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Managing daily life with type 2 diabetes during coronavirus lockdown: Colin's story

Colin Rattray

Colin Rattray

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2000

I’m very much a glass half full sort of person and have tried to take that approach to dealing with the Covid-19 situation.

Colin told us about how he's managing daily life with type 2 diabetes during lockdown and how he’s using this time to make positive changes 

Life with diabetes

Managing diabetes

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2000. Back then I had no idea about carbs turning to sugar, or the amount of sugar in things, and I paid little attention to medical advice to moderate my consumption. I didn’t think I needed to.  
Fast forward several years and I developed neuropathy in my feet. Then in 2018 a foot ulcer developed and quickly became infected.

After many months of treatment in hospital, the decision was made for me to undergo a below-the-knee amputation. This was obviously a huge adjustment, but I’ve always had a positive outlook on life and felt that nothing is going to hold me back. 

These days I’m doing pretty well. I’m insulin controlled but have made real changes to my diet and lifestyle. My HbA1c levels are the best they’ve ever been; down to around 43mmol/mol, from around 140mmol/mol when things were at their worst. 

I think having spent so long in hospital when my leg was amputated, I probably have a slightly different perspective on things at the moment. I’m very much a glass half full sort of person and have tried to take that approach to dealing with the Covid-19 situation. 
 

Activity

Coronavirus

I’ve been really careful not to expose myself to any risks. I chat to neighbours over the garden fence or when we step out to applaud the NHS every week. In fact, it’s been nice as there’s about a dozen of us who didn’t even know each other’s names, but now we speak on a regular basis. 

Although I’m being careful, I also think it’s important to keep active. So I’ve convinced my elderly relatives to stay at home and let me drop off their supplies. Online shopping to them is a real mystery, so every Tuesday and Saturday I order the food and once it’s been delivered to my house, I’ll take it down and leave it on their doorstop, making sure we’re social distancing.  

Food and healthy eating

Making positive changes

One of the biggest benefits of the lockdown is the opportunity it’s given me to experiment more with food – without putting a whole load of sugar in my mouth. I’ve started preparing food myself rather than resorting to ready meals. I’d describe myself as a plain cook but in the past few weeks I’ve been getting more adventurous. The other night I prepared a chicken and vegetable egg foo young, which I thought was quite impressive – and it tasted good. 

I’ve also been meal planning a lot more. I look at what I’m going to get in and then see when I can use it. So I’ll typically plan a seven-day menu. I might buy lots of mushrooms so I can make soup, or peppers and onions for a stir-fry. Yes, cooking from scratch does take more time, but I think the more you do it the more you enjoy it and the results are beneficial. I know that by learning to cook it’s going to help me in the long run. 

My supermarket delivery guy has been an absolute hero. He makes me go and sit in the lounge, then comes in, wipes everything down with an antibacterial wipe and puts the food away. He’s on a schedule and yet he’s still looking after me.
 

Complications

Missing appointments

Because of the complications with my diabetes, I’ve had problems with my eyes that has required laser surgery in the past. I had a cataract operation on my right eye the week before lockdown and was supposed to be having the same procedure on the left eye, but that’s now had to be put on hold.

The first operation was incredible; two hours in the hospital and 24 hours later I had perfect vision. So I just keep in mind that although it’s frustrating not knowing when my surgery will be rescheduled for, I know that it will happen and it will be brilliant when it does. 

I’ve also had similar problems with my leg. I was fitted with a new prosthetic a few weeks ago and was due to be going into the clinic for my final adjustment. However, my appointment was during the first week of lockdown, so it had to be cancelled. The team there have been brilliant though, and said I can phone any time if I have any major issues. I know adjustments need to be made but there’s nothing so terrible that it can’t wait.

Emotions

Staying positive

I have an amazing network of friends far and wide, and we were all into things like Zoom, Skype and Facetime before coronavirus. I find the weekends tougher, as you can’t really distinguish them from the weekdays, so I make sure I have things lined up, like video chats. 

I think creating a routine helps – set yourself things to do and try and achieve something.  However, I think it’s really important to allow interruptions. So if people want to get in touch, never reject that. Make sure you’re communicating with people wholly and are having as much fun as you can. 

I’ve also been avoiding watching TV all the time. I’ll tune into the news at lunchtime but then turn it off after that. I’ve got a vast collection of music, so I’ve been sticking some tunes on instead and bopping along – especially when I’m cooking. It lifts my spirits, even if I’m not as good a singer as I used to be.

Diabetes UK and me

Getting support

I’m now part of a small support group with Diabetes Scotland. It’s mostly made up of people who are more remotely isolated. We spend an hour every Friday having a chat, then perhaps incorporate some mindfulness or a sitting exercise session. It’s great for me as I love interacting with people. I’ve always worked in the hospitality business and I miss that communication. The group started a few weeks ago and I like to think it will continue after Covid-19. It creates a sense of positivity and reminds you that there are always people worse off than yourself. 

Above all, I’m staying positive. Before Covid-19 I had planned to do a trip around the coastal roads of the UK for Diabetes UK, in order to raise awareness. However, that’s what I’ve now got planned and will look forward to next year.

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