Programme. And even though he had written a piece for Thriveabetes, which you can have a read of here – we had yet to meet. Cool Bananas! Box ticked!

 

I know that I’ve come across a couple more Irish people in diabetes who qualify as “Rock Stars” – but I thought I would just give you a little flava.

We had a quick break for lunch. And then my afternoon was spent attending the Diabetes Summit, where I was presenting. I have to tell ye, I think I have the bug. TBC This post is long enough:-)

Apologies for the lack of photo, I really need to upgrade my phone:-(

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