My Diabetes Inklings

Being A Clinician Patient

Recently, I transitioned to a different diabetes clinic as I needed a team that was in one location and within the public system. The move to a new clinic felt like starting a new school. I was excited and nervous to meet my new team, while getting hopelessly lost in the hospital maze and appointment booking systems.

From the moment I stepped in the clinic the receptionists gave me a weird vibe. I was used to having a nice chat with people at the front desk who keep the clinic running smooth. However, these guys would barely break from their own conversations to say hi while checking me in. It felt weird to be almost invisible.

I recognised a few familiar faces from conferences and diabetes camps, so there was some friendly catch up on life and research. The thing I struggled with were the comments from clinicians I had never met who said “I won’t go through this with you since you should already know it” and “You probably don’t need to see the dietitian, seeing as you’re one”. Then I remembered that my referral included this little detail as part of my background. I did ask my referring doctor not to include this information in but perhaps it slipped through.

Those comments were exactly why I wanted to remain somewhat anonymous. I may know a lot about diabetes management and am good at helpful others troubleshoot things. But I usually spend so much brain space thinking about other diabetes research things for work that I sometimes just need that extra perspective. I overthink everything and am either over cautious or too blasé about my diabetes care. So having that extra guidance is extremely helpful.

Luckily I had the confidence to politely and firmly request that I did want a dietitian appointment and I did want to go through the basic knowledge even if it’s just to ensure that my knowledge is all up to date. I may have even asked a few questions that broke the system and sent clinicians trying to find appropriate print-outs and then printers. Apparently the hospital has a confusing printer system. So somewhere out there, a poor printer probably has a heap of random print outs that will never be claimed.

This experience reminded me of three things. One: that everyone in the clinic plays an important role in making the client feel comfortable. Two: that as a clinician, you need to meet a person at their own level and never make assumptions. I don’t want to be spoken down to like a child. At the same time I don’t want my clinician to skip everything, making me feel stupid if I asked a basic question with statements like “you should know this”. And three: it doesn’t matter who you are, advocating for your own health and needs is a skill you should never underestimate.

My Diabetes Inklings

Healthcare During COVID19

Part of my research interests revolves around mobile health and integrating that into mainstream healthcare system. Mobile health can include things like online peer support, online platforms used to deliver health services and telehealth. For years, there has been advocacy for telehealth subsidises and its integration into metropolitan hospitals. And for years, it’s been “too difficult” or “there isn’t a need for it”. Cue COVID19 and within a few weeks, majority of our health appointments are done via telehealth or videoconferencing.

At the same time, I find myself in a sea of appointments. I had several endo appointments trying to sort out my thyroid, my educator appointment and a few GP appointments to coordinate other referrals. Not to mention frequent visits to the pathology lab.

I have to say that even though I really appreciated the quick phone call appointments with my endo, I missed going in to catch up. With my educator, we had used a videoconferencing platform. It was awesome to see my educator at the other end but I still missed our “hang out” time and long chats. Turns out I can be a really Chatty Cathy with my diabetes team. Then I had the horror realisation that I was one of those patients who doesn’t stop talking…Eep! Sorry!

Given that I usually travel a fair distance to see my endo and educator, the time saved by using telehealth was invaluable. If they were running late, I was able to continue working while waiting for their phone call or being in the virtual waiting room. I didn’t have to wrangle public transport or pay for parking. I did miss making these appointments a bit special without my usual cafe treat experiences, but that will come back soon.

Since I was a new patient at the GP clinic, I had to attend the first appointment in person. I was excited (and slightly anxious) to have a reason to leave the house and go for a walk! Thankfully the clinic was super organised and had strict entry screening and social distancing rules. It was also so nice to speak with others in person. I didn’t realise how much I had missed it.

As much as I love telehealth professionally and personally, I think that there will always be a place for face to face consultations. I’m still really excited that practitioners around Australia are adapting to telehealth options. COVID19 seems to be the push that the healthcare system needed to keep up with the times and technology the world has got to offer. Of course, we still have a way to go to integrate this into our healthcare system as usual practice. To this, I say, bring it on!

My Diabetes Inklings

Social Distancing with Diabetes

How the world has changed so quickly within a few days/weeks/months where we’re suddenly living out the Contagion movie. I didn’t think it would take me so long to adjust to isolation life; I was always keen on the idea of working from home anyway. It wasn’t until I saw a quote on twitter that nicely described my struggle:

Every time someone asks how I’m going, it’s impossible to be anything but positive. There are so many things I am grateful for and others in worse conditions that I really can’t complain about anything. It almost feels a little bit like survivor’s guilt. We’ve got a roof over our heads, food to eat, regular income, toilet paper to wipe our bums and the Internet to connect with friends and family.

At the same time, there’s no denying the tinge of stress and uncertainty that COVID19 has brought to our home. I am worried that when there won’t be insulin or my usual diabetes supplies when I go to the pharmacy (another reason not to panic buy!). I am scared of contracting the virus cos I know diabetes and viruses never play nice together. I am exhausted from the impact of stress sending my blood sugars into its own theme park with wild roller coasters.

You’d think that being in a routine at home would help with diabetes management. Yet I forget that stress likes to create surprises in blood glucose profiles. The only thing I’ve really enjoyed was the shift to using telehealth for my diabetes appointments, which has saved me so much time travelling and sitting in waiting rooms!

Even though everything is physically fine, my mental health has certainly been impacted. There are days where I am super productive and other days where I just can’t. Thankfully we’re still able to go for walks and I’m trying to incorporate this where I have a small break from work to get some sunshine in. I’ve made yoga a daily must-do to get my body moving and my boxing trainer has been running free online sessions everyday.

Isolation has really forced me to focus on myself more than ever. Now is as good of a time to remember that everyone processes stress differently. If you need to take a break from social media, do it. If you haven’t got the time to learn a new hobby or cook a scrumptious banquet everyday, don’t sweat it. I am, though, expecting a whole lot of handmade gifts and feasts in the near future from my crafty and foodie friends!

I’m surviving the days by counting my blessings, and prioritising things that really matter in my life. Treasure the things that make you smile and find things that make you belly laugh. The COVID19 pandemic is madness but it has also gifted us a rare moment of stillness in the world among its chaos.