Friday, November 10, 2017

severe hypoglycaemic attacks: what are they like?

hey all, i want to share with you the stories of my attacks - yesterday i did a video about them, which i'll pop at the end of this post if you're interested to watch it. but, straight after i posted it i got an email from my mum reminding me that i had forgotten one! so, let this post contain all 6 stories of hypos where i've blacked out...

firstly let me say that it comes as no surprise to me that i've forgotten one of them, because a) they're traumatic and b) i black out and forget stuff.

secondly, severe hypos happen in type 1's when there's not enough sugar in the blood for the body to function - it can happen for so many different reasons and every person is different. i will detail the cause of each occasion in each story, so i can share some of what i've learnt from these 'episodes' with you. 

thirdly, don't let these stories either scare you, or make you complacent. although it could happen to you if you're a type 1 diabetic, i doesn't need to with a high level of care taken in managing the disease. however, again, i always think i manage it pretty well but i've still blacked out 6 times... every day i learn something new about how i should look after myself with diabetes and i think it's so important to learn from each other too. so please read and learn...

episode 1
my very first hypo was two years after i was diagnosed - i was 13 years old and it was in the middle of the night. mum heard me making weird noises, loud enough to get her out of bed and she found me having a fit in my room. she put sugar gel on my gums and called 999. my older brother heard it too and came to help, so i'm told. though of course i don't remember anything other than waking up in my bed covered in sweat and being taken for a bath.

why was i being taken for a bath? because i'd wet the bed, because my body had lost full control of itself. the paramedics came to check that all was ok and insisted on taking me into hospital to be checked out and monitored. i distinctly remember feeling as though it was ridiculous having to be taken out the house in a wheelchair when i was very capable of walking and talking, but they made me lie down on the stretcher in the ambulance too and so in return i asked if they'd put the flashy lights on and drive faster so it was like an actual ambulance experience - my first one too!

of course in hindsight i understand why they give you special treatment, because actually your brain can suffer a lot from a hypo, because it's the lack of sugar to the brain that causes a fit in the first place, so it's a wise precaution.

anyhow, i don't remember much else other than i was discharged home pretty quickly after the endocrinologist came to visit me to check all was well.

episode 2
my second hypo is the one i forgot about in the video. it was the night my brother's wife had given birth to their first baby, my first niece. i was 23 and living back at home with my mum after uni. it was quite late at night and we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the safe arrival. i had only had a glass. however it was also winter, and so i had taken to sleeping by the woodburner where it was warm and cosy and i usually got a great nights sleep.

except this time, i had a fit during the night. again. however this time i remember nothing about it. i remember waking up to mum in the morning, and she had told me that i'd had a fit in the night and i recall absolutely nothing about the whole night. clearly the small amount of alcohol, the excitement and the hot fire had been enough to drop my sugar level in an extreme way. that time i think she called an ambulance to check on me, but she insisted that i didn't need to go to hospital, because the first time seemed to be a bit of a waste of everyone's time, and the paramedic could check i was physically and mentally fine.

episode 3
the next time was two months after i got married - my whole life had changed and i was adjusting to a new routine. that morning i woke and decided i would get a few bits and bobs from around the corner in the Lidl supermarket, which was a 3 minute walk from our house. i figured i'd go over and get some shopping really quickly and then make it back in time to eat breakfast and then start work from home at 9am. however, i somehow thought that i could inject for breakfast, then go out and make it back in a short enough space of time.

i used to pre-bolus for meals. emphasis on the "used to", because most of my episodes from here on in involve injecting before a meal rather than during or after. but, it had used to work for me - i used to inject 15-20 mins before a meal, so in theory the insulin would go in at the same time as the carbs. however, this is faulty and dangerous logic because there are too many factors in life that can make pre-bolusing go wrong, like not getting the food fast enough, getting not enough quick carbs in the meal, or not accounting for exercise, or not knowing the absorption rate of a particular injection site.

so, back to the story - i injected for my pre-prepared breakfast and went to the shop. i don't remember anything from walking into the door. but i do remember waking up on the floor near the freezers and wondering 'how the heck did i get to the freezers?' i must've looked like a crazy drunk before collapsing and having a fit by the frozen chicken.

