Saturday, 20 August 2016

Tap Turns on the Water

Another post, another song title. Tap turns on the Water, a hit from 1971 by CCS recalls for me the early autumn of that year, and carefree days in my early teens. It's one of those songs where the lyrics are clear and fully comprehensible, where people of my age are probably word perfect in their recall of them, yet we haven't a clue what it actually means. I've often wondered if it's actually an in-joke by the band, some kind of obscure euphemism for something obscene. But I doubt it. Either way, it's a wonderful, faintly sleazy piece of jazz-rock-blues. Click the link above, have a listen, enjoy, then read on. It's the best I could think of for a song about thirst. That's the topic of this diabetes-themed post, one with which I think many others will identify.

Read any guide to symptoms of undiagnosed Type One Diabetes, and you'll quickly see a reference to severe thirst. Along with the excessive peeing, it's an obvious consequence of a failing pancreas, and all of us who developed the condition at an age they can still remember will recall the raging, uncontrollable and unquenchable thirst. I've seen it described on other blogs and nodded in recognition. Thirst is one of the four T's highlighted by Diabetes UK in their campaign to raise awareness of the danger of undiagnosed Type One in children:-


Nobody who hasn't experienced it can really know what the unquenchable thirst of untreated diabetes feels like. I well remember it: a thirst that becomes all-consuming and makes you feel you would do anything just to get a drink.


Like others, I'd say that thirst was the symptom I noticed first, even before it had become too bad. And because we all get thirsty at times, it's a symptom that you can easily ignore or explain away. I remember one day a few weeks before I was diagnosed being late for a train home after a meeting in Manchester. I was still quite young and fit, and I had run, probably about half a mile and just caught the train. It was a reasonably warm autumn day, I'd been in a stuffy hotel conference room all day, talking a lot and had eaten a quite big sandwich lunch, probably quite salty. So on the hour long journey home, I thought that my thirst was due to a combination of those factors. It was just before the carrying of bottled water had become as universal as it now is, so I suffered in silence all the way home but couldn't wait to get home and downed several large glasses of water once I got in, probably before even taking my coat off and greeting my family. I recall then and on other occasions around that time being startled at how much I needed to drink before there was any sense of relief. It was as if the water was just bypassing my mouth, such was the dryness in there.

Of course, once diabetes is diagnosed and insulin treatment is under way, things do quickly get better. The all-consuming thirst subsides as overall blood glucose level falls. However, I sometimes think that I understate this aspect of diabetes as an ongoing problem. I have been "well controlled" and healthy throughout my almost nineteen years with diabetes, but as I observed in another recent post, that doesn't mean I feel 100% well all the time. People with Type One diabetes don't always feel as well as they look. The term "hidden disability", though not always welcome, is an apt term for diabetes. In particular I am almost always a bit thirsty and often very thirsty.

I am invariably awake early, like many of we people with diabetes, and I always wake up thirsty. I keep a glass of water by my bedside and sip from it if awake in the night, but by dawn I always feel parched, such that my every day starts with a mini-dilemma: shall I wake up properly, go downstairs and make a cuppa to nail the thirst or shall I try to go back to sleep in the hope of making it to somewhere near eight hours? The thirst always wins, but if I could have one simple luxury in my life, it would be a cup of tea brought to my bedside as soon as I wake up. But everyone else in my house is always still asleep, so hey-ho...

In day-to-day terms, the fear of a dangerous hypo and the need to lead a life often means that we run our blood sugar on the high side, especially when very busy, so thirst is a constant companion to many of us. As I often say, things could be worse, it's not agonising, it's not enough to stop you leading a normal life. But sometimes, like the condition itself, I just wish it would go away. Even just for a day. But it won't, so I'm just grateful for these, two of my indispensables of life with diabetes: water and tea:



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