Blood Sugar Trampoline

The Luck of the Irish

As we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day last week, I began to reflect of what it’s like to be a person with diabetes living in Ireland.

St Patricks Day

The luck o’ the Irish is often referred to in movies, etc, but in actual fact, when it come to diabetes, I think we should called it lucky to be born in Ireland.

We have socialised medicine here, we called it public healthcare. It gives us free test strips, blood glucose meters, insulin and lots of other diabetes medicine without any stipulations.

Private healthcare is an option here too but it usually only covers hospital treatments, although the insurers are starting to cover primary care visits a little.  With private health insurance you could get a private scheduled appointment with an endocrinologist but you don’t, in most cases, get the backup of a diabetes nurse specialist or a dietitian.

When I hear stories from my friends in America, especially when I read Riva Greenberg’s piece in the Huffington Post about battling with health insurance companies for diabetes supplies I’m truly thankful that the reason Diabetes Ireland was formed in 1967 was to ensure that diabetes was included on the Health Service’s list of long term illnesses and therefore providing us with free medication and supplies.

We also have excellent health care professionals working in our clinics, just not enough of them.

Sure, there are lots of other things that we don’t have but we are advocating strongly for, such as national access to structured diabetes education, access to psychology, unlimited access to insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring.

And dealing with the health care professionals outside of the diabetes setting is frustrating. And yes, I did have to haggle with my diabetes team to make sure I got my insulin pump 6 years ago and my CGM last November. And yes, sometimes I don’t feel listened to at my clinic. But these are problems that are global.

But we don’t have to beg, wrestle or finance our basic diabetes needs.

Welcome to Blood Sugar Trampoline

A combination of my personal blog about living with type 1 diabetes in Ireland and sharing information I collect along the way.

I feel that living with type 1 diabetes is sometimes like being on a trampoline, except you can never get off. It doesn’t take long for us to get tired of all that bouncing. It’s not any fun.

Here, we can bounce together, keep each other steady, and cheer each other on when we get tired and want to get off the trampoline.


Some of you may have come across the Hashtag #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes….. over the last year, which is the brainchild of Diabetesaliciouness blogger, Kelly Kunik.

I met the superwoman herself last July at the MasterLab Diabetes Advocates conference. On that first morning, as I took a deep breath and joined a table of strangers. I know, I'm a very grown-up woman but I still have to force strongly encourage myself to do these things because I know I'll regret it if I don't.

Anyway, I did not recognise anyone but as soon as the ladies started conversing and using their first names, I started to connect the "who" to the "blog" and figured out that the girl sitting right beside me was Kelly.

Kelly has lived with type 1 since she was 8 years old (that's 38 years), and comes from a long line of direct relatives with type 1 diabetes, including her sister who died in 1991 from complications at the age of 33. Kelly gave an indept interview in August to Diabetes Mine in which you can read lots more about her and why she does what she does.

The #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes hashtag and the #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes Day, (22nd April 2015), were inspired by 3rd grade teacher, Kyle Schwartz and her #Iwishmyteacherknewthat hashtag, which was heartbreaking.

Photo cortesy of

Kelly says that "This day is about people living with diabetes taking to twitter and using the hashtag in unison for a 24 hours period to express the good, the bad and the diabetesalicious of it all."

The #hashtag and day took on a life of their own with over 16 countries participating and generating over 17 million twitter impressions to date.

The IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes hashtag has now become an initiative, a movement and a call to action where people can express themselves past the 140 character limit and in various multimedia formats. Kelly launched the "" website last November. She (and I) encourages everybody to visit the website and submit your own "what you wished people knew about diabetes". You can also read some guest posts from rock stars in the Diabetes Community and some totally-not-a-rock-star-or-even-close people's guest posts (i.e. yours truly. I was so honoured that she asked!!!) is well worth a visit.


Operation Transformation – A National Movement

The tv show Operations Transformation is more than just a fluffy piece of entertainment. It's a national movement. And, for me, it's the most uplifting programme on telly today.


No, I swear I'm not crazy… or easily entertained!!!

I only began watching the programme a number of years ago, when the creators partnered with Diabetes Ireland to create more awareness about type 2 diabetes. It was only then that I realised this show is about so much more than getting five people to lose weight.

And I got hooked! Unlike any reality TV show that I have seen, it's not about putting people down or pitting them against each other.

