Knocked off balance – by Andy Broomhead
We can use metaphors to describe our relationship with diabetes. I’ve likened it to walking a tightrope on a number of occasions – keeping your balance is really important otherwise you can end up with wild swings from one side to the other and regaining that balance gets difficult.
You may feel like it’s riding a rollercoaster – blood glucose levels rising and dropping before doing something unexpected. And then there’s always the ever popular…
Regardless of which particular simile you prefer, I think we all agree that the feeling of stability is comforting, but recently I experienced one of those unexpected twists and turns and the sense of stability was furthest from my mind.
I’d taken my daughter to an open air production of Peter Pan and to say the rain was torrential would be putting it mildly. When we finally got home I tried to dial in some insulin from my pump. Only two of the buttons worked… *panic* So I tried again… nothing… *PANIC*. I used my survival instinct and did what we’d all do in these circumstances – I tried turning it off and on again with a new battery… ‘BUTTON ERROR’ *MAJOR PANIC*.
So I phoned Medtronic and got through to their global call centre who politely told me it was done for and I’d need a new pump. This was 10:30pm on a Friday so I immediately started thinking about when I’d get a replacement. “I think someone goes into the UK office on a Saturday for things like this” the American accent calmly said… “Do you have a back up plan?”
Well… yeah. I’ve got a fridge full of insulin in case my pump breaks – that was the first thing they told me when I got a pump – “make sure you’ve got spares”. But now I had to use all this stuff… that pump had been my lifeline (physically and metaphorically) for three and a half years. Surely I can’t manage without it?
I dug my DAFNE handbook out of the wardrobe and looked up what you’re supposed to do if your pump breaks (total basal rate +20% split into two doses in case you were wondering). OK, now to find the insulin. I double checked the expiration dates (2017 thankfully), found a needle and just looked at this pen in my hand. I’d never used a prefilled pen. I’d never used Levemir in my life. Was I actually going to be alright? (I admit that sounds dramatic now, but in the midst of all this panic, I had some genuine doubts). I primed the pen and injected for the first time since January 2013. I set an alarm for 2am and called it a night.
A 2am correction was followed by a 10am call from Medtronic. “Will you be in this afternoon? We can have a pump with you then.” Wow – impressive. Except I was out all day, but we agreed a Sunday afternoon delivery. Another night time high followed and the courier couldn’t arrive quickly enough the next day.
By 1pm the next day I was sat looking at a lifeline once again (this time trying how to remember how to set it all up). It struck me (not for the first time) how fortunate I am to have a pump and what it means for my overall quality of life. On Saturday evening I’d picked my pen up and looked at it trying to work out how to set a multi-wave bolus before realising how ridiculous that was.
I had decent diabetes control before I started on a pump, but that little device has made a huge difference to almost every aspect of my life in the last few years (though it’s been a lot of hard work figuring out how to get the most from it). I survived reasonably well on pens for 11 years but having to go 48 hours with them had me riding a bike, blindfolded, across a tightrope that was on fire.
I think part of it was stress, part was using something I’d not used for years, part was a brand new insulin I’d never taken (and so couldn’t predict how it’d work) and part was knowing that pens aren’t able to combat the effect that diabetes has on my body (like dawn phenomenon).
Diabetes isn’t easy, and things lke this go to show how fragile our own equilibria can be. I guess the moral of the story is, don’t get caught in a downpour. And always have a back up plan.