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!’