A long, long time ago, well November 1982 to be precise, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and, at 19 years old, my whole life changed, although at that time I certainly didn’t realise what a difference it would make.
A familiar story for Type 1’s, I had spent a few weeks feeling “under the weather” before a couple of days of thirst, constant drinking, constant visits to the bathroom to relieve my bladder or vomit, and significant weight loss, followed by an urgent trip to the emergency department at the local hospital.
To be honest I don’t really recall much of what happened on that Friday evening but, as they always do, the fantastic NHS staff soon had me hooked up to the relevant “drips” and clarity returned in time to be told that it was good news, “the suspected kidney failure had been ruled out and I had been diagnosed as having diabetes”!!!
“Oh, that’s alright then… err, what’s diabetes?”
The next 2 or 3 days were spent taking in information about what insulin was, why my body needed it, the need for a balanced (managed) diet including carbohydrates, how to self check control using urine tests (none of the fancy blood test meters and strips that we all rely on now), and the dangers with “getting it wrong”!
Oddly for someone who really doesn’t like the sight of blood, who turns the TV over when “Casualty” comes on, and who is quite “risk averse” (particularly when the risk might cause me pain), I didn’t have any problems when the time came for grabbing the big glass syringe and sticking the needle (huge by today’s standards) in for my first injection.
Looking back on it now, at 19 years old leaving hospital with this condition that everyone said “shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a normal life!” meant that I just followed the routine that I started with without knowing enough about the why’s and wherefore’s. To be perfectly honest at that time I probably wouldn’t have listened if I had been told to learn more about the condition, it’s challenges, and the reasons why it’s managed the way it is.
However, a couple of years into “life with diabetes” things were about to change!
Despite continuing with my regime, 2 injections a day with a mix of long acting and fast acting insulin in each, I ended up back in hospital, dehydrated again, and hooked up to the “drips”. This time though things didn’t sort themselves out and after a period of the most intense, agonising pains particularly across my back and shoulders I lapsed into what I now know was a diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) coma with very high blood ketone levels.
Once more the awesome people at my local hospital played a blinder and, on discovering that my body had developed a resistance to the “porcine” insulin (derived from pigs) I had been using, the decision was taken to switch to the use of “human” insulin (synthetic, grown in a lab) and a couple of days later I was “back in the real world”, a week of tests, checks, adapting to the new insulin, recovery complete and all was well again.
This, for me, was one of those significant moments when diabetes first kicked me up the backside and said “you better get to know me, work with me, and then we’ll be okay!”.
Rolling forward, the next 30 + years have been a journey of learning, trying, succeeding and failing, life changes, and lots of football, did I mention that I love football?
The thing is without diabetes I think I could of made it!!!
Well, that and the fact that I wasn’t quick, strong, tall, any good at scoring goals, tackling, heading the ball, passing, or dribbling!!!
The reality is that diabetes didn’t stop me enjoying many years of playing, it added a few extra challenges but all in all I didn’t miss out on anything in football because I was a “type 1” player.
Of course, when the time came to “hang my boots up”, and being the proud dad of football mad kids, I just had to get involved in coaching, after all there’s no running about so no issues there with my diabetes; right?
If you’ve coached, managed, helped out with, or just been a parent supporter of a kids football team I’m sure you will know what an emotional roller-coaster every single match day brings and if, like me, you’re sharing life with diabetes you’ll probably know how much good blood glucose control and stress love each other!
Well I didn’t but fortunately, eventually, I was able to find and adopt a strategy for managing my diabetes and dealing with “The Stress Effect” whilst continuing to follow my passion for working with young footballers, however, I suppose it was somewhat appropriate that my toughest diabetes challenge yet should first appear during a training session on a football pitch.
It was almost a perfect morning, the bright, sunny, early spring weather, fantastic training facility on the clubs new Artificial Grass Pitch, and a group of young adult players reaching the “business end” of a superb season. Towards the end of the session, with everyone, myself included, nice and relaxed, watching the lads having some fun with a small-sided game, a dark blue spot appeared in my right eye.
The best description I can give is that it was like an ink spot on blotting paper, quickly growing, “popping”, and spreading out like little streams from a lake across the eye. Instinct, naturally, was to rub my eye to remove whatever was in it, but that didn’t work. Then a moment of worry that my eye was bleeding, a quick check of my hand for blood ruled that out, before the realisation set in that the problem was on the inside!
An unscheduled trip to the Oxford Eye Hospital emergency department confirmed that my “ink-spot” was a vitreous haemorrhage and my non-proliferative retinopathy had turned into proliferative retinopathy.
To cut a long “blog” short, and because it’s an ongoing thing that I’d like to write about in more detail, the four years that have elapsed since, full of tests, laser treatments, loads of headaches trying to read and write with an eye full of blood, progress, and setbacks including another haemorrhage, have certainly focused my mind on the “how to” of diabetes management, I definitely get the “why” (at last!), and the “when” has to be now.
My current regime is a daily “basal” (background) insulin dose of Tresiba and mealtime “bolus” (fast acting) insulin injections of NovoRapid at a “normal” rate of 1 unit of insulin to 10 grams of carbohydrate. I adjust bolus doses based on the usual variables, test result, carbs, activity (to come or completed), weather, time of day, health, football results, etc, sometimes successfully sometimes not!