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Well, things have warmed up here in the SE of Britain — even the rain is warm now — and with my hut days finished (sniff! pictures to follow) — my attention is turning to a) getting another hut; b) the garden and c) external examining, planning for next year, my own exam boards and and and…

Guess which one of the above actually takes up the most time? Yes, it’s the last one (Eeyore-ishly said).

ANYWAY. I’m mainly on here today to say that much as I adore my fast-growing beanpole of a son — who since Christmas must have grown three inches and now stands substantially taller than me and taller than his grandfather and not a million miles away from his *father* — we feel locked in a bit of a battle with it.

Herewith: went to clinic on Friday and the ol’ HbA1c (complicated averaging of blood sugar levels over three months) is the highest since diagnosis, and outside of high ‘normal’ for the first time too, eg over 7mmols. Damn. And other, much ruder, words.

We think we know some reasons for this:

1) all the fuss with the sets messing up. We had some stupendous, recurring highs with those problems, and knew that this alone would affect this HbA1c. (The new Silhouette sets, I am pleased to report, are still MUCH better, despite having been yanked out again by accident — ouch — in a game of football at the weekend. We were all no doubt suffering from sunstroke, because in that sort of running around he should have had it off anyway, but oh well! Soon replaced, bravely.)

2) growth hormones. Bane of everyone’s existence blood sugar-wise, except that of course growing is good. Very good. But after a couple of weeks of high mornings, then suddenly we had another week of low mornings, then you guessed it, another week now of high mornings. Bit disastrous. We just begin to think we need to change the basal rate from 12am-3am, and bingo! The trend has reversed. This is probably almost exclusively down to growth hormones. And probably too indicates that in the night all kinds of highs are happening about which we have very little awareness. This is disheartening in itself, as we are trying so hard. But we suspect that this is at the root of his higher HbA1c. We simply aren’t catching the night highs well enough.

3) Being slightly more laid back about numbers. This is a good thing, again. Healthy and to be desired. But perhaps we have let a little too much slide? The increments of vigilance are just so tiny, yet seem to make such a difference. Damn. We are NEVER complacent. But taking our feet off the gas is something we have done a little… But maybe we have allowed the car to slow just too much in this 50 mph zone…. Argh. You get caught by the camera whether speeding OR going too slow….

***

So I won’t pretend we aren’t a little bummed from this recent number. The doc however says it’s still WAY better than most adolescents manage to achieve. Be that as it may, we are used to better.

So, again. What are we doing about it?

1) Last night we went ahead and raised the basal for a couple of hours. He had a steady night on 6mmols.

2) We are trusting that the new sets (with their clear stability) will impact the next measurement.

3) E is expressing a clear desire to try a CGM(Continuous Glucose Monitor). This device measures the blood sugar level via the tissue rather than a pinprick, and is in situ for 7 days at a time. It is not entirely accurate, and you cannot dose insulin or take any real action on the basis of what it reports to the pump…However, you *can* ascertain trends in blood sugar, which will be enormously useful to us in a time where we are suspecting that we are missing highs. It is extremely good for discovering patterns, and we are extremely fortunate to be funded for it in our area. This, we hope, will help, even in this seemingly pattern-less time of adolescence!

It is to E’s credit that he now is firmly for trying CGM. It involves another ‘thing’ in him at all times, and another 45 degree insertion, which is what put him off it entirely initially. Now that he is used to the other sets, he is stepping up his game, and can face it. This is his decision.

Once again, I am proud of him. We are proud of him.

Chasing all this all the time is a true pain. And incredibly inconvenient in his life. His sights are set though. He knows he wants good numbers. And we will do everything we can to help him get them for as much of the time as seems sensible and realistic — and not obsessive.

So in two weeks we will attend our other clinic, at our shared-care hospital, to learn how to do the CGM insertion and set up the sensors. Deep breath.

By now you can take a wild stab at what happens after I quietly whisper ‘numbers are more stable’, as I did in the last post. And you’d be right. THEY GO CRAZY!

Stability has been out the window off and on now for a few days. Why oh why? We don’t understand. We wonder if these new sets are starting to lose effectiveness after two days rather than the three of the old sets. But this hasn’t happened consistently, certainly not since the beginning… Can it happen suddenly? Who knows? Who flipping knows?!

So suddenly he wakes high yesterday, after 1.5 days with the set. We battle him down a bit, but he’s still pushing high. Battle down. All through the night we battle down, testing 4 times, running a fairly high temp basal.

