Battery Blues…No More?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about my dissatisfaction with my Omnipod DASH PDM’s battery life. Basically, I was frustrated that the dang thing needed to be recharged practically every day. But what bothered me even more was how suddenly the battery life would seem to drop – it would dip from 100% charged to 40% in the matter of a few short hours, and worse, it would do this totally inconsistently so it was nearly impossible to predict when my PDM would need a sudden charge.

I thought my PDM problem would be solved when I got my new Omnipod 5 PDM; however, it persisted. And that’s what indicated to me that there was some type of user error going on that I needed to get to the bottom of before I resigned myself to having to charge my PDM everyday.

So I called customer support and told them about what I was experiencing, and explained that on paper, I was doing all the right things to preserve battery life: using the dedicated charger, using minimal screen brightness, hitting the power button to shut off the screen when it wasn’t in use…I wanted to know, could they offer me any battery-saving tips?

Little did I know that a simple solution to my battery blues was just one phone call away!

That’s when I was informed that disconnecting my PDM from Wi-Fi would be a good starting place; after all, the Wi-Fi connection only comes in handy when uploading my data via Glooko. I was amazed, but the moment the customer support rep said this, it made total sense. This whole time, I’d been connected to my home’s Wi-Fi for essentially no reason because it has nothing to do with how my insulin is delivered (the system uses Bluetooth for all communications). I only ever entered my Wi-Fi information in the PDM because silly me thought it was needed for effective operation, but nope, turns out the only thing it’s good for (besides uploading data, of course) is sucking the life out of my PDM battery.

As soon as I ended the call with customer support, I turned off my PDM’s Wi-Fi settings and charged it to 100%. Nearly 24 hours later, it’s sitting pretty at 80%, a much better battery life than it was displaying previously. Problem solved, and proof that I definitely have more to learn about how to best utilize all aspects of my Omnipod 5 system!

The Dazzingly DASHing Drained Battery

Cell phones, eReaders, tablets, video game consoles, PDM devices…these are all electronic devices that rely on rechargeable batteries in order to keep them up and running. Of all those possibilities, which one do I think has the worst battery life?

Unfortunately, it’s my Omnipod PDM.

The speed at which my Omnipod DASH PDM battery drains is alarming…

It’s particularly unfortunate because the fact that the Omnipod DASH has a rechargeable PDM was one of the more exciting features to me when I first started using it. It always bothered me that I had to remember to keep AAA batteries on me at all times with the traditional Omnipod model (I know, I’m making a mountain out of a molehill with that one, but people with diabetes already have to remember to carry so many “just in case” items on us at all times that something like two measly batteries feels like a big effin’ deal). I also disliked how it was pretty difficult to predict when the traditional Omnipod PDM’s batteries would run out of juice (though I eventually did an experiment that helped me approximate the batteries’ lifespan a little better).

So imagine my delight when I learned that my DASH PDM could be recharged! This would feel like second nature to me seeing as I already own so many electronic devices that run on rechargeable batteries. According to the instructions manual for my DASH system, the battery would be able to last 3-4 days on a single charge, so it was nice to know that I’d have to expect to charge my new PDM only once or twice per week.

But in late September – only 4-6 weeks after I started using my DASH system – I noticed a slight issue. My DASH PDM was only holding a charge for a day, maybe a day and a half. This little problem exploded into a significant headache when I went on a trip to California and my PDM died right in the middle of my day trip to San Francisco, forcing my boyfriend and I to troubleshoot quickly.

I should’ve learned my lesson right then and there and called Insulet when I returned home from my trip, but…life happens. My schedule grew extremely busy, then the holidays were here, then I just…well, I grew complacent with having to recharge my PDM on a mostly daily basis. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I only defend this behavior in a similar way to how I felt about carrying extra batteries on me at all times because there are simply far more important things to worry about when it comes to living life with diabetes. I was fine to coexist with this short battery lifespan if it meant that everything else in my little diabetes world was working okay – and since it was, I didn’t think to do anything about it…

…until recently, when I decided that maybe I should call Insulet and ask for their advice.

