Interview: Ian Buckingham, Type 1 Diabetic, Groups Support & Development Volunteer for Diabetes UK

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Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1959, the now 59-year-old Ian Buckingham dedicates a sizeable portion of his life giving back to others with the disease by working as a Groups Support & Development Volunteer for Diabetes UK.

Everyday Diabetes recently caught up with the Leicestershire-based Buckingham to talk about his diabetic journey.


In terms of your diabetes, what kind of symptoms do you feel and how often?

About one year ago I had been out with a friend and her daughter, when we returned, I was unable to get out of the car without assistance. When we got inside they tested my blood sugar and it read 36, so they called a paramedic, when he tested me it had dropped to 18, so he gave me a Glucagon injection after he had completed his paperwork, he tested again and it was 144, so he said I did not need to go to hospital.

Over 50 years ago, I was told the Diabetes motto was: Balance is Life + Balance the medication dose against the energy you use and food you consume. That is what I have remembered more than anything else.

When i met my endocrinologist a few weeks later, I told him what had happened and he informed me because of my age and length of time , I had been suffering with Diabetes, I had lost my Hypo Awareness symptoms,so we agreed to keep my  blood sugar readings higher than what is recommended, since that night I have had no more low blood sugar.

How has living with diabetes affected your life? What are some of the difficult adjustments?

The only way it has affected me is finding employers who will let me have my lunch when I should. So, i did not work for them. But where I have worked they have accepted this.

I noticed early on in my life that when it is warm my insulin works quicker, meaning I have two options: One, have same dose and eat more or two, have a smaller dose and eat the same amount of food.

What are your thoughts on how diabetes is addressed by the government in the UK?

I am pleased with how the British Government, provide all medication for all people who take insulin. But those who do not do not get a glucose meter provided and have to buy their own  as well as strips and lancets,this is mainly people who are controlled by diet and exercise only. The adults who qualify,because children get all medications free, whether they have any illness or not, get an Exemption Certificate.

There is a Diabetes Committee which sits in the Houses Of Parliament,which is made up with politicians who have different types of Diabetes,and people from Health Authorities.Which discusses nothing but Diabetes.These meetings can be seen on  the Parliamentary Television Channel.

People think one type of Diabetes is more serious than the others, it is up to the person with Diabetes, if they make it more serious or not, by not bothering with good Diabetes care.

Earlier this year we had a petition on a web site, to get everybody who has any type of Diabetes, to be given a Glucose meter when diagnosed, the closing date has not yet been reached.

In my opinion every body who has Diabetes should be given a meter, so they can have better control, and stop making it necessary to go to emergency room, when they are either too low or high, but they have no idea, until somebody with a machine tests them.

The emergency rooms hospital can not cope,the nearest biggest hospital to me about 1 year a go had 14 ambulances waiting outside with patients on them,waiting to be seen.

What about the public perception of the disease?

I am sorry to say people with Diabetes do not always take the threat of complications seriously, like amputations, which there are 140 each week in The United Kingdom, blindness and kidney problems are not taken seriously, until something happens, which works as a wake up call, and they change their attitude towards Diabetes care

People think one type of Diabetes is more serious than the others, it is up to the person with Diabetes, if they make it more serious or not, by not bothering with good Diabetes care.

What advice would you give to someone recently diagnosed with diabetes?

The advice I would give a person who has been diagnosed with any type of Diabetes is to book an appointment with a dietitian, ask  for their name to be entered to go on any education course for their type of Diabetes. Which my health plan pays for every Diabetic to go on.

The information will be coming from all direction, so you will not remember all you are told.But if you can keep notes, it will be there for if you need it in the future. When you go for any appointments about Diabetes if possible take somebody with you to take notes, because it is impossible for you to remember everything.

Tell as many people as possible you have Diabetes, because your mood will change from a child to a violent one, depending on your blood sugar readings.

Do not let Diabetes rule you, you rule Diabetes.

Over 50 years ago, I was told the Diabetes motto was: Balance is Life + Balance the medication dose against the energy you use and food you consume. That is what I have remembered more than anything else.

For anybody to understand Diabetes, they have to have it themselves or live with somebody who has it. From the day you are diagnosed you never stop learning about Diabetes.

You do a lot of work with the public with Diabetes UK. Can you talk about that?

When my mother died suddenly in 2013, I had people make donations for Diabetes UK instead of giving flowers for her funeral. With the money that was donated and other savings I had, I contacted Diabetes UK about having a Healthy Lifestyle Roadshow in my town, to remember my mother, and get people over 18 years old tested to find out their chances of being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, within the next 10 years.

It was held on 4th April 2014,  before it was held I had a partner, who helped me promote it with posters and newspaper and telephone interviews. The poster she created for me, showing the last photograph of me and my parents at a wedding 6 weeks before my father died, with official Diabetes UK ones, were displayed locally, and within 15 miles radius of where the event was taking place.

On the day of the event me and my partner walked down the street where the roadshow was taking place,and when i saw my mother’s name on different parts of the vehicle, it brought tears to my eyes.

During the day Tricia Smikle, Senior Development Manager Diabetes UK had traveled 100 miles to attend the event. As my partner and I were walking down the street with her, I was informed I was the first member of the public to sponsor a roadshow, and was invited to attend other roadshows taking place in The United Kingdom during 2014.

A few weeks after the roadshow, I received a signed certificate from Baroness Barbara Young, Chief Executive Diabetes UK, thanking me.

My partner and i went to other roadshows taking place in the United Kingdom during 2014 to  be observers, but they got us involved, which was good. Later in the year we were asked if we would like to become Diabetes UK volunteers; I accepted but my partners health had changed during the period, and she had been diagnosed with stage 2 COPD, and could no longer do the work.

Up to June this year, I only did “Know Your Risk Roadshows”, which replaced the Healthy Lifestyle roadshow, which has just been renamed.

Since June this year when I was made a Diabetes UK  Groups Support & Development Volunteer. The work I have been involved in since adding to my roadshows was a Living With Diabetes Day (where newly diagnosed Type 2 Diabetics, sit and listen to information,so they have a better  understanding of it, part of the day is also split into different workshops, so that all people attending, are able to do both workshops, I join in as time keeper and helper. This day is free and include refreshments during the day, including a buffet lunch with can either be hot or cold, or both.

I also go to events to set up displays with Diabetes UK materials and information as well as answering  questions which are sometimes asked.Helping with street collections.

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