Diabetes goes to college – by Oliver Double

Olly-Double-150x150For this blog, I need sound effects. There will be times when I reveal a piece of information so mind-blowing that it needs to be followed by a melodramatic three-chord riff – starting right away.

Very recently, we dropped our older son Joe off to start his first term at university.


OK, maybe that’s not mind-blowing to you. That “DA-DA-DAAAHH!!!” might come across as a bit unnecessary if you’re not a member of our immediate family. But to us, Joe going to university is an event we’ve anticipated with a mixture of pride, excitement, sadness – and possibly just a soupcon of dread – for well over a year. We’re delighted that Joe is making his own way in the world and that he’s managed to get onto precisely the course he wanted to do, but at the same time our little household has shrunk from four to three.

We’re all missing him. The day after we dropped him off, I felt utterly bereft. He’s a lanky great 18-year-old now, but Jacqui and I still vividly remember the moment when his snuffling, wrinkled baby body was gently placed onto Jacqui’s chest immediately after he was born. His younger brother Tom simply can’t remember a time when Joe wasn’t around.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago when Joe was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In fact it was over 10 years ago, when he was just eight years old. Of course, he’s had to take his diabetes with him to university. It’s a shame that he couldn’t have just left it at home, like his CD collection and most of his Lego.

As we drive Joe to Oxford and find ourselves having to sit in traffic on the M25 – there’s a concept that certainly doesn’t require a “DA-DA-DAAAHH!!!” – I start planning a blog about taking Joe to university. I think I’ll be able to write about the emotions we’re going through, and talk about how proud we are of Joe for taking control of managing his diabetes.

Then we stop at some services to get snacks. As a treat, and to tip the balance on this bittersweet occasion from bitter to sweet, I let Joe and Tom have some special doughnuts that they’ve been ogling. They very responsibly estimate the carbohydrate content, check with Jacqui whether she agrees with their estimation, then use their insulin pumps to bolus for them. That done, they chow down on their tasty treats with impressive zeal.

It’s only when we’re filling up with petrol that Joe’s pump alarm goes off to tell him it’s failed to deliver his insulin.


Joe changed his infusion set earlier this morning, and – as sometimes happens – it hasn’t worked very well. So now he has to go and change his set again, only this time in the delightfully hygienic setting of a motorway petrol station’s toilets. Mmm! What an unexpected bonus on such a momentous day!

That’s the thing about diabetes. Once you’ve got it under control, it keeps itself to itself enough so you almost forget about it, but nothing’s too important to stop it from interrupting and saying, “Remember me? I need some attention now! Come along, I haven’t got all day!” You may be wanting to focus on the occasion in hand, but diabetes never sleeps, and it doesn’t care if it’s intruding on an important family occasion. To put it simply, it’s a real stinker.

Talking of stinkers, Joe goes to the motorway toilets to change his set, boluses again to cover the carbs in the inconvenient-but-delicious doughnut and a major hyperglycaemic incident is avoided. That’s the thing about Joe. Whereas we might get annoyed by the rudeness of diabetes’ intrusions into our lives, he just rises to the challenge with quiet resolution.

Just before we drive off to re-join the motorway, Jacqui turns to me and says, “You know, you could write about this in your blog.”

“Way ahead of you,” I reply.

Information for teenagers

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