Thanks to their wonderful customer service team, I learned that if I were to use any charging cord or plug besides the one that came with my PDM originally, that might contribute to dazzingly dashing drained batteries. That caught my attention because I definitely wasn’t always using the right cord/plug: Often, I was just grabbing the first thing in sight around my condo seeing as so many other electronic devices can be recharged with the same style of cable.

I was reassured that I was doing all of the right things otherwise – silencing alarms when they came up, putting my screen to sleep when I wasn’t using it, and changing my system settings so the screen was programmed to go dark in the shortest amount of time possible. I was also promised a new PDM if, after a few weeks’ time of using exclusively the Omnipod DASH charger, I noticed that it was still having drained battery issues.

Sure enough, the problem has persisted, so I now owe Insulet another call to get my PDM replaced altogether. Here’s hoping that my replacement will outDASH my bad PDM in terms of battery life…

How Long Do AAA Batteries Last in an OmniPod PDM?

How long do AAA batteries last in an OmniPod PDM?

The answer to this question has subtly haunted me for years.

My PDM is the only device in my diabetes management kit that actually runs on batteries. Everything else, such as my Dexcom receiver and my blood sugar meter, can be recharged, which is highly preferable over batteries. But until I make the transition to the OmniPod DASH system (which uses a rechargeable lithium battery in lieu of AAA batteries), I’m stuck with replacing the AAAs in my PDM whenever they drain.

But it was never overly clear to me…how do I actually know when the batteries are out of juice?

Just by looking at the battery display, you’d think that I’d need to swap out the AAAs A.S.A.P…but I discovered that isn’t the case.

There’s a battery icon on my PDM, of course, that shows roughly how much life my batteries have left in them. When new batteries are put into the PDM, it shows a fully charged battery. Some time after that, the battery icon is half full, and then after more time, it goes down to a tiny sliver to indicate the batteries are running low.

Ever since I became an OmniPod user, I always assumed that the batteries had to be replaced as soon as the display ran down to that itty bit of battery life. I just figured that was the signal. Plus, I didn’t want to run the risk of delivering a bolus or changing my pod only for my PDM to completely die halfway through, leaving me to figure out how much insulin I had left to deliver – or worse, with a pod not fully activated that I’d have to scrap.

For a long time, though, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been changing the batteries prematurely. Maybe they had more life past that little sliver. So I put my theory to the test: Last month, my PDM displayed the low battery icon. Instead of changing the batteries immediately, I decided to wait and see what would happen.

And I can report that my batteries did last much longer after that initial low battery icon appeared. In fact, they lasted an addition 7-8 pod changes (I lost track after the first handful). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my PDM could make it almost an additional month past that first indication of a low battery! And even better, I learned that the system does give a warning that makes it crystal clear when the batteries should be changed: The battery icon goes from having a tiny bit of life left to a flashing display showing a completely empty battery. I forget what the exact message was on my PDM, but I also got a system notification telling me to change my batteries soon.

I wish I remembered exactly when I changed the batteries last, but if memory serves me correctly, then it was sometime in November. So the AAA batteries in my OmniPod PDM lasted roughly three months.

Not too shabby, and now I know exactly when I can expect to change my PDM batteries.

PDM System Error: What It Is and What to Do When It Happens

I crack open the slot on the back of my PDM where two AAA batteries are nestled. I smack them out from their slots, insert two fresh ones, and replace the cover. I wait for the system to power back on and am greeted with a high-pitched beeping sound soon after it’s reactivated…

…and become simultaneously annoyed, confused, and a bit panicked when I see a “system error” message displaying on the screen.

I follow the steps that flash on its display, instructing me to reset the date and time. Once I take care of that, my pod immediately deactivates, aggravating me further. I assemble all the supplies I need to activate a new pod, and once I have it on, I receive a message that I won’t be able to use the bolus calculation function on my PDM for 3-4 hours.

The whole incident was majorly inconvenient, but such is life with diabetes…

Anyways, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what exactly happened, and why it triggered my pod to fail.

Error messages on diabetes technology are never something I’ll be glad to see, but they do happen.

Fortunately, I can explain it!

