Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Martin's story: Type 1 diabetes and the coronavirus outbreak

Martin O'Gorman

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 15

For me, routine has been the way to get through self-isolating. I get up at the usual time I'd get up for work, get dressed and ready and start working at my usual time.

Martin has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years so is well versed in managing his condition. The current coronavirus outbreak has thrown up some new challenges for Martin day-to-day. Here he tells us how he and his partner are both adjusting to a new way of life during the lockdown.

Life with diabetes

Managing diabetes

I'm a type 1 diabetic, on insulin and have been since I was 15 years old, which is over 30 years now. A lot has changed in terms of diabetes management since the 1980s but the biggest and best advance as far as I'm concerned is the arrival of the Freestyle Libre system. It's been a lifeline during this crisis and has taken all the uncertainty out of blood glucose monitoring.

My partner has had a severe sore throat for a week but no fever, no high temperature, and no persistent cough. However, the throat was bad enough to worry us and with me being diabetic and her father being over 80 years old, we decided to do the right thing and self-isolate for 14 days. I'm in one room, she's in another. It's been tough in a one-bedroom flat, but we've managed. The first few days were scary as we didn't know how bad her illness would get, but she felt so much better after a week that we think we've avoided the worst and I, hopefully, haven't come down with anything. Only today have we seen news that loss of smell and taste may be a symptom, which led us to think it was the right thing to do as she had that in the early days. 

I work in digital content (creating material for websites and social media) so I'm already used to working from home, having irregular hours and staring at a laptop for hours. The worst thing for me as far as work is concerned is less the social interaction and more the constant bleeps and whistles from online chat messages! It's been quite hard to stay focused when someone's always bugging you for attention. I'm getting terrible RSI (repetitive strain injury) from crouching over the laptop too, so I make sure I take regular breaks.

In terms of lifestyle, the biggest challenge has been getting hold of food and other essentials. We've got through the toilet roll shortage of March 2020 (thank you eBay!), but there was a hairy moment when we thought that we were going to run out of food. We couldn't go out and didn't want family coming around and risk passing anything on to the father-in-law. Delivery slots from the major supermarkets remain non-existent so the first week of isolation was spent making meals from what was in the freezer. Thankfully, we'd already bought some food before the lockdown started but it was hardly a balanced diet i.e. no fresh fruit or veg. A local cafe, which has had to close its doors to customers, is now doing deliveries of fruit and veg and other essential groceries, which has been a blessing for anyone self-isolating. And we are pleased to be helping out local businesses. 

For me, routine has been the way to get through self-isolating. I get up at the usual time I'd get up for work, get dressed and ready and start working at my usual time. But beyond that, I've made sure I have other routines: go out for a walk around a garden at this time, watch an episode of a TV series at that time and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. It would have been so easy for me to stay up all night watching trash TV or scouring the internet, but I've actually found myself getting tired and ready to sleep. Maybe I'll come out of this with a clearer head and a healthier outlook?

Treatments

Hypos and medication

There was a scary moment one afternoon when I had a hypo because I'd misjudged my insulin dose versus the amount of food I'd actually had to eat. I was running low on glucose tablets and was trying to eke them out for emergencies, but was pleased to find some sweet things in the cupboard, left over from Christmas but still in date. 

The only remaining worry for me is prescriptions. I have enough insulin for the next three weeks, but I need my blood pressure and cholesterol tablets. As I write this, I'm hoping the pharmacy delivery service will come up trumps for me. If not, I'm going to have to rely on porridge oats (to help reduce cholesterol) and remaining calm until I can go outdoors again.

Diabetes UK and me

Website advice

The information for people with type 1 diabetes and coronavirus has been very helpful. I was all set to seal myself off from the world for six months, but the level-headed advice from the Diabetes UK site has been essential and actually more useful than many other resources.

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