Diabetes inventions

I recently did an interview for a diabetes magazine (yes, another magazine – we’re getting really big now in diabetes celebrity circles; such as they are). And I was asked what single development would make life easier for me as a member of the pancreatically-challenged hoard.

I did think about a new pancreas grown from stem cells, but I just don’t think science is advanced enough to come up with a proper cure for diabetes in my lifetime (or what I expect my lifetime to be – obviously even I don’t know how long I’m going to live). When you think about it, science has had 90-odd years since Banting & Best successfully stopped killing dogs and discovered insulin to come up with a complete cure. Although there have been leaps and bounds forward since then, science hasn’t even yet managed to come up with a long acting insulin that actually delivers consistently and smoothly for a full 24 hours (yes, we’re talking about you lantus). So I’m afraid that I think cures are still a long way off.

So I side-stepped the question by answering that incremental improvements to existing systems actually make life a lot easier for people with wonky pancreases. Take for example blood glucose meters. I’m a huge fan of Abbott’s FreeStyle Lite as it uses a tiny sample, is stupidly quick to process your result and is just generally well designed and thought out.

When you compare this to the medieval instruments of torture that were used not that long ago for measuring BG you can see that the world has moved on enormously and checking your BG is now ludicrously easy and relatively pain free. Given that a Good Diabetic will check their BG 4, 5 or 6 (or more) times a day such seemingly small changes to meters make a huge difference to the quality of our lives.

Similarly, faster acting insulins would be hugely beneficial. Humalog is pretty good stuff, but I still have to stick it in about 20 minutes before breakfast to avoid a massive post-port and pheasant peak (there’s nothing like a good, well-matured roast pheasant and a flagon of port for a good start to the day. The sort of breakfast empires were built upon, God be my witness!).

Anyway, so that’s what I’m hoping for the future – not a cure – but lots of little incremental improvements. Each one might not be wildly noticeable by itself, but cumulatively they’ll make a huge difference to our everyday, mundane, shuffling lives.

Have you been to a diabetes event?

Great people of the diabetes online community, I’m pleading with you to share your wisdom with me (if you don’t think you can manage wisdom, don’t panic, general thoughts would be much appreciated). I’m preparing a presentation on the wonders of events for people with diabetes. Why they’re so important and why they make such a difference to people.Please help! The aim is to secure extra funding for them.

As a child I went on several holidays for children with diabetes organised by Diabetes UK. They were brilliant, I loved them. Lots of sports and adventures along with some diabetes education. And that amazing feeling when you realise that you’re not the only person in the world who does injections. And that slightly strange feeling when you first see someone else have a hypo – do I really look like that?!

As an adult I’ve spoken at several events for parents of newly diagnosed children about what it’s like to grow up with diabetes. They seem reassured to see a normal person enjoying life to the full with all limbs still attached and major organs still functioning perfectly.

And then there are the events for people who are diagnosed as adults where the education is important but the really valuable advice seems to be traded in the bar in the evening. For me the most powerful moment at any of these events is when I listen to people with diabetes discovering that they’re not alone, that someone else is going through the exact same thing as them.

Personally I think these events make a difference but that’s just me. I’d love to know about your experiences.

Have you been to events like this as an adult or as a child? What did you get out of them? Would you recommend them? What difference did they make to you?

Thank you!

Contributing to footpath erosion

"The Beast" - classily posed against my bins
“The Beast” – classily posed against my bins

“You’re lazy, fat and ugly!” are just some of the insults I’ve never had thrown at me. But, despite their non-existence as Tim-directed abuse, it’s certainly true that I’m quite lazy, especially when it comes to exercise.

I know that jogging or going to the gym is good for you. Exercise seems to cure, or at least help with, pretty much ill you can suffer from. Exercise can help reduce insulin resistance, help prevent depression, release endorphins and so on, but can I be arsed getting off my sofa and doing something healthy? Nah, of course not.

But all that recently changed. After burbling on about my old pre-diagnosis cycling exploits during the summer, my wife Katie suggested that I buy myself a mountain bike. Given that we live a few hundred meters from the Pentland Hills and the vast range of muddy cycling that it offers, this actually sounded like quite a good idea.

So a few weeks later I found myself sitting atop my new Specialized Hardrock Disc ’12 which I’ve nicknamed “The Beast”. It’s called “The Beast” as for many years I’ve ridden a proper road bike, which weighs about 3 grams and has tiny thin wheels. The new bike is huge, chunky and has manic gear ratios that allow you to climb vertical cliffs. It’s world apart from the old road bike, which has sadly been collecting dust for some time. Call me a cowardy-custard but busy Edinburgh roads just scare the Bejesus out of me. At least with the new bike I can use footpaths, avoid roads and annoy pedestrians and dog-walkers by recklessly speeding past.

Anyway, decked out in more lycra than an 80’s heavy metal band, I’ve spent the last few weekends contributing to path erosion and generally having a blast careering around the hills. By the end of a ten mile trip the bike and I have doubled our combined weight with mud. And I’ve only fallen off painfully twice – bonus!

The things that have made it diabetically-possible (or at least easier) are a frame bag filled with emergency sweeties, low temporary basals on the pump and an Android app for my phone (Endomondo – others are available) which tracks where I go and cleverly shows me how fast I’ve gone, how many calories I’ve consumed and so on (Check out my latest trip here: http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/108175865). This app seems to make a good ride hugely satisfying – knowing where you’ve been fast / slow / lazy / hyper-fit is, to me at least, really interesting.

As a result I’ve had great fun, felt a lot better and feel fitter already. So, I guess, it’s just all about finding the right exercise for you rather than slogging away miserably in a gym. So there!

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency

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