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Beat The Beast Challenge

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These last two days have seen a determined effort to get the challenge website to a point at which it can be launched and saw more wonderful people met, an inspirational story, two seizures and tunes played.

On Monday the 20th of June I travelled by bus and train up to Forres to meet the wonderfully dedicated and generous Martin Heaps of MHCreations. He has been working night and day to bring the challenge website up to date with my posts while finalising the structure and presentation of the website in readiness for an imminent launch all absolutely for free. It was time to meet face to face and pick each other’s brains to try and get us to the point of launch. I was really excited by the prospect of this meeting. I so desperately needed the website to come on line to allow me room to grow by widening my appeal and making the key information on the challenge and sponsorship far more widely available through the website.

As I travelled up on the train from Stirling I shared a table with a lady who came to join me. I had 171 emails to try and get through despite stealing every minute I could over the last two weeks to catch up with my email inbox. So I had made a conscious decision to keep my head down and get some work done over the 3.5 hours to Inverness. I was not on a physical challenge activity day and I had to get some work done. But God, I think, had other plans. The lady opposite me tried to engage me in conversation and I just could not find a way to politely say I had to work. In fact I then hit a WiFi signal dead spot as we entered the Highlands so could do no more emails and found that I was desperately wanting to engage this lady in conversation too. She had such a warm and inviting face and aura that I could not ignore it. So I handed over a flyer and gave her the usual introduction to the challenge and it was then, once Ellen had had a chance to digest this information, that I discovered the reason for our meeting. I learned of the story of Ellen’s great Niece, an incredible 8 year old girl called Sofia and who is battling significant kidney problems inherent since birth. She has had to endure dialysis every single day and has had to fight back from infection after infection while also find a way back from the crushing disappointment of a donor lost or a donor found not to be compatible as she waits, day after day, for the new life, a quality of life, afforded by a transplant operation. Yet all the time she waits, she smiles. She smiles the most delightful and heart-warming smile of inspiration and encouragement. She has a website and a facebook page that are well worth a visit. Do please go and have a look and see if there might not be something, no matter how large or small, that you could do to help Sofia. At the very least it puts life into perspective for us and encourages us, even me, to count our blessings.

Sofia the Great

Once I had arrived in Forres, after a swift 15 minute walk to the house and armed with a cup of tea we set about the website. It was so nearly there as Martin had worked so hard on it but there were still lots of little things that both he and I, as sticklers for detail, were noticing on it, and needed to alter or repair.  I ended up driving Martin far too hard.  Like a man possessed I drove him to distraction in fact. The result, as he was cooking tea and expecting to eat soon as a type 1 diabetic he injected himself with insulin which allows the body to turn carbohydrates in food into energy.  But then I saw another task that needed doing and as I thought Martin was on one of those breaks during cooking asked him a question and as we re-worded a paragraph on the website I noticed that Martin's speech was starting to slur. He was starting to sound just like me during one of my awful creeping seizures like last Thursday's in Edinburgh. He stood and as he did I asked him if he was okay.  He was now sounding drunk but managed to explain that he should be eating. That he injected himself too soon. That he was going low. I stood. Went into the kitchen to try and rescue what had been cooking. To get some of this amazing vegetable English mustard pesto into Martin but Martin disappeared into the garden.  I felt lost for what to do as I realised that despite all my military first aid training I knew so very little about managing a diabetic casualty other than getting him to hospital as quickly as possible to prevent him slipping into a diabetic coma. I followed Martin into his garden. His back was to me. I placed my hand on his shoulder in reassurance and asked what I could do for him. Come and eat I implored. And much akin to the honey monster from the sugar puffs advert of old he turned his heavily sweating face to me with a huge toothy grin and in a gesture similar to raising a glass in a toast lifted a half eaten pot of honey. 'HONEY!!!  All I need is honey!!'  From my deep memory this sort of made sense but it depended on the type of diabetes. 'What type of diabetes do you have' I asked hoping that I could then do a quick search for what to do on the website. ‘Type 1 & 2’ came the drunken reply. Which one I asked in a panic. 'Pick one. Anyone' came the reply. Did that mean pick type 1 diabetes or did it literally mean pick anyone. My heart sank and I resolved to stay with Martin and encourage him to eat.  As we leaned on the low wall in the garden it was like trying to have a conversation with a very drunk person. But through the heavy perspiration, slurred speech and start stop sentences as he consumed spoonful after spoonful of honey, he slowly, very very slowly, but perceptibly started to improve. We went back into the kitchen. Reheated tea and sat to eat. He was back and I breathed again, but resolved to become better informed about how to recognise the symptoms and then what to do. After all diabetes is becoming increasingly common.

