The human cost of Brexit is real. As a diabetic, I'm reminded every day

James Moore

Hey Britons! As our politicians continue to vandalise this country of ours, I want to tell you, on this World Diabetes Day, what it’s like to experience the shortage of vital, lifesaving medical equipment.

That’s pertinent because while Theresa May – one of Britain’s most famous diabetics by the way – has secured a Brexit deal, it isn’t a very good one.

She also still has to get it through parliament in the teeth of opposition from loons who think putting the lives of people like me at risk is less important than A: an abstraction, B: their own self aggrandisement, C: helping out their casino capitalist mates in the City or D: all of the above.

A no-deal disaster is still a very real risk. If that happens, the imported supplies that keep type 1 diabetics like me alive would be put at risk. For the record those who have type 1 usually contracted the condition while young through what’s thought to be an autoimmune disorder. It has nothing to do with diet, and cannot be controlled that way.

Anyway, on to what the interruption of supply feels like. I experienced it not as a result of a calculated political act by extremists in the House of Commons but through a cockup at (we think) the local chemist.

My wife and I kept requesting a prescription for the American-made syringes I use via its website, which had previously run like clockwork, only for them not to appear.

For the purposes of this column, the cause is less important than the result, which was that I ended up having to repeatedly reuse my rapidly dwindling supply (as a result of my condition I have to inject several times a day).

I was thus using dirty needles, a term more usually associated with heroin addicts, out of necessity.

This actually used to be quite common among diabetics. It was even tacitly encouraged; I was on occasion told by medical staff that it was fine to do so. So I wasn’t initially too concerned, until that is, it occurred to me that I was experiencing what could soon be facing tens of thousands of people like me. So I started probing a little more deeply.

These days you are told never to reuse needles.

For a start, they pick up bacteria upon penetrating the skin. It’s usually harmless. But you can’t rely on that being the case.

Syringes also get blunted through repeated use. People often blanche when they see me wielding one. Sometimes they ask if it hurts. The answer, if the syringe is fresh, is only very rarely. The needles are very small, microfine, and only go just beneath the skin. Most of the time I hardly notice them.

However, when they’ve been used repeatedly that changes and it starts to get uncomfortable and painful, and not just when they go in. My injection sites felt sore for days after my syringe shortage had been resolved.

Reusing syringes has also been linked to an increased risk of hard lumps developing beneath the skin. They can lead to delays in the absorption of insulin, complicating the already challenging job of keep one’s blood sugar under control.

Is that enough for you? Sorry but there’s more. One study suggested that if syringes are used too many times small bits of metal can break off and get lodged under the skin.

All this helps to explain why the safety certificate secured by the manufacturer of mine is only good for single use.

Needless to say, things were getting pretty unpleasant for me. The situation was only resolved when I spectacularly lost my temper with a pharmacist, who after repeated non-apologies eventually decided it might be a good idea to do something about it and arranged for the supply of fresh kit.

I know, I know. We’re told stockpiles have been made of insulin. I’m presuming the same is true of other medical equipment like my needles. I certainly hope so.

The problem is, however, that no one really knows if they’ll be sufficient because no one really knows what will happen if and when UK ports suddenly have to start imposing a gazillion extra checks on goods incoming from the EU, which will inevitably impact upon goods coming in from elsewhere. Like my American made syringes.

No country has ever wilfully imposed economic sanctions on itself like the UK is proposing to do.

As I’ve written, a while back I started work on how I might secure insulin and other supplies from abroad in the event of the worst happening. I still haven’t managed to get good answers on how best to go about it. The only thing I can say for certain is that it will be horribly complicated and very expensive.

The alternative may be mucky needles and even worse.

This isn’t project fear. This is the horrible reality people like me face as we watch our dismal politicians play their dismal games.

I dithered about writing this piece, but was persuaded to do so by other diabetics. There is real fear out there. I feel it myself. It causes me to lose sleep.

I know we’re supposed to be careful with our language in these uncertain times, but there is a word for the troglodytes and trolls in the House of Commons that have brought us to this juncture.

It’s ugly and it has four letters. Actually I can think of several. I usually utter them under my breath when I’m playing Fortnite with my son, which I do to relieve the stress this is all causing; imagining the faces of Brexiteers on the zombies you take out in the “team terror” format.

I’m sorry. No I’m not. They absolutely deserve it for their callousness, for their lack of concern for their fellow countrymen and women, for their sickening hubris.