the staff in the store were lovely, and called an ambulance. i woke very confused with someone explaining what had happened. i vaguely remember me paying for my shopping and remembering which card to use and the pin. i also remember getting a free sandwich and bottle of coke. someone saw my ring and figured i was married and called my husband, i suppose i must've given them the phone and told them, but it don't recollect that - but my husband will never forget expecting to hear my voice but hearing a man's instead and absolutely freaking out! "who is this?" he said in his best Taken impression. then i take it he got in his car and drove like the wind to the A&E department of the local hospital. he took me home and made sure i was looked after for the rest of the day.

one of the staff at Lidl continued to remember me every time i kept going back in and she would always look at me worriedly and say "are you doing ok?" - it was embarrassing, but i was so grateful to the staff, because i could so easily have hurt myself seriously on the hard floors in the store, so they must've looked after me well.

episode 4 & 5
i'm going to put these two together because they're too similar not to. both of them happened another couple of months after epidose 3 and on each occasion i was working from home, going about my regular routine. it was the morning, and i was preparing porridge on the stove. i'd already injected for it and i went into the dining room to get set up for the day. i remember waking up under the dining room table, staring at the underneath of the thing and wondering how in the heck i got there?! what a strange place to be, and how? i woke up to the smell of not-yet-burnt-but-caramelising porridge coming through from the kitchen, and i was so glad that i hadn't been out for very long, because that could've been an even greater disaster with a fire too. i had enough sense to eat the porridge first before calling my husband and explaining the whole scenario.

the next time i had the same morning plan, but thankfully didn't attempt porridge that day. instead i actually forgot the entire morning because the fit had been so bad, the first thing i remember that day was waking up in bed and having a huge headache, freaking out at the clock because it was 9:30 and i thought i'd overslept. then i looked down and saw that i was dressed and then looked in the mirror and found massive bruising between my eyes from where i must've rubbed them extremely hard, and then a huge cut on my head from where i must've bashed it whilst writhing around in the bed. i then checked my sugar level monitor and realised that i'd done a level 45mins prior, so i'd been out of it for ages, alone in my house. and thankfully i'd woken up somehow. i think i remember that it was work that had woken me up actually by calling to see how the day was going so far or something.

that day i spent being looked after and swearing i wouldn't pre-bolus again. though clearly that didn't stick, and clearly it was a hard habit to shift from...

episode 6
the last time i had a severe hypo was the year before i got pregnant with my son. i was at my grandparents house and, contrary to previous occasions, it was the late afternoon. we had just come back from a cold walk (clearly my body is very sensitive to temperature and temperature changes) and settled down to have an aperitif of warm saké. this wasn't my regular drink, in fact i hadn't had saké hot before, and i haven't had any since... but we did usually have an aperitif before dinner at my grandparents house. though, unusually i had pre-bolused for dinner, or maybe i'd over-injected for the nibbles that came with the aperitif.

anyhow, i think i knew that i'd put myself at risk that time, and when i woke up on the floor i was less surprised than normal. the paramedic had got to their house in record time, and i remember not being able to move properly for a long while whilst i lay in my husbands arms with marmalade in my hair. which is what he'd used to rub into my gums to get my level back up. the paramedic spoke to me and made sure my brain was working fine before he wrote his report and then left.

i'd really scared my grandparents, but thankfully with the passing of time they've already forgotten about how terrified they were. my husband finally got to witness an episode and be my hero in saving me, which he was incredible at of course.


so, what are the lessons i've learnt from all of these episodes?
1. never pre-bolus, it isn't worth it.
2. watch out for hot alcohol.
3. don't sleep next to a hot fire after an exciting evening and a glass of champagne.
4. don't assume that regular routine will ensure the same pattern each day - injection sites, hormones and quality of sleep can all play a roll in messing with absorption and levels.
5. always go to sleep with a slightly higher level than you require, or eat a banana before bed.
6. exercise can do strange things to levels you can't predict.

please do share some of your hypo stories, so we can learn from each other, and let me know what you've learnt from your own episodes.

thanks for reading, i hope you enjoy watching the video too - and if you fancy educating the people around you, please feel free to share this video with your family and friends...

