#DBlogWeek 2014 Day 1 – Change the world

dblog week 2014Monday’s topic:Let’s kick off Diabetes Blog Week by talking about the diabetes causes and issues that really get us fired up.

One of the (many) things that gets me fired up is the headline ‘diabetes is going to bankrupt the NHS’ that you see splattered in news stories occasionally. Articles appear in many online media article, like The Guardian, Sky, The Express and The Daily Mail. At least the NHS filled us in on the stats.

As well as the stories we hear that the people with the purse strings want to privatise elements of the NHS to farm off their ‘problem’. Yet at the same time some of the advice or practises seem to either waste money of give advice which is contrary to current thinking.

Without the NHS I see that our family could be missing one rather special thing, Amy.

My ‘change the world’ blog is more about changing the minds of those in Government and my words to them are simple:
Back off.
Change your plans.
Do you realise what an asset you have, the envy of a world which looks at the NHS for the care that it gives, not the money that it costs?

Rather than stop there I’ve got some ideas on how you can change things, although nothing below is diabetes related. As a caveat I have absolutely no medical training, so the following might just be stupid pipe-dreams born from reading and misunderstanding things far more complicated than I realise.

  • Change your focus on Cholesterol and get rid of the Eat-Ill plate – ok it’s the Eat-Well plate really – and prescribe some decent modern up-to-date advice, to adults, to parents but most of all to kids. You’ve got fantastic support from the likes of Zoe Harcombe (@zoeharcombe), so use it and rid Britain of this metabolic disease. Less obese people means less money you’ll have to spend on medication.
  • Only prescribe Statins to those that actually need them. The NHS already knows it’s over prescribing statins. You’ve got fantastic support from the likes of Dr Asseem Malhotra (@DrAseemMalhotra), so use it and save some of your budget.
  • Make sure that nothing can be prescribed on the basis of a single ‘high cholesterol’ figure which isn’t broken down. I’m happy to have high cholesterol if it’s all HDL or the ‘good’ LDL. This one will of course help the one above.
  • Come to think of it if the EatWell (*ahem*) Plate was changed and favoured less carbohydrate wouldn’t that reduce your bills for Metformin and Insulin? Remind me how much that costs you again.
  • Surely millions could be saved by giving easy and cheap access to sport and leisure. There’s thousands of homes soon to be built near where I live and work but I don’t see cycle lanes high on the agenda but they could be and it could all be paid for by the developers, not you, just make them do it. There will be lots of parking no doubt for fuel guzzling cars. Tell me, in the long term will you ‘gain’ more money from cars or making people healthier?
  • You know that all types of Diabetes are growing, so how come you are investing less than many countries? JDRF’s CountMeIn campaign has hopefully shown the Government how low our research grant is compared to other countries. You have numerous MPs in the likes of George Howarth, Caroline Noakes and Jamie Reed who could tell you lots more. So, up the research grant, help find a cure and/or prevention and help eradicate diabetes full-stop.

    dblog week 2014

Getting an insulin pump – a superb 24 hours

A busy (sinful) 24 hours

Since waking up yesterday morning, Jane, Amy and myself have had a great 24 hours, almost a day of celebration of the new pump, a day of treats and especially a day of saying ‘what the heck, just have it’. On reflection this may not have been the best policy on only day 2 of a pump, it just snowballed.
I’ll hold my hands up then and say that on the face of it today we’ve been pretty irresponsible, we’ve let our daughter got all out and eat want she wanted. I’ve made sure we ended in places where she’d say ‘ooh, can I have that?’ so we could let her.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
A couple of weeks ago we chatted about the impending first 24 hours on the pump and said that we would be good, eating only normal food and stuff that we could easily calculate the accurate carb value for. This was especially to make the carbs/insulin matching accurate so that we knew that glucose fluctuations would be mainly down to Amy’s basal insulin, which the pump delivers every few minutes. This in turn would help our DSN (diabetes specialist nurse) make adjustments to Amy’s basal profile, something that is crucial to the pump being a success.

Early rush for clinic

Amy’s 3 monthly clinic appointment had been booked for yesterday since the last one in March, on the 15th.
That was the one where Amy first saw a pump and later had her epiphany moment and said “I want a pump”.
So our ‘time to pump’ was one clinic, or a little over 3 months. (15th March to June 20th). It could have been quicker if I hadn’t been researching pumps for so long.
Clinic was at 10am, we only just made it.
It was strange being back there the day after the time before, the only times this has happened before for Amy was when she was diagnosed and before that, when she was born. She didn’t remember the first time for some reason.
Whilst I have no experience of other clinics can I just say that I blinking love this one: everyone is part of one team, a team which encourages, helps and listens.