I’ve experienced this phenomenon before – it happens when the internal battery within the PDM (not the AAA batteries) has a problem and stops working the way it should. It causes the system to get confused when new AAA batteries are inserted (because the system shuts off and turns back on) and it doesn’t remember the date or time. Because of that, it can’t identify when the current pod was activated, so it immediately triggers it to stop working so new one can be applied.

It’s obnoxious as heck because it’s a total unpredictable phenomenon, but it is what it is. It can be dealt with in a matter of a few hours, and the best part is that Insulet can be contacted so they can be made aware of the issue and overnight a new PDM – which is what they did for me. The day after this PDM problem occurred, I gave them a call, and within 10 minutes I was promised a new PDM that I would receive in about 24 hours.

So when a PDM system error happens again – not that I actually anticipate it to for a long time – I know the right course of action is to keep calm, follow the system’s instructions, and give Insulet a phone call. In other words? Rolls with the punches, because diabetes is good at directing them my way.

My New PDM

After four years filled with various highs and lows, I had to say farewell to the PDM that was virtually glued to my side, working with me to manage my diabetes.

Our parting was inevitable. Around the Fourth of July, I noticed that the battery symbol on my PDM was low, meaning that the triple A batteries within needed to be replaced. I put fresh ones in, but upon the system restarting, the PDM asked me to input information such as the date and time. And then…the pod I’d been wearing for less than 24 hours beeped loudly, signaling to me that it had failed. I figured it must be due to the battery replacement, but this definitely wasn’t normal. So I did some investigating.

I consulted with my mom and she told me that this was a sign that the internal battery within the PDM, the one that cannot be replaced, was starting to run out of life. She advised me to call Insulet to get a replacement PDM. That’s how I discovered that the warranty on my PDM actually expired in January of this year, and that I’d have to pay a nice chunk of change (about $500) to get a new one, under warranty.

It was a painful process, as I’ve detailed in recent posts, but I finally did get my new PDM. Fortunately, it only cost me $100 (I guess I should be glad I met my $900 deductible so quickly).

My New PDM.png
A very special delivery.

I waited to power up the new system until I was due to change a pod – didn’t want to waste a pod if I didn’t have to – and I’m really glad I set aside a half hour or so in order to input all of my settings into the new PDM. It was a bit stressful, really, and just as I was cursing the PDM for not automatically knowing all of this stuff about me, it was set up and ready for action.

It was a strange feeling, disconnecting myself from that PDM I’d relied on for four years. It sounds dramatic, I know, but that PDM and I have been through a lot. As I powered down the system, I had a little moment and felt gratitude toward the PDM (and I suppose all of its little quirks). I put it inside the box that the new one arrived in, and the old PDM now sits in my diabetes supplies cabinet, neatly tucked away so in the event that I need to consult it for old information or data, I can.

And now I can say I’ve got a shiny, pristine PDM that’s under warranty, which I must admit is a relief.

How to be a Supportive Partner to Someone with Diabetes

When discussing what to make for dinner one night, my boyfriend asked me whether or not I wanted any carbs with our meal.

This might sound insignificant, but to me, it meant a lot because it showed that he was thinking about me and my diabetes. He knew that our planned meal of salmon with salad was very low carb, and that my blood sugars and I tend to do better in the evenings with at least some amount of carbohydrates at dinnertime. This was his way of acknowledging that, and it made me feel loved – just as it does every time he does something with my diabetes in mind.

I feel so fortunate to have a parter who’s been supportive of me and my diabetes from the very beginning of our relationship.

Whether he’s buying me a giant bag of smarties (because they taste so much better than regular old glucose tabs) or experimenting with low carb versions of my favorite cocktails (he sought out sugar-free simple syrup at the grocery store recently, just for me), my partner is constantly proving to me that he cares about me and my diabetes – and it’s not just through these small acts. From day one, he asked me thoughtful questions about life with diabetes so he could learn about it and understand how he might be able to help me in certain situations. His genuine curiosity was simultaneously endearing and genuinely appreciated, and every day since then he goes above and beyond to keep me and my diabetes top of mind. I’m a lucky lady.