Monday, June 29, 2015

the hidden disease

type 1 diabetes is so often difficult to explain because there are no physical symptoms. honestly, this makes me really angry sometimes, because if people could SEE it, they would be able to understand. instead, i'm left trying to use words to explain what's going on, and i'm actually not that great a communicator when i am talking face to face with someone.

last week for example, my 7-day average sugar level on my mysgr app (amazing, you should get it, but more on that later) went up to 8.7. now considering that it's usually about 6.1, that's quite unusual for me, and the average indicates that almost every day last week my level went to over 15mmol, and a couple of times was a nightmare to get back down. 

i'm still not totally certain what the problem was. it could have been pre-menstrual insulin resistance (something i'm only just starting to learn is a thing), or it could have been stress, or it could have been some dodgy insulin. whatever the reason, i felt rough.

it all started the previous weekend, with a dodgy set of highs on a weekend visit to London with my husband. i had eaten some stomach-upsetting food, and the level just would not come down, and so i spent four hours in a pub with my husband's friends feeling like i wanted to go to sleep, and take out my contact lenses which we going dry. it would have been difficult to explain that i was finding it difficult to concentrate and focus on the conversation, partially because my brain wasn't going as quick as normal, and partially because i was trying to work out how to get the level down and what had gone wrong that day to make it rollercoaster so badly.

then all week my levels continued to rollercoaster. up and down, up and down. and the thing is, i was eating well and exercising more than normal. when i realised it was becoming a problem i became even more obsessed with how strict i was with myself. and by the thursday when it went up again i got mad. to be honest, i am surprised i went so long staying calm, i usually get mad at the first bad level.

i do only usually get mad when i know i've done something that would have caused it (usually something i've eaten), but this time i couldn't see a reason or logic, and all attempts to figure it out ended in confusion. 

by the friday i was feeling very worse for wear, 'tired' doesn't even begin to cover it. consistent high levels you can feel in your muscles the most. muscles ache, including the heart. the heart ache is scary. you feel lethargic and cloudy. groggy. vision isn't as clear as normal, and thoughts are slow. dehydration you can feel in every cell. negative thought patterns lead to a mild depressive state.

so on friday, when i could start to feel it in my heart, i took action. i spent the day doing slow walking, so that my levels would go back to being consistent but also wouldn't plummet. i walked for 3 and a half hours. and I haven't had a bad level since. 

walking has always been a bit of a fixer for me. it's the thing i feel least like doing, but i know that pushing my muscles even though it will hurt will eventually make them even out. 

i also drank a lot of water that day to help clean my body on the inside, and took a bath to help relax my muscles. 

that day i ate no carbs for lunch and had a very simple and small dinner. that helped too.

i also made sure that i had a friend with me that day, someone to help keep me bright and not wallow in how bad my levels had got, to keep my head from thinking of potential future complications.

to any non-diabetic out there, the best way to explain a high sugar level is to think of the worst hangover you've ever seen depicted on television - you know, the one where the person doesn't want to get out of bed in the morning and can't function - that's a glimpse of how it feels...

anyhow, that's my last week, and now it's the monday after and my average level is down to 6.9 (thanks to another 10miles of walking on saturday, and a 15mile bike ride on sunday) instead of 8.7, and i feel so much better!

i hope you are well and have a beautiful day,
alissa x

Thursday, December 15, 2011

goodbye pump, hello pen

so, today i took out pedro's battery. he is in hibernation.

shiny new futura vs. silent purple paradigm...

why? well, after 3 weeks of very frustrating trial and error with new sets and new sites, i got to a point of distrust and extreme frustation with my insulin pump, and decided (with the help of doctor and specialist nurse) that a pump holiday was the right thing to do.

i've been using a pump since i was 13, so you can imagine just how weird it is to be sat typing this post without anything attached to me. i'm going to have to relearn how to use MDI (multiple daily injections) correctly, so that i don't have too many dangerous highs and lows.

but, considering i've had both of those in the last week alone (ketones up to purple, and 3am sweats from a 2.7 - not cool), i'm actually not so fussed, because it can't be worse than i've been doing lately.

my distrust for pedro has got so bad, that i really didn't ever want to put in another set. i've been feeling that way for a week or more. i am permanently tired and lethargic with horrendous levels, and i hate to think of what this is doing to my internal systems.

