Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Prayer of the Frightened Orange

I’ve recently been reading anecdotes about how people were taught to do their insulin injections, and it appears that a popular method in former years was to get the patient, or patient’s carer, to practice by injecting into an orange. Thankfully, it appears that this barbaric practise has all but disappeared from civilised society, and oranges assigned to hospitals no longer need fear this painful, protracted and humiliating fate at the hands of diabetic neophytes.

Recently, during a clear out of old fruit bowl cupboards at a disused hospital, a remarkable document has come to light, which gives a fascinating insight into the lonely life of a terrified orange destined for the diabetic ward. Most oranges would hope to live out their ripening days adorning colourful baskets alongside fruits of all varieties and nations, valued and admired by staff and patients alike. For those unfortunates selected for injection training however, the outlook was grim, and a dusty, juice-stained piece of old peel found in a dark corner was found to contain this poignant supplication to a higher power…

Oh Orange Father, hear my prayer,
And save me from my fate,
Deliver me from this frightening place,
Before it is too late!

For I have heard an awful word,
The humans call ‘inject’,
And terror grips my shaking pips,
If they should me select!

Oh Orange Spirit, show you care!
Don’t let them pierce me so!
For such a death I cannot bear,
(I’m sensitive, you know!)

They’re coming, Spirit, for me now,
So this must be goodbye,
Perhaps I’ll join you very soon,
In the Juicer in the Sky!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

D-Day, that’s D for Diagnosis!

Today marks the second anniversary of my diabetes diagnosis. Hard to believe that it has already been two years! I can still remember that first day and night in the hospital, first in the Resus room, then after about three hours I was moved to intensive care. In the middle of the night I was then moved to a side room in a general ward, and early the following day onto the ward itself – four beds in 24 hours! I felt absolutely dreadful when I arrived. My blood sugar was 37 mmol/l and my HbA1c was 11.8. On admission I weighed 116 pounds. Now, two years on I weigh a planet-shaking (for me!) 170 pounds!

I left the hospital on 11 different drugs, plus insulin – now I am on only two drugs. I tend to forget that my insulin is also part of my medication whenever I am asked as it seems so fundamental to my condition The other meds are things I could probably do without and still get by, but I know I wouldn’t last long without my insulin.

I did some checking on my blood glucose meter software to find out how things have gone over the past year. On the whole, I think I have been very lucky and have managed to keep fairly tight control of my levels. Out of a total of 2,119 fingerprick tests (my poor fingers!), I have had 482 above range – about 21%. A lot of those would have been tests taken after meals and before exercise, when I would expect to be above range, as many non-diabetics might also be. The margins haven’t been that great, with just the very rare excursion into double figures. My highest reading during the year was 16.2 mmol/l.

As for the lows, I’ve had surprisingly few. OK, 106 might sound like a lot of occasions for your blood sugar to drop so low that you suddenly transform into a sweating, shaking, panicking idiot, but I probably used to do that on occasion before diabetes! In fact, it only accounts for 5% of all my tests in the year. Looking a bit closer, I can see that I have only had two hypos in the past thirty days, so I think that my control is steadily improving. Overall, the average BG level over those 2,000+ tests is 5.93 mmol/l. I’ve been sticking lancets in my fingers on average 5.8 times a day – which again has actually dropped to below 5 times a day over the past month. I think I have been testing less mainly because I have injured my knee and not been able to go out running.

Got myself a nice big cake to celebrate, and a bucket of insulin on standby! This bad boy has got a total of 200 grams of carbohydrate and 90 grams of fat! Slurp!!!!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Your thigh bone's connected to your...

...lateral collateral ligament! Unfortunately for me, that ligament is currently very sore and sprained, and it looks like being that way for the next two to five weeks. No running, and it's already been three weeks since I injured it - so frustrating! Apparently my best option for rehabilitation is a wobble board, and as it happens I already own one from the time when I broke that very same thigh bone in the title of this post. It appears that all my injuries occur on the right side of my body, as I broke my right humerus several years ago, and have also broken metacarpals in my right hand. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I'm left-handed, and I instinctively protect that side of my body.

