Hello, my name is Andy Lavender and I am what the NHS refers to as an Expert Patient or Expert by Experience, a term I use lightly, I am an expert in me if the truth be known and as I am a diabetic then by default I am an expert in my diabetes. So, what does that mean, well in my world it means I control my condition as I see fit, I do and have done things the NHS frown upon, but to me it’s what is best for me.
Name – Andy Lavender
Condition for which I am an expert – T1 Diabetes
Age of Diagnosis – 2 years
Length of time with Condition – 50 years
I have not always been this way, for many years I really didn’t care, I didn’t listen and I broke all the rules, to be honest I even wrote some then broke them. Then one day something changed, lots of people say what changed, what made you wake up, well for a long time I used to say it’s because I wanted to be better or live longer etc, in reality it was none of those. After 40 years of battling this condition and to be frank just giving up I got to the point of saying enough is enough I gave up. In a last ditch effort to get my life back I walked into a diabetes unit and asked for help. It was during this “meeting” that something was said to me that has remained with me from then on and forms the basis of my attitude to me and my condition. I was offered a Carb Counting Course and at the time the nurse said to me “I know you know all this but it is a box we have to tick”. The thought that went through my head I really can’t type here but suffice it to say it went along the lines of “ If I knew it all I wouldn’t be sat here”.
Eventually I did the course and it was like someone had removed the mystery of insulin and carbs, now don’t get me wrong this is not easy and at times is a right pain in the rear, BUT, I found that if I controlled it I felt better (don’t tell anyone will you) I guess it became a way of life and seven years on I just do it now without thinking. You see education was all that was needed, but education at the right time, I am sure at aged 20 if someone had said “Hey Andy we can offer you a Carb Counting Course” I would have said no so if you are a T1 and reading this I kinda get the impression you are at the right time so go ask for a carb course.
From there it sort of grew I started to take control of my health in a way that many would say was extreme, none more so than several years ago I was admitted to hospital with Osteomyelitis in my left little toe, in plain speak they wanted to amputate half my foot to remove the infection. Now to me the process followed these simple steps.
- What was best for the NHS – easier to remove the infection and heal a clean wound that treat an infection while trying to heal an ulcer.
- What was best for the surgeon – if he removed it job done no risk of the infection spreading up the leg
- And finally what was best for the patients, as with the surgeon remove half a foot is better than half a leg.
So, what’s the point you may say what are you trying to say, well at no point did anyone offer me any option, and yes there was an option take bucket loads of antibiotics and I really do mean bucket loads. I challenged the opinion to cut it off and without being given the choice I took it and made it, give me enough antibiotics to see if I can keep the foot. Yes, it was a gamble and not for everyone but given the choice I was willing to take it and take it I did. So, what was the outcome, well I can count to 20 using my fingers and toes shall we just say that. I have learnt how to dress wounds and take an active role in managing my foot health, even when my diabetes goes astray I do what I think is best so if my bloods are high I take more insulin and increase doses as required. I guess it’s about taking responsibility for my condition. I am Andy and I’m a diabetic I am not Andy a person with diabetes, I am a diabetic and it is my condition and mine to look after and in so doing I feel better and live better.