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!

Sensor Snapping by the Seashore

Sensor snapping by the seashore…try saying that five times fast.

The past several weeks have been so busy that I completely forgot about an incident that occurred when I was away on vacation in July.

An incident that I’d never experienced in my decade of using Dexcom CGMs…

It was the second-to-last day of my trip. I was blissfully soaking up the sun’s rays – it was by far the best beach day of my entire week in Maine. That meant that the sun was strong that day…so strong that I was basically applying sunscreen every hour, on the hour, because I am as pale as Casper the friendly ghost.

During one of my sunscreen applications, I noticed that the Dexcom sensor on the back of my arm was looking a little off. I mean that literally – the transmitter seemed like it was jutting out at a weird angle. Upon further inspection, I realized that the grayish-purple prong that helps keep the transmitter in place was hanging on by a thread. I was pretty surprised to make that discovery, for a few reasons: 1) I didn’t know that could happen, 2) the sensor was only about 24 hours old and nothing went awry during the application process, and 3) I couldn’t remember bumping into anything that would’ve caused a plastic piece to break off my sensor. But the most surprising part was that it was enough to cause my sensor to stop collecting readings altogether – I was getting an error message on my Dexcom app.

My broken sensor prongs and me, sitting on the beach.

I didn’t know what to do other than carefully break the prongs off all the way – they weren’t going to do me any good now – and gingerly press my transmitter down into my sensor for several minutes to see if that did anything…and no dice. I resorted to plan B, which was to wait until I got back to the house I was staying at to do some more research into the matter.

Unfortunately, the internet had nothing helpful to offer me. I was somewhat relieved to know that this has happened to other people, but definitely bummed to learn that there wasn’t a real solution other than to apply a new sensor – which wasn’t an option for me since I had only packed the one sensor for my trip. Whoops. So much for me being the diligent, prepared T1D that I thought I was.

Ultimately, I decided to rip the sensor off and deal with finger stick checks for the rest of my trip; after all, I was going to be returning home the next day. I look at the whole incident as yet another example of why it’s important to pack extras of my extras, and as a reminder to expect the unexpected in life with diabetes!

Why I Went with an OmniPod Insulin Pump

This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on February 28, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because while my affection for the pump is still very much intact, I still wish at times that I had explored other options. But that doesn’t deter my excitement about switching to the DASH soon! Read on to learn about the one major factor that made me decide to go with an OmniPod over all the other insulin pumps out there.

Choosing an insulin pump therapy can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you’ve never pumped before.

Factors like tubed vs. tubeless, whether or not your insurance will cover a given pump, ease of use, reservoir capacity, and many others all play into the big pump decision…

Weird to think that soon, I will no longer be using this exact same OmniPod system!

…if you’re like most (logical) people.

But if you’re me, then you count on pretty much one thing when making the choice: familiarity. I solely relied on the fact that someone I knew and trusted used the OmniPod and had a positive experience with it, and that person is my mother. On top of that, I waited a solid 2-3 years after she started to use it before it was my turn, because I wasn’t willing to even think about trying it until I could feel fairly confident that I would even like it myself.

Luckily, I’ve been on it for just over five years now without any major issues. While I do love it more than I ever liked multiple daily injections, I do wish I had thought it over some more before just going with it…especially now that there are other insulin pumps out there with some amazing features. I know that the manufacturer of the OmniPod, Insulet, has some great upgrades in the works, but it can be hard to wait for them.

If I could go back in time, I’d definitely do more research before semi-idly deciding that the OmniPod is right for me. Of course, I could make the switch to a new insulin pump in the future…but if and when I do decide to try something else down the road, I know I’ll make much more of an effort to really learn everything I can about my options before committing to a new piece of diabetes technology.

A Diabetes Waiting Game

I am smack-dab-in-the-middle of a very long, very annoying diabetes waiting game.

I’ve waited for my Dexcom sensors and transmitter refill for two months now.

I’ve waited to transition to the OmniPod DASH system for a few weeks now.

I’m very glad, and fortunate, that this waiting game does not apply to the most crucial of my diabetes supplies, which is of course my insulin.

But I’m still tired of waiting.