This morning, after a great night’s sleep and over breakfast, we discussed what happened last night and how similar it looked and sounded to some of my desperately confusing and disorientating seizures especially during the cloudy-headed period of chemotherapy. Martin reassured me that he didn't get truly low. Just on the edge of the precipice but he knew what the problem was and how to fix it for himself.  There were many similarities between our experiences of diabetic lows and epileptic seizures and as Martin's cat came to join us the starting of a joke formed in our minds. Rather than an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman, we could introduce the joke thus: There was an epileptic, a diabetic and a cat, a black and white cat ... ....We couldn't finish it but I am sure that one of you could and would love to see your suggestions! Meanwhile Martin, unknowingly, had the last laugh. He did not know that I was lactose intolerant and that lactose made me incredibly gaseous. He knew that I was due to spend the best part of the rest of the day in a bus and a small train carriage followed by a bus but wanted to ensure, as the excellent host that he is, that I left well fed for the journey. He made me the most delicious cheese on Rye toast. The cheese? A specialist cheese called Green Thunder!!!!

After breakfast we went for a walk around the old town of Forres to then catch a bus to Inverness. I was hugely thankful for the walk, not only for the exercise value but for the opportunity it gave for me to release some of the building gasses! The town was delightful but then we passed the wonderfully imposing Forres Parish Church. The doors were open and I could not resist it so dragged poor Martin inside. Two of the church wardens were in and delighted on welcoming us in. The church was an impressive size. I had to ask if I could play the organ. I had my music with me. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. But I couldn’t play the organ by express instructions of the organist. But I could play the Clavinova. I had no idea what that was but said yes please and when he removed the cover saw that it was a keyboard similar in instrumentation to my one in the flat only much larger. This one was designed for a large space and could really sound like a church organ. I switched her on. Could I play a tune properly, without fault, with an audience, with the volume turned up in such a big space? I decided to warm up with my most basic of tunes and was hugely thankful that I had as while I played, slowly but surely the honeycomb aftertastes and smells of a partial seizure started to bubble up inside me. Martin seemed to notice something because he came up to check on me as I finished this short tune. I wanted to knock this seizure back. Not give in to it. Like Martin’s pot of honey I wanted to feed my soul with beautiful music in God’s house as a means to try and beat the beast. Force the healthy left side of the brain to work while the diseased right side is struggling and cut off the tumour, it can’t switch me off so I can beat the beast. I looked up at the two wardens. They applauded my first effort end that encouraged me to try again. To beat the beast. I looked at Martin. He nodded his approval so I turned the page and went to play again. The tune worked. Not perfectly but I managed to skip through my mistakes and keep the tune moving forward. I was quite pleased with that dexterity of mind so played another and another and even tried to play the tune I had just learned. It wasn’t perfect but went really well until I fell at the final fence. The last bar and I tripped over my fingers completely. But I had played the whole of the rest of my most complicated tune reasonably well and could no longer smell or taste honeycomb. I had beaten the beast.

I stood and introduced the challenge to the two wardens. They were fascinated by what I was trying to do so I implored them to introduce me and the challenge to the church. To see if I was a cause that the church would like to follow and support. I even said that I would love to come and talk to the church during one of their services if they wanted me to. They are going to introduce the challenge to their minister and see what they can do. God willing they will find a way to support me.

After a short prayer it was time to let Martin get home and get back to work. A handshake and I was on the bus to Inverness for the journey home only to find that the rail strikes had ridden a coach and horses through my journey plans. These needed a re-write and necessitated a two hour wait in Inverness. Not one to waste time I spotted a Poundstore outside the station. Heather had earlier broken one of my dinner plates in the flat so I needed a replacement to take me back to four plates. That means that I can feed the two children and I and Margaret downstairs all at the same time. Then I had to do some detailed planning to get me home. I spotted a café with WiFi so went in and ordered a decaf Mocha. The waitress repeated the order as a Mocha. ‘No. A decaf Mocha please. Caffeine in coffee triggers my epilepsy so it is really important that it is decaf.’ The waitress nodded and looked at me quizzically but with a huge smile. I could not ignore that delightful smile. I had to tell Katie about the challenge and secured a very warm promise from her that she would come and look me up. I very much hope that she does come to join the journey. Then as I sat re-planning my options to get back I witnessed a most wonderful example of spontaneous generosity. The older lady from the midlands sat in the table next to me was in deep conversation with a middle aged and rather glamorous lady next to her. I noticed the conversation but not the detail until I heard the glamorous lady come back to let the older lady know that her lunch had been paid for. All covered. Then she went not waiting to be thanked but I know that she walked on with a huge smile on her face because her spontaneous generosity brought tears of joy to this older lady’s eyes as she exclaimed to me how wonderful society was if only one engages with it! If only she knew how deeply I was in agreement with her but then I had to rush. I had a train to catch.

