The Big Conversation

Wow, wow, wow! I have been a super busy bee this week and it’s still ongoing!

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending ‘Future of Diabetes – The Big Conversation’ (#futureofdiabetes). There are seven of these events happening around the UK over the next few weeks and  It’s safe to say that I had an amazing day! It was truly incredible to be in a room where nearly everyone has Diabetes. It’s a very rare occasion!

Upon arrival, I checked in and the Diabetes UK team immediately recognised me as the person who was going to be writing their official Diabetes UK blog for the first event! The blog hasn’t gone live yet as I only finished writing it last night and managed to get it emailed over this evening. As soon as it goes live I will make sure to pop the link in my next blog and of course on Twitter!

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The day began and it was amazing to see the room full of such an array of different characters. It became quickly apparent that there were Type 1, Type 2 and parents of Diabetic children participating. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing people getting immediately stuck in and engaging others in conversation. People began bonding over their shared medical condition and it was fabulous to see how open everyone was. The Diabetes UK team had put out tea, coffee, fruit and of course, those all important hypo treatments (just in case!) to make sure the day started smoothly.

After everyone had arrived and acquainted themselves with the others at their table, the event began with an introductory chat from the Diabetes UK team. The team wanted to make clear that these events are happening because they are working “for a world where Diabetes can do no harm.” Not only are they working towards creating this, but they are wanting us to join them and work together to make it happen.

I feel that Diabetes is a rather misunderstood condition. I find this ironic because Diabetes effects more people than Dementia and Cancer and 700 people are diagnosed with Diabetes every day, so you’d think that the public would have a better knowledge of it. However, this is not the case. Us working together with Diabetes UK could really change that.

As I said above, there are seven Big Conversation events happening around the UK over the next few weeks and there will also be an online survey, local discussions by local groups, focus groups, online discussions and phone interviews taking place. This gives everyone a huge opportunity to get involved.

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After the introductory chat, we were instructed to work in our table groups to address and discuss a list of specific questions. Before doing so, we obviously needed to get to know each other a little bit better. I was very fortunate to be sat with five amazing individuals, all with their own story to tell and share. We really couldn’t have been a more interesting selection of people!

We had Bridget, who is a Diabetes UK representative. Bridget is a Type 1 diabetic herself and has been for 40 years! Such a long time! Next up, Linda. Linda had a lot of complications through her Type 1 Diabetes and is no longer technically diabetic… WHAT?! Yes! I bet you’re thinking, how can that be? Essentially Linda ended up having a kidney transplant in 2007 which was brought on by her diabetic complications, which then further led to her having a pancreas transplant in 2012. With her new pancreas she is no longer diabetic. She no longer has to inject and doesn’t even need to think about carb counting. (Although she says she still can’t help it!). There was Ned, whose 12 year old son was diagnosed back in January this year. So this is a very new world for Ned and his family. I thought it was brilliant to see him there getting involved. Prakash is a very impressive individual. He not only lives with Type 2 Diabetes, but he also has a pacemaker and has had Parkinsons for the last five years. If that’s not a lot on his plate then I don’t know what is! Last but not least was the lovely Irena. She was the oldest member of our group. She found out she was a Type 2 diabetic 17 years ago when she crashed a car. Like I said, we couldn’t have been a more interesting selection!

The questions we had to tackle in our groups were as follows:

  1. How did Diabetes affect something you did in the last week?
  2. If you could change one thing about the healthcare you receive for your Diabetes, what would it be?
  3. How does Diabetes affect your day to day activities, such as work, school or support and caring for others?
  4. What’s the most frustrating thing for you about Diabetes?

The question about frustration with Diabetes was extremely interesting. We actually made a mind map to express our feelings. We numbered the ones which as a group we felt were most important. It was also interesting to see some differences in individual frustrations. There were a few things that frustrated some, but not others. I guess it does depend on your experiences and the type of person you are.

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It was highly interesting to hear what everyone had to say regarding all four questions. It became very clear that although everyone has had a very different experience throughout their diabetic lifetime, there was still a slew of similarities between us all.

After addressing the questions we had a break for lunch (which was provided by Diabetes UK. Thank you!). During the lunch break the event photographer took some photos for a promotional campaign. I obviously leapt at the chance to get involved. It required you writing a word or inspirational message on a blackboard and holding it up in your photo. Eventually all of these photos will be collated together to create one huge photo.

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Obviously, I managed to get an appropriate Diversity tagline in there. Dream, Believe, Achieve, it really works for everything!

There was also some filming going on for more promotional material which is going to be used everywhere! The team asked me to be involved in this too and naturally I didn’t decline! I will make sure to share any promotional bits featuring me when I’ve got the links!

After lunch, we all reconvened and began the afternoon session. This session was very different to the morning and focused solely on the future of Diabetes. There were three zones set up around the room. Each zone took on a different question.

  • ZONE 1 – What changes do you think are needed to prevent Type 2 Diabetes?
  • ZONE 2 – How do you hope it will be different to have Diabetes in 10 years time? How do you fear it will be different?
  • ZONE 3 – What role do you think Diabetes UK could or should play in creating a world where Diabetes does no harm?

You were able to wander freely from zone to zone, dropping in and out of conversations as you felt like it. It was clear that within each zone there were some very opinionated people who had an awful lot to say, whilst others just sat and listened. With some of the discussions becoming quite animated, it wasn’t always easy to stay on the topic of conversation and people needed to be reminded what they were in that zone to discuss.

Upon observation, I also noticed that some people were wearing the Flash Glucose Monitoring patches on their arms. It must be proving more and more popular. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to ask any of them about how they find using it. Hopefully there will be more opportunities for some research in this department!

Overall, the whole day was an amazing experience. I really felt like I was in an environment of highly passionate and determined individuals who are all fighting to make things better for Diabetes. What was beautiful to see was that despite living with this condition and all of it’s complications and potential complications, there was such a strong empowering feeling of positivity. Diabetic or not, I would encourage anyone and everyone to attend The Big Conversation and really get themselves involved with Diabetes UK and the amazing work they are doing every day. Together we really can make a difference.

 

 

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