Joined in: 2014
Job title: Principal Software Engineer
Hello, my name is Lindsay Kemp, and this is my story: Living with Type 1 Diabetes. I recently celebrated my seventh anniversary with Advanced, and I’m currently in the role of a principal software engineer. Starting a career in the technology industry has always been a huge ambition for me, ever since I was a curious seven-year-old, flicking through endless computer magazines with my dad - and I wasn’t going to let type 1 diabetes stop me from achieving my dream.
I was ten years old when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and the entire ordeal was dramatic, to say the least.
"I just wanted it all to be over with."
When my parents initially raised concerns about my health, they were simply disregarded and were led to believe I was suffering from a virus that would soon pass. Back then, there were Lucozade adverts on TV that claimed to give you more energy and make you feel better. So, every time the doctors sent me home without the medicine I needed, I'd end up drinking litres upon litres of it, to no avail.
It eventually got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I remember lying in bed and praying to whoever’s out there for the pain and anguish to stop. I just wanted it all to be over with. The very next day, my mother pleaded with the doctor’s surgery for someone to come and see me as she was convinced something was seriously wrong.
Shockingly, their negligence had meant that my body had started to develop a dangerous complication known as diabetic ketoacidosis. The gravity of the situation was realised when the doctor recognised the distinct smell being expelled by my body that had started to engulf the entire bedroom.
Consequently, an ambulance was called, rushing me straight to the hospital and thus, my life-long association with diabetes had begun.
Living with type 1 diabetes means facing an ongoing, arduous battle every day to maintain my body’s blood sugar levels. Rising too high will mean running the risk of developing further health complications in the long term, such as kidney disease or vision loss.
"People who encounter episodes of hypoglycaemia are often mistaken as being drunk and disorderly or on drugs."
However, allowing my blood sugar to drop down too much could potentially lead to greater danger for me; by entering what’s known as a hypoglycaemic state, or hypos as they are commonly known.
People who encounter episodes of hypoglycaemia are often mistaken as being drunk and disorderly or on drugs as you seem to be completely out of it. That’s because your body starts to shut down parts of itself that it deems less important, such as parts of the brain.
The early warning signs of an oncoming hypoglycaemic episode can easily be missed, and before you can do anything about it, you’ve lost control of your senses and eventually you begin to lose consciousness. I tend to experience them roughly around every two years, and the last time I had an encounter was during my son’s bedtime story.
One minute you’re drifting off reading about someone's happily ever after... and then before you know it, your body's glucose levels have plummeted and the hypo has taken over. By the time I’ve regained consciousness, I find myself stark naked in bed, surrounded by three paramedics with a drip lodged into my forearm.
Impact on Day-to-Day Life
Type 1 diabetes is a hidden disability, so people aren’t always going to be aware of your condition. Therefore, meeting new people at work can add an extra layer of anxiety, especially if I’m supposed to teach them about a new piece of software for instance – the last thing I want is to start acting like a lunatic (going hypo), in front of a stranger.
"I have always found my experience at Advanced to be very understanding and considerate regarding my illness."
However, I have always found my experience at Advanced to be very understanding and considerate regarding my illness. I’m eternally grateful for the ceaseless support I’ve received from my endearing colleagues and managers throughout my seven-year stint with the company.
Working with a team that’s mostly based in India has also presented some awkward obstacles; namely navigating through airport security with an assortment of syringes, liquids, and sharp needles that I always need to have beside me. Hence why it takes me an extra hour to get through customs. Although I’m always appreciative of the patience and support that’s been shown by my product manager on these trips, providing me with endless reassurance throughout.
I remember a previous colleague at Advanced, going out of his way to offer me a lift home after he realised how much I was struggling with my low blood sugar. Having that support network here at Advanced, as well as having the flexibility of being able to work from home has helped me manage my type 1 diabetes effectively during working hours.
Education and Awareness
Raising awareness for people who live with diabetes is something I’m very passionate about, as there are so many misconceptions and stigmas due either to a lack of understanding, education, or perhaps a mixture of both.
"It can be incredibly frustrating as type 1 diabetes simply has no cure."
One of the things that frustrate me the most is when people try and throw 'cures' at me; recommending that I cut this particular food out of my diet, or that I should look into introducing an intermittent fasting regime. It's not for me to discount these methods that could potentially benefit somebody who's dealing with type 2 diabetes. But for someone that isn't, it can be incredibly frustrating as type 1 diabetes simply has no cure.
However, I’ve never been one to focus on the negatives. Having to cope with the constant stresses and daily constraints that type 1 diabetes throws at you has provided me with an abundance of strength that I’ve successfully transferred into my career.
Working as a principal software engineer means adopting a progressive mentality that requires the need to consistently identify and interpret the next wave of technology. A mindset I would never have developed as eloquently without type 1 diabetes.
Don’t let it hold you back, would be my advice for anyone who may be dealing with a hidden disability. Living with an underlying health issue such as type 1 diabetes can make you stronger and more resilient in the long run, whilst also providing you transferable skills which you can, in turn, integrate into a successful and substantial career.