Spontaneous response – by Helen May


Helen MayAt work, we recently discovered there was a problem at one of our customers. Unfortunately, we did not know what was causing the problem. So we bought together our crack team of techies to dive in and investigate. In order to get the bottom of the problem and to maintain good relationships with the customer, the team was deployed immediately for at least two weeks.

Apart from being technically astute, the team members had little in common. They came from America, Bulgaria and the UK. They included sociable single guys in their twenties, married guys with children at home, women in their thirties with pets, guys in their forties with grown-up children , … For all of them, at short notice, they had to make fast arrangements: find someone else to take their place in the five-a-side football; arrange for dogs to be walked; negotiate with their partners to collect their daughter from Girl Guides, …

Our employer did not pressure anyone to go. In fact, all the team members were keen to be be there: to get their teeth into the problem, to work with their colleagues and help the customer.

I was asked to join them as the “customer liaison”. I have a technical background, not as detailed as the rest of the team but I knew the customer. So I was an obvious choice.

I have no children to pick up from school, no pets to feed and my boyfriend can look after himself. I had to cancel my veg box for the week and inform my climbing partners I would not be able to join them on the walls for a couple of weeks. It sounds easy.

However, as we all know, I have diabetes. So I had to also had to check my diabetes was able to cope with the two weeks away. I had to check my appointment diary – annual check-up, retinal scan, optician, … The diary was clear. I had to check my supplies: did I have enough needles, insulin, test strips, … to last for longer than two week? When I go on holiday, I plan in advance and gather a back-log of supplies. However, my doctor cannot arrange prescriptions at less than three days’ notice. So for this customer response, I had to rely on whatever I had in my cupboard (or, already on order). All the while, I was hoping the stress of the next two weeks did not have an adverse effect on my blood sugar levels.

I have always said that diabetes should not impact my job. It should be of little interest to my employer. If I manage my blood sugars, I should have no more time off work than anyone else. Unfortunately, I need time to go to my appointments but I am trusted to manage my time and will always make up the hours. Until now, I had not realised I also need to keep at least two weeks’ of supplies just in case I need to jump on a train or plane at a couple of days (or hours) notice so I can join the team in a spontaneous response. Diabetes always seems to be there to add a little more planning to any trip or event.

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