Tuesday 20 June 2017

Tulips from Amsterdam

Well, not quite Tulips from Amsterdam - try listening to that and not getting it stuck in your head - but here are, I hope, some nuggets of #diawisdom from Amsterdam. 

I've decided to do a quick post to summarise and publicise what went on at #DXAmsterdam. I started writing an account of the weekend, but it’s long and reflective and will take time to finish with some busy days ahead. So here's a brief summary: going for the second time to a weekend in a European city to spend time and learn more about diabetes with bloggers from all over Europe has reminded me very strongly of the importance of sharing and supporting others. I want to get something posted as quickly as possible, along with some of my favourite images of the weekend.

So here are my take-home messages about #DXAmsterdam. First the general ones:-

Driving to Leeds-Bradford Airport from Lancashire is the nicest “airport run” imaginable.

Schiphol Airport is great: you can still go up on the roof and watch the planes come and go – a forgotten pleasure from my childhood. Lacking the tense feel of many airports.

One of the more relaxed waiting areas of world airports

Amsterdam is everything we expect it to be: cool, relaxed and infused with a “live and let live” vibe. I think we know why. Yet another city where I want to live, but never will.

No, we didn't go shopping there!

Amsterdam's hump-backed canal bridges make for perfect selfies:

The Dutch know how to make full English breakfasts every bit as well as we do, and speak English rather better than we do.

Lydia and I show Matthijs (Holland) and Sascha (Germany) the joys of a full English

Now the serious stuff, the messages from our conference:-

Nothing stops you from achieving your dreams – you just need to find another way if something goes wrong. We started with a talk by the truly awesome Claire Lomas MBE, who was left paralysed from the waist downwards after a horse-riding accident. Her response? Walk the London Marathon with the help of some bionic legs, take up motorbike racing, give birth to two children, write and self-publish her story and a whole lot more. All with a cheerful smile and an indomitable spirit. We were left humbled - in the nicest possible way.

Claire Lomas: Awesomeness personified

Positive thinking can be taught: a session led by life coaches Peter Koijen and Ligia Ramos from in2motivation had us all talking with each other and exchanging thoughts of our hopes and wishes.

The day's key messages caught by our graphic artist

Diabetes is no barrier to anything: We all know that, but we met Josu Feijoo, a Spanish man with Type One diabetes who has apparently climbed Everest, walked to the North and South Poles and is now training in the hope of being the world’s first Type One Diabetic astronaut.

Josu Feijoo with Esra Avci from Turkey

Quantified Self: A baffling concept which was the subject of a second, separate, conference that we attended as guests on the second day. But I quickly realised that it really means something to us: People with diabetes “live by numbers” all day, every day, and as such, we are experts in something we’d never heard of. I think the delegates and experts of this other conference quickly realised that we could teach them a thing or two about “self-knowledge through numbers”.

Baffled boffins learning all about "Living by Numbers"

FreeStyle Libre: The most important one for the diabetic community. Of course we must remember that the weekend was paid for and organised by Abbott Healthcare, who of course have an interest in promoting their product. However, their people, both technical and commercial, reveal what seems to me to be a sincere and well-founded belief in the Free Style Libre, and are genuinely keen to meet and engage with people like me, who started saying how great it was well before Abbott even knew who I was. AND THERE IS GOOD REASON TO BE OPTIMISTIC THAT IT WILL BE AVAILABLE ON PRESCRIPTION IN THE UK

The British and Irish delegates with Neil and Ollie from Abbott

Our hosts took the time in a special session to explain to the UK delegates how long, tortuous and thorough the process is to get a medical product listed for NHS funding. They are living and breathing this goal, and assured us that progress is being made, albeit slowly, towards what they hope will be the outcome we all want.

And last, but not least:

The bond among people with diabetes is special, whoever they are, and wherever they come from. The #DX format has rightly been expanded to include the additional countries where Abbott are selling the Libre, meaning that as well as my established good friends from the UK, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden, I met and made friends with people from Belgium, Spain, Poland, Ireland, Turkey, Greece and Russia who either have diabetes or work with and for them. I even made friends with a somewhat feisty and strong-minded woman from Greece who caused controversy on the first day by being rather too ready to force her strident opinion on how things should be conducted. But the diabetes magic worked, and she's now a #diabuddy: 

My Greek diabuddy, Maria

Truly #DiabetesWithotFrontiers, and a wonderful opportunity to remind myself that we are so much stronger together – a lesson that goes way beyond diabetes in these troubled and turbulent times.

The whole group - #DiabetesWithoutFrontiers

I will publish a more detailed account of the weekend in due course.

Disclaimer: I was invited to apply for DX Amsterdam, and selected by a random draw, by Abbott Healthcare, who paid for all travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses for me and other delegates. Opinions on the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System expressed by me are my own and not those of Abbott Healthcare.

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