The complications of a complicated diseaseadmin
Hamish’s grandfather (or as he calls him, ‘Bampy’) has had Diabetes for almost 30 years. He was originally diagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes but we more recently found out that it is actually LADA or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood – a form of Type 1 that occurs in adults, often with a slower onset and commonly mistaken for Type 2.
That aside, diabetes has taken a toll on his body. Around a year and a half ago Bampy suffered kidney failure, bought on by the effects of Diabetes. He now has to have dialysis three times a week, which means he goes to hospital to be attached to a machine for around 5 hours at a time. It pumps the blood from his bloodstream to a machine that filters waste and excess water and then back into his bloodstream. On top of that there are numerous operations to insert the tube that supports this machine. Unfortunately his veins often fail him so he has had countless operations to try and re-establish a connection. It’s awful and takes a toll on him physically and mentally.
Bampy’s kidney failure is referred to as a ‘diabetes related complication’. Over time high blood glucose levels (BGLs) can damage the body’s organs in a surprising and shocking amount of ways. For a Diabetic, the potential complications are:
- Kidney disease
- Nerve damage and lower limb complications
- Heart disease and stroke
- Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy)
- Dental problems
- Coeliac disease
- Hearing loss
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
- Ongoing infections that can lead to serious complications
But wait, there’s more
They are of course the ‘big ones’ but we also find with Hamish a lot of other little side effects. His digestion is not that great and he often gets blockages caused by his body drawing water out of his system to cope with high blood glucose levels. A stomach bug usually results in a hospital visit to re-hydrate and keep ketones at bay and a simple cold can hit him harder and take much longer to clear up. Not to mention the fact that when the body needs to fight a cold or deal with something like hayfever it stops worrying about processing insulin, even the synthetic kind. So, as a result, he tends to run way too high and no amount of extra injections makes a difference. He suffers migraines relating to hypos and hypers and then there are the cuts and grazes he gets as an avid skater, surfer, bush explorer, etc etc… a sore on the foot left untreated can easily ulcerate and cause a whole raft of other issues as we recently found out.
So on top of the day-to-day balancing act, we also have to consider the longer-term impacts of fluctuating BGLs. We do know that if we can actively manage Hamish’s diabetes and keep his blood glucose levels within the normal range, the risk of damage to his body is reduced. Sometimes easier said than done but it is definitely the goal!
Reducing the risk
A critical part of this active management is our endocrinologist, and we have recently found an awesome one. We have had two consults so far and can see straight away that she really understands what Hamish needs. She is tweaking and adjusting, recommending new things and being an integral part of his ongoing plan of attack. Our biggest learning here is that if you are not happy with your endo, don’t sit back like we did for a few years, go and find a new one. The consequences are too great to not get it right.
And get it right is what we will keep trying to do. Our best hope is to be focused and committed to that active management. Be always on, no matter how exhausting, frustrating or overwhelming it might be and hopefully set Hamish up for a lifetime of good control and minimal complications. His Bampy is cheering Hamish on and hoping that he will never have to go through what he does as a result of living with Diabetes.
Seems a good place to highlight that you can donate to various organizations who are all working to improve treatments and find a cure for Diabetes. Here are a couple we support:
Yours in (desperately trying!) active management,
Jen, Brad and Hamish