No diabetic’s an island, until you’re stuck on one – by Amy Black


Amy252x252Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a person largely driven by impulse. “Follow your gut” is my mantra and one which has served me well… well, nine times out of 10 at least.

It was around this time last year that Northern Ireland was experiencing some of the hottest days of summer and I had rather impulsively quit my job with a PR agency in order to set up my own business.

Whilst this came with a number of set backs such as financial instability and the fear of the unknown, one of the positive things of being self-employed is that you can work wherever the hell you like, especially when the sun finally decides to make an appearance.

So one day, when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperatures were soaring to the mid 20s, I decided to pack my laptop into my bag and work from a peaceful little beauty spot called Island Hill – accompanied by my beloved Cocker Spaniel Waffles.

While en route to my al fresco office, I stopped off at the local shop to grab some newspapers, a sandwich, a packet of sweets and a diet coke. Then off towards the sunshine I gladly went.

As you may have guessed from the name, Island Hill is a tiny remote island of “outstanding natural beauty” located at the upper end of Strangford Lough, with the most amazing 360 degree views across the Lough and towards Scrabo Tower. Just perfect for walking the dog and observing the wild life…and – oh yeah – working.

Now to get to Island Hill you need to follow a narrow causeway at low-tide (I repeat, LOW tide). So you can imagine my disappointment when I showed up to find the tide coming in and the path beginning to submerge in water.

“Drat that” I thought, “I’m going to get to that island come hell or high water” (see what I did there?)

I took off my plimsoles and followed Waffles towards the remote destination. It was rather nice actually, feeling the cool water wash over my feet and the sun rays beaming down on the back of my neck.

It wasn’t half bad.

That’s until I passed the mid-way point, when all of a sudden the path disappeared and Waffles was in full doggy paddle.

Maybe not such a good idea after all, but I was too far gone to turn back now. So I walked the extra three or four metres to finally reach the island, where I hobbled across the stoney beach completely barefoot (bad idea for any diabetic) and went to the furthest point on the island to read the papers and tuck into lunch.

While drying my shoes in the sun, I took out my phone to call Brian.

Brian: “Hi”
Me: “I’m stuck on an island.”
Brian: “You’re what?”
Me: “I’m stuck on an island.”
Brian: “You’re…what?”
Me: “I’M STUCK ON A BLOODY ISLAND”
Brian: “WHAT!?”
Me: “I was out walking Waffles and the tide came in really quickly and now the path is covered. I’ll be stuck here for at least a couple of hours. Can you ring the coast guard and ask what the tidal times are?”
Brian: “Are you ok? Do you have anything on you? How’s your blood sugar?”
Me: “Yea I’m fine! I have gluco gel, sandwiches, a bag of sweets…I’m fine! But I only have 20% battery left on my phone.”
Brian: “Oh. My. God. Get off your phone.”
Me: “Ok, but don’t worry I’m fine. Will you find out the tidal times and just text me?”
Brian: “Yea no probs.”
Me: “Oh, and for the love of god don’t tell the coast guard I’m diabetic.”
Brian: “Why?”
Me: “Just don’t. Please?”
Brian: “Ok…”
Me: “Promise?”
Brian: “Ok I promise, now save your battery!”

So there I was, happy as Larry just topping up my tan, reading the headlines and throwing a few pebbles for Waffles to fetch. Oh, and working.

After about an hour I decided to take a dander around the island to stretch my legs. While doing so I took my phone out of my pocket to see a load of missed calls from Brian and another number I didn’t recognise. “Hmmm that’s odd” I thought while staring down at the screen trying to figure out who it might be. Then suddenly out of nowhere I heard a man ask “What’s your name?” I looked up and there he was in all his fluorescent glory. The coast guard.

“Um. Amy?” I sheepishly replied.
Coastguard: “Amy Black?”
Me: “Yea?”
Coast guard spcoast-guard2eaks into his radio: “Diabetic casualty located.”

Then all of a sudden about five coastguard officials appeared, like they were hidden in the bushes or something.

Coastguard: “We’ve been looking all over for you.”
Me: “I was sitting on the rocks…”
Coastguard: “Ah right. Well, you have to come with us.”
Me: “Can’t I just stay until the tide goes down? There’s other people here that are doing that.”
Coastguard: “Yea, but they’re not an emergency.”
Me: “Neither am I! Look! I have a load of food!! I’m fine! Honestly. I’M FINE!”
Coastguard: “Well we have a duty of care to get you back to land, that’s why we were dispatched in the first place.”
Me: “Dispatched?”
Coastguard: “Yea, look *points*”

Coastguard_4The Coastguard then pointed towards the cliff in the distance that over looked the causeway. On top of it (and I kid you not) were three coastguard vehicles with their blue lights on in full swing, accompanied by a crowd of about 50 people looking at the scene unfolding before them, all believing that I was some sort of damsel in distress.

You know those moments where you just want the ground to open up and swallow you whole? Yea, this was one of those.

Me: “I’ll kill him”.
The coastguard laughed: “Your boyfriend?”
Me: “I asked him not to tell you guys, I’m honestly fine, there’s no need for this. I’m so embarrassed.”
Coastguard still laughing: “Aw, he did the right thing. Now, come on, we need to go.”

I looked at the causeway ahead – it was still submerged in water.

Me: “HowThe-Walk-Back-Amy1?”
Coastguard: “The same way you came out, except put your shoes on this time.”

By this point my embarrassment subsided into amusement, I had no choice but to laugh. The team of about five coastguards marched me like a convicted criminal down the causeway with the crowd on the cliff cheering them on and applauding their heroics. One guard even held Waffles as she was struggling to keep up.

They were all great craic and I laughed the whole way back just thinking, “well, this is one to tell the grand kids”.

Once we got back and I was (cough, cough) “saved”, I got a photograph with the entire team to mark the occasion and thanked them for helping me get back.

Once we said our goodbyes I got in my car with Waffles and called Brian with the last remaining battery I had left, “Well, have I got a story to tell you” I giggled, while he was in plain hysterics.

The moral of the story is folks, always prepare in advance of going anywhere… for you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Diabetes should never take away your independence, but whether it’s being stuck in traffic or stuck on an island, just make sure you have all of your essentials (including a phone charger and jelly babies) to save yourself the panic (or embarrassment) of needing further assistance.

And remember, it’s always nice to have people in your life who care about your welfare (even if you are faring well.)

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