To pump or not to pump?

A debate that I see often, is whether it is better to have an insulin pump, or to stick to injections. Obviously, there is no right answer as every diabetic is different and has a different regime to suit their needs but it’s something I’ve always been torn over.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently on 4 injections a day, varying depending on how my blood sugars are behaving. There are days when I only need 2, there are days I could need 10. I’ll be honest, I don’t fully understand how an insulin pump works, I’m just going off various conversations I’ve had with other diabetics. I know that a pump is a small, pager looking device that you clip to your clothes. A tube links the pump up to an infusion set that sits just under your skin. It works alongside a CGM which is a continuous glucose monitor.

A CGM is a sensor that you can wear on your arm (or anywhere else possible I think) and it constantly monitors your blood sugar. It works with a small machine like a glucose monitor. It also has the ability to alarm if your glucose begins to drop. For this reason, I’ve been looking into the possibility of getting myself one.

Living on my own, I’ve had a few scares. My glucose has dropped so quickly I haven’t felt it and I’ve managed to give myself many burns and bruises. The other day I didn’t feel anything wrong until I was already sitting at 1.2mmol. However, from what I have seen and heard so far, the device is not currently available on the NHS. Up front, I’m looking at over £1000 and around £60 a month for the sensors. It’s totally out of any price range I could afford. I’m yet to speak to anyone in the UK with just a CGM on it’s own so if you’re reading this and you have one in the UK, or you have any more information I’d love to find out some more about the process!

Back to my point though, the CGM works alongside the insulin pump to continually deliver insulin in small amounts throughout the day, in keeping with your blood sugar. The infusion set needs changing every week or so (Although I think this varies) It’s an amazing device but takes a lot of hard work and upkeep. A CGM doesn’t take away the need for finger prick testing, it takes regular calibrating. It sounds like a breath of fresh air right? I’ve been so tempted so many times, but the idea of being hooked up to a machine, day in, day out is so off putting. That and hearing so many stories about sites being ripped out when it catches on a handle, or the tubing clogs, the list goes on. I’m really not trying to scare anyone, I’m just explaining what’s putting me off. I’m the most clumsy person ever and it just feels as if it would be a disaster waiting to happen!

Having said that, it’s a Sunday afternoon and all I want to do is relax on the couch and stuff my face, so I’m having to really keep an eye on my bloods today and keep on top of my insulin so today I can totally get the benefit of a pump!

Long post warning …

Hi!

It’s been wayyy too long! One thing that I didn’t think to get sorted in my new flat?

WiFi.

Seriously, what was I thinking? I’ve had no internet at all other than on my phone which is pretty limited. No internet. That meant no Netflix. No online shopping. Worst of all no blogging!! I mean I could have done some in work, but apparently I have to actually work when in work… who knew?!

So it’s been a really long time and so much has happened. It’s been a scary couple of months to be honest.

Back in early July, I noticed that I kept getting black spots in my eyes. Big patches of my vision kept just disappearing. I was going dizzy, my eyes were physically hurting. I realised I probably needed to get it checked out when I started developing double vision. I rang my optician who advised me to go to A&E immediately. Now anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like causing a fuss, so going to A&E seemed a bit dramatic. I rang the Walk in Centre at my local hospital who repeated the same advice as my optician, I needed to get to A&E. By this point I thought maybe I should listen to them..

That night after work I got a bus up to the hospital. I was stressed, my heart was pounding and I realised that every time I was getting stressed, my vision was getting darker. I checked in at A&E and I’d barely had a chance to sit down when I was called into the triage nurse. I explained everything and they did some basic tests (blood pressure / blood glucose – high blood pressure but perfect blood sugar – which was a relief as usually everything is written off as diabetes related) and was sent to have some blood tests done.

I was left in a little ward for an hour in which time I had 2 massive hypos (stress related) before any one came to see me. Oh with no phone signal. Not great when I hadn’t told anyone where I was.  A lovely nurse explained that I needed to go for an eye test. Luckily, I’d been for a diabetic eye test in February and no issues were noted other than slight retinopathy so I was pretty sure I’d be okay. Wrong. My vision was down massively. A doctor came in to tell me that they believed the retina in my eye had detached. They informed me the on call consultant was at a different hospital and I wouldn’t be deemed an emergency that night. I was given a number to call the next day and sent home.

To be honest I barely slept that night, I was convinced I was going to go blind. I called the clinic the next day and went in to see an eye specialist. It’s depressing sitting in a waiting room when you’re the youngest person there by at least 30 years! I had my pupils dilated, underwent a few more eye tests. I was eventually sat with a doctor who was making me do various things with my eyes when he sat back in his seat and went “Hollie, how old are you again?” I told him I was only 21, and he looked massively concerned, jumped up and ran out the room. Kinda worrying.

He came running back and told me I needed to go for a scan of my eyes straight away and have my blood pressure done. My blood pressure was really high (no surprise really when a doctor scares the crap out of you like that) and I was sat down for some scans of my eyes.

I was called back into the doctor a short time later, who by this point had gone and fetched one of the top consultants. It was him who told me I had suffered a massive hemorrhage in the back of BOTH my eyes. He explained a whole load of jargon to me but the jist of it was this – I was suffering from inferior retinal venous congestion with tortuous veins and retinal nerve fibre hemorrhages. (I googled all of it – it sounds pretty grim). It explained why when I was stressed everything was going dark – the dark patches was the bleeding and when I was getting my blood pressure high, it was exacerbating the hemorrhages. But my eyes had been fine in February – What had changed so drastically in 4 months?!

The only big change I’ve had in the past 4 months was I’d moved into my flat – and then it hit me. I’d moved into my own flat and really knuckled down on my Diabetes. And that’s what they don’t tell you. Drastic glucose management or whatever he called it, can have a massive negative effect on your body. The shock of me really taking control and trying to sort my health out had basically turned round and bitten me on the ass. I can’t put into words the sick, sinking feeling that hit me. I wanted to scream, cry, punch things. How can I win? I was finally in a place where I was so proud of all I’d done, and this was my reward? It was enough to make me want to give up. What was the point after all, if I couldn’t do right for wrong? It put me in a really bad place mentally that to be honest I’m still trying to fight.

I had to go for more blood tests which have since come back flagging various problems with my blood which may also be contributing to the problems with my eyes. In a way I’m glad that it may have contributed. I’m struggling with dealing with the fact I may have done this to myself in a roundabout kind of way. I’m on glaucoma medication to try and get the pressure down in my eyes – they’ve slowed the bleeding too so that’s good. I go back to the eye clinic next week and I’ve got to see a hematologist in September to try and figure out what’s going on with my blood. In the meantime I got my HBA1C back and it was down again – from 92 to 77 (10.6 – 9.2), I’m obviously proud of how I’m doing, but it also could be the reason I’m having so many problems right now so it’s slightly bittersweet for me.

So yeah, I apologise for the long read but I feel a bit better writing it all down! It’s just a case of waiting it out now for some results and in turn, hopefully some answers!