Wakes at least stable from 4am, though too high, 12mmols.

Corrects like mad. Goes off to school and EXAMS with a temp basal on. We don’t want to send him low because of exams, but not too high either because of exams — both ends affect performance — so he texts back at 11am that he’s 17mmols.

Argh!!!!

Corrects, and raises temp. 13mmols at lunch. But then, suddenly, coming home he’s 19mmols! What?!

We’ve whacked the temp up to 200%, and corrected, and an hour later he’s still only 16mmols.

Argh!!!!

And to top it all off, he feels that his performance today was affected by being high. He had a hard time concentrating, needed to pee through half the exams, and had run out of water mid way through another.

You know, honestly. You want to climb into a hole. How unfair. I’ll phone the school tomorrow, but I don’t know what can be done…

It’s three days tonight since a set change. So we will change again, yes. But it’s been going wrong for half the time the set’s been in.

What the heck…

I’m sure I don’t even need to mention how very much I wish I had been able to be in my hut watching the sky rather than typing up reports and supervising the electricity man replace the meter and helplessly fielding texts from my struggling son. WHO DIDN’T ASK TO STRUGGLE LIKE THIS FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!

***

And to top it off our beautiful girl cat is in heat in the most LOUD and DISTRESSING way. She sounds distressed and upset ALL THE TIME. We can barely talk over her. We are planning to try to get her pregnant in late June, for the timing to be right…Meanwhile I barely slept last night what with all of her pounding around and complaining, and being up and down like a yo-yo testing…

And the sun is shining and I’M NOT IN MY HUT. And feeling sorry for myself. And for my son, who really did nothing at all to deserve this. Bad luck, hormones…who knows. But he’s on a roller coaster at the moment, and all we can do is just keep running the insulin in:

And try to get the tub full QUICK…

Dammit.

I’m sitting in the beach hut, and I’ll admit my mind is a little fuzzy. Two reasons, I suspect, for this: beauty overload; and too many chocolate fingers. They have nothing to do with each other, but both lead me to a bit of a spaced out state!

The sea and the sky are an almost white blue-grey today, and there is only the faintest horizon. I’ve already drafted two poems this morning and expect to do another before packing up for the day. This post, in truth, is me ‘holding back’ from the next piece. It’s not quite time to write it. Not sure why. But a little while longer coming to the boil is what’s needed. Maybe ten minutes or an hour, no more – or the pot boils dry and can’t, in my experience, be re-filled.

Our trip to clinic yesterday was useful, energising, and hopeful. We had done everything right with the new 45 degree sets except pinch the skin in order for the needle to get proper purchase on and guide the cannula in. We all watched carefully as our brilliant Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) demonstrated the insertion on a blue cushion (no Manky!). And then E, with the same quiet clear-headedness and courage he has shown from the beginning of all this, did all the steps on himself.

His father and I watched as what looked like a huge needle catapulted into E, skimming just under the surface of the skin. Perfect. He peeled off the backing tape, removed the needle – leaving the cannula in of course – and voilà. One of his final sources of real distress conquered without any evident hesitation.

So far so good. We discovered two more options to try if these sets prove difficult or not right in some way – again, bless our DSN’s pragmatism.

But right now E is very pleased, as are we. Many more sites for sets will be opened up if he stays with them. And they are much flatter than quicksets.

And you know what: NO PAIN except a pinprick for a couple of seconds. Compared to the teeth-gritting and watering eyes of every set change in the last three months, well…. Any chance to not have to be QUITE so brave he welcomes. And lord knows we want him to take it.

— Posted in the Little Blue Hut

Spring is springing so hard it’s practically bouncing off the page! The sun has shone almost without interruption now for two weeks. The tiny showers have made all the grass green and the tulips livid with life.

1) Thank you to everyone who sent me messages (see About on this site, but I’m afraid you can’t hack into my email, 🙂 ) about my article in Balance, the Diabetes UK bi-monthly magazine. I do what I do because it presses upon me to do it. Just hearing from people and knowing that somehow we all have places to go, and that I might, might be laying one tiny bridge of connection down for folks — this is good enough for me. This is what it’s all about. Thank you. My column continues in the next issue.

