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Andy Lavender

Andy Lavender lives near

Chester and works at the

Cheshire West Integrated

Care Partnership. He

is a co-ordinator for the Live Well

Cheshire West website. The site is

an information portal, that provides

information and services for people

in Cheshire West. It certainly keeps

him busy, as he says, "especially

during a pandemic."

He is 53 years old and was

diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the

age of two on 30 December 1968. He

says, "Judging by family anecdotes it's

possible that I'd had it longer. I was

so young I don't remember it, but

family history says I'd been drinking

like a fish and I went from not

wetting the bed to wetting the bed.

A doctor came to the house and did

a urine test and told my parents to

take me to hospital. There, a doctor

walked in and stuck a needle in my

arm, telling my parents 'he will need

this for the rest of his life. It was the

first of many insulin injections. That

was in Chester City Hospital. Back

then people had some funny ideas.

Some thought you had to 'starve'

Type 1 diabetes, a very dangerous

way to think. I was very skinny. My

parents ended up discharging me and

taking me to Alder Hey Childrens'

Hospital in Liverpool where they

met consultant Mr Hudson who told

my mother I was still very ill indeed.

He had some food brought in and

on watching me eat, he said to my

parents, 'the child doesn't need a

knife and fork to eat but a mechanical

digger', as I was scooping food into

my mouth with my hands. After that I

was properly on the mend."

While at Alder Hey, Lavender's

control stabilised and he remained

a patient at that clinic until he was

in his early teens. However, after

having had a serious hypo he was

rushed back to Chester City Hospital.

Following this, Mr Hudson advised I

should transfer my care back there

under a consultant whom he had

trained, a Mr Fielding.

Lavender did find the transition

from paediatric clinic to adult clinic

quite difficult because it was totally

different. He says, "I felt I went

from having a lot of care to being

left to get on with it myself. But I

hadn't had the right education - my

parents had been educated because

I was so young. My mother used

to do my insulin shots and looked

after my food. I reckon that from

my mid-teens to mid-30s I was just

guessing and bumbling through. I

went from two injections a day onto

an insulin pen and the basal/bolus

regime but was told nothing about

'lines,' as they used to be known, or

carbohydrate exchanges or counting

carbohydrates. Then, when I was 35,

I went to get a can of soup from a

cupboard; I bent down came back up

again and literally couldn't see. After

a while my vision did come back but

I thought, 'okay it's time to go to

hospital', where it was confirmed that

I had a fairly large retinal bleed."

Regime change

Lavender realised he'd just

had enough of his diabetes, he

remembers, "I realised I needed to

get help." As a result, he walked in to

the diabetes unit and told a nurse, 'I

feel like I'm living out of a Lucazade

bottle.' The nurse listened to me and

said that because I'd had diabetes

for so long people assumed I had the

knowledge and training that ought to

come with that extensive time living

with it. I wanted I go back to the old

regime with just two injections a

day, as I'd been more stable on that,

but he said, 'no, what do you think

about using an insulin pump?' I said,

'don't waste the money on me, give

it to a child', however he said, 'it's

more about each individual case and

I think you'll do well on a pump.' You

had to go on a carb-counting course

before going on a pump, and that

was life-changing. I met a lovely lady

called Natalie McEwan she taught

me about adjusting insulin doses

according to what I was eating or

doing. I was one of 12 people in the

room on the course and she'd come

in with tea coffee and biscuits and a

bowl of sugar, then she told us that

as someone with Type I diabetes, you

can eat just like anyone else, but you

need to know the amount of carbs

in everything that you eat, and you

must dose for it. I'd always been told

I couldn't have biscuits, couldn't have

sugar - it was quite limiting. For me,

this was a window onto a new world!"

And more good things were about

to happen. One of the other people

on the course was a lady called Sue

Kelly. "She was also on her own,"

recalls Lavender, "whereas other

people came with partners or other

helpers. We both happened to use

the same blood glucose metre, but

her GP wouldn't supply the number

of strips she needed, so I used to

At his wedding Andy Lavender

rode his beloved Ducati while

wearing a kilt.


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