When people chat with me about diabetes, usually those who have about 45 minutes to spare, they are drawn to the blood and gore end of the diabetes management spectrum. My friends, or anyone prepared to listen, are fascinated by the concept that we administer thousands of injections and finger-prick blood tests. But what they don't realise is that the Chief Executive of Frank's Pancreas's job includes a heck of a lot of supplies, logistics and paperwork.
Anyone who has young kids knows that feeling when you set off for a shopping trip fully loaded with nappies, wipes, spare clothes in the event of "accidents", a buggy, rain covers, warmer coats, waterproofs, colouring book and pens, cuddly toy..... rendering one unable to get through shop doors or past displays, let alone buy anything else. And local shops wonder why we might consider shopping on line?
Add diabetes in the mix, and we have snacks, plus spare snacks and emergency supplies of high carb gel. And there's bottles of water to carry as they often have a strong thirst. Plus the blood testing kit, with spare testing strips and spare batteries, and two types of insulin, and the chunky log book, carbs guide pocket book, plus a stash of prickers and needles.
Of course, now Frank's got an insulin pump, this stuff is superfluous, right? No, wrong. We still need all that kit, to test his blood, and the old kit in the event of the new kit failing. So when we leave home, we have a full daypack rucksack for "justin case". And there's Frank above, travelling light with his insulin pump held in a Detroit Tigers pack.
If I sound grumpy, I should make it very clear that we are extremely grateful that Frank has access to all this treatment for his Type 1 Diabetes, although it's all a journey we hadn't planned taking. But if Britain is a nation of shopkeepers, how come I've ended up as a pharmacist? Now I know plenty of nerds to run music shops, games centres and sci-fi emporia, but I always assumed I would run a bookshop or a bakery if becoming a shopkeeper was made compulsory.
So welcome to Big Swifty's Pharmacy. We have prescriptions every couple of months for insulin, blood testing supplies and spare paraphernalia in case we need to revert to multiple daily injections. Then we have pump related supplies which are made in Mexico and China, from a California firm, distributed through Denmark and the Netherlands, but I speak to a man with a southern English accent, based who knows where? They get delivered by TNT, and we have to be in to receive them, or we have to go to Mexico to pick them up?
Add in the time ordering the "expendables" kit, follow up phone calls, picking up the prescription from the surgery, going to the pharmacy, going back 30 minutes later to pick up part of the order, and inevitably going back a couple of days later for another 45 minutes.
The online diabetes community has revealed to me one of the rules of the universe, alongside those of Newton and Einstein. It is this. There has never yet been a single case on planet earth that a diabetes patient has obtained a completely successful supply of essential materials in one smooth process. There is always something wrong, be it an incomplete prescription, insufficient stock at the chemist, or a hundred other potential pitfalls.
Plus there's the regular appointments and check-ups at Colchester Hospital with our fabulous paediatrics team, and the sessions at Addenbrooke's Cambridge with the regional diabetes specialists. Very many thanks to them all.
You can now see that having a condition is a full time job, and that's without the time actually dealing with the lovely little boy! So welcome to the life of a family in the diabetes community. Come and see our shelves stashed with supplies, and our fridge with insulin. And if you fancy a blood test or injection I have the experience to help you out. Form an orderly queue please. Tick this, and sign here, here, and here.