No-Film Night – by Olly Double
For me, night time blood glucose testing is one of the worst things about having kids with diabetes. Jacqui and I have always tested before we go to bed, ever since Tom was diagnosed back in 2000. Carrying out a minor medical procedure is hardly the most relaxing way of getting in the mood to sleep. In the last couple of years, we’ve also started getting up and testing their blood glucose in the middle of the night on a regular basis.
There are two reasons to do this. First, we’re trying to get their blood sugar control as tight as we can. The night is a long time, and if they’re hyperglycaemic overnight for days on end, they’re certainly going to find their HbA1C has gone up at their next clinic appointment. Second, anybody who lives with diabetes lives with the knowledge that – although it happens only in extremely rare cases – a prolonged overnight hypo can be fatal. I know I’m not the only parent who starts their day by making sure their diabetic child is still in the land of the living, even if I know in my rational mind that it’s statistically highly unlikely that anything like that would have happened to them.
We test their blood sugars pretty much every night at least once. On a good night, both of them have blood sugars in the normal range, so it’s just the ten minutes or so that it takes to do this, then back to sleep. On a bad night, Joe’s having a hypo and Tom’s blood sugars are raging high (or vice versa), so we have to give one of them Lucozade and the other extra insulin, and then we have to retest one of them 15 minutes later, the other an hour later. We take it in turns to do the night-time wake ups, but a particularly bad night can see both of us getting up several times.
Of course, testing blood sugars at night carries a cost. I find I’m permanently tired, particularly since Joe and Tom moved up to secondary school, which means getting up at the ungodly hour of 6.30am. Add to that the one night a week when I don’t get back from work until around midnight because I have to compère my students’ stand-up comedy show, and you’ll understand why I’m in a constant state of total knackeration. I find that I not only feel constantly tired, I also think it. On a regular basis throughout the day, I find the words forming in my head: ‘God, I’m tired.’ If there was a World Bank for sleep debt, it’d be downgrading my credit rating as I sit typing this.
Then there’s the lack of a social life. For years, Jacqui and I would never go out together because we couldn’t find a babysitter who could take care of their diabetes. Now there’s another reason – we’re just too shattered to think about going out. We spend a lot of our evenings just staring at the telly, which is particularly grim because so much that’s on telly at the moment is so lame-brainedly dull. We can’t even stick a film in the DVD player, because the chances are I’ll have fallen asleep by the end.
Take last night, for example. It was five past nine, and both of us were craving the escapism of a film night. We had two lined up, District 9 and Juno. Juno had the advantage of being shorter, at 92 minutes, but we’d already seen it, and wanted to save watching it again with Joe, who at 13 is about the right age to start getting what it’s about. Checking the running time of District 9, I managed to persuade Jacqui that we could manage it: ‘It’s only 16 minutes longer, and we’ll still be able to be in bed before 11.’
She agreed, but before we put it on, we needed to check Joe’s blood sugar. It turned out he was having a hypo – so that meant treating him for it with a portion of Lucozade, then retesting 15 minutes later. Of course by that time, it was too late to start watching even the brilliant-but-short Juno, so we had another no-film night, and ended up watching The Apprentice, which involved the usual parade of obnoxious halfwits proving that they have far more ambition than sense and being ritually humiliated by a man with a face reminiscent of a half-melted waxwork of Sid James.
Having said that, I’ve got no room to talk. After all the broken sleep I’ve had recently, my face looks so haggard and knackered that I could be mistaken for a half-melted waxwork of Sid James.