Chapter 7 – A new job and diabetic realities…

A couple of days after returning from Manchester I started work at Sure Start Lescudjack. The situation apparently was that their permanent Receptionist was going on maternity leave on the Friday. They had recruited another woman to work her maternity leave, but the replacement had decided to leave two days before the person she was meant to replace. They had therefore resorted to the Temp agency and that was my luck! I am still there six years later although it is now “The Lescudjack Centre” and no longer a Sure Start and I have fullfilled roles ranging from Reception to Admin Officer, then Deputy to the Project Director and full circle again to Administrator, though these days I manage the Receptionists and only get to sit on the front desk in emergencies.

Back in June 2003 the Sure Start initiative was in its relative infancy, a Government initiative to give children under 5 “a sure start in life”. The centre was lively, with lots of young families coming to play sessions, baby clubs, the resident dentist, and many other activities. I loved working there as there was always plenty going on and I enjoyed chatting to the young mums who used the Centre. Next to the Reception was a Healthy Eating Café and I was to be very grateful for this amenity on many a morning when the mixed insulin would give me a regular hypo at 11.30 am. I’d always ask the Café Manageress if I could buy a slice of bread, but she always refused payment. In return I would give her jars of the home made chutneys I loved making but could no longer eat since they were full of sugar.

Around this time I was sent to see the dietitian and the podiatrist. The podiatrist said my feet were fine, though in retrospect I am certain I had neuropathy in my left foot. The dietitian earnestly showed me the “eatwell plate” and explained that I must eat “Starchy carbs with every meal”. I remember this interview well because it was diametrically opposed to how I had been eating as a WeightWatcher, where starchy carbohydrates had high point values, the only part that seemed to dovetail was the advice to avoid fats. She stressed that eating these starchy carbs would “keep by blood sugars level”. In addition she told me to look at packets and avoid anything with a sugar level above a certain percentage of the carbohydrates in it. I was a bit non-plussed by this since I rarely bought anything pre-packaged and always cooked from scratch. Naturally I was terrified of hypos. Not so much the ones I had which I always had signals for, but in case I got the “really bad kind” where you passed out. Nevertheless I always overtreated hypos in those days and consequently bounced from low to high and back again throughout the day. However, heeding the dietitian’s advice I assiduously ensured that every meal had a substantial starchy carb element in it.

I also took the advice to exercise seriously. In any case I was used to walking a lot, we would go on the coastal path most weekends for a 6 – 8 mile walk. Quite strenuous walking since the coastal path is quite a scramble in places, though this is more than made up for by the wonderful scenery and sea views. During the week, after work we would often walk from Penzance to Marazion and back along the cycle path which borders the beach, or on the beach if the tide was out. This is a return walk of approximately seven miles. I would often go hypo on these walks, particularly the more strenuous cliff walks, but I had no idea how to avoid it. I was reducing my insulin doses on the advice of my GPs nurse and my doses had gone down from 12 and 14u morning and evening to 5 and 11u. The hypos continued though. At about this time I started noticing that the walking boots which had been perfectly comfortable for eight years or so were pinching the toes in my left foot. The pain was so bad that I frequently limped home. I wanted to avoid the strenuous walks so I didn’t have to wear the boots, but I knew how much my husband enjoyed them. So I’d attempt the walk in a pair of sneakers, but even they “pinched”. Eventually my husband suggested I buy new boots. One weekend we went into Truro and I bought some lovely new boots, a size larger than their predecessors, I also got some really thick walking socks to pad them with. This little exercise set me back over £120. Fortunately my eyesight had improved a lot and I wasn’t having problems at work reading or working on the computer so I didn’t have to buy new glasses.

The Administrator at Sure Start started the recruitment process to fill the maternity leave vacancy and I applied. I was very keen to get the job and very nervous of the interview because I actually hadn’t had a job interview for 33 years. It was also pretty horrible sending out application packs to people for the job I wanted so badly, receiving them back and entering the names on a database I’d created to keep track and make mail merges easier. I needn’t have been nervous, I realised that Anna the Administrator was impressed by my ability with the computer and was gunning for me, but she was very proper and insisted that everything be done by the book. I won’t say I sailed through the interview, but it was very relaxed and I felt at home with those interviewing me by that time. Anna was a really lovely person who understood about diabetes as both her husband and mother in law had Type 2 and we are still good friends now even though she left five years ago. I did however find the typing test a bit nerve racking since I really wasn’t that familiar with Microsoft Office in those days (I’d previously used Lotus Smart Suite at the hotel since it was a lot cheaper than Microsoft’s software) and the typing test involved some very intricate formatting. I got through though. Then came another shock, they wanted me for the job, but the Temp agency wanted a payment of something like £250 as an “introduction fee”. I hadn’t expected or thought of this, though it’s common practice. Eventually after some negotiation they came to a compromise and evidently I’d impressed the Chair of the Board of Trustees with my purchasing talents, saving them considerable money on stationery, so a deal was done and I had a long term temporary job for the next 9 months or so.

A couple of curious incidents happened during this period. We were invited to a champagne reception at a local hotel one Sunday lunchtime. I had my breakfast as normal and we walked down to the hotel at 1pm which was an hour after my normal lunch hour. The reception was held in the Restaurant, a lovely room with a full wall of windows overlooking Penzance Harbour and to the side St Michael’s Mount. It was to celebrate the 5th “Birthday of the date the owners had taken over the hotel. Steven and Yvonne had become firm friends of ours in that time. We also knew many of the guests well. Waiters and Waitresses moved amongst the crowd dispensing Champagne and trays of little Hors-d’œvres all of which were mouth wateringly delicious but somewhat lacking in bulk. Hubby and I were circulating separately chatting with friends and gradually working our way from group to group. I had reached a group of people who I would describe as acquaintances, rather than friends, when I began to feel rather strange, swaying on my feet and feeling dizzy. One of the women noticed and found me a seat. Hubby was found and the next thing I knew I was being dragged up the road by a husband who was furious that he’d had to leave the fun early because I had managed to get “disgracefully drunk”. I felt completely confused and unable to explain that in fact I’d had only one full glass of Champagne and had barely sipped at a second. I was falling over my own feet and hubby was dragging me by the arm up the steep hill to our house. It wasn’t until I fell over the doorstep and into the hall that I managed to find the clarity to ask for my test kit. My BG had plummeted to 1.5 but neither I, nor hubby, had realised that I was hypo prior to that. I certainly hadn’t felt my “normal” warning, the symptoms had been quite different. This scared me. A similar incident happened in a Restaurant in town some weeks later when we had to wait over-long for the meal, way past my normal dinner time. Once again I was dragged home on foot. After the two incidents I sat hubby down and explained to him that he’d acted in the worst way possible by forcing me to walk home. I asked that in future he insist I test if I started to behave oddly and impressed upon him that if ever I passed out he was not to let me “sleep it off” but must call an ambulance immediately. We were both learning about the more unpleasant side of Diabetes.

To be continued… the first and second Hba1cs and why I decided to get a proper handle on things….

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