i'm looking forward to not worrying about:
  • the tubing getting caught
  • infusing into muscle accidentally
  • whether the insulin is absorbing, and if not, why not - is it the set, is there a bubble, has the insulin denatured, is there a kink in the tubing, are my clothes too tight? etc, etc.
  • being concerned about whether i wear socks to bed, as this will raise my core temperature and likely make the insulin far less effective.
  • having to inject for meals and corrections anyway because the set isn't working.
  • thinking about all the possible variables!
moving onto Lantus for a while will, i'm sure, present it's very own problems. but if it helps me to see the importance of having my pump and using it well, and learning to trust it again, then i think it'll be worth the nuisance of switching back.

practically speaking, it couldn't be easier to switch back to injections really. i will be using the Lantus twice a day, 8units at 8am, 8 units at 8pm. simple, for now. i was on about 10units of basal on the pump, roughly in total, so it's been increased quite a lot. we'll see how it goes, and i will see the nurse next Monday just to confirm everything is going ok. she gave me a fancy new ClikSTAR and a HumaPen Luxura (v. posh - like it a lot!) to use on my new regime, which is exciting!

for a long time i thought it would be like admitting defeat if i couldn't get the pump to work properly, but now i'm sort of excited! i was having to carry around my HumaPen and spare sets with me anyway from the sets failing on me all the time, so there'll actually be LESS stuff to lug around all the time :)

who knows when i'll be back using Pedro, but in the meantime, i'm happy to avoid using my abdomen to give it a rest from all the scarring that's happened to it, and to hopefully put some weight on, so i have a few more places to start using sets again!

it's certainly going to be an interesting few weeks, that's for sure ♥

thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom - i had some amazing test results back from the surgery on Monday, to show that my hormones and kidneys are working awesomely well!

Monday, November 21, 2011

infusion set failures and sites

hi everyone! hope all is well :)

as i'm sat typing this i have another high sugar level. they've been mostly up for the last few weeks, and it was starting to irritate to the point where i just had had enough and rang my diabetes nurse.

you see, when i got back from Australia, i had perfect numbers. like seriously perfect. i wasn't afraid of my blood glucose testing kit and the numbers it would offer, because i just knew they'd be good.

well, the last few weeks, despite eating right, getting in good exercise, and generally just doing things exactly the same, i've been going up and down like a yoyo, with no other explanation than my infusion sets not working properly - seriously, i've thought through all other logical explanations.

my family were getting annoyed even. "wouldn't it be better if you were on injections?" was a phrase that passed over quite a few lips.

so, i rang my nurse, Mandy, who very wonderfully reassured me that i've been using my abdomen for far too long. i've worn it out basically, and need to find another option, so i can see if it will heal.

she suggested my thighs - and so today, for the first time, i inserted into my upper left thigh! i thought it would hurt loads, but the 6mm Sof-Set seemed to do a pretty good job - apparently i have more flesh there than it feels like i do :)

i made sure to get the tubing under my underwear and to have it facing the right way when i put it in - i avoided that rookie mistake, thanks to tudiabetes, and i hope i won't pull the thing out at any point. so it's sat pretty nicely under my leggings at the moment, whilst i'm sat typing. it seems like it ought to work pretty well, and i'm looking forward to trying it out!

after reading a few forums, it seems like the outer thigh is a good option too, as is the upper abdomen and arms. i've only ever used my upper buttocks and lower abdomen, and i'm pretty sure i've got some seriously bad scar tissue that may not ever heal in some places because i've used it for far too long at one go. there's a warning for you insulin pump newbies - rotate before it's too late!!

anyway, i'll be sure to let you know how it goes...

where do you put your sets? what's you favorite infusion site?

