Sunday, 9 January 2011

Number 32 - Diabotics!

Originally introduced to the forum by Becca in this thread, members of the forum took up the challenge and posted their creations here. Diabotics are creatures created from the sundry detritus of Diabetes Mellitus – the packaging, needle tips, test strips, insulin cartridges, in fact anything that plays a part in management of diabetes of whatever type.

The creations provide a light relief from the day to day drudgery and diabetes, and can be a particularly entertaining way for children to have some fun despite the seriousness of their condition. Some brilliant diabotics emerged, and have been given their own website at . They have even featured in a 2011 calendar this year!

Diabetes doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. We have to deal with it every day and we can’t escape it, so why not lighten the situation and have some fun!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Number 31 - Jamie’s Food Revolution

Diabetes is about food, in the main, and how successfully or otherwise our bodies manage to deal with it in all its incarnations, whether encouraged by judicious choice and frequent activity, or with help from medications and insulin. As we have already seen, there are many misconceptions about what a person with diabetes can eat, or not, and these are often bolstered by sloppy reporting and poor scriptwriting in the media. The subject of diet, therefore, is pretty central to many of the threads on the forum.

When I was diagnosed, the chief principle I was taught was that I should simply follow a healthy, balanced diet, and this is what I have tried to do, with the occasional spectacular lapse! As your experience grows, you learn what foods are to be avoided, perhaps because they cause an unfathomable delayed spike, and what seemingly indulgent foods can be enjoyed regularly. In principle, this is the sort of diet everyone should be following, even if they are not diabetic, as it will help to keep them fit and healthy and less prone to a plethora of other potentially dangerous health issues.

Having diabetes and managing it successfully concentrates the mind on the subject of nutrition in a way that a non-diabetic person would probably find difficult to understand. As a result, people’s ideas about what is healthy and their attitudes to food can vary considerably, a fact clearly illustrated in Jamie Oliver’s series about school meals which won great critical acclaim for exposing the dreadful junk being given to many of our schoolchildren due to the twin evils of cost and convenience.

This thread concerns Jamie’s efforts to tackle the same issue, but this time in America, where, it seems, problems are an order of magnitude worse – children being fed pizza for breakfast with no alternative, ludicrous rules on the constituents of each meal without taking into account the true nutritional value etc. As always when poor diet and obesity are featured in the media, the word ‘diabetes’ crops up. But in Jamie’s series it is treated at a dangerous risk that may be avoided, and largely incidental to trying to get the public in general to embrace a truly healthy diet and lifestyle.

The series was well-received by forum members as an uplifting and entertaining programme, probably because it was offering a solution to the problem of diet in an educational and positive way, rather than the many documentaries that blame and condemn people and offer no practical way forward. More like this please!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Number 30 - Total Group loss so far!

Without going into the argument of whether diabetes, in particular Type 2, is caused by being overweight, or whether the excess weight is caused by diabetes, it is a fact that 80% of people are overweight or obese when diagnosed and could therefore benefit from a reduction in weight. But Type 1s don’t escape from the excess poundage problem either, as it is often the case that the injecting of insulin causes weight gain, and the treatment of hypos can make it difficult to stick to any kind of calorie-reduction diet as you cannot avoid eating extra sugary foods or drinks to overcome them.

Lucy123 suggested that we start up a special ‘Weight Loss Group’ (known to all as the WLG!) section on the forum so members could swap tips and encourage each other in their weight-loss efforts. The WLG has been a great success, with over 1700 posts in less than four months. This thread is a measure of that success, acting as a totaliser of the cumulative weight loss recorded by group members. From an initial 7.5 llbs, by Christmas we had achieved a total loss of 12st 9 llbs!

Unfortunately, I can no longer visit this section because I have been banned for posting pictures of Battenburg cakes, Jamaica Ginger Cakes, Walnut Whips and hotdogs! (not really, they can’t ban me!)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Number 29 - The Hospital

The portrayal of diabetes and diabetics in the media has been discussed many times, whether it is in short news reports, government campaigns in the press and television or through the fictionalised accounts in popular television drama. These short forays are often quickly digested and swiftly forgotten by the majority of Joe Public, apart from leaving maybe a lasting impression that diabetics caused their own problems, whether by the ingestion of copious amounts of sugar, or by being fat and lazy and indifferent to their own health (none of which, incidentally, is rooted in fact).

