Do You Know What A Sugar Lump Is?

(Picture posed by model before you ask)

With diabetes being ailment of the moment at the NHS, I found myself spending a couple of afternoons last week at some awareness clinics in Bishop Auckland, the Lourdes of the North.

The course was called DESMOND, an  acronym so convoluted I simply cannot remember what it stands for. I’m pretty sure the first D is diabetes and then it all becomes a blur. Perhaps the M is mindless and the final D despair. Who knows.

Two lovely nurses- Brenda and Pat- took the sessions. At one stage I started searching for hidden cameras around the room as I became convinced they were really Victoria Wood and Julie Walters playing an elaborate NHS funded corporate joke. As a double act they were a bit dodgy on day one. Brenda kept losing her place and Pat had mislaid the plastic chicken breast we had to put on plates with other healthy ingredients. By the second day they had warmed up nicely and were even ad libbing off piste from the heaving DESMOND folder dished out by the Health Ministry. Brenda had a cold but would “struggle on” while Pat tackled the section on ‘erectile dysfunction’ with unhealthy enthusiasm. It was around this stage she took one look at the veins in my arm, admired their size and uttered  “ooh Brenda I wouldn’t mind sticking a needle in one of those”. I’m hoping this wasn’t a nursing euphemism.

This was no six hour lecture. The worthy wordy sessions – usually including rib-ticklers such as  ‘gangrene’ and  ‘possibly fatal’- were counterbalanced by practical sessions which to any passer-by would assume we had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Well you just imagine three food deprived diabetics standing in the middle of a room holding plastic bananas-  while being observed by two nurses with clipboards-  trying to work out which plastic food went on which plate. And I’m surely not the only person who thought  ‘well I know its synthetic but at the moment it’s all there is. Anyone got ketchup?’  

Ten people were invited to the sessions. Only three turned up. This didn’t surprise the nurses. Pat said she could tell by our medical records we’d be the ones most likely to attend. Why? The fat gets who have diabetes  can’t be bothered to switch off Jeremy Kyle, put their nachos down and enjoy being educated for an afternoon. Lazy? Definitely. Scared of the changes they’ll have to make to their lifestyles? Guaranteed.

As the DESMOND sessions have to appeal to all ages- and social classes- it is one step up from childlike in terms of the pace and approach to education and awareness. At one stage Pat looked us in the eye and said “you do know what a sugar lump is don’t you?”  Tempted to say “no, but can I guess”, we accepted the dumbing down with good grace, just thankful to be out of the house for a pleasant afternoon with nice people, albeit in the same building as the sexual health clinic. This made life interesting in the reception room as everyone tried to guess who had the worst case of clap. Any itching was quietly observed as we all pretended to read four year old editions of Hello!

All in all the diabetes afflicted seemed to enjoy the sessions and the feedback forms seemed to have lots of ticks. We felt good about it. And that made Pat and Brenda feel good. Did we learn anything? Diabetes is progressive so we’ve got it forever and it’ll probably get worse. Progress can be slowed, not stopped, by a mix of diet, exercise and generally looking after yourself.  And  have the odd treat, and don’t feel guilty about it. Now that’s my kind of health clinic. I can’t imaging a sexual health nurse ever saying that.

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