Saturday, 21 September 2013

Ready...Set...Go: #DUKBigEvent.

Oh, Diabetes UK, you know how to put on a great event!

The Saturday just gone (September 14th), I went to The Big Event hosted by, in case you haven't figured it out already, Diabetes UK (DUK). This post is long overdue, but here it is. I still don't think this will do the event justice, but I'm hoping it explains why I thought the day was full of awesome!

I went to the event with Lizzie and Louise; Lizzie, I knew beforehand, Louise, I didn't, but thanks to this amazing thing known as social media, I knew her in the online sense of the word. We registered, received our name badges and bag of goodies, and made our way into the main hall bit. Tea in hand, we made a quick plan of what talks we wanted to go to and headed to the first session, "What diabetes care to expect: Type 1."

This first session looked at the 15 Healthcare Essentials that DUK have said all people with diabetes should receive. Something that came up a lot during this session was the concept of "tailored healthcare plans" and the fact that "targets should be individual to each person" - yes, there are guidelines in place, particularly with the hba1c blood test, but it's important for healthcare professionals (HCPs) to remember that it's difficult for some patients to reach those targets: you are not your number. By adjusting them to match the individual, they're almost eliminating that sense of failure that they feel due to not meeting that magic 'a1c of 7% (53mmol/l). 

Photo courtesy of Louise.
The second session we chose to go to was "Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM): basics." Obviously, pumps and CGM were covered, but they also spoke about the "Artificial Pancreas" and where that's going, which was pretty cool. I'm not all that great at science and the jargon that comes with it, so I'm not going to try to explain what it is on here for fear that I'll get it wrong, but if you click here and here you'll hopefully find better explanations than what I can provide!

Session three took place after lunch, and it was "Research and type one diabetes" which began with a brief history of diabetes-related research, kicking off with the discovery of insulin back in 1922 (thank you Banting and Best!) right up to present day where we have the "Artificial Pancreas" being trialled, as well as stem cell therapy and immuotherapies. Again, not being science-minded, I don't trust myself to relay information correctly, but if you click here you will be taken to the DUK website page where you can find information about all the current research projects going on and how to get involved in trials should you wish to.

The day ended with the session "Emotional issues: coping with type one diabetes." This was my favourite session, as I personally feel that this is overlooked by a lot of HCPs. People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and it's important that we're aware of our triggers - we need to try to "recognise [stress] signals and know we need to take better care of ourselves." For me though, the key message from this talk was:

As the day drew to a close, a group of us made our way to a restaurant near the venue and sat down for an early dinner together and it was like we'd known each other for years. We spoke diabetes. We spoke about our lives in general. We laughed at the fact that Max had walked away with four new blood testing kits. Four. "They were handing them out for free!"
What struck me the most, however?! How sad I was to leave. Diabetes isn't exactly new to me anymore, but I am new to the whole actually having a support network in the form of other people with diabetes. But I wish I'd got more involved from the start, both online and off. I hate diabetes. I love the community. Community is good for my emotional health; it makes dealing with diabetes that little bit easier. In the words of Lizzie, "It's sad something like this [beta cells gone bad] brought us together, but I love it."

So thanks for having me, DUK. It was awesome, and I look forward to more events like it!

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