Rowing and diabetes, part 2 – Guest blog by Simon Drakeford


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In part 1, we heard about Oliver struggling to manage his diabetes whilst rowing. As we left Oliver, he was about to have his pump fitted…

“Moving to the pump was a massive step – not least because it meant leaving the health care team that we had been with since Oliver was diagnosed, but also there was a lot of hope placed on this relatively tiny gadget.

So what has the pump meant for Oliver? Well the obvious things first: reduction in the number of injections; a more stable blood sugar level and a massively increased confidence. Quite quickly we could see that the new treatment regime was having a dramatic affect. Oliver was not getting the massive highs and lows, there was a greater consistency in his blood sugar levels, and life was just a little bit easier.

For Oliver and his rowing he was essentially a year behind his contempories, this meant that he had to work even harder to get a place in the squad. There were a number of visits to the medical team and his dietician to ensure that Oliver was getting the most out of his pump, and that it was working its hardest for him, enabling Oliver to do what he wanted to do, which was to row.

After a few weeks the regime with the pump became established, and there could be alterations to the basal and bolus rate to suit Oliver’s life style. As the national rowing regattas approached, the training increased and in addition to school and homework, Oliver was training 25 hours a week and it was all hard work in the gym and on the water. Yes there were times when the blood sugar levels were all over the place for no apparent reason. BUT, the frustration and despair that Oliver had in 2012 was not there, the confidence to carry on and follow the advice he had been given was there instead.

National Schools Regatta came and Oliver was in a double. The coach had put Oliver in a ‘B’ boat as it was his first big race for over a year. The day went well, blood sugar levels were perfect. During the day Oliver and his partner managed to beat the course record and secure a place in the final. Despite coming fifth in the final, Oliver was elated as he had managed to finish the race and feel well! The next big regatta was the British Rowing Championships, again good control regime was adhered to, the result being a fantastic set of races and the quad became gold medal winners and British National Champions for J15 coxed quad!

Having a pump is a life enhancing experience for Oliver; sadly it is not the answer to all the problems or a cure for diabetes. There are tweaks to be made to ratios and different bolus patterns to try, but overall the pump is brilliant and what it can do if used properly is fantastic. We are very lucky to have a very high level of care and the benefits to Oliver and us as his parents are immeasurable.

It is vital that this level of care and understanding are national standards not localised instances of excellence.

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