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'Diabetes doesn't stop my adventures and seeing the world.'

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"I am 23-years-old and I am a trainee stuntman. I have worked on films such as Robin Hood, Warhorse, Captain America, Snow White and the Huntsmen and will be working on Sleeping Beauty, Les Mis and Thor 2 this year.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was about 17 while in London working as a film extra. I had blurred vision, was constantly thirsty and tired, and was urinating loads which made me decide to go to the doctors.

A blood test showed  very high blood glucose level. After first trying tablets as a treatment I was then put on two different  insulins to have with every meal, and at night.

I take a 24 hour lantus injection of an evening, and use a novorapid pen with every meal. I regularly test my blood sugar levels throughout the day and will always carry glucose tablets around with me in case of a hypo.

I’m always on the look out for unconventional ways of raising money for charity. Two years I drove an old Hillman imp from London to Mongolia. Then last year I was invited to test out the ‘Ice Run’ by an adventure company called 'The Adventurists' who I had done a previous trip with. They had had the idea of an endurance motorbike challenge, taking a totally unsuitable bike up the frozen rivers of Northern Siberia into the Arctic circle in the middle of winter.

Part of the appeal to me was that the Ice Run had never been attempted before, so everything was unknown. The organisers were telling us that they weren't even sure it could be done, as a lot of the locals were also saying when we spoke to them.

The whole expedition took us 11 days in total from start to finish.

The bikes were so unreliable we would break down several times a day, some times near civilisation, but most of the time we would be in the middle of nowhere and had to fend for ourselves. You learn very quickly when you’re in a life or death situation.

We were forced to learn how the bike works and how to fix it, otherwise if you just sat there you would die from the cold. On our second day we took a horrendous wrong turn, which actually turned into a very dangerous situation. We were stuck for three days in the Siberian wilderness with the bikes broken down and had run out of both fuel and food. Luckily an off road truck with a few engineers pulled up (they were on their way to fix a broken phone mast) and they towed us to safety. That was a real eye opener for us!

The bikes in these conditions were to be honest useless. They were purposefully chosen as they were not up for the job, just to make the adventure more interesting. There were plenty of break downs every day, most of the time it was things we were able to fix for ourselves. We had a sat phone with us in case we got into real trouble, but luckily we never had to use it!

I have a strong motocross background which is something I started to do as training for becoming a stuntman and this proved really helpful out there, as the whole trip was like riding on a really difficult and cold off road track.

Cruising along taking in the amazing scenery was a big high for me, so was setting up camp at the end of the day, getting the fire going and cooking a hot meal and just listening to silence, we really were in the middle of nowhere and were at times hundreds of miles from civilisation.

I planned my diabetes regime carefully for the trip. I made sure I had enough Epipens with me for one a day if need be. I made an insulated bag which I kept all of my pens and cartridges in. This fit snugly into my inside pocket so my body warmth would stop it all from freezing.

Unfortunately (I had been warned of this) my blood testing kit wouldn't work outside as it was to cold, so I had to rely on what my body was telling me in regards to how much I would inject. I tested my blood at every available opportunity if we found ourselves inside a warm building, and I seemed to be managing well. At the finish line hotel I tested my blood when we got into our room and it was 5.7 which I was very happy with.

We raised £1,011 for Diabetes UK, and just under £1000 for Cancer Research UK.

My message is don't let diabetes stop you doing anything. For any problems you think of when planning an adventure, there are always ways round it. Diabetes doesn't need to stop you living your life to the full and certainly shouldn't hold you back in adventuring and seeing the world." 

Words by Olly Rowland 

 

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