I don’t mind it as much for the OmniPod DASH; after all, I’d rather use up my remaining pods before diving right into full-time use of the new system.

But the Dexcom sensors and transmitter? That wait has been borderline ridiculous.

I may have to wait to use my new DASH pods, but at least I have ’em here when I’m ready to put them in action.

To sum it up, the wait is due to a series of miscommunications between me, my doctor’s office, my health insurance provider, and my DME (durable medical equipment) provider. And it sucks, because just like anyone else who has diabetes, works full-time, manages a household, and has a social life, I’m doing everything I can to address the matter when I have the time and mental bandwidth to do so, but still blame myself for not getting my prescriptions sooner.

It sucks that I feel failed by the healthcare system.

And again, I find myself feeling grateful that this is my first time experiencing anything like this in 23ish years of life with diabetes. But what’s opened my eyes is that this is a reality for some people with diabetes all the time. That doesn’t just suck – it’s unacceptable.

When will we stop having obstacles block the paths to getting essential, life-saving medications and equipment?

DASHed Hopes No More

I have some exciting news…I’m switching to the OmniPod DASH!

While I won’t start using my DASH until after my old OmniPods are used up (first generation OmniPods aren’t compatible with the DASH PDM), I’m still really excited about switching things up. Nearly a year ago, I expressed my desire to switch to the DASH in addition to my frustration that it would be more expensive for me to make the change.

But with a new job comes new health insurance and a whole new set of “rules” that I’ve been figuring out in the last couple of months.

And let me tell ya…it hasn’t been easy. But more on my struggles to get my basic diabetes prescriptions filled under my new health insurance to come in a blog post very soon…

Violet is excited about my new DASH PDM, too!

Anyways, back to the DASH. When I called Insulet to report a failed pod not too long ago, the representative I was speaking with was asking me if I’d heard about or was interested in the DASH system. Normally, I would’ve brushed her off and explained that I was only interested in getting a replacement for my failed pod that day, but I happened to have some spare time on my hands and decided to ask her if she could see if/how my new insurance would cover the DASH.

She kindly did some research and reported back to me that yes, it was indeed, and that all I’d have to do is get my doctor’s office to prescribe some DASH pods to me and in the meantime, Insulet could send my DASH PDM to me so that I had it on hand when I was ready to start using it. What really sold me, though, was the price – I’d be paying less for a 90-day supply of DASH pods than what I was paying for regular OmniPods under my old health insurance plan.

It was a no-brainer, really.

Even though I’m not DASHing away to start up my DASH (again, gotta make use of those old pods first), I’m still looking forward to getting acquainted with a new piece of diabetes technology that will feel familiar to me because of my years on the OmniPod system. I can’t wait to share more when I finally get DASHin’!

Diabetes in the Wild: Go-Kart Edition

Diabetes in the wild moments happen when they’re least expected.

I mean…I never go out anywhere in public assuming that I’ll run into another person with diabetes, or a person who will recognize my Dexcom sensors or OmniPods as diabetes devices. It just happens organically and it’s always a unique encounter. But given that my other most recent diabetes in the wild experience left me feeling awkward and uncomfortable, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to having another one any time soon.

But on my vacation, I did indeed have one that I’m pleased to share was much more pleasant than the last.

Yes, this is a graphic of an insulin pump taking a trip around a racetrack.

I was waiting in line for go-karts – as one does on vacation – when the woman in front of me spotted my Dexcom and asked me if I was type 1, to which I replied that I am.

This launched a short conversation about diabetes technology in general. She expressed knowledge of the OmniPod and I told her that I was wearing one, and she nodded eagerly and said how much easier it makes her life in the summertime, when she’s frequently swimming and doesn’t have to worry about disconnecting her tubing before going for a dip (a comment which I wholeheartedly agreed with). We exchanged a few more words about our diabetes devices, and before she turned her attention back to her group, she thanked me for taking the time to chat with her.

I couldn’t help but smile after the whole interaction. After all, it was kind of nice knowing that another person who just “gets” diabetes was standing inches away from me and looking forward to a carefree go-kart race, too.

Do You Know How Long OmniPods Last?

