Diabetes for a day: part two

Team Discussion

Multiple authors

Welcome to the ‘Diabetes for a day’ sequel. Whilst this may not be a box office hit, for us this is something much more important. In November of last year, Elli (a sufferer of type one diabetes) shared a ‘diabetes for a day challenge’ with us on World Diabetes Day. To take part you must live a day in the life of someone with type one diabetes. This year, the challenge was back with a vengeance.

To get involved, we had to react to text message instructions sent to us throughout the day. Each message gave us different actions to take – all of which were things that someone with type one diabetes may come across in a normal day (although for us, injections were done by marking our arms with a sharpie pen).

The participants:

AG: Agata Guz, Previous Design Intern
DT: Dawn Tang, Previous Industrial Design Consultant
PT: Peter Toogood, Senior Engineering Consultant

Here are a few of our experiences…

Why did you choose to take part in the #DiabeticForADay challenge?

AG: One of my close friends was diagnosed with diabetes type 1 two years ago. She’s one of these people that doesn’t tell you if something is going wrong and I know that she has had a hard time, so I wanted to see what life would be like for her.

DT: My mum has diabetes, so by taking part I hoped to further understand what she has been through and what others go through day to day.

PT: A friend was recently diagnosed with type 1 and I saw this as an opportunity to get a better understanding of the day-to-day challenge of living with diabetes.

What did you know about type 1 diabetes before taking part?

AG: It turned out, not much at all! I knew roughly what you have to do on a daily basis but I wasn’t aware of how unpredictable it can be.

PT: I knew about the basics of the condition, with the body not able to produce insulin, and that it required constant monitoring and injection to survive. What I didn’t know was just how much of an impact it had on a person’s life in addition to the physical monitor and inject cycle. I wasn’t expecting the high or low blood glucose cycle to impact on my ability to do my job or even get to work in the first place!

What was the day like?

AG: In a way challenging – at the beginning I was really eager to see what the day would bring, but I must say that as it passed the excitement was gone and realisation that there are so many people that go through the same or worse on a daily basis was really upsetting. I wasn’t allowed to have breakfast and only had a small pot of yoghurt until lunchtime. I was told that even though I hadn’t eaten much and the number of ‘sharpie injections’ on my arm was increasing, my glucose level was constantly high.

DT: On and off I was instructed that I was feeling unwell, and when feeling unwell, it was pretty bad. I was required to lay down and wasn’t able to do anything. I was also required to monitor my blood sugar regularly and as my blood sugar tended to be on the lower side, I required to have many small meals. It was quite tough.

PT: Waking up to being told that I can’t have breakfast and coffee straight away is never a good start to the day, particularly having to cycle over 10 miles to work. I had previously booked to be off site working with a supplier all day, so to be ‘experiencing’ a hyper at the same time with headaches and tiredness, I got a feel for just how disruptive diabetes can be.

What words would you use to describe having type 1 diabetes for the day?

AG: Unpredictable, tiring and I believe also frustrating.

DT: Depressing and tiring.

PT: Disruptive and frustrating.

Did anyone notice you were taking part, and if so, did they comment on it?

AG: I mentioned I was taking part in this challenge, however people were surprised when they were sat having lunch (it was Friday, and someone had fast food which wasn’t making it easy for me!) and I was not allowed to have any food because of my glucose levels.

PT: I did have to let the supplier know what I was doing, as putting dots on my arm with a marker pen was probably a little unexpected behaviour!

Were there any low points or any high points of the day?

AG: The low point was lunch time when I was horrendously hungry and the high point was around tea time when my glucose level came back to normal and I could have some food.

DT: The low point was in the morning, where my blood sugar was really low and I was required to lay in bed until I felt better. I couldn’t do anything! A high point was when my blood sugar was in the normal level, and I felt normal.

PT: Delaying breakfast was a definite low point, as was trying to work while being headachy and irritated. The high point was knowing that by the end of the day I’d achieved some normalcy in the blood-glucose and that I could enjoy the evening with minimal interruption.

Would you do it again?

AG: I would. I think these type of ‘events’ defiantly raise awareness and even though there were people around that didn’t take part in this challenge, they asked questions and seem very keen to find out more about the messages I was receiving throughout the day and how I was ‘feeling’.

DT: Yes, definitely. It was a great experience to understand that despite having type 1 diabetes, all of our text messages had different instructions, and each of us were affected in different ways and knowing that one condition can change your lifestyle in different ways, was really valuable.

PT: Yes, of course

Has your opinion of type 1 diabetes changed or stayed the same?

AG: I’ve got greater understanding of what people with diabetes type 1 go through and how hard the days can be. It was an eye opening experience that showed me that there is more you have to do with adapting your lifestyle than an occasional insulin injection.

DT: The day was very similar to how my mum lives with diabetes. Something that I was not aware of was how everyone suffers in different ways. With different levels, you may have to eat or avoid eating, or feel ill – all at different times. It simply affects your lifestyle so much that you can’t ignore it, you are constantly keeping check to stay normal. It’s exhausting.

PT: I’ve got more of an appreciation for the challenges a diabetes sufferer faces through the day, and that it’s not as simple as ‘jab – problem solved’.

Of course, for those who took part, they are lucky to be able to switch-off from type one diabetes, but unfortunately millions of people around the world don’t have that freedom.

If furthering our understanding of a condition like type one diabetes can help us to create even just one better medical device for someone around the world – that would be a great thing.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Elli and to the JDRF for sharing the challenge with us again.

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