So, it's several weeks of not walking very far and several hours a week wobbling! I'm also trying out some exercises for the upper body, taken from the aptly-titled '15 minute workouts for dummies'. Fifteen minutes is about the most I can endure, not because of a lack of fitness, but because excruciating boredom overwhelms me beyond that timeframe when doing most things except running through the parks and countryside! The exercises are demonstrated by the wonderfully named Gay Gasper, although she isn't and I am by the end of the workout! Pretty straightforward stuff, but demanding nevertheless, and conducted at a very brisk pace in order to get everything in in the promised quarter hour - including warm up and post exercise stretches! I'll tell you tomorrow how effective they are, if I can unbend my body! I'm hoping that the exercise will help to keep my blood sugars in check and my insulin sensitivity nice and high, as I have a tendency to lose a bit of control during enforced periods of inactivity. Maybe this is fate's way of telling my that my gut is getting far too flabby!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Chirality – it’s a Left-Handed Universe!

Meeting Apollo Astronaut Charles Duke - fellow left-hander!

I’m left-handed, so is my sister. Because of this, and also because left-handed people are generally in the minority, I’ve always tended to notice when someone else is left-handed. In a world largely designed for the benefit of right-handers, some things can be more difficult for me – scissors, can openers, writing without smudging, musical instruments – the list is long. As a consequence, left-handers are generally more skilled at using their non-dominant hand than their right-handed counterparts. I once met Apollo astronaut Charles Duke, and remarked on the fact he was left-handed and didn’t this make it more difficult to handle controls on the spacecraft? Apparently, not so, as the craft were designed not with the human occupants in mind but rather where everything would fit in the limited space of the environment.

Where is this leading? Well, today I came across the term ‘Chirality’, which comes from the Greek kheir which means ‘hand’. The easiest way to understand the concept is to hold your left hand up to a mirror. The image you will see will be that of a right hand – a mirror image of your left hand. This phenomenon occurs throughout nature, with some fascinating consequences. For example, when I was born in 1958 there was a popular sedative drug available for pregnant mothers. The drug was called thalidomide, and is now notorious for the dreadful birth defects suffered by many of the babies of that period. The problem with thalidomide was that it was chiral – it had both left- and right-handed properties, and was made up af a 50/50 mix. The left-handed molecule provided the sedative property, whilst the right-handed molecule (it was discovered) led to the abnormalities in foetus development. Fortunately for me, my mother declined the drug, although I did have childhood friends with missing fingers and worse because of it.

Aspartame, beloved of diabetics for its sweetening properties, has a right-handed molecule which tastes bitter! And, most interesting of all, all human proteins are built from left-handed amino acids. So, it seems that whatever hand you use to sign your name, we are all left-handed!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Cameron enters Number 10...

...and a dark new era descends over the UK...rats scurry from the eager forks of the oppressed masses, as wine-soaked Henrys titter and chortle and choke on their quail and truffle-foam fox fillets, whilst the country descends into rank and rancid ruin....

Just my opinion, of course

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Call this May? It's more like March! Brrr!!!!!

Well, after a very brief period of hopefulness in mid-April, it seems that the weather is now just as cold as it has been for the past six months! Well, maybe not quite, but it still demands coats and long-sleeved shirts, heating in the house, and a snug corner in the pub by the fire! Apparently, there was snow in Scotland yesterday with more frosts expected. Will we ever see warmth again in this country? Well, there is a little warmth emanating from the brave plants that have decided to bloom despite instincts to the contrary, no doubt. Some of my favourites of early Spring in my garden are the azaleas, and also the glorious clematis that cloaks my house in masses of pink blooms, so I thought I would put pictures here for posterity. No poems recently - my muse has left me, it seems, along with the warm Spring sunshine!

Pink azalea

Red azalea

Clematis 'Montana'

Monday, 10 May 2010


I'm having a really frustrating time at the moment. About 10 days ago I fell, banging and twisting my knee, and have been unable to run since then. I even had problems walking for a couple of days, having to go back to using my old crutches from when I broke my femur! My knee still feels rather unstable, and a walk to the shops is about the best I can manage. The interesting thing is how much this enforced lack of activity has affected my blood glucose control. Previously, my waking/fasting levels were in the range of around 4.5-5.5 mmol/l, but for four days running they have been 7.0 mmol/l, which is at the upper end of my 'normal' range. Last night I increased my basal insulin by two units (which equates to a 25% increase), and this appears to have been successful as I woke to 5.2 mmol/l this morning. This is the first time since I was diagnosed nearly two years ago that I have had to increase my insulin - prior to this I have always had to decrease it, so it just goes to show what a profound effect exercise can have, and something else that makes diabetes management such a moveable feast.