This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on June 3, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because I have seriously benefited from learning the “true” length of time that a single OmniPod lasts on my body. Read on to learn more…

When people notice my OmniPod insulin pump, the first question that I’m asked is “what IS that?”

After I explain that it’s my insulin pump, and it’s called a pod, the second question I’m asked is some variation of “how long does it last?”

The canned answer that I provide is something about having to change it every three days, because that’s how the OmniPod is advertised.

But I’ve used this pump for years now and never bothered to really test this three-day limit. I’ve known for a long time that my pod works a handful of hours after the expiration alarm starts chiming, but I wasn’t sure about exactly how many hours I had before a pod expired for good.

So, the other day, I decided to find out.

Have you ever made your pod last longer than 80 hours? If so…are you a wizard???

My pod expired at 10:22 A.M. Since I prefer to change my pods in the evening, I figured it was the perfect time for this little experiment, assuming that the pod really would last me for the majority of the day.

And, well, it did! At 10:22 on the dot, the pod beeped at me to notify me that it was expired. And in the six hours after that, it would alarm every hour (on the 22nd minute) to remind me, time and time again, that it was expired. In the seventh hour – beginning at 5:22 P.M. – my PDM started chirping at me on and off every 15 minutes or so. First it was because I was running out of insulin, but then it was to really get the point across that my pod was expired!

I was determined to use every last drop of insulin in the pod, though, so I bolused for my dinner around 5:45 and I was pleased to discover that I got my full dose of insulin without any issues. As I was cleaning up after dinner, that’s when the signature OmniPod BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP went off as one blaring, unceasing alarm. I checked the time: 6:22 P.M.

So there was my answer. An OmniPod can last precisely 80 hours after you initially activate it for the first time (or in other words, 8 hours after you receive the first expiration message)…as long as it still has insulin in it. It’s definitely something good to know for sure now, because in the future, it might come in handy and help me avoid wasting precious insulin.

Ask Yourself These 6 Questions Before Trying New Diabetes Technology

This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on May 13, 2020. I’m sharing it again today because I think it’s super important to weigh the answers to these questions before deciding to try new diabetes technology. This is coming from someone who waited 17 years before she tried her first insulin pump, and even though it has had an enormously positive influence on my life and sometimes I wish I’d tried it sooner, I’m ultimately glad that I waited that long! Read on for more details…

So you want to try your first continuous glucose monitor. Or maybe you’re ready to leave behind multiple daily injections and switch to insulin pump therapy. Whichever diabetes device you’re looking to start using, there are some questions you’ll probably want to have answers to before decide that now’s the time to introduce new diabetes technology into your daily routine.

The following is a compilation of the questions that I thought long and hard about (literally for years) and that I wish I’d thought long and hard about before I made the transition to the OmniPod insulin pump.

1. Am I ready for it? It took me 17 years before I decided that I was ready to try an insulin pump. 17 freakin’ years!!! I spent most of that time being too afraid of introducing such a drastic change to a routine I’d had down pat for such a long period of my life. There are times when I wish I’d gone onto my insulin pump sooner, but ultimately, I’m glad that I wasn’t swayed by my family or doctors to go on it before I truly felt ready. By the time I started using my OmniPod, I had the maturity, responsibility, and emotional intelligence that I felt that I needed for an insulin pump.

2. Will I be able to afford it? Obviously, this isn’t a question that I wondered about when I was younger, but it’s one of the first things that comes to mind as an adult on her own health care plan. We all know that diabetes supplies are expensive, and it seems that the more technologically advanced something is, the more money that has to be forked over in order to obtain it. This isn’t right or fair, but it’s a simple truth and an important one to think about before choosing one pump or continuous glucose monitor over another.

3. Why do I want to start using it? I wanted to start using my OmniPod because my mom experienced great success when she started using it. And I decided to get a Dexcom CGM because I fell in love with the technology after undergoing a trial period with my endocrinologist. In both situations, I felt very much in control of my decision to start using these devices and I didn’t really listen to anyone else’s opinions. But I am very aware of the fact that social media and real-life friendships with other people with diabetes can often sway people in different directions. After all, if I saw a post on Instagram from a dia-influencer who was singing the praises of a Tandem T:slim pump, then I might seriously start thinking about switching to it (this has actually happened to me). But the bottom line is to think about the why – will this device enhance quality of life for me? Will diabetes be easier to manage with it? Will it help me achieve my A1c and/or blood sugar goals? Do I need to add something new to my routine because I’m feeling burnt out by doing things the same way all the time? Knowing why I wanted to use an OmniPod or a Dexcom CGM made me feel that much better during the whole process of learning how to use them – I felt like I had clear goals that would help me navigate the integration of these new technologies into my daily routine.

