Thursday, 17 July 2014

Demons in your head?

I was in McDonalds recently.

To be honest I've been there quite a lot of late, usually around 11:00pm after completing some DIY at the house I've bought. I pass a 24hr McDonalds on my journey back to the rented accommodation I'm currently living in and just as my Levemir injection alarm goes off I'm usually tucking into a McFlurry treat!

The other night whilst eating a delightful Dairy Milk McFlurry, a song came on and I asked my phone to tell me what I was listening to... why? because I'd heard "the c word" in the lyrics.

For the avoidance of doubt, "the c word" is... carbohydrates!

...and it turned out the song was Vertigo by Rumer.

The song isn't the style of music I'd normally listen to, but ever since my diabetes diagnosis my ears have been able to tune into any conversation that mentions the c word with laser like precision. Although the song isn't about diabetes (far from it!), with a few tweaks here and there it certainly could be...
The concept of carbohydrates at 4am in the morning obviously has a slightly different meaning in my version of the song and I'll admit to playing it on repeat at the moment because (in my version) the lyrics are ALL about diabetes.

The challenge of diabetes isn't always obvious to those around us, sometimes there can be battles going on inside our heads and dealing with those "demons" can take its toll on our emotional, mental and physical well-being. Yet, bravely(?), we continue to tell those around us that we are fine. Trying to fool everyone (including ourselves) that everything is ok and that we are "managing" to deal with the condition.

Why do we do it? Are we too hung up with "not being a burden"? Do we decide help won't be available without really knowing and therefore decide not to ask? Maybe we feel ashamed of the need to ask?

There certainly isn't any shame in asking for assistance to overcome the "demons" and there should be no barriers in obtaining the help needed. So why do we lie to ourselves and others?

Imagine informing someone that they'd been signed up to a full time job which they cannot quit, that it came with no holidays for the rest of their lives, no weekends off, no opportunity to have a day off sick and indeed if they were unwell they would need to put in a double shift. It wouldn't take long before they were screaming for help. That's how cruel the employer Diabetes is - and in many ways it can be much, much worse!

So why not go into battle with the demons in your head (and help yourself and those around you) by sharing them with your HCP? After all, a problem shared might not be a problem halved... it might be a problem resolved.

Appropriate lyrics?

Pass me the bottle, pour me the wine.
I might be face down on the table, but I assure you I'm doing just fine.
Give me a cigarette, you heard what I said,
'cause I'm going into battle with the demons in my head.

'Cause I've seen trouble, I've seen more than my share.
I said I've seen trouble and I don't care any more.
No, I don't care any more.

You say I'm outspoken, that I'm loud, that I'm obtuse.
While I'm here all screwed up, baby, tell me what's your excuse?
Gimme carbohydrates, at four in the morning.
Gimme carbohydrates, 'cause I don't care any more.
No, I don't care any more.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Dear M&S...

You used to be a leader in sharing nutritional information with your customers. Back in 2005 you had a traffic light system on your food to help customers make informed choices. Tesco and Morrisons only agreed to do this at the end of 2012!

You were a leading light.

You used to provide information about the products you sold in Cafe Revive on your website enabling people, such as myself, the opportunity to plan how much insulin I would need to inject in order to eat at your establishment.

Unlike others (such as Costa, Starbucks, BB Coffee and Muffins, Caffe Nero etc), you took the retrograde step earlier this year to remove this information from your website. Eating in your cafe now has an element of risk to my (and others) health.

I don't have an explanation as to why you made this retrograde decision (even after spending 15 minutes on the phone to your customer care team). All I've been told is:
  • The information is no longer provided on your website.
  • You have no plans to provide this information on your website in the future.
  • If I want to know the carbohydrate value of any product in your cafe I should request this information from your staff at the time of purchase.
Well last Saturday I did exactly that - in your Wellingborough store. I asked for the carbohydrate content of a piece of cake. The staff seemed quite put out with me asking and pointed to the plastic noteholder stating the product and calorie content. I was told very abruptly that everything I needed to know was there.