In recognition of that, I also realize that there are people who aren’t as fortunate and might be in a relationship with someone who just doesn’t get it – or is trying to, and might be missing the mark. (In my past experiences, rest assured that I can identify with that.) So I thought it could be useful to list some of the ways that someone can support their loved one with diabetes, based on what has (and hasn’t) worked for me:

  • Ask questions. Not sure what exactly life with diabetes is like and how someone with diabetes might have different needs? That’s okay! That’s why I encourage my partner – or anyone new that enters my life – to ask me questions about diabetes, even if they think the question is silly. In my opinion, asking questions is a great way to drive conversation about diabetes, dispel any stigma, and get on the same page faster about the ways diabetes may or may not affect a relationship.
  • Avoid judgement. I totally get it – it can be difficult to resist the temptation to judge a person with diabetes when their blood sugar is frequently crashing at a particular time of day, or when they don’t realize that their PDM battery is about to run out on vacation in an unfamiliar city, which will leave them unable to take anything other than basal insulin. Both of these things have happened to me and my partner and instead of him scolding me for letting my blood sugar go low or neglecting to charge my PDM, he’s brought me juice boxes and scoured aforementioned unfamiliar city for a charger that was compatible with my PDM so we wouldn’t have waste hours of our time going back to our Airbnb for my charger to get it back up and running. Take it from me…life with diabetes is tough enough without judgement. With it, diabetes burnout is just that much more likely to happen, as well as feelings of resentment and disconnection. Nobody wants that, which is why I recommend staying as non-judgmental as possible.
  • Attend appointments. This is one way of helping a partner understand the time and energy that goes into managing diabetes. All it takes is asking a partner to go to a single appointment so they get a general understanding of what endocrinologists, certified diabetes care and education specialists, dietitians, and other members of a PWD’s healthcare team are looking for in terms of diabetes management. Plus, it could help partners who are more left-brained (logical, analytical, and scientific) understand the medical side of diabetes a little better.
  • Check out the diabetes online community. This could mean looking at different hashtags across social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter, following prominent PWD’s accounts, or reading Reddit threads – really, any type of research can be done about diabetes and the community online, and no matter where it’s done it can absolutely contribute to a partner’s understanding of diabetes. I know my boyfriend has perused multiple Reddit threads when helping me troubleshoot problems or get feedback from other people with diabetes. It’s nice to know that we can both get support from online communities.
  • Offer support – in all kinds of forms. To me, support is more than just a shoulder to cry on when experiencing a tough diabetes day. It’s the little gestures that my partner often makes, such as stocking up on extra low supplies, waking up in the middle of the night to check on me when my blood sugar is low, checking carbohydrate counts of foods we buy at the grocery store, and so much more. This level of support helps me feel less alone when it comes to managing my diabetes – while I’m in the driver seat when it comes to my diabetes, he’s definitely up front with me in the passenger seat making the whole ride easier.

The Biggest Diabetes Mistake I Made on My Trip to California

A couple weeks ago, I shared about my fears over flying again for the first time since before the pandemic.

Fast-forward to now and I’m happy to report that basically none of those fears came to fruition over the course of my trip…

…but of course I did experience one snafu that was definitely avoidable.

All smiles in scenic California in this pic, but I definitely wasn’t grinning like this when I made my mistake.

The biggest diabetes mistake I made on my trip to California was neglecting to charge my OmniPod DASH PDM as often as it (apparently) needs to be charged.

I’m not going to make excuses for myself because I should’ve planned better, but I will say that I’ve only been on this system for about six weeks or so now…and I’m still getting used to some of the PDM’s quirks. In particular, I have yet to figure out exactly how often I need to charge my PDM. It runs on a lithium ion battery, which is the same thing that most cell phones use. So one might make the assumption that I’d need to charge the PDM daily, but that’s definitely excessive – I’d guess that I only use about 20% of the PDM’s battery each day, but of course that depends on how frequently I need to bolus or play around with my basal rates. However, using that rationale, I’ve been charging the PDM every 3-4 days, or whenever I notice the battery falling to a 20% or less charge.

My logic failed me, though, when I falsely assumed that my PDM’s battery would last a day trip into San Francisco when it had a 40% charge.