Operations Transformation is advertised as a health and fitness programme. It airs on RTÉ One in Ireland. The show is a cross-media event broadcast via radio, web and television and it's been running (ha, ha, pun) for nine years.


The show motivates and inspires people and communities to come together to become healthier. They are partnered with Sports Ireland who help organise nationwide walks in over fifty locations all around Ireland.

It encourages everyone to take back control of their lives, no matter what your demons are.

How does it work?

Five leaders are selected and are supported and guided by a panel of experts in the fields of fitness, nutrition and psychology in order to reach their individual goals. The show broadcasts over a period of seven weeks but most leaders continue on their journey sucessfully.

The leaders are chosen on the basis that there is someone for everyone to relate to. The meal and exercise plans which have been created for each leader are published online so that viewers can follow the plans also.

The first two programmes of the series introduces all the leaders, who they are, what they do and why they want to do Operation Transformation. Let me warn you, it's a cry-fest. Well, no it isn't I'm just a big SAP!
You find out that these people are not just battling their weight; they have darker demons buried inside that are holding them back. Being overweight is just a symptom of what ails them.
This programme also gives you an insight into just how difficult it is to decide to lose weight and that you're crazy if you think there is a quick fix and that support is key. Why do it by yourself.

Why am I writing about this programme?

I think this programme is an Irish phenomenon and could be replicated elsewhere.


And this programme is educational; I was happy with my weight but the truth is that when I go clothes shopping I am definately not. 

As a person with type 1 diabetes I feel that the food I eat is healthy most of the time! I did pare it down a number of years back to drop some baby weight and it worked. And I get my 30 minute walk into my day 4 times a week so I couldn't be bothered trying to add more exercise. 
But when the show introduced me to leader, Noeleen who is 5" 3" in height and 75 kgs and officially obese – I woke up! I'm 5" 4" and 72 kgs!!! Yikes! Too close for comfort.
So while I really don't want to change the way I eat – I starting to think I need to move more to officially be healthy. Let's face it who doesn't!
All the leaders are inspirational this year and along with Noeleen, I'm especially interested in cheering for Chef John Conmy who has type 2 diabetes. During his fitness test during the programme he was discovered to have heart disease. He wasn't aware he had it and this programme may have saved his life. 

And then there's Clare Scanlan, who's has not been able to move past her grief after losing her 15 year old son to sudden adult death syndrome two years ago. 

The show has teams up with Sport Ireland, who organise nationwide walks in over fifty locations all around Ireland. The highest number to date who took part is over 19,000 people. Every year this numbers climbs and climbs.

People are doing it! Taking back control of their lives!

Diabetes Complications are Not a Sign of Failure

The complications of diabetes are real and people are living with them. People are also living in fear of them. Myself included. I am actively trying to overcome this fear because if I do end up with complications I don't want to feel like it is the end of my life. Or that I failed to manage my diabetes well enough. And I certainly don't want to be made to feel that it's my fault.

I don't believe just because I am doing everything in my power to manage my diabetes that I will be spared. I believe that if I have type 1 diabetes I still have the risk of developing complications. I strive to keep that percentage of risk low but it will never be zero.

I will not stop trying!

Image from

So, when a friend of mine, who has lived more than 50 years with type 1 diabetes and who lives with a number of the complications of diabetes, comes to our T1D meet ups and people imply she didn't take of herself, I get a little "upset"!

My friend has survived taking care of her diabetes when there was no such thing as a glucose meter! Imagine never know what your blood sugar was?!?

She has survived during a time when the phrase "carb counting" might as well have been a foreign language in Ireland. It didn't exist!

We also did not have Rapid Acting Insulins until the late 1990's. So, even if we did practice carb counting, it wouldn't have been much good to us. Sure, we could do a certain amount of carb counting on the insulins we took only twice a day but we couldn't fine tune it like we can today.

We also did not know that the tighter your diabetes control, the less likely you were to be at risk of getting diabetes complications. This research was only published in 1993 as the DCCT Trials.

93 years ago we died! Today, we have so many tools, technology and instant access to research that people with type 1 diabetes, who have been told for decades what they can't do are breaking all of those barriers.

So I ask you? Is surviving 50 years with type 1 diabetes and living with complications really not taking care of yourself?

My friends who live with diabetes complications may even say themselves, that they didn't do as much as they should have to take care of their diabetes. And I say you did the very best that you, and everybody else, knew how.

