Neuropathy study

Annabella’s story: My experience of taking part in research

In our December 2014 newsletter, we asked Help BEAT Diabetes volunteers to share their stories about taking part in a research study. Annabella contacted us to share her story.

So, Annabella, thank you for agreeing to share your story about taking part in a research study. Can you tell me how you found out about the study?

I received a letter from the Help BEAT Diabetes team telling me about a study that was taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University. They were looking for people who met certain criteria to take part. I met the criteria and the study sounded different to anything I had done in the past so I was interested in taking part.

What was it that sounded interesting about this particular study?

I have taken part in research in the past – giving blood samples and doing questionnaires, things like that – so I had some idea of what to expect. I don’t mind doing that sort of thing at all, but often you don’t get to find out your test results and so don’t feel too involved. This study seemed different because it involved having assessments on my legs and feet. I felt more directly involved and thought it would be a good opportunity to find out if I had any problems.

How were you put in touch with the researcher to tell them you were interested in taking part?

The letter I received from Help BEAT Diabetes gave the telephone number and email of the person to contact if I was interested. I emailed because I prefer contacting people I don’t know this way, in case they are busy with work. I got a reply from the researcher quite quickly and we arranged an appointment for me to attend the University where he was based.

What happened on your first visit?

The researcher, M, met me when I arrived at the University. He was really friendly and easy to get along with. He took me to the lab where the research was taking place. I was surprised to hear singing – M explained that another research study was going on in a different part of the lab! First he asked me lots of questions about my general health and also my diabetes and he explained everything that would happen with the tests. He explained that if I took part he would be the only person who knew my name as I would be given a number and all my results would be linked to this, to preserve anonymity.

So what exactly did you do?

Well, first M used a sophisticated machine to check my feet for diabetic neuropathy. I had never come across such a piece of medical equipment. There were lots of other tests, one of them I had to climb up and down some raised steps to check the muscle power in my legs. Another test involved having electrodes placed on different parts of my body, including my head, feet and legs, and then I had to walk over a particular area of the floor. I had to wear special sandals, shorts and a T-shirt to do this. It was so funny because at first M picked me a pair of shorts that were far too big! When I walked across the floor, I was seen as a 3D figure on his computer screen, which I found fascinating.

Did you find out anything about your health as a result of taking part in this research?

On the day I found out that the feeling in my feet was good and hadn’t been affected by diabetes so I was really pleased. A few months later I emailed M to ask if he was able to give me any more of my results, which he did. I’m pleased to say they were all fine as well which has put my mind at rest.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about taking part in this study?

I really enjoyed taking part; it was really fun, as it was so proactive. I think it is a great idea if people are able to take part in things like this.