Monday, November 14, 2011

my new cookbook!

hey everyone - it's been a while since my last post, and i guess you might want to know why...

well, i'm now published! i've compiled my favorite diabetic breakfast recipes into one book full of low carb, low gi, balanced and delicious morning meals, called Healthy Breakfast Recipes. this came about through my food blog, not just apples, where i post recipes and my daily eats.

i was getting frustrated with having to go through all my haphazard notes and scribbled down ingredients lists, and so to compile all my favorite breakfasts in one place has made it wonderful for other family and friends to know what to cook for me when i'm round.



though it doesn't have 'diabetic' in the title, it might as well have, because i eat every single one. i wanted to make the book accessible to anyone who was interested in eating better, and starting the day with good food.

some of the recipes from the book are:
  • sweet pumpkin pie cups
  • buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, bacon and blueberries
  • peach and raspberry pecan crumble
  • granola with almonds and coconut
  • wholewheat cinnamon french toast
  • baked eggs with sundried tomatoes
there are things that i eat every single day, and things that i would only make for a special occasion, like birthdays, sundays or christmas. i hope you like the variation of ingredients, and it should keep things exciting each morning, without being expensive.

when i was younger i ate the same thing for breakfast every single morning - cheerios with semi-skimmed milk. since i turned 16 and started experimenting in the kitchen, breakfast has not been boring at all! i almost know exactly how much to bolus for each of the 70+ recipes now, and love making quick pancakes, bircher muesli or toasted banana bread.

i have incorporated many gluten free options, and everything is low gi, without refined flour or sugar. i believe in natural, whole food, that tastes delicious! each recipe was tested on my brother - my harshest critic, who hates 'healthy' food, so i was guaranteed that everyone will enjoy these recipes :)




i hope to be adding some more breakfast recipe videos to my youtube channel - then you'll be able to see them in action! let me know once you have your copy if there's any in particular you'd like to see...

purchase your copy from:


and please let me know what you think! i hope these will make great christmas presents for friends and family of those with diabetes, as well as being comfortably affordable for you to have a copy on your cookbook shelf at home :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

dr neal barnard's program for reversing diabetes review

hello! hope you are all well ♥

today, i wanted to do a little review of the book, Dr Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes. it's a book that was leant to us by a chef friend of ours - and i'm not sure i would otherwise have picked it up. but it's got some very interesting things to say about diet and also the cause of type 1 diabetes....

 

the book has a stupid title - let me put this little aggravation to rest - because you can't actually reverse type 1 diabetes (it's impossible), and to so generalize about 'diabetes' as if they were both the same is misleading and rather concerning.

anyway, once, or if, you can get past the frustration of the title, there is quite a lot to learn from this book. dr neal barnard puts forward a very intriguing argument about the link between diabetes and cows milk protein, as well as how a vegan diet can "revolutionise" your lifestyle.

apparently, studies show that:
  1. the body sees cows milk protein as a foreign object.
  2. cows milk protein and insulin producing cells are a biochemical match.
  3. because of the similarity, the body produces antibodies to fight the cows milk protein, and ends up taking a wack at the insulin producing cells too. aka - an auto-immune attack.
no, i don't know about you, but that actually DOES make a lot of sense to me. it was like a light bulb moment, when all the information about nutrition that i've ever read came together and clicked. there's so many studies that say about how the body cannot recognise dairy - we haven't evolved enough yet for most people to assimilate it properly (and 90% of the worlds population are lactose intolerant, or don't produce enough lactase do digest it - see here).

there's the china study and the nurse's health study - two of the biggest and best nutritional studies ever to be done - and they both conclude that animal protein is a major cause of western disease. interesting, huh?

dr barnard fully believes that you can use diet (more than exercise) to acheive great readings and good control. he advocates a low gi, low fat, vegan diet to the point where he would suggest you didn't eat avocadoes or nuts. personally, i think that's a little extreme, but he doesn't think so.

he mentions studies that are going on at the moment to see whether the link between cows milk and diabetes is true. and i do think that in 50 years we'll look back and question how we drank the juice from another animals udder, that was actually meant for a baby cow, and actually advertised it as a 'healthy' thing to do.

his main concern in the book is the heart and blood vessel complications that a type 1 diabetic is at risk of, and that, if anything, it's best to change your diet to aid the perfect functioning of these systems. and i couldn't really agree more.

so as a courtesy to the doctor, i am testing it out. i want to know if i will develop increased insulin senstivity by increasing my intake of pulses and removing animal products. i haven't made the full switch yet. i'm on more of a trial run, whilst i get to grips with cooking beans and lentils in different ways.

the most interesting part of the book is the recipe section at the back! he's got things like wheatberry pancakes, oat waffles, orange date cake, roasted moroccan sweet potato, red lentil soup, etc. they're quite unique, and very tasty! i just wish there were a few more...