The dreaded hbA1c check/result

For those of you who don’t know the hbA1c is a blood check which in layman’s terms tells the Dr how ‘good’ you’ve been for the last 3 months. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the gist. Many argue that hbA1c is not a good test as you can have a ‘good’ result whilst living a life of hypos and hypers, with blood sugars rollercoasting, whilst a ‘bad’ result could be achieved with very little fluctuation. Many, including me, would argue that the latter (‘bad’) is a better thing to strive for. Dave Sowerby’s article delves into the HbA1c check in more detail.
Amy was generally 7.3 but in December rocketed to 8.3, in March she was back down to 8.0.
I feared for today’s result as she’d been high on average for weeks. We’d done nothing about this as she was going on a pump and it seemed little point changing things about.
The result came in….
Phew! I was amazed it wasn’t a little higher.

First up: DSN

Our DSN and Dietician attended the first part, looking over the last 21 hours (since going live on pump) log book information. This felt strange, we were only talking about 21 hours, not the normal three months.
They were pleased with the progress made already, amazed at how well Amy looked and felt about the pump, applauded the BG values and corrective doses.
Whilst the DSN said not to bother two-hourly testing through last night, I suggested that we were happy to do it if it meant her basal might be easier to get right.
She agreed and said she’d give us a call – in her own time – sometime later this morning.

Second up: the Doctor

Some people dread the first few minutes of an appointment with their Endocrinologist, but not us, for one simple reason: she always starts with ‘how are you Amy’. She always talks direct to Amy, she leads with questions about her wellbeing and doesn’t lead with ‘your hbA1c result showed that…’.
I love this approach.
We spoke mainly about the pump, how it was going, what it felt like, did the cannula hurt and things like that.
I asked how she found the training day the day before, trying to elicit a response about the Animas pump. I wanted to try and see if there was any issue with us wanting the Animas Vibe and daring to challenge the de-facto standard issue of Medtronic or Roche.
“I like that pump, I think more people may get that one here. What were the reasons you really wanted it?”
This was excellent news, there was no problem about us wanting the Vibe and great news that the Doctor liked it. I went through the many, many reasons we chose Animas over the others.
We offered to come in to do demos for other parents/children who were looking at pumps.

Costa: an easy place for diabetics

It was 11:30am, Jane and I were knackered after a lack of sleep last night. I needed caffeine, so we hit Costa in the hospital grounds.
“Have what you like Amy”
“Really? O.M.G. I’m having that” as she pointed to the Mango and Passion Fruit Ice Cooler.
I should explain that normally Amy would just have water, it’s 0g carbs, or at best a Diet Coke, never something she’d need to bolus for as that would mean another injection. Now it doesn’t, just a couple of button clicks.
Amy at Costa
Jane asked how many carbs and the Barista asked where were sitting and that he’d be one minute.
He turned up with a huge book which he said listed absolutely everything they sold. And it did.
The drink was a massive 55g of carbohydrates, so Amy bolused 4.25 units of insulin for it. What was nice was that she didn’t do a blood test for it, just used the ‘ezBG’ feature to match the insulin to the carbs consumed.
She loved that drink, she loved the feeling of having things she’d denied herself for years.

Retail therapy

We spent the day with some retail therapy, visits to fast food places (which we never normally do) and even succumbed to buying a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for film-watching time later that evening.
Amy was ecstatic at the new world opening up to her.
We did have a discussion about everything returning to normal today.
Later that evening I reflected on the way forward:

Two hourly testing results

We’ve got to test Amy’s blood glucose levels every two hours for the 48 hours after having pump. This is something everyone going on a pump seems to do, although for many they have to do it for a week.
Amy’s levels have been:
Time, BG mmols, correction dose
06:00, 3.6, 9g carbs (mis-calculated carbs for 3 dextro, thought it was 5g each, it’s only 3g! Discovered mistake 30 minutes later)
08:00, 5.7
09:00, 4.9
10:00, 5.9
11:00, didn’t test but had 55g smoothie drink, 4.25u insulin
12:00, we were travelling so we forgot/missed this check
13:00, 7.4, lunchtime, eating huge 105g carbs so had 8.05u insulin
14:30, 4.2, 9g carbs, Amy felt hypo so even though technically wasn’t she had 9g to make her feel better. It worked.
15:00, 3.6, 15g carbs, clearly 30 minutes she was dropping quickly
16:00, 6.5
18:00, 14.2, 2.55u insulin, clearly the 9g+15g Dextro tabs earlier had caught up with her
19:00, 11.7, dinner of 56g so took 6.03u insulin – 4.3u insulin for the food, 1.73u insulin for the correction to bring her levels into range
20:00, 6.8, 40g carbs & 3.05u insulin – post-dinner treat doughnut
22:00, 4.1, 24g carbs for a milkshake, no insulin suggested
00:00, 14.7, 2.35u insulin
02:00, 8.8
04:00, 9.1
06:00, 8.0

Considering what a ‘treat’ day it’s been those figures are amazing.