2) The beach hut is the BEST THING since sliced bread. I’m writing a lot. The sun is shining. At the end of the day it goes grey, and the horizon mixes the sea and sky. I’m researching coastal terminology and just plain watching the water, the birds, the dogs being walked, the children playing, and the slow flow of the tide. The whole thing is astonishing. I haven’t felt this connected to writing life-wise in years. Years. (Yay!)

3) Daughter M celebrated her 10th birthday yesterday. Like me, she has a tendency to tell everyone she knows and thereby reap the rewards of good wishes! She was in possession of the Birthday Cushion from her maths teacher all day, which she could sit upon, carry with her, flash at everyone and generally enjoy. Her name was emboldened upon the big screen by the school library. Her class sang to her. She ate cupcakes. Her brother downloaded a wonderful arty hand-drawn puzzle game for her as a gift. She soaked up ‘the love’. She is ten, double digits for the rest of her life. And a cracking, special girl, much adored. Here’s to you, chiquita!

4) We are off to clinic tomorrow, to sort out Manky’s sites. Lordy. We are feeling brave and resolute. As I say, the sun is shining. We have raised the nighttime insulin to combat the growth hormone highs which have persisted pretty much constantly now for three weeks. Perhaps soon we can get a night’s sleep! The sun is shining.

Til when!

Probably possible! But when trying out the 45 degree sets two nights ago, E decided to do as they did in clinic and go through the steps with a soft toy. He chose one one of his older (but well loved then!) ones called ‘Manky the Monkey’.

Poor Manky. He held up well as E went through all the steps carefully, methodically, as he does. And it all looked alright at first, as you can see.

A Monkey and His Pump

Upon investigation though, we could see that the cannula/needle hadn’t actually gone in. Hmm…more complicated than we thought. The fixed prime (eg small amount of insulin to ‘prime’ the system ready for use) didn’t go in. And poor Manky would have gone very high very quickly!

Thinking we knew pretty much what to do and how to correct this problem (a too-soft backside!), E set up another and off we went.

Disaster. After a big build up (the inserter is much larger than the one for the Quicksets, and very fiddly to press and control at first), the needle finally shot out of the contraption — but didn’t go in. Something to do with angle, etc…But whatever the case, we’d had enough. E had had enough. We realised if we got it too wrong it could go very wrong, with the needle at an awful angle…

So we are off to clinic on Wednesday for some help.

Meanwhile, we continue to use quicksets, dragging out each sound one as long as we can. The set change tomorrow will last until Wednesday, when we can hopefully get going on the other ones.

Meanwhile, numbers have gone from being a little high just before the start of school — with high morning numbers in particular, very common — to now being a bit low. Culminating in an hour of 2.5mmols – 3.4mmols last night. Which was pretty miserable, and required the drinking of three cartons of apple juice, which made E feel sick and later upset his stomach, and an 1.5 hours of 0% temp basal. All at 11pm, when he’s dying to sleep.

Oh dear. A low day yesterday all around for some reason, and the last couple of days have been a bit low before bed, though not hypo. So it’s a ratio (eg amount of insulin to grams of carb) change for the evening meal tonight, in the hopes of tackling this. We think last night was so bad because he had three small things to eat at three different times (was in a short play and ate before, there and after!), so the too-high ratio of the evening rate was trebled in effect, if that makes sense.

You live and learn. And live and learn. And live and learn.

Manky is sleeping it all off in the green soft toy bin, anyway!

There are a lot of things this title could mean: I think we might all automatically think of post not being delivered. And with all the flight problems at the moment, there are no doubt countless things that cannot be delivered.

However, this is also the message which has popped up on E’s pump no fewer than FIVE times in the last four days. What this means is what it says: insulin is not getting through.

Fortunately we have so far avoided real disaster. And we are thanking our lucky stars that we didn’t have this circus last week while on holiday.

The main, and I would go so far as to say the only, down side of the pump is that when it malfunctions or something is dicky about it — it really is bad news. When this happens, chances are there is little insulin AT ALL in the body. And those of you who have been paying attention in biology will know that in people with type 1, no insulin spells dangerously high blood sugar levels — very, very quickly.

So far, out of the five problem infusion sets (because that’s what it seems to be, see below), E has only suffered one nasty spell, in which he felt terribly ill, very sick, and had high ketones. This in a matter of several hours, and with a high reading of only 16mmols (considering he was 30mmols when diagnosed, this seems incredible. But it tells you how very important ANY amount of insulin in the body is — because ANY insulin means that SOME glucose can be metabolised, and thus conducted out of the bloodstream, thus continuing this vital cycle. When NO insulin is there to conduct this metabolising, things escalate frighteningly quickly, and at surprisingly moderate blood sugar levels).

