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I never knew that

It was a beautiful Saturday in January. Although it was cold, the sky was blue and there was no cloud in the sky. If you wanted to go outside (and, of course, you would), you needed to wear multiple layers of clothing including hat, scarf and gloves as well as sunglasses.

After a trying week at work (possibly due to not really getting over the post-Christmas malaise), it was a welcome excuse for my boyfriend and I to get out of the house, get some fresh air and supplement our “New Year step count”. We decided to catch the train to the nearby city and check out some options for food.

First stop (after the train) was a café/bakery for brunch. As I have Reynaud’s Syndrome, I had to hug my cup of tea to warm my fingers before taking a BG reading. But, it was ok so I got on with avocado on toast, poached eggs on wilted spinach, tomato salsa and sesame covered haloumi. Why don’t all cafes sell vegetarian breakfasts like this: nothing fried, just fresh, tasty and filling.

Possibly, a little too filling: I may even suggest I was “stuffed” and needed to walk it off. So we donned our winter attire and headed out again. We know the city reasonably well but, as we visit no more than half a dozen times each year, there is always somewhere new. So we set off to explore. Up the hills, through the parks, checking out the menus of new restaurants as we passed, avoiding shops and shoppers and keeping our feet temperature above freezing by keeping them moving.

After a couple of hours of walking, my hands were too cold to carry on without another cup of hot liquid to hug. So, we headed for a café we had seen the last time we were in the city but had never ventured in. It was cute. The sort of place you could eat towering tiered plates of sandwiches and cake. Also the sort of place that you could drink teapots of cocktails. But we avoided both: settling on one cake each and a cup of tea. I had carrot and orange cake: I kid myself the fruit and veg make it vaguely healthy. As for diabetes, it was the usual regime: warm my hands on the teacup, take a BG reading and guestimate the carbs before dialing up a dose on my insulin pump.

One warmed and replete, we headed back out in to the cold. Unfortunately, as the afternoon was drawing to a close, the blue sky had gone so it felt chillier as we continued our ambling and headed back to the train station.

Thirty thousand steps and thirteen miles after starting out, we were heading back up the hill to home. With less than half a mile to go, I felt the ascent was harder than usual. It could be that I was getting tired or it could be my BG was wrong. I stopped at the side of the road and took out my meter. The uphill walk had warmed me so there was no need for the teacup hug. I removed one glove, shoved the test strip in the meter, armed my finger pricker and … “E-1”. Yes, that is was my meter told me. Before I had the chance to give it some blood, it said “E-1”. I tried another test strip. But, the meter was clear: it was going to tell me no more than “E-1”. I removed my other glove thinking I may have caught some fluff on the test strip and tried again. To no avail: “E-1” for the third time. I said some less than polite things about my meter, crunched on a couple of dextrose tablets in case I was having a hypo and continued on my way.

Once I returned home, I tried the meter again. Unfortunately, it was not wavering: it still said “E-1”. Luckily, I have another meter and a new box of test strips so was, finally, able to get a BG reading … I had been low. The dextrose were appropriate.

After I had settled in, I Googled “E-1”. I learnt that it means “The temperature is too hot or too cold for the meter to work properly.” So much for the beautiful winter’s day: not only do my hands struggle with the cold, so does my meter.

The previous day was my Diaversary: thirteen years since my initial diagnosis. However, this was the first time I had seen this error message. I have spent many cold winters days walking through town and country, occasionally stopping to take a BG reading. So I was surprised … until I started to think about the last year: for twelve years, I treated my diabetes with insulin injections. I know insulin should not get too cold; on a chilly day, I would carry my diabetes kit under my coat. This is much easier for a man than a woman: women’s coats do not, typically, include an inside pocket. One of the advantages of having a pump is the insulin is constantly kept close to my body … under my jacket. I had never thought about the meter. Now I know: it also dislikes the cold. So, unfortunately, I need to remember to keep my meter and a few test strips in my (imaginary) inside pocket rather than my handbag.

This all goes to show you never stop learning about diabetes. It may be a new treatment like a pump; or information about avoiding another complication; or new driving guidance from the DVLA; or just general information because, having diabetes, everyone seems to think you are an expert. But I am open to learn and this is definitely something I will remember … until I get distracted by glorious sunny days in the summer.

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