Sunday 20 October 2013

Surfing with diabetes: cosy toes

My recent surfing trip to Newquay with my husband and close friends was a highlight of 2013.  In fact, surfing at any time is a highlight of my year. But while I had the time of my life throwing myself into the waves and trying (with reasonable success) to walk on water, my feet took a bit of a battering.  A remarkably small cut to a toe on my left foot has for the first time in my life had me thinking seriously about my choice of footwear whilst in the water.  After a month of sensible shoes and regular airings, my toe is only now entering the final stages of healing.  Pretty lengthy for a less than 5mm cut from a tiny piece of glass that scuffed my toe.

Knowing how to look after our feet is a lesson all PWDs need to learn but if I'm truthful, I've hardly sat down with a 'Good Footcare' guide and studied the ins and outs of looking after my digits.  I simply make sure that any bumps or scratches on my feet are investigated and if I have a cut I make sure I disinfect it thoroughly. Pretty basic stuff.

But after having watched as the recent cut healed at a frustratingly slow rate and with a fair amount of pain, I decided next time I need to be a little more prepared. So I've decided that for my future surfing trips I am going to be rocking a pair of these:

At 7mm thick they are still flexible enough to feel the board beneath my feet, but thick enough to stop the scratches, bumps and scuffs from any sharp edges the beach can throw at me.  They are also ideal for winter surfing if, like me, you have a tendency to feel the cold.

Check out this site for a reduced pair you may be interested in.


Monday 14 October 2013

Mediband: diabetes alert bracelets with a twist...

My latest vlog is about medic alert bracelets from Mediband, a company who have their own neat little twist I'd like to talk about. Check it out!

And here are some close-ups for you to check out:

Perfect fit
A tiny section of Mediband's extensive selection of styles

And here are the company details:

Check them out!

Sunday 13 October 2013

Animas Bloggers Forum 2013: sex, cocktails and the longest long-tails one ever did see...

OK, so don't get too excited.  In actual fact there were very few cocktails and certainly no sex (that I know of!), but having spent two days with Team Animas in Barcelona this September learning tricks of the trade for making my post titles a little more 'grabby', I thought I'd give it a shot.  Hooked?  I hope so.

I had the pleasure of being invited to the second annual European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Barcelona, where ground-breaking steps in diabetes technology are showcased. Last year Animas decided to bring a group of bloggers from around the world together and run a blogger's conference alongside the EASD.  Here, the DOC exchange was born and this year, I was able to make it.

A group of around 15 bloggers from the UK, Germany, Italy, Norway, Australia and the US were given the opportunity to share experiences in an environment where Animas hoped to nurture our budding blogger-type minds.  I had the pleasure of catching up once again with the wonderful Ilka and Flyn from Germany and the ever-Grumpy (but strangely loveable) Grumpy-Pumper.  I finally met Annie of The Understudy Pancreas-ness, representing families thriving with type 1, and the troupe of sporty Italians timing their visit to the EASD with the walk/run for diabetes event at the finale of the conference. And last but certainly not least, were Martin Moe from Norway, the lovely Renza, representing the Australia massive, and blogger and open session leader, Kerri Sparling.

The bloggers, flicking health and safety 'the bird'
Day one offered us bloggers the opportunity to learn a little more about what makes a good post, good.  We heard from Gareth Cartman of Clever Little Design about just how Google searches work and why some of our most beloved post titles may need a little tweaking to help us reach the widest possible audience.  We learned how to start with an idea for a post title and use Google's search word tool to explore the many terms that could make that post more likely to rate higher in the Search Engine results and how to use long-tails (literally long blog titles) to make them more unique.  Although no matter what anyone says I still think "Armageddon: Thought-train of a pre-holiday diabetic" is still a bitchin' title.  

Later on day one we learned from Michael Kuhn,, Managing Director of Ergocomprendere, how the ergonomics of a blog are key to the experience of your readers, including how the colours we use can influence the mood of the reader and how the post is received.  As it turns out, the mix of greens and pale blues I use is considered calming and trustworthy.  This, of course, all being completely intentional, and none of it through ignorant accident...

All in all it was a fantastic educational experience of how to understand a little more about the people reading our blogs. It challenged the way I think about my own blog, the bizarre titles I sometimes come up with and how I use photos to drive home the message I want to convey.  But as someone who loves to blog because of my relationship with this vast diabetes community I want to connect with, as opposed to loving blogging per se, the best part of the time away for me was undoubtedly the session 'Validating the Patient's Voice', led by Kerri Sparling on Day two.

Grumpy, fighting the urge to smile despite valiant attempts
Kerri's session was an opportunity to talk about what issues are burning away in our respective countries and communities, and establish a forum to share experiences and offer support for the challenges others face.  Renza highlighted the support Diabetes Australia needs to secure funding for an education platform for diabetes  and Grumpy Pumper's own Chris Aldred highlighted his interest over the lack of consistent information available for those newly diagnosed with type one, which began fruitful conversations on how we can identify what information people most need when they are diagnosed and how we can streamline the delivery of that information (more on this soon...).  

As with all of these events it was the connection with others, the meeting of minds and the sharing of hope that made it what it is.  Meeting others with type one or living with type on in some way never gets boring.  It helps us remember that there are other people out there like us navigating this road. We are a community and a powerful one at that.

