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Shared experience

The dog weighed more than me

Yasmin Hopkins talks to us about hybrid closed loop and how it changed her life.

A lady holding up a dog in front of the River Thames

My name is Yasmin Hopkins. I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 11 years old. I’d been quite poorly for quite a while, but we put it down to the amount of exercise that I did and explained the tiredness and drinking that way. Then one day my parents weighed our dog, a large spaniel. The dog weighed more than me. I was 11 years old and weighed four stone. We went to my family GP, who checked my blood glucose levels and then sent me straight to the hospital.

Exhaustion

The thing with type 1 is the exhaustion. The way I describe it to people who don’t have diabetes is to imagine you’re at work and you’re doing everything you possibly can to make something go right, but it just doesn’t. You can plan, do everything you can and get the right people involved, but the result doesn’t work out. With type 1 that can happen on an hourly basis, a daily basis, a weekly basis. It’s a constant effort to think ‘what are my sugars, what can I do to make sure they are in range so that I don’t feel tired and sick. So that I can live normally like my other peers’.

Hybrid closed loop

I found out about the hybrid closed loop pilot through my local hospital’s diabetes Facebook group. I was the perfect candidate. I had been carb counting for years and I was already on an insulin pump but still struggled with my HbA1c and keeping my bloods in range. I also struggled with illness and stress.

From day one it was amazing. Before the closed loop system, I would experience a lot of highs, which I’d then overcorrect, go low and then eat a lot of sugar. All of that was eradicated. It has completely changed my life. It. Before, if I had a meeting at work, I’d have to decide whether I wanted to be running a little high. I don’t have to think like that anymore.

I think it’s important to talk about getting used to the technology too. About three months in, the honeymoon period was over and I started to struggle with letting the closed loop system do all of the corrections for me. For 15 years I’d been making all of the decisions myself. To let go of that control all of a sudden was quite difficult. But all it took was a quick call to my hospital nurses, who understood and told me not to worry and let the pump do its thing. That’s all I needed to validate my choice to carry on using the pump.

I’m better than ever

Physiologically I’m better than ever, I have a lot of other health conditions, not related to my diabetes, that no longer affect my diabetes like they used to. I’m mentally stronger. My HbA1c has dropped from 100 to 53. My time in range is now above 80%, when it was around 30% before.

I want to see others benefit from the hybrid closed loop system as it’s as close as you’re going to get to a working pancreas at the moment. Type 1 diabetes is one of the very few long-term conditions where every single patient responds to treatments in very different ways. Even our carb ratios are completely different. This is why this technology is so important. It allows us to control everyone’s type 1 as an individual.

Children who go onto hybrid closed loop are never going to have that constant fear of having high blood sugars and feel like it’s all their fault. It completely takes all of that away, which I think is so important.

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