I am so lucky and proud to have friends like Deniabetic, who are helping me overcome my fears.

I have nothing to fear but fear itself

Image from

I attended a diabetes meeting once where one of the other attendees said they wanted to see photos of all the horrible things that can happen to a person with diabetes if they don’t take care of themselves. That this would motivate this person into doing more to take care of their diabetes. I understood this person’s point of view, they were much older than me and may have seen the “dangers” of diabetes as being more imminent than I did.

For me though “the fear tactic” doesn’t work. I’ve heard all the horror stories. I’ve heard all of the threats in relation to what I should and what I should not be doing to take care of my type 1 diabetes. And I have been paralysed into doing nothing by them.

I think it’s a well known piece of advice that fear is not a good motivator to get somebody to do something. Do you like it when someone threatens you? Even if it’s for your own good? Does it make you want do what they say?

For me, it, absolutely, does NOT! But you might ask me what does get me moving and doing? My answer is “Information and inspiration” ;-D

I don’t test my blood glucose more because someone told me I should. I do it because it was explained to me why I should consider it and how to use the additional information (EDUCATION, can’t. say. it. enough.). And I could see almost straight away how this improved my management of my type 1 diabetes.

I do remember, all those years ago, when I was told that I had to eat a strict “diabetic” diet and I absolutely HAD to take my insulin at exactly the same time every single day. If I didn’t I would end up with all sorts of ugly diabetes complications.

But guess what? Some people do all the right things and still get complications. And some people don’t take care of themselves and don’t get any complications.

Those were the days when we had very little in the way of diabetes research or education to revert to. But by God we had fear! And it got me nowhere!!

What did motivated me to do all the things that I do to take care of my diabetes? Education, education, education and some more education. Can’t say it enough times!!! And of course, a good support network:-)

I’m back on CGM (Continous Glucose Monitoring) Yayyy!

Back in June, I did a trial with a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) and I wrote a little about my experience here. Wearing the CGM was so valuable that I was very much determined to get it permanently.

I’m thrilled to say that happened on the 25th November. So I’ve been using it for two weeks. I had a little hiccup with my pump, which decided to die on the 30th, which made me appreciate the CGM more as it’s so helpful the not only know what my blood sugars are but also know where they are going. It was such a relief to see that down arrow.

This time around I feel like I know what I’m doing this time around with this new gadget. The workshop I attended in July presented by author of “Think like a Pancreas“, Gary Scheiner entitled “Making Sense of the CGM Data” also helped.

The technology was so new to me in June that I was preoccupied by “how does this thing work?”. I was only just getting a handle on having all that extra information by the end of the two weeks. I had been able to upload the information to the software programme and identify trends where I could make some adjustments in my insulin regimen.

But then the trial ended and it was like being blind again.

The major benefit of having a CGM is having this;

This is the graph from my CGM data.
 as opposed to this;

and knowing what to do with all those extra data points.

After two weeks, I have been able to prevent a number of lows by my CGM alerting me to the fact that my BG was 4.4mmol/L and dropping. And I’ve been able to reduce the impact of how high my blood sugar climbs. It’s my hope that this will increase how much time I spend within my target blood sugar range of 4 mmol/L to 10 mmol.L (72 mg/dL to 180 mg/dL) overall.

People who have lived with type 1 diabetes since before the 1970’s often talk about how access to blood glucose monitors changed diabetes management in a revolutionary way.

I think that the CGM is a game changer for my generation of type 1 diabetes.

Walk Your Diabetic Feet To The Pathway of Good Foot Care

Our guest speaker at our November diabetes get-together in Co. Clare is a podiatrist from the local health centre (Thank you, Doireann). And I know that most people with diabetes know the basics of taking care of your feet, especially if you have been around diabetes for a couple of decades.

The reason I decided to post about our meeting is that the pathway to podiatry has changed a little in recent years and that is worth sharing this information (IMO).

But I have included an article which, coincidently, was published online this week, and contains some of the basics to lead up to the local information.

So, why do healthcare professionals stress the importance of good foot care?

“In almost all high-income countries, diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.” (from International Diabetes Federation). But a simple annual foot check can prevent or reduce your risk of developing serious problems with your feet.

“People with diabetes have special reason to take good care of their feet. High blood glucose levels may make feet susceptible to injury and infection. This is because the protective sensation in the toes or feet – your “pain alarm system” ­may slowly disappear with long term high blood glucose levels.” (from Diabetes Ireland)

The Foot “Issues”.