Monday, October 10, 2011

diabetic inflight meals and airport experiences

hello everyone - thanks for tuning in, or logging on, or checking out the blog, or just showing up! it's so awesome to be able to be a part of the DOC and to share my diabetes journey with you all...

today i want to share photos of my diabetic inflight meals with you all - because i would have wished for this sort of post before i left in order to know if it was worth pre-selecting a 'diabetic' meal over a regular one, and because i want to give you my opinion on the food, it's delivery and the whole experience in general.

let's get straight into some photos...

airports are funny things - if you only have a few dollars to spend, you don't have a lot of healthy options. of course much depends on the airport itself - but sydney airport is not much of a foodie central. so i settled with a dodgy muesli cookie from a coffee shop just so i could nestle into a snuggly seat and enjoy reading my book.


security was fine - sydney are really great at security, so i always feel very safe on the plane! this time, (and it really does depend as to who's on guard as to what they do) they closed the metal detecting gate, and stopped the whole queue for ages to wait for a woman to do a manual pat down after i'd walked through the side gate. kinda embarrassing holding up the travellers behind me, but i sort of love the quizzical looks on all their faces - not everyone gets such special treatment! :)

i'm always at the airport super duper early - just in case - and so i spent this time walking - seriously about an hour and a half with awkward heavy backpack and roller case, going in and out of shops and through from terminal to terminal. it's so worth it though, because that meant that i'd had some good exercise before sitting for ridiculous lengths of time.

the actual flight from Sydney to London is a long one. 23 hours 40 mins ish, with British Airways, including a stopover in Singapore for just over an hour - so you're fed quite a few meals. which is all included in the price - which is brilliant. of course, i went standard class, and i found it quite roomy and quiet - and the staff are always very accommodating.

the first meal was AMAZING! really tasty and nutritious and filling - i was a happy bunny. curry with rice (basmati i think? but not brown...), "salad", roll and an apple. pretty yummy really.


the second 'mini meal' on the airplane was not really any different from anyone else, i got a white roll sandwich and a little chocolate - not sure how in any way this can be classed as diabetic, but i was hungry so i ate it of course...the only thing different was probably that there was fake sweetener instead of sugar (but i never have those sweeteners anyway!!)


at Singapore airport i walked around a lot again, i think i did 8 laps of our terminal, which was pretty small. i could've walked further, but there didn't seem much point. by this point i'd polished off the 100g dark chocolate bar i'd brought with me on the flight! yum.


the second proper meal was INCREDIBLE! so much so that i had to compliment the air steward for it's tastiness. salad, roll, and seafood bake - with sweet potato, mushroom, greens, prawns, calamari and fish - it was so tasty. and then fresh papaya to follow. i was muchos impressed!


breakfast before landing was decent - 2 slices of brown-ish bread, plain yogurt, fresh papaya, carrots, 1 tini tomato half (?) and an omelette with mushrooms. not too bad carbs wise, but i didn't eat all the bread, because i'd been doing so much sitting, so i didn't really need it.


i bet you're wondering what i had on the flight over to Oz? well, unfortunately i didn't take any photos, and so all i remember was having chicken and brown rice twice. which was fine, and alright, if a little peppery to make up for the lack of flavour. but it was pretty balanced at least.

throughout the flight there's snacks and water at the back, should you need anything- so handy! i usually keep a full bottle of water by my seat and continue to drink it so i don't get hydrated. it seems to work, and means that you have to get up to go to the bathroom fairly frequently, which keeps you mobile and allows you to stretch.

often the diabetic meal was also labelled as something else too, sometimes gluten free and other times vegetarian. i understand why, but it does mean that there are compromises made, especially with the bread. i could go on and on about the bread - but suffice to say that any bread on a plane is never really any good - it's too dry and too cheaply made to actually have any real substance.

the other concerning thing is how often a sweetener instead of real sugar is the only difference in the meal. i sort of get that, but it seems like flawed nutrition to me, so what's the point of having anything different?

however, i adore getting served first, and everyone getting envious over the delicious smell of my meal. i probably shouldn't say that, but it's so true - it makes you feel a little like a rock-star.

and, i give serious praise to any company that allows you the option of having a meal, and who does it with such class is British Airways did for me this time. thank you BA!

any questions you have, please feel free to ask...