That Time I Almost Ran Out of Insulin

The eighth annual Diabetes Blog Week took place last week, and today I’m jumping in late and answering the Wildcard prompt.

Whether you or your loved one are newly diagnosed or have been dealing with diabetes for a while, you probably realise that things can (and will) go wrong.  But sometimes the things that go wrong aren’t stressful – instead sometimes they are downright funny!  Go ahead and share your Diabetes Blooper – your “I can’t believe I did that” moment – your big “D-oh” – and let’s all have a good laugh together!!

One day, a good couple of years ago, I went on a day trip with my family to Rottnest Island. I’ll say I’d had diabetes for a year or two at the time.

In the beginning, I was just full of attitude when it came to my diabetes. I didn’t want to admit that my condition had changed me. I didn’t want to admit that it made me different. I hated the thought of relying on a meter, insulin or jellybeans as a just-in-case. It felt weak. It felt like I was giving into my condition.

So, you can only imagine how this teenager with attitude reacted to his parents nagging. Whenever we were travelling somewhere distant, Mum and Dad would nag me.

Have you got your stuff?

Frank, I’ve got a bag here if you want to put anything in it.

Have you got all your stuff?

You get the idea. Cue lots of eye rolling and humming over their voices.

So, we were waiting to board this ferry on a day trip to Rottnest Island, when I suddenly realised that I didn’t have much insulin left in my pen. It wasn’t empty empty, but there was probably only enough in there to cover a meal. I think I gasped, or made some sort of expression that made Mum and Dad aware of the situation. Aside from a few remarks of I asked you if you had all of your stuff!, I don’t remember them getting super mad.

We did have some time up our sleeve before we had to be on that ferry. Dad suggested that if I found a Pharmacy and explained my situation, I’d probably be able to get some insulin. Of course, yours truly stubbornly said that he’d be fine and make it last the duration of the day.

I remember stopping at Dome for a coffee when we arrived, and not having anything. After some wandering round, we stopped for some fish and chips at lunchtime. I knew that if I just ate the fish and left the chips, I would be able to get away with minimal insulin. Of course, yours truly decided to eat his chips as well and ride the minimal insulin and high blood sugars out until the end of the day.

I can’t recall my pen actually reaching it’s threshold that day. I do remember checking my blood sugar on the ferry ride home and getting something like 16. I do remember thinking about getting home and being able to give a correction, which makes me think that my insulin pen did run out that day. But then again, perhaps I was just too self conscious to inject a correction shot on the ferry. Who knows…

What I do know, is that this was the silliest and most irresponsible thing I have ever done with my diabetes. So many things could have gone wrong that day. The ferry could have broken down, leaving me stranded on Rottnest Island, or somewhere inbetween without insulin. The fish and chips could have sent me into ketones if I didn’t have the insulin to cover them, with limited medical assistance available to me while I was offshore.

But I also laugh at this story. Whenever someone tells me that they’ve left their insulin at home or done something irresponsible, I usually refer to this story. I remind them that they can’t ever be as irresponsible as I was that day. I hope I make them feel a little bit less guilty.

On a sidenote, seeing this prompt among the Diabetes Blog Week topics has had me thinking of this blooper all week long.

To read other responses to this prompt, click here.

One Year Pumping!

I’ve now officially passed the one year mark since I began using an insulin pump! It was a huge leap of faith at the time, but one that I knew I had to make for the sake of lower and more stable blood sugar levels.

The biggest reason I switched was because I never felt I could get my background insulin dose quite right. Some nights, particularly if I ate more than normal, my Lantus dose wouldn’t be enough to keep my levels steady. Other nights, it would be too much and send me low.

Today, that problem is all but gone. The pump delivers a basal rate of insulin that can be customised to the time of day. I have a higher rate running from 1am to mid morning to offset dawn phenomenon, and a flat rate running through the remainder of the day. Night time basals have been the most challenging, with upward tweaks needed every month or two. But thankfully, the remainder of my basal rates have remained unchanged since I first figured them out last year.

Before I started pumping, I was guesstimating a lot of my insulin doses. I guess I wasn’t very motivated to do otherwise. I wasn’t really thinking too hard about what I was putting into my mouth, and there were a lot of emotionally exhausting highs and lows.

I began diligently counting carbohydrates and weighing my food since starting on the pump, and surprisingly I haven’t slacked off since! With a properly tuned basal rate, insulin just worked when I bolused to cover meals, rather than staying frustratingly high. The pump’s bolus calculator was extremely helpful, and of course having the pump attached to me made bolusing a lot more convenient when out and about.

As anticipated, the pump was a huge learning curve. My biggest hurdle in those first few months was site failures. The 90 degree insets that I was using at the time continually failed on me, causing regular bruising and bleeding on the stomach. I’ll always remember one tumultuous night where I ripped out my infusion site to discover the cannula had kinked on the way in. I eventually switched to the comforts which sit on an angle and have a manual insertion. Today, site failures are rarely an issue. 

The insulin pump is hands down more work than injections. Infusion sites need changing every three days, insulin cartridges need to be refilled, pump lines need to be inspected for air bubbles, batteries need changing, and basal rates need adjusting for activity. You really need to be on top of your game with a pump, and that might not be a commitment everyone is able to make.

The insulin pump definitely gave me a renewed drive to better focus on what was some very lousy diabetes management.