The two feet problems that podiatrists (and people with diabetes) are on the lookout for are;

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can cause you to lose feeling in your feet. You may not feel pain, heat, or cold in your legs and feet. You may not feel a pebble inside your sock that is causing a sore. You may not feel a blister caused by poorly fitting shoes.

Sores on your feet can become infected. If your blood glucose is high, the extra glucose feeds the infection in those sores and the infection gets worse. Nerve damage can also cause pain and lead to foot deformities, or changes in the muscles, bones, and shape of your feet.

Poor Blood Flow

Poor blood flow means not enough blood flows to your legs and feet through your blood vessels. Poor blood flow makes it hard for a sore or an infection to heal. This problem is called peripheral artery disease, also called PAD.

Sometimes, a bad infection never heals. The infection might cause gangrene. If you have gangrene, the skin and tissue around the sore die. The area becomes black and smelly.

Too much glucose in your blood from diabetes can cause nerve damage and poor blood flow, which can lead to serious foot problems.” (from the American National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

Everybody with diabetes in Ireland should have a foot check by a podiatrist, children included, every year.

I know that some doctors and consultants might perform a brief foot check at your clinic appointment but our podiatrist (and lots of other reputable websites) state that if your foot check does not include a test using a tuning fork and a Monofilament tool.

Monofilament Tool

At your annual foot exam your healthcare professional will;

  • Look at your feet for signs of problems, especially if you have nerve damage
  • Test the sense of feeling in your feet using a Monofilament tool.
  • Test how well blood is flowing to your legs and feet
  • Show you how to care for your feet

How do access Diabetic Foot Care?

Referrals to your local podiatry service for people with diabetes are available from your GP, Public Health Nurse, Community Nurse, or Diabetes Clinic.

In Co. Clare, you can avail of a self referral form which is available at the Health Centre on Bindon Street in Ennis. It’s not available online. And we believe that this option is only available in Co. Clare.

Your very first foot screening with your podiatrist will assess you and place your feet in one of three categories; Low, Moderate or High risk.

If you are low risk, you may be referred back to your GP’s surgery for your annual foot exam. If this is the case then it will be your responsibility to schedule this. If you are referred to your GP, it’s really important that you keep a record of when your last foot check was and when to schedule your next one.

If you are Moderate or high risk of diabetes foot disease then you will probably continue to be seen in the Diabetic Foot Clinic, where they will send out your appointment to you in the post.

However, there are instances where the clinics fall behind in their appointments and it would be wise if you kept a record of when your last foot exam was and when your next one should be.

You can find more information from the HSE’s Model of Care for the Diabetic Foot document, which was revised in October 2014.

The Big Blue Test for World Diabetes Day

This year, for World Diabetes Day, I am piggy backing on someone else’s idea and taking part in the Big Blue Test.


Because it’s simple, it’s easy, it doesn’t cost me anything to participate, and it’s giving to those who don’t have access to insulin. Hell, it’s just a good idea and I’m hoping that some of you will think so too and join me?

What is the Big Blue Test BBT?

The Big Blue Test is a diabetes awareness initiative that was started 7 years ago by an American non-profit organisation, called the Diabetes Hands Foundation (amazing organization worthy of another post). The BBT is about how one small change can have a huge impact on your health; if you have diabetes or not.

And every BBT logged raises money for those with diabetes who are less fortunate than us.

Results gathered over the lifetime of the program demonstrate that just 14 minutes of exercise has the potential to decrease participants’ blood glucose levels, in some instances as much as 20% (Type 1’s should pack a Snickers;-D).

Not only is The Big Blue Test encouraging people who don’t have diabetes to exercise and creating awareness about diabetes, but it’s creating awareness in our own community about how effective even a little bit of exercise is as a diabetes management tool.

And, by participating in the Big Blue Test, we get to help people living with diabetes who are in need with grants for life-saving diabetes supplies, treatments and patient education, usually in developing countries.


How do I take the test?

Taking the Big Blue Test is easy:

  1. If you have diabetes you test their blood sugar, if you don’t have diabetes, don’t check your blood sugar.
  2. You exercise for at least 14-20 minutes.
  3. You test again (if you have diabetes), and
  4. You share their experience on or through the app for iPhone or Android.

Log in, take the test. Do a little good today for yourself – and someone else.

From Diabetes Mine



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