Posted by on Friday 22 April 2011

Summertime Blues

Well not exactly... More 'Easter Anxiety' really, bit I'm a sucker for a snappy title, and we've been enjoying some fabulous sunshine over the last few weeks.

I've been really struggling with control for the past three or perhaps four weeks. It started getting wobbly for a week or so, at the end of which it became clear that the insulin stored in our increasingly dodgy fridge had not kept too well and had lost a lot of oomph. Almost immediately afterwards I had a sore throat/cold combo which (unusually for me) wreaked a little BG havoc. And around the same time the Easter holidays came along. As invididual events they would probably have passed with little comment, but in succession they have been very hard work.

My diabetes likes order. My diabetes likes stability. My diabetes likes things to stay the same day after day after day.

Holidays in particular are often a bit of a challenge. When the kids are at school their routine sets a rhythm in the house. We wake at a set time and are careful not to do too much on a 'school night'. It's easy to get to the gym three times a week. Evening meals slot into the regular pattern.

When holidays come along though the regular rhythm of the house changes. We begin to wake up later. Gym visits fall away. Beautiful sunny evenings beckon. Friends call to ask if we'd like to join them for a stroll around the docks, perhaps stopping for a pint at The Cottage on the waterfront. While we are there perhaps we'll decide to stop for some food (I'm sure to have brought my insulin pen). Friends come to visit, what a lovely evening! Let's have a barbecue! All of these events are lovely. They all form an important part of my enjoyment of life.

But they do not make it easy to maintain good control.

It's times like this when I can feel trapped between enthusiasm for these lovely events, and facing the consequences of the BG guesswork they inevitably involve. It's times like this when diabetes seems most in the way. When life is fast-moving and unpredictable. When meals are grabbed outside of the normal, 'old faithful', predictable choices. The choices that we rely on week by week to make life, grocery shopping and carb counting easier. It's times like this when diabetes feels like a weight grinding you down. When a pleasant afternoon stroll followed by a meal out makes you think, "Oh great, that's going to be tricky to count right". It's times like this when diabetes seems determined to suck the joy out of life.

Of course it is not really that bad. Usually with a little effort, and some decent guesswork it is possible to get into 'holiday mode' and make a reasonable attempt at guessing your way through the holiday maze. To reset basal for the lack of gym visits. To adapt to the new 'normal'.

What this last few weeks have shown me (again) though, is how easy it is for one week of uncertainty to roll into another. And before long it's easy to lose confidence in your ability to make good judgements. Even if you know there are good reasons for a string of errant readings, a few short weeks of chaotic BGs can really take the wind out of your sails.

Next time we have a holiday I'm going to make sure that the fridge it in tip top working order, and I'm NOT going to get ill!

Posted by on Friday 1 April 2011

Not cool - insulin storage problem

I'm still waiting to write that post extolling the virtues of Colin, my Accu-Chek Expert, but even his shrewd bolus-calculating savvy was not up to coping with the BG craziness of the last seven days.

Things just went bonkers.

And it made me realise that this is not unusual. Since I started putting a lot more effort into my diabetes a year and a bit ago I've noticed a definite repeating pattern in what I previously thought was just diabetes randomness:

1. Finally work out the rules
2. Good numbers for a few days. Yay!
3. Wow that was an AMAZING day. Woo hoo!
4. Errrrr hang on where did that come from
5. Right something's definitely not right here...
6. So the rules have changed again then. Great, thanks for that.
7. Erm... try this?
8. Nope. That was annoying.
9. What about this?
10. Right OK not that either...
11. OK that's looking a bit better
12. Definitely on to something here...

....aaaaand repeat. Given enough trips around the cycle the doses/ratios/splits/timings begin to repeat themselves and off we go again.

But this one wasn't like that. This one was off the scale.

Looking back over recent records I'd had a spectaculatly good patch. Over a fortnight with 75% of readings between 4 and 8 (including several 1hr/2hr post meals). Anything over 10 was a bit of a surprise. I was also having almost no hypos during this period. In short it felt like I was winning. It felt amazing.

I started having a few hypos to tentatively dropped my Lantus by 1u to see if I'd settle just a notch higher up. I only lasted 2 days first with a prefectly acceptable 6.9 average, the second constantly fighting highs and averaging at 10.8.

The next two days, Lantus back up by 1u were not too bad, but the following few days were a complete disaster. Countless corrections were having little or no apparent effect. One morning despite a 2u correction the previous night (at 14.x) I woke to 16.6. I went for broke decided on double my usual breakfast insulin:carb ratio +20% for 'stress', injected 8u and waited for it to come down. 5 hours passed and I still hadn't eaten anything other than a lump of cheese (hoping to trick my liver into cancelling any DP action). BG stayed above 9.0 right up until lunch. The following day saw me needing 10u for a single slice of breakfast toast (that's 5x my usual amount)!

While waiting for our new fridge to be delivered, I posted a moan on a forum describing recent events, and suggesting that the Diabetes Gremlins had perhaps snuck in at night and replaced the Lantus in my cartridge with water. Someone happened to ask if there might be any problem with the way the insulin had been stored. Hang on a minute... "While waiting for our new fridge to be delivered...".

And then it all fell into place. Our fridge has been a bit flaky for some time, maybe even a year. Mostly keeping things cool, sometimes getting a little enthusiastic and getting really cold, other times appearing to warm things up, but never actually completely broken. The light had stopped coming on a week or so ago and we'd decided that enough was enough and ordered a new one. I was down to the last cartridges in the box of both Lantus and Humalog and it seems that the fridge's repeated misbehaviour had substantially affected the insulin's potency. The box of Lantus was the older of the two, so my guess it that it was pretty much shot. The newer Humalog left to fight the BG battle on its own at half-strength. Another one to add to the 'watch list': Count carbs, consider food absorption properties, check basal level, consider level of activity, rotate sites, make sure fridge is working.

I've ditched the suspect cartridges and with nice new fresh ones things have quickly returned to normal. Well today at least.