We are the diabetes community.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Surfing with diabetes: Face-planting and packing the right kit.

When you start dating, you could choose to put on your best clothes, douse yourself in perfume and dine at the most expensive restaurant in town.  That, is a great way to get to know each other.  The other option of course is that you could, as Jamie and I did, drive to Cornwall, squeeze into a frighteningly tight wet-suit not designed for someone with a chocolate habit and throw yourselves repeatedly into the powerful battering waves of the North Atlantic Ocean.  While doing so, you will of course also face-plant the water over and over again with blind optimism, sheer determination and in an attempt to 'impress' the other.

We first caught the surfing bug when we stumbled across  Escape Surf School, back in 2007. Based under St Christopher's Inn Hostel, Newquay and overlooking Towan beach, it was a beautiful place to be for our first date.  On the first morning we immediately clicked with the instructors, Mike (pro-surfer, coach to the British Surf Team and possibly the most friendly man alive) and Will (awesome guy who's won countless competitions, coached the British Junior Surf Team and can even surf without a surfboard.  Show off.).

Wet-suit unfriendly
diabetes paraphernalia.  
Surfing is a challenging business: not in the least for a person with Type one diabetes. Let's put aside the issue of blood testing in the water (extreme aqua blood testing?) and think about where the hell you keep your glucose tabs, insulin, blood test meter and insulin pump when wearing, well, little more than a skin-tight neoprene wet-suit. Considering there is barely space for my ample rear-end, finding space for my diabetes paraphernalia is even more of a challenge.                   

This September Jamie and I made our way back to Cornwall for our annual anniversary trip, and what better way to celebrate than to head back to our favourite surf school, catch some waves and work on our surfing style (see also: face-planting).  

Before heading into the water on day one my blood glucose was a fantastic 9.0 mmol: a great number pre-surf.  With a swig of Lucozade and the removal of my insulin pump, I surfed for the whole session with no problems, and as we got back to Escape's welcoming warm showers and Belushi's legendary burgers, I was rocking a perfect 10.0 (mmol).  It was a resounding success, by anyone's standards.  As was my face-pl...I mean, surfing.  My husband on the other hand, rocked it.

Jamie, who tells me that he is expecting O'Neill's call any day...
Day 2 however told a different story.  My pre-surf BG test revealed a 4.0 mmol and as 3.9 mmol is technically already a hypo, I devoured most of my first bottle of Lucozade before we'd even left for the beach.  I put the remainder of the bottle and my blood test kit into Escape's first aid bag, and headed in the direction of the waves. Why it didn't occur to me to take my second (full) bottle of Lucozade I will never know, but one hour in and after a monster wipe out, I felt the tell-tale signs of a hypo arrive.  I told Will I was heading in, enrolled the help of Jamie to babysit my board while I tried my hand at extreme aqua blood testing, and made for the beach.  Escape instructor Sarah had already spotted me wandering in, dragging my board behind me in a less than cool-looking way, and came to check things out. Calm but attentive, she jogged off to get my testing kit, like it was no big deal. There is nothing worse than a panicker when you are feeling hypo, so Sarah's chilled-out attitude was a breath of fresh air.   

Thank you to the photographer, for the photos...
...and the shorts!
Luckily for me the photographer, there to catch our most impressive surfing attempts (see also: watery face-plants), let me to dry my hands on his shorts because I forgot to pack any tissue to dry my fingers (worst prepared diabetic ever award?).  But then what better way is there to get to know someone than to wipe your salty, water-wrinkled hands all over their shorts?

As it dawned on me that my second bottle of Lucozade was at the top of the hill in the changing rooms, I prayed I was just tired from the surfing (see also: sea-bed face-planting). I watched nervously as the meter counted down.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

3.2 mmol.  


I looked back up at the hill I might need to climb, wishing that the last mouthful of Lucozade I just finished would be enough to raise my BGs.  I knew it wouldn't be.  

"Hey", I heard from over my shoulder.  "Here you go, have these."

As I turned around Sarah placed in my hand a full packet of glucose tablets and smiled. And just like that, her eyes were back on the surf watching the surfers get acquainted with the sea-bed (see also: beachy face-planting).

I let out a sigh of relief.  

It had never occurred to me that the surf school I learn with might need to be diabetes-savvy. I have always been fiercely independent in my management of diabetes, so other than the mandatory 'type one diabetes' on the medical form, I don't really demand the help of others, or expect them to be prepared.  But as I discovered this year sometimes, they need to be. Because even someone with 26 years of diabetes experience can mess it up sometimes.  

Wild dolphins, who swam amongst us for over an hour
My own complacency after just one successful surf could have brought me crashing to my knees and ruined a fantastic surf (see also: every kind of face-planting there is), but thankfully for me Escape Surf School were totally prepared.  Not just in the amount of instructors they have watching over our inexplicably comical efforts to walk on water, but also in the supplies they took to the beach and the speed at which they calmly dealt with my efforts to derail their lesson.

Escape, thank you. Not just for a weekend where I experienced wild dolphins playing in the harbour while we surfed, but also for being prepared for all eventualities: especially unprepared people with type 1 diabetes.

Can you guarantee the surf company you chose have supplies if you need them to?  I can tell you first hand that Escape do. 

See you next year! 

Me, apparently trying to kill Sarah