As I travelled I texted Martin and repeat my vote of thanks to Martin below:

‘Thank you so very much for your time, your friendship and hospitality this last 2 days. I cannot thank you enough for all the wonderful work that you are doing in support of the challenge but also for your friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed the last 2 days and slept brilliantly. So nice not to be on a camp bed for a night! So very excited to think that in just a couple of weeks we might actually be at a point at which we can launch. It really will make a huge difference to the challenge. Thank you. Yours aye Archie.’

I am suffering from computer problems at the moment so I have to get in to Stirling to sort that out tomorrow and have some work to get done and returned to Martin for the website so the next challenge day and post will be on Thursday.

Yours aye

Archie

Diabetic emergency

Diabetes is a lifelong medical condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin. Insulin is an enzyme made by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach), which regulates the blood sugar (glucose) level in the body.

Normally our bodies automatically keep the right blood sugar levels, but for someone with diabetes their body can't. Instead, they have to control the blood suger level themselves by monitoring what they eat, and taking insulin injections or pills. There are two types of diabetes: Type1, or insulin-dependent diabetes, and Type 2, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

Sometimes people who have diabetes may have a diabetic emergency, where their blood sugar becomes either too high or too low. Both conditions are potentially serious (in differing ways) and may need treatment in hospital.

Hyperglycaemia

Too little insulin can cause high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia).
High blood sugar causes restless, unfocused almost hyperactive behaviour but is more serious in that it can cause lasting/permanent damage to bodily organs and blood vessels. Extremely high blood sugar can cause Diabetic ketoacidosis and a coma, so it's important to get them to see a doctor in case they need emergency treatment.

Hypoglycaemia

Too much insulin can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia (hypo).
This often happens when someone with diabetes misses a meal or does too much exercise. It can also happen after someone has had an epileptic seizure or has been drinking a large amount of alcohol (due to the chemical properties of alcohol).

If someone knows they are diabetic, they may recognise the start of a hypo attack, but without help they may quickly become weak and unresponsive. If it’s not treated and gets worse, the body gradually shuts down functions to preserve energy, such as muscle control, and brain functionality. The person can gradually become unresponsive and eventually go into a diabetic coma.

What to look for - Diabetic emergency

If you think someone is having a diabetic emergency, you need to check against the symptoms listed below to decide if their blood sugar is too high or too low.

High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia)

  • Warm, dry skin
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Fruity sweet breath
  • Really thirsty
  • Lack of concentration, focus, mental agility.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

    • Weakness, faintness or hunger
    • Confusion and irrational behaviour
    • Sweating with cold, clammy skin
    • Rapid pulse
    • Trembling
    • Deteriorating level of response
    • Drowsiness, leading to unresponsiveness if not treated

    Also check for:

          • Medical warning bracelet or necklace and glucose gel or sweets
          • Medication such as an insulin pen or tablets and a glucose testing kit

    What you need to do ‒ for high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia)

    Call 999 or 112 straight away for medical help and say that you suspect hyperglycaemia.
    While you wait for help to arrive, keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.
    If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who’s become unresponsive.

    What you need to do ‒ for low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

    Help them sit down. If they have their own glucose gel, help them take it. If not, you need to give them something sugary like fruit juice, a fizzy drink, two teaspoons of sugar, or sugary sweets.

    If they improve quickly, encourage them to take both some more sugar as well as longer acting food such as starch based carbohydrates (Bread, Rice, Pasta). Typically a honey Sandwich) If they have their glucose testing kit with them, help them use it to check their glucose level. Stay with them until they feel completely better.

    If they do not improve quickly, look for any other causes and then call 999 or 112 for medical help.
    While waiting, keep checking their responsiveness, breathing and pulse.

    What you need to do ‒ if you’re unsure whether their blood sugar is high or low

    Call 999 or 112 for medical help.
    if they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who’s become unresponsive.

    Courtesy of the St John’s Ambulance Website. For more info see www.diabetes.co.uk.