Unclean! Unclean! – by Olly Double

Illness has descended on our household like a damp, smelly old blanket. Tom (13) was off school for most of last week with a nasty viral thing, Joe (16) came down with it on Tuesday and has been in his sick bed ever since, and in the middle of last night my wife Jacqui was struck down by a tummy bug.

Clearly, such events would never feature in any family’s ‘Top Ten Fun Things to Do’ list, but type 1 diabetes adds that extra little gleam of unpleasantness. Joe’s virus not only kept him awake with the sore throat and all the coughing, but the added bonus was that his blood sugars wouldn’t come down below 14 mmol/L. He gave himself a correction bolus at 2am, and an hour later he’d not come down – in fact, he’d gone up from 14.2 to 14.6 – so we followed protocol and changed his insulin pump’s infusion set. I tried to wake up and retest again an hour later, but between dealing with Joe and helping Jacqui deal with her tummy bug I was so bleary-eyed that I set the alarm for the wrong time and didn’t wake up again until 8 o’clock.

Luckily – or unluckily, depending on how you look at it – Joe couldn’t get back to sleep, so he sensibly retested himself at 4am, and found he was on 14.8. It wasn’t a bubble in the tubing, or a dodgy set, or knackered-up insulin making him high. It was just pure bloody poorliness. So to top off the sore throat and the coughing and the aching bones, diabetes had added hyperglycaemia as the cherry on the cake.

Still, we’ve had worse. Tom was diagnosed before the age of two, and the first few years on mixed insulins made for a crazy, utterly unpredictable rollercoaster ride of high and low blood sugars. Several times he had to go to hospital with bugs or viruses that would have been merely unpleasant for a kid without diabetes. There was one terrifying time when gastroenteritis sent his sugars low and even totally withdrawing his insulin and feeding him Smarties wouldn’t bring him up above 3 mmol/L.

As a result of all this, I find people who ‘soldier on’ through illness highly annoying. In the workplace, some whey-faced idiot will lurch up to you and get within breathing distance before confiding, ‘I’ve got a touch of ‘flu, but I’ve got too much to do to give in to it.’ As I look into their bloodshot eyes, the bags under them looking like the result of a 20-year heroin addiction, I don’t feel admiration. I just feel the tiny bit of their spit that’s landed on my lip, and think, ‘Thanks for sharing.’

When the kids were younger, some lamebrain would come up you at the school gate and proudly explain that in spite of the fact that their child ‘had it coming out of both ends’ last night, they’ve made him come to school because they don’t want to ‘damage his education’. Then in the distance you’d spot the afflicted kid sharing a lollipop with Joe or Tom.

What these merry plague carriers might not realise is that whatever it is they’re passing on to you will probably be a bit more serious if it manages to infect a family that’s already dealing with diabetes. If I had my way, we’d treat such people like they did when the black death was stalking the land. They’d be forced to ring a bell as they staggered down the street, shouting, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’

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Not that I can relate too much to what your experiencing, but I can in some form due to sever hypoglycaemic fits that I have had previously. My father/mother/ex-wife would have to deal with the severity of the situation whilst I am completely unaware what is happening (for obvious reasons.) To read this though is quite a stark reminder and as much as possible, just like these people too – I feel your pain, even though I don’t understand it completely. I’m sorry everything seemed to happen at once for you, and I hope that Joe and Tom find a way of happily living with – excuse me – the sheer crappiness that is diabetes! Your doing a fantastic job!

Totally agree Olly. I wish schools did have a 48 hour rule and maybe then Rebekah would be there more often than not! At work David sends anyone who is ill home so that we don’t pass any bugs/germs to Rebekah so now his employees know not to even attempt to come to work until they are germ free.

I couldn’t agree more, great blog. I am in the early years you talked about, my daughter who has type 1 diabetes and is only 2, we are using mixed insulins in the moment (in the process of changing). she has been ill for the past 3 weeks with one thing then another! It’s been a nightmare trying to manage her levels, and no one really understand what you and your child goes through.

Totally agree too and yet if you challenge them you are given such grief, almost had stand up arguments with people at work over this. I wish school would enforce the 48 hour rule and workplaces would not have such a culture that people feel,they HAVE to come in.

Well said – my brother and I have both been diabetics since we were little and 18 years on I still can’t try to predict my sugars when ill (let alone when not ill) My blood sugars last night were exactly the same as your son’s so I suspect that the bug is coming :(

I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for 22 years and my sister has just been diagnosed now as well. I feel your pain whilst sitting here with a sugar level of 21.1 that won’t go down, tissues stuck up my nose whilst leaning over a sicky bucket. Sorry to say that we don’t get much better with age but having parents such as yourself (even at 28) make us very lucky indeed :)

I couldn’t agree more. People have no idea that a simple cold or tummy bug plays havoc with our diabetic children .