Monday, 28 December 2009

Diabetes Support Review of the Year 2009, part 1

As you may know, I am an Admin of a Diabetes UK backed support forum, Diabetes Support UK. As the year draws to a close, I thought I would write a review of what has been happening there over the year to give an indication of the topics uppermost in our member's minds with regard to diabetes in all its many incarnations. This is Part 1, as it is turning into a larger task than I first envisaged, so much has been going on!

It’s been a busy time for Diabetes Support’s first full year since inception, so I thought I would write a little review of what’s been happening. Over 5,000 threads have now been added, and we are approaching 1,800 members. Number of posts per month climbed from around 2,800 in January, peaked at over 10,000 in July, and have been between the 7,000-9,000 level in the months since then.

So, what have we all been talking about and reading? I decided not to do a month-by-month review as many threads have run over a period of many months and in some cases are still being added to. Instead, I thought I would write about the threads that have been viewed most often through the year, as these threads represent the ones that most people read, if not actually respond to.

The stand-out thread for number of views is The Pumper’s Thread’, with (currently) over 23,000 views. This thread variously chronicles the experience, joy, despair, pitfalls and superb advice of a number of our members new to the use of insulin pumps, or long-term pumpers offering the benefits of their knowledge and experience (particularly Adrienne – you are a legend!). In some cases, it was about adults new to pumps, in some cases parents with a child on a pump, all supporting each other brilliantly as they got to grips with the complexities of the machines. Prior to the introduction of this thread, a number of people had been diarising their own particular journies, and these separate threads also constitute some of the most read threads. Eventually, it was decided to introduce a sub-forum for pumping so that new members would find it easier to find information and advice about particular problems.

Second on the list for most-viewed thread is the ‘No Carbers/Low Carbers’ thread with over 12,500 views. As on many forums, there is a big debate on the right approach to diabetes management with regard to carbohydrate consumption, and this can often become polarised when enthusiasts for one person’s experience are at odds with another’s. We did experience some conflict on the issue, but I am very happy to say that the vast majority of our members respected the views of others, absorbed the information being given, and applied it to their own particular situation. As always with diabetes, you need to learn about the options and discover what works best for you in balancing your dietary and lifestyle choices with your need to maintain good levels of blood glucose.

I have to take the blame/credit for another of our most-viewed threads ‘Oh bother this blooming basal!’, which started off with me bemoaning the constant and unpredictable changes in my basal insulin requirements as I sought to find a dose that would prevent the threat of night-time hypos whilst keeping my background glucose levels nicely within range. I started the year at twenty units of Lantus, went down as low as six, and am currently of eight.

The next most popular threads, unsurprisingly, contained discussions about food! A very popular thread, added to daily by many members, was ‘What did you Eat Today?’. Here, members wrote up their menus for the day so that all could see what kind of healthy (or otherwise!) options were being consumed and in what quantities. The thread was very successful in introducing everyone to ideas of what they might be able to try, and also where people slipped up and sinned! Which brings me to the next most popular ‘Forgive me, for I have sinned!’ Here people have talked about their little indiscretions and major rebellions in their diets, confessing them to all and in the act informing everyone that it’s OK to have a treat every now and then – don’t beat yourself up about it! We’d all go mad if we weren’t allowed the occasional sin, and as long as we keep in mind the big picture and don’t become complacent, the whole world isn’t going to end because of a few profiteroles!

Member Wallycorker (aka John!) has kept his thread ‘Please support my diabetes petition’ in the limelight and has attracted a lot of attention, and hopefully enough signatures to get it to the point where Number 10 have to respond. It concerns the advice being given to newly-diagnosed people regarding diet and the allocation of test strips on prescription, particularly to Type 2s. This topic has also been discussed many times over the past year in various threads, in particular regarding the restriction of strips by GPs to Type 2s on a regime of diet and exercise. If they are not allowed to test, how do they know how their efforts and diet are affecting them? The Hba1c test can only give a partial answer. The real issue, of course, is cost, as the strips are expensive, but for many they would give improvement in levels, greater flexibility in diet and most importantly with a chronic condition like diabetes, peace of mind.

So what other things have been important to everyone? The forum meets in Southampton and London generated a lot of interest, and were deemed by all attendees as a great success! More meet-ups are planned for 2010, and now that we have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t hopefully they will get even better!

Of course, one of the big topics during the year has been the issue of injecting in public. This issue gained increased attention after the publication of the infamous letter from the retired nurse in Diabetes UK’s own ‘Balance’ magazine, saying how disgusted she was on encountering the practice. Unsurprisingly, there was considerable uproar on the matter, with quite a lot of members objecting to the publication of such a letter in a magazine that diabetics themselves pay for and should therefore find supportive, not offensive. The issue was further inflamed by the subsequent publication of more invective from the nurse in a later edition of Balance. My own ‘Nursing 101’ also gained a good response on the topic!

Part two of the review tomorrow, lots of other subjects discussed over the year!

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