Biggest Loss by Helen May


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Helen MayI live within walking distance of my office. Parking in the local city centre is so bad, it is easier to walk than drive. If I need to travel for work, I usually take advantage of being able to work whilst travelling on the train and I walk to the station. Walking is a major part of my exercise – something I would miss if I had to drive. And, despite the improvements that have been made to the internal combustion engine over the years, cars still add a lot of pollution to the environment.

Despite all of that. I still own a car. It may spend a lot of time on the road outside my house, but without it, I would not be able to travel to the climbing centre 20 miles away (and a good distance from a railway station), a trip to visit my parents would take twice as long and I have no idea how I would transport rubbish to the tip. Actually, those are all practical, specific examples. But really, without a car, I would lose my independence to go wherever I want when I want (or need) and to make the choice how I got there.

I passed my driving test when I was 17. It was the morning before my first A level exam. My Mum did not believe me at first but it was true, at the age of 17, I had a driving license which would run out when I was 70. At that age, the only way I could imagine losing my license would be through driving offences and, I was going to drive carefully for 53 years so I would be fine.

Everything was fine for nearly 20 years. I still had a points-free license and no one was going to check my capability to drive for another 33 years. No points, no claims and low mileage were all under my control and ensured I had a (relatively) low insurance premium.

Then … I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I had to inform the DVLA and my insurance company. The DVLA took away (what I considered to be) my “eternal” license and gave me one valid for a paltry three years and I had to shop around for insurance from a company who did not ask about my health and add a premium because my condition, apparently, makes me more at risk of having an accident.

Every three years, I must convince a faceless bureaucrat that I have hypo-awareness and I have not had a severe hypo in the last 12 months. This is made harder when my local hospital does not have enough diabetes specialists to see me that often. Then, when I drive, I should check my blood sugar levels no more than two hours before I drive and every two hours during the journey. No more can I just run out of the door grabbing my car keys on the way. I have to stop and measure and, if my reading is less than five (although a hypo is less than four), I should have something to eat and wait 15 minutes for it to take effect.

I may not drive often but, I feel, this is the area of my life most greatly affected by diabetes. Driving represents my freedom. Freedom to take off when I need or want without studying train timetables and waiting for the next bus to arrive. I guess I am lucky, my license is renewed every three years without any questions being asked. If it was taken away, and I could not drive, not due to drink driving or speeding or not paying attention but due to my medical condition, that would be the Biggest Loss.

Just another reason to take care of myself and my diabetes.

** Just out of interest, does everyone follow the DVLA advice on measuring BG before driving, every time?

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