What can have a far greater impact, however, and give solid reinforcement of those misguided impressions, is the ‘in-depth’ documentary treatment of the topic. By presenting a series of worse-case scenarios to a backdrop of despair and outrage at the huge (financial) cost to the taxpayer, The Hospital, on Channel 4, managed to give a completely distorted impression of both the causes and effects of diabetes. In the context of the whole series, of which this was one episode, then maybe that judgement is a little harsh, as the premise of the series as a whole was to show the terrible waste of NHS resources spent on people who appeared incapable or unwilling to take responsibility for their health.

Taken in isolation, however, this episode seemed to have no balance – there was no discussion of how many diabetics worked hard to look after their health, and probably being far more diligent than the majority of the non-diabetic audience for the show. The whole episode had an undercurrent of blame, concluding with a sweeping statement that had nothing to do with the majority of cases featured in the programme. The consultant featured despaired that, with growing levels of obesity in the population, the number of cases like those featured would bring the NHS to breaking point. However, since the majority of cases involved young Type 1 patients in which obesity is not a risk factor, his closing remarks bore little relation to the preceding fifty minutes.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the programme generated a great deal of discussion and produced a surprisingly wide range of opinions in this thread. Particularly outraged were the parents of Type 1 children who were completely blameless by any measure, and yet would now be associated once more with the impression that they somehow contributed to their condition. If only a more balanced programme could be produced (not as part of a series like this), in consultation with actual diabetics and vetted assiduously by JDRF and Diabetes UK, so that the public could be educated on the huge complexity of diabetes and dispel their prejudices!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Number 28 – Rachel’s Pharmacy Corner

Our members come from all walks of life, and we are very lucky to have Rachel, who works in a hospital pharmacy. She is our ‘Pharma Dalai Lama’, since she is always able to balance our frequent rants about our prescription nightmares with an informed view from the other side. She’s also rather knowledgeable about the many and various potions we are urged to consume by our physicians, and can provide down to earth explanations of their purpose and possible effects and interactions which may not always be quite so forthcoming or intelligible from the doctors prescribing them.

In this thread she gave us a guide to the pharmacy and how it all fits together, presented in her usual thorough, but humorous style. It can really help people to know what happens behind the scenes when our pharmacist gets things ‘wrong’ or doesn’t act as we expect, and I think a lot of people are more prepared to retain their composure having read her posts rather than exploding in a boiling rage when the wrong needles are given to us or we are asked to call back next Tuesday!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Number 27 – Statins

Welcome to the world of diabetes and a newly-discovered scepticism about the validity of some medical practices! Before I was diagnosed I had had the quite natural attitude that whatever a doctor said or prescribed for me was both necessary and proven to be of benefit to me. However, with the intimacy that diabetes brings on a daily, or even hourly basis, with aspects of your personal health, I discovered that it is important to question and sometimes even refute the doctor’s opinions. As I have learned from others on the forum this is often the only way to find the best possible solution for your day to day health, by tailoring the advice and medication given to suit your own particular response and knowledge of yourself.

Statins are central to the debate about cholesterol levels, fat intake, carbs versus fat and what does most good and what does most harm etc. This thread helped clarify many of the arguments for and against statins and expanded my knowledge about diet and the cholesterol/fat issue considerably, thanks to the input from many other members. On the forum, we do not give medical advice – we are not qualified to do so – but we can give pointers to sources of information that may help us to put forward valid questions to the medical professionals we encounter.

I have been surprised (although I probably shouldn’t be) by the limited knowledge of some GPs on various health issues. I shouldn’t be surprised because they have to know a little about an enormous number of complex topics, and can’t possibly be expected to research and keep up to date on all of them. If we are to stay as healthy as possible then it is up to us to take some personal responsibility and research things for ourselves, so we can then debate the issues with the doctor on an informed basis. This is one great thing that the forum has taught me, and I try to pass on to others.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Number 26 - Keep Crawling Forrest Gump!

Stories don’t come more amazing than this, and this one turned into a national human interest story appearing on news programmes and in newspapers up and down the country! Over the years we’ve had quite a few tales of where a pet has detected a hypo and helped a member, and not forgetting the famous Bruce, of course, who is both a hearing and assistance dog (and close personal friend and award winner!) to member Einstein. We also have Finnish member Moddey’s dog, being trained to help her young son, and many members have also related tales of cats and even parrots coming to the aid of their human friends!

In this post, member Ellie Jones related how her two dogs Ellie and Jones (wonder where the member name came from?) worked together to alert her to the fact that her husband had collapsed with a hypo. One dog, despite being timid, ran home to get help whilst the other dog stayed with hubbie. Not only this, but it was apparent that the dogs had led hubbie to a place where he could most easily be found. This, apparently, involved crawling on hands and knees, hence the title of the thread. Thankfully, he was found, the paramedics called, and the story had a happy ending.