Get active and celebrate World Diabetes Day with us at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Having both been diagnosed with T1 diabetes in our teens, my brother, Kip, and I have each experienced the condition for over 50 years. In fact, between us we can, dare I say boast, amass 118 years of living with diabetes.
Back in those early days we would use glass syringes with metal needles that had to be sterilised every 6 days and stored in surgical spirit, and learned our blood sugars once every 6 months after a tediously long 2 – 3-hour long appointment at our nearest hospital.
There is no questioning the fact that advancements in both understanding and dealing with the condition have been huge in the intervening 50+ years much to the benefit of us as patients.
Insulin delivery is now with an injection device that more resembles a slick fountain pen than a syringe that can be used with the utmost discretion even in public places. Progress is now to automatic delivery pumps linked by technology to blood sugar readers and our mobile phones. And as for learning our blood sugars thanks to the Freestyle Libre system I now read my own sugar levels at least 20 times a day, and without breaking my skin suffice to fixing a new sensor once a fortnight.
It is such advances that Diabetes Norfolk and previously the Norfolk Diabetes Trust have helped to disseminate amongst the diabetes engaged population of Norfolk. Funding the training of nurses, producing patient information, purchasing extra supplies of technical products when the NHS can’t and to a lesser extent funding research. All patient biased and directed.
It is this work and funding that Diabetes Norfolk must continue to carry out. Without the generous support of the people of Norfolk this would not be possible. We continue to thank you profusely.
Diabetes and me
12 March 1996 was quite an eventful day for my family.
A few hours after my mum had given birth to my sister at the Norfolk & Norwich hospital I was rushed in experiencing ketoacidosis and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Talk about the older sibling competing for attention!
I thought I’d mark the 25th anniversary of living with diabetes by writing this blog – to share my experiences in the hope it will reassure any newly diagnosed people that you can live a fulfilling life, and also have a great excuse to eat snacks when you’re hungry!
What is it like to grow up with diabetes?
I can’t imagine how hard it was for my parents when I was diagnosed.
On the one hand they had a wonderful addition into their lives with my younger sister, but on the other they had to comprehend that their three-year old had just been diagnosed with an incurable condition.
They also had to deal with the emotional trauma of having to inject me with insulin – which was made all the harder as I apparently used to hide under the kitchen table to avoid being injected. Kudos to my parents for going through that, particularly my mum who is scared of needles!
My parents also had to carefully control what, and when, I ate. This was no mean feat as I had an insatiable appetite as a kid (and still do now!). On birthdays, instead of having a sweet and delicious Colin the Caterpillar cake my mum spent hours and hours making a low sugar, icing free Barney the Dinosaur cake – using copious amounts of food colouring to make it look appealing.
If I did want to eat in between my injections I had to run around the garden to burn off the sugar – which may be why I was part of the 4 x 100m relay team at school!
Having diabetes as a child isn’t all negative though. I was the envy of my classmates when I was allowed to eat digestive biscuits during class, and when the school dinner ladies made me my own low sugar apple crumble, instead of whatever else was on offer.
Fast forward to my teenage years, and like any teenager I wanted to fit in and not stand out amongst my peer group.
As I didn’t want to be called a “druggie” I discretely injected myself with insulin – sometimes from the safety of a toilet cubicle. Whilst it wasn’t the most hygienic place, it was private.
Fortunately this practice was short lived as I was an early adopter of an insulin pump – an electronic device that gives my body insulin through a cannula.
At first it did feel strange to have a device attached to me 24/7, but I eventually got used to it. I did sometimes feel self-conscious about the canula, particularly if I was swimming or at the beach, but I soon learnt to be confident with it and embrace the new lease of life it gave me.
Part two of Kieran’s ‘Diabetes and Me’ story coming soon …
Argon laser is used to treat both advanced (proliferative) disease and fluid near the central vision caused by leaking blood vessels in the eyes of people with diabetes. In both cases laser reduces the risk of severe retinal loss and especially with proliferative disease remains the main stay of treatment preventing blindness from the effects of high sugar that causes profound loss of blood supply to the eyes.
There have been 1580 patients with diabetes who have received laser treatment from January 2012 to July 2020.