I pointed out this only provided me the calorie content of the cake and not the carbohydrate content. The member of staff stormed off to ask a colleague and after much discussion she came back and told me the amount of calories as though this was the carbohydrate content. If I hadn't done a mental check on this number I would have injected a dangerous amount of insulin that would have potentially ended my life.

I asked again for the carbohydrate content.

A rather large queue was starting to form and customers (quite rightly) where getting frustrated and annoyed that they weren't being served. I on the other hand felt like I was being a "problem" both for the other customers and the staff.

Eventually they found an A4 ringbinder which contained a printed sheet for each product. There didn't seem to be any logical order to how these sheets were stored and the staff flicked through each page in turn until they found the product I was interested in and provided me with the carbohydrate information. It seemed much larger than I was expecting (but nowhere near the calorie value!) but given the size of the queue that had formed I wasn't going to question it. I was embarassed enough!

I purchased my food and drink and took a seat.

At this point I did my calculations in order to determine the amount of insulin I required and then I had a panic. What if this number was wrong? It seemed too high for such a small slice of cake. Other cakes I had eaten in Costa (for example) were much smaller. Had they read the right value?

I couldn't inject without seeing this information for myself and so with a renewed resolve I went back to the counter and asked to see it. Once again I got stares from other customers as (I imagine) they were wondering "who is this person that has just jumped the queue?" and the staff didn't seem particularly happy with me interupting them again to ask the same question. Eventually they found the correct folder and flicked through each page (again) until they found the product and handed me the folder.

It turns out they had given me the correct number from the page. I thanked them and sat down. I decided I couldn't inject the amount it stated, it "seemed" wrong. I reduced the amount I injected by a couple of units on the basis it would be easier to correct with an additional shot of insulin later if the number was incorrect than to deal with a potential insulin overdose.

I don't know if the slice of cake I consumed on the day was smaller than the suggested size in the manual; or if the value on the page wasn't correct; or if diabetes just played one of those nasty tricks on me due to the stress of the situation, but I ended up hypo later that day and I had to eat some fast acting carbohydrates to get my blood glucose levels back in range. I suspect it was the stress, but with diabetes you can never be totally sure.

In the end, what should have been a nice "treat" at the weekend turned into a stressful, unhappy experience that ultimately ended up with me in a hypoglycemic state. Not an experience I wish to repeat and so until nutritional information is published on your website (like it used to be), unfortunately I will not be having a "treat" at any of your cafes again. I would much prefer to go somewhere that lets me be safe and in control of my health needs - as I have mentioned nearly all of the high street chains offer me this comfort.

Angry at what had happened, I raised this issue with you on Twitter and you told me to give you a call. I was hoping that when I rang you'd say "Sorry, we made a mistake, this information will be back on our website soon and when it is we will let you know" instead you made it very clear that there were no plans to give this information to customers on the website and despite me recounting my experience, the advice was still to ask in store - to put my life in the hands of poorly trained staff.

You said you'd contact the Wellingborough store to ensure they were aware of the issue, but you are a national chain... what if the same experience I had happens in other stores? What if your staff tells a customer the calorie content rather than the carbohydrate value and your customer accepts this without question? You are putting peoples lives at risk! If I hadn't had the sense to question the original answer I would have injected around ten times the amount of insulin required.

Given you send this nutritional information out to every store that has a Cafe Revive in it, surely it is not beyond the realms of your ability to share this information online with your customers? You used to, why did the policy change? Is this a lot to ask of a multi-national company? You already have the information so please share it for everyone's benefit.

Instead of being a laggard, I want you to become that leading light again. Show the UK how you care for your customers needs and how you understand the value customers place on nutritional information.

With a very heavy heart,

Help me to change the mind of M&S

If you agree with me that Marks and Spencer should start publishing on it's website (again) the nutritional information of the food it sells in Cafe Revive, please let them know.
It only takes a few minutes to make your voice heard.

You can:
  • Contact them via their website
  • Call their customer services line on 0333 014 8555 and select option 4
  • Write to them at:

    Marks & Spencer
    Chester Business Park
    Wrexham Road
    CH4 9GA
  • and/or tweet them @marksandspencer (+M&S)
Please help Marks and Spencer become a leading light again and make it safer for customers to eat in Cafe Revive.

Thank you.