Getting an insulin pump – through the first night

Back at home and bouncing with joy

We arrived back from the hospital with pretty good glucose levels. It was about the same time Amy’s friends were leaving school.
She texted them “I’m home, come over and see my pump”.
10 minutes later several friends turned up and they stayed outside talking in the garden. 20 minutes after that and Amy’s gone hypo (2.6mmol) as they’ve been bouncing on the trampoline, a lot.
I remembered the conversation from earlier about testing out the temporary basal rate; what an ideal time that would have been, if only we’d thought about it.

First extra bolus at home

Amy had already done her first extra bolus at hospital for 3 chocolates, it had gone well. This was a big thing for Amy as she has missed out having snacks/treats for 2.5 years.
She’s always had the choice to have snacks when others are but if they’re more than 15g carbs then she should give some insulin for it. She hates injections with a passion and virtually always chose not to, thereby missing out on snacks. Only now have I realised how much stuff we’ve stopped doing because of this, such as going to the cinema and having a snack during the film. So looking forward to these things now.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon Amy wanted a snack and chose one of the iced buns we’d bought that day. Its 23g carbs would have needed a bolus so on MDI she wouldn’t have had it. Now though, there was nothing stopping her so she tested, bolused and ate. It actually took longer to eat the thing than prepare to eat it. That’s a big bonus.

Fast food

No, don’t panic, we didn’t hit the fast food restaurants last night, but we did have fast food…let me explain.
The normal meal time routine involves calling Amy 10 minutes before dinner is ready; getting her to do a BG test; calculating her carbs (with her) whilst serving up the food; eldest daughter goes and eats; we stay behind to do Amy’s injection; Amy finally gets to eat.
We’ve kind of got used to food starting to go cold, it almost seems normal.
Last night’s meal was different in that Amy carb counted and immediately bolused, in seconds.
The ritual of preparing the injection site, preparing the needle, hovering the needle over the site for what seems an eternity, doing the injection…these have gone, disappeared, hopefully forever.
Eating hot food just might catch on again.

Two hourly testing results

We’ve got to test Amy’s blood glucose levels every two hours for the next 48 hours at least. This is something everyone going on a pump seems to do, although for many they have to do it for a week.
Amy’s levels have been:
Time, BG mmols, correction dose
16:00, 2.6, 9g carbs – should have been 15g but we mis-calculated Dextro carbs
17:00, 5.2
18:00, 7.2
20:00, 3.1, 9g carbs
21:00, 5.2
22:00, 9.2, 0.3u insulin
00:00, 11.7, 1.55u insulin – we would never have done a correction like that before
02:00, 4.2, woohoo, that last correction worked
04:00, 4.7
06:00, 3.6, 9g carbs – interesting as to whether this is hypo or whether 3.3 is the limit
08:00, 5.7

I’d call that pretty darn good.

Getting an insulin pump – carbohydrate counting training refresher

Rung four – carbohydrate counting

This morning Amy and I attended a carbohydrate counting training refresher course at our local hospital in Winchester. We’d already attended a similar session back in September 2011, just after we returned from India, when we switched over from giving a very rough estimate of insulin based on meal size, to a more accurate carb counting method.

Starting off badly

The day did not start at all well: we left the house at 8:30am giving us one hour to cover the 8 miles, easy, no problem. At mile 2 we joined a 5 mile queue which – on checking the traffic maps – had no way out.
We were going to be late.
On reaching the hospital already late we parked in the only single space left in the car park and rushed to the education centre, the one we’d be to before.
They’d moved it…to the other end of the hospital complex, right next to the car park.
We ended up being 30 minutes late.

5 families, 2 kids, 2 dieticians and 1 nurse

There were 5 families there, 3 couples came without the child with diabetes as they were only 4 or 5 years old.
The other family were from the village next to ours and live down the road from us. Amy knew the boy – let’s call him ‘B’ to protect the innocent and all that – from her previous school.
Amy is only one year older than ‘B’ but that year is immense in school years so clearly she’d never spoken to him about diabetes much, if at all. They say there’s strength in numbers, but not if you’re an 11 year old boy and a 12 year old girl.
There were two dieticians there, one to take the session, one to take notes and help out where required.
Our wonderful diabetes specialist nurse ‘V’ was there.
The session objectives were read out and off we went.

