Blood on the Carpet by Olly Double

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OllyBack in the 1980s, there was a generic stand-up routine that a number of comedians used, based on the idea that characters in horror movies must be stupid for not perceiving the peril they were in. Referencing the Freddy Krueger Nightmare series, one line went, ‘I ‘m surprised that anybody lives in Elm Street any more.’ The comic logic was that as soon as Krueger’s dream-slayings started, everybody would sell their houses and move out of the area.

I found this line of reasoning a bit simple minded. I mean, did they have any idea how long it takes to sell a house? Even if you moved out to stay with friends or family for a few days, there’s going to be a limit to their hospitality and eventually they’ll expect you and your family to stop squatting in their sofa or spare room, and there’s no way you’d have managed to shift your house on Elm Street by then. I mean nothing makes property prices fall faster than a spate of supernatural murders in the neighbourhood.

My point is that even if you have a massive problem hanging over you, the other pressures of life don’t just magically melt away to allow you to concentrate on what’s troubling you.

It’s certainly like that with Type 1 diabetes. Take last weekend, for example. I’d had to work all day Saturday, so I knew I needed to make Sunday count. I work in a university, and our new term was due to start on the next day. I really want to have a nice, relaxing time so I could approach the week feeling refreshed and ready to go. Although our younger son, Tom, had gone off to a rehearsal with his youth theatre, Jacqui, Joe and I decided to go for a family day out.

Jacqui looked through a booklet of places to visit in our local area, and we got into the car with the idea of getting there in time for lunch. This simple plan started to go awry pretty much straight away when, just as I was putting our destination into the satnav, Jacqui noticed that the place we’d chosen to go to is actually closed until March. We quickly discussed where else we could go instead and set off, but we hadn’t got very far when Joe noticed that his blood glucose was high and told us he was feeling a bit lousy. He gave himself a correction bolus with his insulin pump and on we went.

As we approached Pegwell Bay, we hit all kinds of annoyance with changes in the road system, badly laid-out roundabouts, and a temporary diversion. With Joe’s hyperglycaemia thrown into the mix, everybody was feeling a bit grumpy and argumentative by the time we arrived. Joe checked his blood sugar and found it had crept up a bit, so he gave himself another bolus of insulin. We found a pub that did food, and ordered a two-course Sunday lunch. While we waited for the starter to arrive, Joe was feeling distinctly crabby, so eventually Jacqui suggested he should check his glucose again. It had gone up yet again, more significantly this time.

This was serious. It was over an hour since he’d first noticed he was running high, and in spite of two full correction doses, his blood sugar had utterly failed to go down – unlike the house prices on Elm Street. The pump protocol states that if your glucose doesn’t fall within an hour of having a correction bolus, your infusion set has probably failed and you need to change it immediately, and if necessary give yourself a correction with an insulin pen injection. The problem was that we had neither a spare set nor a pen. At just that moment, the starters arrived.

Jacqui and I exchanged glances. Joe was already high and was about to eat a big meal. We were fairly certain that his set had failed, meaning he had no way to properly give himself insulin.

‘We’re going to have to go home, aren’t we?’

‘Yes, I think we are.’

‘I’ll go and cancel the rest of our meal.’

I went up to the bar and explained the situation to the bar manager, expecting puzzled incomprehension and perhaps annoyance. Instead, he was very sympathetic, explaining that he knew about diabetes because his mother has it.

Still, our starters were on the table, and in spite of being unpleasantly hyper, Joe was still hungry. So we sat there miserably eating our food as quickly as we could. Joe finished eating before we did, so Jac and I left the rest of our soups, wanting to get on road and back home as soon as we could.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we got back to the house, and although none of us had eaten remotely enough for a proper meal, it was too late for lunch. We snacked a bit to stave off the hunger pangs while Joe went upstairs to change his infusion set.

Now, I have to be honest and admit that diabetes isn’t nearly as much of a pain as it used to be. The technology has got a lot better, and the boys are old enough to do a lot of their care for themselves. Put it this way – it’s a lot easier than when we were trying to keep Tom’s glucose under control when he was under two and the best we had to manage things was mixed insulin injections.

But even now it has the ability to get in the way and mess things up, and it doesn’t care if you’re busy and under stress. It’s perfectly willing to step in and ruin a nice day out, however much you really need to relax. And those other pressures of life just keep on pressing, no matter how many diabetes problems you’re dealing with.

So anyway, there I was forlornly eating peanuts and watching a re-run of Come Dine with Me, thinking the day couldn’t possibly get any more dispiriting. That was the very moment that Joe called down the stairs from the landing, where he was changing his set.

‘Mum! Dad! I’m sorry, but I’ve got blood on the carpet.’

Failed infusion sets often bleed when you remove them, and apparently this one had been a bit of a gusher, hence Joe shouting out a line that – let’s face it – wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. Through no fault of his own, he’d got blood on the carpet. Our cream-coloured carpet.

What a nightmare.

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