Entry on diabetes for the Rowan Arts Blog, link: http://hollowaylife.net/portfolio/diabolo-2/
I step out of the LondonMet building on Holloway Road. It is my intention to walk down the road and get on the tube at Highbury and Islington. Two girls pass by and give me a funny look. They may be aware that I am behaving slightly strangely – but I am not. I am shaking like a leaf, keep laughing at nothing. It’s a very bright day and the sun is making me feel tired, I stumble a few times and eventually give up my efforts to fight these urges to lie down, I slump onto the ground and try to sleep on the pavement. People make a wide circle round me and tut. But I am not drunk – I am diabetic having a hypoglycaemic attack – an insulin reaction. Nearly half of the 400,000 Type 1 diabetics in the UK will experience a severe hypoglycaemic episode every year.
If you can attain a healthy lifestyle with diabetes and good blood glucose control, the condition cannot stop you from doing almost anything in life. Howard Hughes, H.G. Wells, Dominic Littlewood, Steve Redgrave, Theresa May and Anne Rice, were or are all diabetics.
What is diabetes? It can be confusing – there are two different types of the condition out there, Type 1 and Type 2.
90% of the 2 million people with diabetes in the UK have Type 2. Whichever type, we all have a little hormone- producing organ called the pancreas that cannot cope or does not work. The pancreas produces the hormone insulin which digests glucose. If you have diabetes, your body cannot make proper use of this glucose so it builds up in the blood and cannot be used as fuel.
Type 1 is an auto-immune condition where the immune system (the body’s natural defence against infection and illness) mistakes the cells in your pancreas as harmful and attacks them. I am Type 1 and have worked hard with it for several years to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Treatment for this form of diabetes usually mean a ‘basal-bolus’ regime of 4 insulin injections a day –1 long-term acting insulin and 3 doses of short-acting insulin before you eat. It is necessary to prick your finger and blood-test before meals as this will help you gauge the size of your insulin injection dose.
The symptoms of diabetes are well-distinguished and obvious – running to the loo a lot, an unquenchable thirst, tiredness, blurry vision and dramatic weight loss. I weighed 6 stone when I was diagnosed and although it was fun to be skinny for a couple of months, when I was diagnosed, my blood sugar was so high my doctor declared me ‘clinically dead’.
A quick blood test at your GP’s should confirm easily whether you have the condition or not.
Luckily, research is always continuing and developing. I attend the outpatients Diabetic Clinic at the
Whittington Hospital and I cannot sing their praises too highly. They are thorough, comprehensive, caring and concerned. The fact that the consultant I see is also diabetic is a great advantage.Recently the clinic held an intensive meet-up and revision session with a small group of fellow diabetics. The sessions were taken by a specialist diabetic nurse and dietician (a Type 1 diabetic herself).
The course was a fantastic boost for me – it allowed me to compare notes and experiences with other diabetics, to ask questions of experts whose replies I could trust, to get some clarification on issues that had built up and confused me over the years. – fears of complications – foot problems, vision , changes and developments in treatment.
There have been many advances in research and treatment since Frederic Banting and Charles Best first isolated insulin in 1922. The most recent and exciting development is a form of therapy involving a one-off transplant of laboratory-grown pancreas cells, which scientists have finally succeeded in producing in large enough volumes to be able to treat patients. The cells worked normally for several months when implanted into mice, and the first human patients could undergo treatment in the next few years. Let’s hope it works!
November 14th is World Diabetes Day – Please Wear Blue!