That said, as is also often the case, there were a few comments confused about Type1 vs Type2, one which related a parent’s experience of T1 with her daughter and, of course, a good old angry rant or two. I embarked on replying to a couple of things and it occured to me that (Dang!) this disease is multifaceted, bloody interesting and there is a hellova lot of misunderstanding about it.
Today I posted online a petition to appeal to Pharmac to fund a type of Continuous Glucose Monitor that as a Type1 Diabetic I use, but frankly, cannot afford. As is often the case with social media the comments that followed were mostly supportive and a handful of friends followed the link and signed the petition. Here it is by the way.
In addition to that this week I get a pump. You may have noticed the title of this blog. Learning to drive the pump is also multifaceted, bloody interesting and a bit freakin scary. If I don’t do this right I’m not going to have a good time at all and if I really screw it up I could die, or worse, get my funding withdrawn.
Before I get into the bits and pieces, a little about me. I’m a 44-year-old skinny, white guy. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for about ten years. Accordingly, my diagnosis at 34 makes me a Late Adult-Onset Diabetic. Rarish. Ten years ago they told me they get one or two of us in Wellington Hospital a year. When I finally got to the Wellington ED after 3 weeks of deterioration the doctor confirmed my state from 20 feet away. ‘Mr Hickman the question is not whether you’re a diabetic but whether or not you can go home” the opening line to the rest of your life.
I work on the floor of a bike store in the day and in the evenings and weekends I play music and write. I’m a recovering full time working muso and I made a living in the pubs of NZ for about fourteen years before the bike game became a more reliable and significantly healthier source of income. Now I get to play the tunes I like and write and I’m currently halfway through touring New Zealand to promote my first solo album. I also love bikes. Managing my diabetes to play a gig or go ride my bike is a central challenge in my day today.
My explanation of Type1 diabetes to a layperson usually goes along these lines: The pancreas produces insulin which allows my brain to use the glucose from food or broken down fat and muscle to fuel the brain. Without it the brain starves and the glucose builds up in the bloodstream and has serious immediate and long term health concerns. A brain starving also presents a serious short term health concern. My pancreas no longer produces insulin, none, nada. As a result, I have to manually inject insulin in relation to my intake of food and my physical activity to maintain the balance of enough usable sugars for my brain without the excessive amounts that will damage my body.
In short, a Type1 diabetic manually controls the functions of the previously very cleverly controlled automatic functions of the pancreas. For the last ten years, I have done this using two types of insulin injected and a glucose monitor activated by a drop of blood.
The pump is an electronic device design to assist in the control and delivery of insulin. It’s not automatic but if operated correctly it enables more accurate control of Type1 diabetes and therefore a longer, healthier life on my part.
I’m waiting on my friend Dusty Burnell to pick me up. Tonight I’ll play my first ever gig wearing the pump and I’m nervous as all hell. I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of the processes, issues and hopefully good stuff associated with becoming physically reliant on a small computer attached to your body. But first, I need some sandwiches and insulin.