Saturday 31 July 2010

Leaps and Bounds

Let's get one thing straight; I hate diabetes.

Most of the time I just get on with things and try not to moan about it too much, partly because if you moan too much people stop listening, and I want people to hear the truth about diabetes. It's also partly because I believe if you keep moaning, you just convince yourself of what your saying and don't have a chance to feel better about anything. So I try to save my rants for moments when it truly does get to me. But under the surface that gives off the impression that I manage it well and don't let it stop me doing what I want, there is always that grey cloud on the horizon - the one which brings a sombre mood, a feeling of defeat and a number of extra boluses (the insulin pump equivalent of an injection).

BUT - I still find something amazing about it every day. By 'it' I don't mean the actual disease, there really isn't that much you can find amazing about this disease other than realising that when you thought the disease couldn't be any more of a pain in the butt, it somehow finds a way.

What I mean by 'it', is the growing list of ways to treat it, the ways to keep complications at bay, the ways to treat those that exist and the amount of cures on the horizon. Granted, if the 'cures' were a little closer than 'on the horizon' I would be a little more enthusiastic, but 'there is a cure just down the road by the semi-detached' doesn't have quite the same ring to it does it?

That being said, even thirty years ago, diabetic patients had to use monstrous glass syringes to inject insulin with. Ones that needed to be boiled and thoroughly cleaned between sittings. Now, I wouldn't call myself lazy, but I do have a distinct aversion to washing up. I would say I'm a little allergic but Jamie would probably disagree! But in all seriousness, if I had to boil every syringe after using it, I would probably have died a long time ago through some sort of nasty infection. PLUS, I have a nasty habit of dropping/falling over/standing on (ask the cats) and losing, all manner of things. If I had to keep track of glass (or as I prefer 'easy to smash') syringes, I would probably have been forceably euthanized due to the NHS struggling under the weight of my cock-ups alone. Also, just take a look at them...

I mean come on! I think I saw something like that in that film where people pay to murder other people for fun - Hostel was it? Eurgh!

Luckily, in about the 1970s, the first US patent for plastic disposable syringes arrived. I haven't managed to find out at this point when they came to the UK, but seeing as we are about 10 years behind them in our treatment options, I would hazard a guess at somewhere in the 80s. Now these may not look much nicer...

But compared to the glass syringes they were light, small and thanks to not having to boil them, Anna is still alive (can I get a 'yay!). Be honest, all you pen and pump users who have had the condition over 10 years, how weird is it seeing this! I thought I had done a good job blocking these out of my mind, but they sort of feel familiar. Thanks for keeping me alive you little orange and white implements of torture!

Next came the 'pens' with disposable insulin filled cartridges. Granted, mine were never quite as 'sexy' looking as those shown below, but oh my what a change!

Now at the time these were truly the COOLEST things in the world. When sitting down to eat, there were no longer stares from people thinking you were injecting heroin at the table (yeah, cos every heroin addict can afford dinner in a restaurant!). Granted, you still had those who stared at you because they felt you would be making their lives better if you injected in the scuzzy toilet (it ain't ever gonna happen lady with the purple rinse, so get over it!), but at least the heroin years were over. Plus not going on holiday with 147 hypodermic needles was kinda cool. I can't tell you how many Spanish cleaners gave me the filthiest looks when they came out of our rooms on holiday. I bet they are telling this story somewhere else but have quite a different take on what kind of scumbags we were!

Now, the world of diabetes has been truly revolutionised by the introduction of the insulin pump. Granted, any Americans reading this will think it's old news (they are already about 15 years ahead of the backward UK when it comes to new treatments), but for us pale skinned rain loving Brits, the insulin pump has landed. Dun dun dahhhhhhhh...

Now I do happen to be a fan of this particular one, because it happens to be the very one that I will be sporting for the next 3 and a half years. And may I add what a fine device it is. I now no longer have to inject, I have a completely tailored (I prefer customized) insulin delivery plan, and most of all, I can have a giant curry and no longer feel like I just hit myself in the face with a brick afterwards. Hoorah!

But this isn't the end of it. Not by a long shot. The one drawback for me with the insulin pump is the tubing. I have no problem wearing the pump, trusting it or relying on it, but I have got a habit of tugging on the tubing (please see earlier comment RE clumsiness - said clumsiness applies here too). It's not generally particularly painful, certainly not for me, but sometime it is a pain in the backside (or arm or leg or wherever my cannula site happens to be).

So the next thing on the horizon (when the UK hurries up), is a tubing free, wirelessly enabled pump (I bet Apple are gutted they didn't think of that!)

There is currently one on the market, the Omnipod. Don't get too excited you pasty face rain sodden Brits, it's not 'here' yet, but it is on the horizon (that damned word again!).

And to rival it by being smaller in size and detachable from the body, is the Solo pump.

This one isn't even available in the US at the moment, but soon enough hopefully this wireless, tubeless brilliant white piece of heaven will make it's way to our misty shores and will have a welcome committee of about 500,000, with yours truly at the very front waiting to trample anyone who gets in my way. I know you are all my diabetic community brothers and sisters and I love you all dearly, but there are Indian take-aways and Lindor chocolate at stake here (dribble, dribble)

There are also plans for an 'artificial pancreas', which will combine the technology of insulin pumps and CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) and will enable diabetics all over the world to take that big step closer to joining the 'normal' gang, as the artificial pancreas will be able to monitor glucose levels and respond by either administering insulin (if glucose levels are too high) or turn off the pump (if glucose levels are too low) . I have no doubt that this is still years in the future, but at least it is there. The ingenious invention in some bright sparks mind. I thank that person, because every step closer we get the more hope I have.

My point of this article I suppose, is that although we are still along way from perfect treatments or dare I say it, a cure, we without doubt must have one of the largest amounts of medical treatment options available. There are diseases out there which people still have no idea how to treat. Even with multiple sclerosis there is no known way of treating the actual disease, just the symptoms after they happen. They take steroids after each relapse in the hope it will absolve some of the damage done during the last episode. Whereas diabetes, even though still treating the symptoms, has a growing number of ways to try and stop those highs and lows before the even happen. I'm not saying we have it any better or worse than anyone else, but every day that I see there is a new treatment available out there, is a day I feel safe in the knowledge that as far as treatment is concerned, this really is the best we have ever had it. It may not be perfect, but it's a damned sight better than over sized glass torture devices and a guaranteed trip to an early grave.

I just can't wait for the day the world press announces the cure has arrived.

There will be tears in my eyes when that day arrives.

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