5 families, 1 plate and lots of food

On the table in front of us was a massive – 2 metres by 2 metres – canvas with a plate on it. The plate was divided into sections for fruit and vegetables; bread, rice, potatoes and pasta; meat, fish, eggs and beans; high fat and high sugar; milk and dairy food.
It was the NHS Eatwell plate, but without the food.
Then came the plastic food, lots of it, tons of it even.
We each took some food and placed it into the section we thought it should go in.
We all did very well and whilst most were placed correctly, others were not, but only a few.

To carb, or not to carb, that is the question

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet may be been completely different if it was written after the discovery of carbohydrates, but alas the immortal words are the rather less catchy ‘to be, or not to be’.
Next up then was the does-that-have-carbs-or-not quiz using the same food items, pushing those with carbs to the right, those without to the left.
That game is so easy, especially if you change it to the would-I-want-to-eat-it-if-I-was-hungry game.
All hungry people’s brains scream ‘give me carbs’ don’t they? Never I-am-so-hungry-I-could-eat-some-lettuce.
So this quiz was pretty easy for all, bar the odd argument from me – more on that later.

Breakfast time beckons

Next up we were given printed plate photos of breakfast items, ranging from two crumpets with butter, through cereal, to a full English breakfast.
It was okay though as I’d only recently eaten my cereal so the sight of all this food didn’t make me hungry.
In teams we estimated the carbs and went round the room discussing why we’d reached that calculation, before finding out the right value.
What surprised me was how good some of the people were at this. ‘B’ and Amy were by far the best at this game, which surprised me. Amy’s been carb counting for 18 months now but ‘B’ was here to learn but already seemed to know it all.
The same game was played with lunch and dinner and it generally went well.

The Fish Finger Conundrum

One of the biggest discussions was about fish fingers. One family knew the ones they have are 17g of carbs for 3, but course notes said 15g and the book Carbs&Cals says only 9g.
It didn’t seem to matter too much to most but the conversation carried on quite light heartedly throughout the rest of the session, almost like an in-joke between friends.

If it’s got carbs you should count it, shouldn’t you?

During the carb estimates whenever there was just one tablespoon of 5g-carbs veg it wasn’t counted.
It’s 5g of carbs.
The dietician said not to count it, you didn’t need to, it’s only 5g carbs.
“Okay” I said “what if there’s three lots of 5g veggies?”.
We were told we’d need to count the 15g in the total.
“Okay, what if there’s only two lots of 5g veggies?”.
“That’s okay, you don’t need to count it” the dietician said.
My logic brain took over and couldn’t keep quiet. “What? That makes no sense, 10g carbs will raise many kids glucose levels by 3mmol, which in turn needs 1 unit of insulin. Counting the 2 lots of veg at 10g could be the difference between going hyper or not.”
I was told again the we didn’t need to count it.
In my head I agreed to disagree, it wasn’t worth arguing but it still makes no sense to me.
If anyone can explain this to me – without resorting to a ‘just because’ – please leave me a comment; I really don’t understand it.

All aboard the diabetes coach

On the 29th December 2010 Amy boarded the type 1 diabetes coach – destination unknown – and we all joined her. Luckily we can get off for a breather whenever we please, unfortunately, she can’t.

We were lucky that Amy didn’t go for too long before being diagnosed; she was only 22 mmol/l when admitted to hospital and whilst she’d lost a fair bit of weight she wasn’t very dehydrated and didn’t need to be placed on a drip. Afterwards, we estimated that she’d lost one stone (14lbs, 6.4kg) and how we didn’t spot her weight loss is a mystery to us all.

Come the next day – New Year’s Eve-Eve – life seemed completely different. Emilia and I went to the hospital to find two tired people who’d got some sleep inbetween the tears. Amy look bright, so much better than the day before and spent time talking with her sister whilst Jane and I spoke with the DSN about everything we needed to know for the next couple of weeks.

Amy had been given a pad and a pen to write down any questions she had. I took one look and was amazed the things that mattered to her to most. First on the list was ‘does this mean I can’t go to India anymore?, followed by quite a few more – see First questions from a newly diagnosed diabetic.

Whilst Amy and Emilia played some games on the hospital bed Jane and I were taken aside for the (almost freaked us out) ‘what to do if your kid doesn’t wake up training session‘.

Later we met with the dietician and had further chats with the nurses and doctor.

The quality of care from the moment we arrived at Sophie’s Place had been impeccable.