Dean Stapple: Living with type 1 diabetes in the coronavirus world


Dean is a down-to-earth care worker who spends his nights working with the elderly. He also has type 1 diabetes. We caught up with him to see how he’s been managing with the recent global developments.

Dean has type 1 diabetes with an added complication

Eleven years ago, at the age of 41, Dean was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Often, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed much younger than this, but Dean is a somewhat different case. He has tested positive for type 1 diabetes, although he also has insulin resistance – one of the major mechanisms behind type 2 diabetes.

This means that Dean has to manage his blood glucose levels with insulin injections, even while his body is resistant to it. As a result, the number of units he must inject tend to be higher than they would otherwise.

Dean’s work

Working just a few minutes from his house, Dean works the midnight shift. He has dinner at 6 o’clock and heads out to work. He helps the elderly residents of the care home before they go to sleep, and he is there for them until they wake up.

Although many people would find the long nights alone tough, it really suits Dean. It means he has the days free to do everything that needs doing, both in terms of managing his diabetes, and walking his three dogs!

Struck by the onset of cold and flu-like symptoms, Dean self-isolated for a week in order to protect the elderly and vulnerable people that he works with. Fortunately, it turned out to be a simple cold and not coronavirus, but the precautions were necessary, and he is glad that he took action to protect those to whom it could have done a lot more harm.

The consequences of bad habits

Dean readily admits that he hasn’t lived a perfect life. Before his diagnosis, he had some bad lifestyle habits that have now led to him developing neuropathy in his lower legs. Sadly, this means that his much-loved habit of beach fishing is harder than ever, and he can sometimes struggle to visit his favourite beaches down in Kent and Sussex.

With this first-hand experience of complications, and the impact it is beginning to have on the things he enjoys in life, the importance of looking after himself is clear. With several young relatives who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he stands as an example to them of how important it is to look after their blood sugar levels.

How he manages now

Dean now uses insulin injections alongside type 2 diabetes medication. Some changes to his medication prescriptions in the last year have helped with the pain he experienced in his legs as a result of neuropathy.

With the added complications of his regime which can be difficult to overcome, his blood sugars tend to sit on the slightly higher side, usually between 10 and 20mmol/L. To try and keep on top of them, he tests his blood up to 8 times per day with a blood glucose meter and test strip.

Rather than just focusing on injecting insulin, Dean also tried to keep blood sugars low by being careful about what he eats, and he shies away from carbs. He doesn’t drink fizzy drinks, and he limits meals to twice a day.

Importantly, Dean is positive about what he should be doing to improve his health. He has mended his ways since his diagnosis and feels much better about his lifestyle.

What words of advice does Dean have for others with type 1 and those working in care?

Everyone needs to manage their diabetes as well as they can, Dean said. “The main thing is to try and keep your spirits up. I can understand the worries that people have… It’s a struggle to keep as healthy as you can.” Keep yourself occupied and make sure you don’t end up eating out of boredom



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