From there, the rest of what I’ve achieved is down to my dedication to observing and learning more about my diabetes and the different variables that affect my blood sugar. So in this regard, I feel that I could just as easily have reached this level of management on Multiple Daily Injections as well.

I can’t express just how much of an investment this was – and I’m not sure I would have been able to do this if I were still at uni or had a more demanding job. But overall I now feel more knowledgeable, equipped and experienced to navigate my way through different scenarios. This level of management no longer feels like such a stretch.

While I don’t talk numbers on this blog, I will share that it took me six months to get my hba1c to where I wanted it to be. When I first hit that target in November, I really felt like I had squeezed everything out of myself to get that number. Today, I’ve been able to comfortably maintain that number – and hopefully even better it going forward.

It’s been a huge year for my diabetes, and one that I feel is definitely worth celebrating.

Happy pump-aversary to me!

(And here’s hoping diabetes is a bit easier on me this coming year)

In an Ideal World

In an ideal world, my meter would produce a magical 5.5 while I’m fasting.

In an ideal world, I could select any spot on my stomach for the placement of an infusion site.

In an ideal world, my blood sugars would respond to potatoes in exactly the same fashion as yoghurt.

In an ideal world, I could fall asleep knowing that my blood sugar will stay stable all through the night.

In an ideal world, I could go for a walk and not worry about my blood sugar dropping.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to worry about rage bolusing every time I’m sick or I’m stressed.

In an ideal world, my levels would steadily rise and then fall back into line after I eat.

In an ideal world, my blood sugar wouldn’t be affected by protein or fat.

In an ideal world, I would be able to feel every oncoming hypo.

In an ideal world, my basal insulin needs would be identical through each hour of the day and the night.

In an ideal world, a diabetes healthcare professional would spend a whole day with me if need be.

In an ideal world, I would have been encouraged to consider technology by my diabetes team.

In an ideal world, everyone who wishes to use an insulin pump would have one.

In an ideal world, a Continuous Glucose Monitor would be subsidised for those who want to use one.

In an ideal world, insulin wouldn’t be so fucking expensive.

In an ideal world, insulin wouldn’t keep getting more fucking expensive.

In an ideal world, access to medication and basic healthcare wouldn’t be determined by my location or income.

In an ideal world, diabetes and pharmaceutical companies would have the best interests of people living with diabetes at heart.

In an ideal world, I would be excited about the artificial pancreas systems hitting the market next year.

In an ideal world, nobody would feel isolated or different for having diabetes.

In an ideal world, I would have perfect management of my diabetes.

Five Things, Completely Unrelated to Diabetes

It’s the final day of the eighth annual Diabetes Blog Week. The idea is that bloggers sign up to write about a set topic each day for a week, and readers get a variety of perspectives on each topic. Here is today’s prompt:

Lets wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with. Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can. Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes, because there is more to life than just diabetes!

As a kid, I dreamed of being a teacher. The 12 weeks of school holidays and 3pm finishes seemed pretty tempting to 10 year old me. I also thought that I could do a much better job than some of the lousy teachers I had. But I had this fear that I would turn into one of those teachers who would be unable to control the class, and eventually settled on my second dream job: journalism. Although I was unsuccessful in finding a career in the Communications/Marketing field, I did end up writing my own diabetes blog.

I’m more of a TV show person than a movie one. I was a massive Lost fanatic back in the day. With all of these reboots and revivals popping up nowadays, I’m praying they will announce a complete do-over of the final season of Lost. Don’t even get me started on the ending in that Church! Also, if you try and talk to me about My Kitchen Rules or Married at First Sight, I’ll tell you they’re scripted. Because all reality TV is scripted. I like to unwind with a good TV series at the end of the day, particularly if diabetes has been playing rough.

Coming from an Italian family, food is EVERYTHING. And if you didn’t eat anything for lunch, you mustn’t be feeling well. Often the topic of conversation in my house is did Frank eat anything before he left this morning? I don’t often order Pasta in a restaurant, because I have the real deal at home. I’m a terrible sweet tooth, and go nuts for coffee, cannoli or a good cake. With a type 1 diagnosis, it’s been tough to overcome this food culture and be more mindful of my mouthfuls, but I feel I’ve found a happy balance.

I don’t like exercise. Growing up, I felt that there was too much focus on sports and winning. I was more of a nerd. But somehow, I ended up working in a warehouse doing manual labour. It has been a challenge to learn how exercise affects my blood sugar and adjust insulin accordingly. But I’m also grateful that my job keeps me active, and I have a good excuse not to go to the gym at the end of the day!

Back in the day, I was an avid reader. Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Famous Five, Alex Rider. Today I pick up a book and get laughed at, because I often struggle finish a book! But I do read a lot about diabetes online. I enjoy scrolling through my Twitter feed in the morning to see what the likes of Diabetes Mine and Diabetes Daily have been covering while I’ve been sleeping. I glance at my Feedly app through the day to see what other diabetes bloggers are writing about. I’ve read Think Like a Pancreas, Michael Moseley’s The Fast Diet and Sugar Surfing with great interest. I’m also very much looking forward to catching up on Diabetes Blog Week posts today and over the weekend.

Big thanks to Karen at Bittersweet Diabetes for hosting another Diabetes Blog Week. It’s been a pleasure to participate over the last three years, and connect with other d-bloggers from all over the world.

To read other posts related to today’s prompt, click here.