I still have no idea what happened – all throughout my day walking the hilly streets of San Fran, I was careful to turn off my PDM screen whenever I wasn’t actively looking at it, and I was only turning it on to bolus slightly more than usual (I was basically snacking my way through the city the whole afternoon).

I consider myself pretty lucky, though, because I made the discovery that my PDM battery was dead towards the end of our day, right when we were headed on the subway back to our Airbnb: If there was a time for this to happen, it’s definitely better at the end of the day’s activities rather than at the beginning or somewhere totally inconvenient.

At least, this was what I tried to futilely tell myself in an attempt to feel better about my negligence.

Instead of feeling better, I was beating myself up over making what felt like a rookie mistake. I should’ve charged the PDM because, after all, there was no way that I was about to go into a brand new city for the first time with my phone battery at 40%, so why on earth did I think it was okay to do that with my PDM? Moreover, how the heck did this happen in the first place – does the battery really just drain super quickly and/or easily?

I knew there was no point in trying to figure out why it happened at that point in time – it was more important for me to charge the PDM as soon as possible so that my partner and I could experience In-N’-Out for the first time on our way back to the Airbnb as we had planned.

So, because he is brilliant and calm in “emergency” situations (unlike me), he came up with a plan: I’d head over to In-N’-Out, order our food, and wait for him in our rental car while he ran up the street to a nearby CVS to see if they sold any USB cables (you know, the types of charging cables that everyone has because most electronics are charged with those). And his strategy worked out beautifully. Soon after I had our bag of In-N’-Out in hand, he arrived at the car with the charging cable and I was able to plug my PDM into it so I could bolus for dinner right then and there instead of having to delay it. (We could’ve just waited until we were back at our Airbnb, but then I would’ve either had to eat a cold burger [blech] or eaten it fresh and run the risk of my blood sugar jumping up without the necessary insulin in my system. Obviously, we went with the more appealing option.)

All things considered, if that was the biggest diabetes mistake I made in California, then I’d say I did pretty good – more to come soon on my strategies for maintaining decent blood sugars while on vacation.

As for now, I’ll leave you with this – In-N’-Out is kinda overrated.

First Impressions: The OmniPod DASH

At long last, the day has come…the day for me to share my first impressions of the OmniPod DASH!

Full disclosure: I’ve only been using the system for 3 days as of this writing. But I thought it was important to capture my beginning thoughts on how it works because they’re bound to change over time as I gain more experience and familiarity with the system.

So without further ado, here’s a bullet point list (‘cuz who doesn’t love a good list) that hits the highs and lows – yes, pun intended – of the DASH so far:

  • It was shockingly easy and fast to set up. I was worried about inputting all my settings from my old OmniPod into the DASH system and assumed that I would need a block of time to do so. This is why I decided to do my set up on a free and clear Sunday afternoon with minimal distractions around me. Turns out, though, that I didn’t need so much time set aside – it took me exactly 10 minutes to get all my settings straightened away. In fact, it probably would’ve taken closer to 8 minutes if I hadn’t agonized over choosing my background photo for my lock screen! The PDM made the entire setup process extremely intuitive and easy to navigate, much to my relief.
  • The PDM is incredibly high-tech…and, at times, suffers from that. I’ve spent a lot of time marveling over the clean, sleek design of both the touchscreen and the PDM itself. It’s almost identical to my iPhone, which I think is both a pro and a con because I can see myself confusing one for the other in the future (though it’d be extremely obvious which was which once I unlocked the device). The touchscreen and menus are thoughtfully designed, but my big beef with them is twofold: 1) Some menus are totally buried – it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to set a temp basal and 2) Anyone who ever claims to suffer from “fat fingers” or struggles to hit the right buttons 100% of the time on a smartphone might find navigation on the PDM to be a challenge. The good news is that it’s really easy to go back if you’ve mistakenly navigated to a menu that you didn’t need and to correct any accidentally hit buttons, but I could definitely see some users taking issue with the operation of the touchscreen as a whole – even though I personally haven’t found it bothersome.
Shout-out to the Insulet/OmniPod website for providing a much better image of the DASH PDM and pod than I ever could!
  • The pod change process has a new addition to it. DASH users have the option to record the site of their new pods, a feature that I think is pretty neat! I’ve always been pretty good about rotating sites, but having a record of exactly where I’ve placed my pods over time is bound to be helpful so I don’t ever use one particular site too much.
  • Speaking of the pod change process…I almost activated a pod when it wasn’t even on my body yet. I’m used to the pod change process consisting of multiple pages on my PDM that outlines everything step-by-step. The DASH system aims to consolidate things a bit and features more than one step on a page. This was all fine and dandy up until I hit the last step of the process – I touched the button to activate the pod, thinking that I was navigating to the last page in the setup process! This was mostly user error because I should’ve read the screen more carefully, but luckily, I had to hit a “confirm” button in order to actually activate the pod (so there’s basically 2 buttons that have to be hit to activate a pod, not one).
  • So far, I’m unsure how I feel about the rechargeable battery feature. I thought this would be a huge improvement over the old OmniPod, which took 2 AAA batteries, but now I’m having some doubts. Those AAA batteries easily lasted 6 weeks – maybe even longer. Now I’m going to have to recharge the DASH PDM at least once or twice a week, depending on how often I’m actively using it. This is going to be a slight pain, but according to what I’ve read, the PDM is still useable when it’s charging, so that makes it more tolerable. But I’m also thinking from the perspective of someone who is away from home at least a few nights a month – this is going to be just ANOTHER charger that I have to remember to pack every time I go away, which is a bit of a bummer.
  • The system sounds are SO MUCH BETTER!!! OMG, I think the days of OmniPod beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeps are in the past! I haven’t noticed any of those lingering, ear-shattering beeps yet; instead, they seem to have been replaced with a pleasant chiming sound. I’m sure that over time, I’ll grow to hate that sound, too, but for now I’m just loving that I’m not being pestered with pod reminders by those grating beeps!

Like any diabetes device, I knew there would be some faults with the DASH system. But generally speaking, those faults are extremely minor and I’m still thrilled that I’m on this new system…and extremely curious as to how my thoughts and feelings about it will change over time. I’ll be sure to post about my new discoveries and experiences with it in the future!

Doing Everything Right and Still Getting it Wrong

One of the most frustrating things about having diabetes is feeling like you’re finally understanding it, perhaps even mastering it, only for it to lash out at you and make you feel like you don’t know shit about it.

It’s when you do everything right – check and treat accordingly, eat properly, exercise sufficiently – and still get it wrong when your blood sugars don’t behave the way they should.

I really hate when this happens, but I loathe when it happens on vacation…which is exactly what happened to me last week when I was in Maine for a few days.

Things started going awry shortly after I woke up (if only I knew then that I was in for a DAY!!!). I ate breakfast and my blood sugar swiftly started to rise. But I didn’t panic, because that’s what I wanted to happen. We’d be walking all around town for part of the morning and most of the afternoon, so I wanted my blood sugar to be on the higher side so that my chances of dropping dramatically in the heat were lower. I made the right call – soon after we got downtown, I noticed a diagonal down arrow on my Dexcom app. Things were headed in the right direction…or so I thought.

Not long after I spotted the diagonal arrow, I started to feel a little low-ish. Not super shaky or anything, but just a bit disoriented. I decided to pop into my favorite candy store to fill a small bag with treats so I had something sugary to munch on that would prevent a bad low blood sugar.

Those were mistakes number one and two…not consulting with my CGM again before eating candy, and going to town on it because it was CANDY and it tasted delicious.

Doing Everything Right and Still Getting it Wrong

Within a half hour, I was rising up, up, and up. I took a small amount of insulin to correct it, not wanting to be too aggressive and risk a real low. But as I walked around the amusement park with my boyfriend and his family, I just wasn’t coming back down like I thought I would. I lingered in the mid-200s for much of the early afternoon, and by the time we stopped for lunch, I was rage-bolusing to bring my numbers down faster. I even chose a lower-carb lunch option in the hopes that it’d stave off another high blood sugar, but nope, the BG gods were not in my favor that afternoon. As we moved from the amusement park to a brewery (a drastically different change in locale, I know), I bolused once again, and then noticed that the batteries in my PDM were low.