This is a point worth making: when blood sugar is 14mmols + and there is is little or no insulin running around in the body, then anything can raise the blood sugar levels further, even things which would lower it with insulin present, eg exercise. This came up the other day when talking to someone about the difficulty of negotiating long walks with E’s type 1. Can’t you just make sure he eats?  was the question. A sensible one, because then the starting blood sugar would be higher, thus in theory reducing the chance of going low on the walk.

Well, sort of. But if the blood sugar is too high without any insulin present, it’s dangerous. Exercise will push it higher. Because the body has no way of bringing it down without insulin there to smooth the way. (For example, see last post: E dropped from 17mmols to 6mmols in 20 minutes with exercise — but that was because he took a correction of insulin. With enough insulin in the body, the blood sugar level can lower.)

But it’s getting the insulin IN which has been problematic of late.

This is not a new problem. We have been bothered by funny sets since the New Year, when E bravely set out to spread his sites around.

We thought, and Medtronic (the makers of the pump) thought that the problems may come from dodgy sets. 

This now appears not to be the case. After a long talk with an incredibly helpful technical rep at Medtronic, we have come to the conclusion that this type of set (Quicksets) may no longer suit E. He is very slim, growing, with very little fat on him.

Insulin needs to go into fat to be absorbed well. But not into the same place over and over, otherwise there’s scarring and lowered absorption. So another can’t win for losing situation, but OH WELL.

The cannula of the set needs to be in a layer of subcutaneous fat, otherwise it may bend. As has happened to us now in two out of the five recent NO DELIVERY messages. It bends when it hits muscle, and no insulin can come out. It also hurts a lot more. It also may not absorb properly, and back up in the tube…and prompt the pump to send a NO DELIVERY message.

Sigh.

So Medtronic have special delivered new sets to try, that go in at 45 degrees and therefore are much more likely to go into a thin layer of fat rather than into muscle (Quicksets go in at 90 degrees, straight through the skin).

We wanted to wait to the weekend to see how the new sets went. E doesn’t like the idea of them. They are new. It’s a whole new thing. And it’s at 45 degrees. He has bad memories of having to inject at 45 degrees because the bruising on his legs was so bad from going into muscle over and over. He had to hold the injection pen at an angle, and it made him feel sick, unstable, to do so — rather than just jabbing it in to the hilt, straight off.

How we understand all this. But it must be done. He has had several days of fighting VERY high numbers, which is incredibly bad for him. Last night we discovered 15mmols before bed. Changed the pump to the old, working set (again: always leave the old set in! We have done this over and over in the last few days, always leaving in one we know works), and corrected, but then got up twice more to correct, and set the temp basal to 120%…all night. He had been missing a lot of insulin, had become insulin resistant, and it was a haul. 

He remembers nothing of all this, fortunately! We however are pretty pooped. 

So he’s at school on the old set, which is overdue to come out. Because we can’t even trust the suitability of the current sets to risk putting another one in this morning. Chances are greater than 50% that he would have been home within the hour with another NO DELIVERY sign. Even though we are back to using the old, more fatty sites. They are just not right for him now.

So tonight we will try the new sets. No choice! If they don’t work easily, we will whip off to the first clinic appointment we can book. Can’t go on like this. Feels unsafe.

Fingers crossed!

***

p.s. the sun is still shining!

Setting sail

In November 2008 my 12 year old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The effect of this event on me -- and on our nuclear family -- was like being thrown overboard and watching the ship leave.

'Dealing with type 1' in the family has morphed into another sort of 'dealing' -- a wholesale resituating of parenting, of family dynamics...of life.

At my son's diagnosis I could not to locate a record of what living with a type 1 child in the family is like. I could not see myself or our family anywhere. I longed for a starting point, a resource and a sense of the future. Being a writer, my instinct is to write it. This space, I hope, is a start.

Blood Sugar Ranges (UK)

<4 mmols = low or hypo, life-threatening if untreated
4-8 mmols = within target range
8-13 mmols = high but not usually dangerous
14+ mmols = very high, or hyper, life-threatening if untreated

Bubbles

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Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional. Any view expressed here is my opinion, gleaned from experience, anecdote or available research.