And that actually wasn’t a problem, because I was prepared enough to have spare triple A batteries on me – thank goodness! I took the old ones out, popped the new ones in, and waited for my PDM to come back to life. And it did…but it asked me to input the month, day, and year.

Dammit. THAT’S never a good sign. I entered the information and the system accepted it, and then my pod failed immediately after, which meant that I had to ditch the brewery and the group of people that I was with to get back to the house we were staying at as quickly as possible to put a new one on.

It doesn’t get much more irritating than that.

(Later, I discovered that my PDM’s internal battery was going, and that this behavior would occur every time I replaced the triple A batteries. Needless to say, I’m awaiting a new PDM from Insulet, because it’s just not smart to continue using an aging PDM.)

By the end of this day of turbulent blood sugars and unpredictable medical device malfunctions, I was mentally beat. I felt like I’d been thrown into the roughest of ocean waters and forced to tread water for hours in order to keep my head above the surface. It’s exhausting to know that, when it’s all said and done, I was really trying to do the right things and take care of myself. I was SO DANG PREPARED with those extra triple A batteries, for goodness’ sake! But man, diabetes…just when I think I know it better than anything else, it throws me for a loop and I remember a saying from Professor Mad-Eye Moody of the Harry Potter series (of course I’m talking about Harry Potter again, don’t act surprised): CONSTANT VIGILANCE. I’ve got to be aware of my diabetes at all times. I’ve got to know how to react and when so that my diabetes will remain in my charge – not the other way around.

Trying to Stay in the Loop with DIY Diabetes

I can’t remember exactly when I heard of “DIY diabetes”, also known as “looping”. It may have been at a conference a few years ago, or maybe I saw something about it on social media. Either way, it seems to have totally blown up as more and more people with T1D are looping.

TRYING TO STAY IN THE LOOP WITH DIY DIABETES
Are you a Looper?

Before I talk about it more…a brief definition of looping. Loop refers to a kind of automated insulin delivery system. According to what I read about it on diaTribe, Loop systems are open-source and DIY, meaning that T1D Loopers download an app for the iPhone that communicates with a device that also communicates with compatible pumps and CGMs.

If you’re confused, don’t worry – so am I. There’s a number of moving pieces involved with Looping that make it daunting and difficult for me to keep up with as the technology changes. But the ultimate goal of Looping is what has me interested in it. Looping is supposed to help improve time-in-range, particularly overnight, because it does a lot of the thinking for you and ultimately makes life with diabetes easier. And I’m all for that.

Looping’s been popping up on my social media a lot lately because at the end of April, the geniuses behind Loop announced that compatibly with the OmniPod for the first time. (Previously, Looping was only available to Medtronic folks.) On what feels like a daily basis, I notice more people on my social media platforms – particularly Instagram – who are Podders that have made the decision to start Looping. The common denominator with many of these individuals, besides being Looping Podders (sounds like a wacky band name) is that they’ve found great success in doing so. It seems like each person spends 90% or more of his/her time in range, encounters fewer low/high blood sugars, and wastes less time worrying about diabetes in general.

All of that sounds too good to be true. Of course my interest is piqued by such incredible results, and of course I’d love to dive right into Looping and see whether it’s a good fit for me. But the reason why I don’t is simple…I just hesitate to trust new technology.

Technology can fail. Plain and simple. All operations for Looping with the OmniPod take place on the iPhone. That means that the PDM is rendered useless. What happens if I lose my cell phone? What if the battery dies when I need to bolus? What do I do when I upgrade to a new phone? There are so many questions I can think of related to the phone issues alone, never mind any other potential problems. Put simply, the unknowns – the “what ifs” – terrify me so much that I can’t help but be skeptical of Looping.

But this doesn’t mean my interest goes away. My curiosity about Looping is stronger than ever. The DIY element is frightening, but the rewards could be greater than the risks.

The only thing I know for sure is that I won’t even attempt to Loop until I have a conversation with my endocrinologist about it. Together, we make decisions about my diabetes care and treatment that we both feel are safe and right for me. I’d love her opinion on Looping to see how much she knows about it and whether she has any patients who use it. Until I talk to her and gain more information from other Loopers, it’ll just be something that I cautiously admire from afar on social media.