Did you know that Insulet/OmniPod has demo pods that you can wear? They don’t hold insulin or deploy a cannula, but they can give you a good sense of what it’s like to wear a pod on a daily basis!

4. Will I be comfortable wearing it 24/7? This is a big one! Pods, pumps, and CGMs are very visible, and it can be jarring to go from being “naked” to having bumps and lumps underneath clothes that can get caught on doorknobs, chairs, and the like. Personally, the benefits of my OmniPod and Dexcom outweigh something like this which is a bit superficial, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something to think about. But it’s also worth thinking about comfort and what is least painful when it comes to insulin delivery, so that’s why this is an important question to ask.

5. Do I know anyone else using it who can provide feedback from a patient’s perspective? I’ve talked about this before, but I’m not sure when, if ever, I would have seriously considered using the OmniPod if my mother hadn’t tried it first. The fact that we both have diabetes has probably made us a little closer and strengthened our bond, so if there’s anyone’s opinion that I’m going to trust when it comes to something like this, then it’s hers. I can actually remember her first few weeks on the OmniPod – in which she learned a lot of valuable lessons – and how pleased she was with it once a few months with it elapsed. She taught me the ins and outs of the OmniPod when started to use it, and I’d argue that her advice was more helpful than that of my diabetes educator. So I’d advocate gathering opinions from family and friends (if either is applicable) or the diabetes online community before going on a new diabetes device, in addition to the research component below…

6. Have I done enough research on it? …Like any smart shopper, it’s crucial to really consider all options and research them thoroughly, especially when it comes to the top contender. I definitely did not complete sufficient research before going onto the OmniPod or Dexcom; rather, I trusted that they were just right for me. If I were to switch to something else tomorrow, though, you can bet that’d I’d spend a lot of time scouring the web for every last bit of information on the device so I could make the most informed decision possible.

New diabetes technology can be both scary and exciting. But more than anything else, it can really make life with diabetes much more carefree, and I’m glad that in this day and age there are so many options available to people with diabetes that continue to be technologically impressive

How a Normal Pod Change Turned Into a Bloodbath

WARNING: If you are at all squeamish when it comes to blood…then this blog post is NOT for you! I will not be posting any graphic photos or anything, but I’ll be telling a bloody tale that might make the faint of stomach a bit queasy. Read on if you have no fear…

There’s nothing quite like waking up and doing a routine pod change…only to have blood literally pour out of your body the moment you tear your old pod from its site.

Okay, so using the word “bloodbath” in the title might be a gross exaggeration (LOL at my pun because yep it was GROSS), but I digress…blood really did stream in a rivulet down my arm. It sounds wild, but it’s true!

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I don’t often change my pod first thing in the morning, but every now and then, I’ll time it so that my pod is set to expire (like, really expire – pods expire for good 8 hours after receiving the initial “pod expired” message on the PDM) as soon as my wake-up alarm goes off. My only goal in prolonging the pod like that is to use up as much insulin as possible that’s left in the reservoir…naturally, I don’t like the idea of tossing a pod when it’s still got 50+ units of insulin left in it.

So I literally woke up on this particular morning at 6 A.M. to my pod screaming because I’d hit the 8-hour mark. I rolled out of bed and stumbled over to my mirror so I could have a better view of the pod, which was sitting on the back of my arm, and proceeded to rip the pod off. That’s when I saw blood – not just a tiny drop, but a full-on stream running down my arm!

The ‘betes can get bloody from time to time.

I was surprised, but still had my wits about me to the extent that I was able to run into my bathroom and grab some tissues so I could start wiping up the blood and apply pressure at the site. I barely made it in time – the blood was coming out so fast that drops were falling on the floor and my sink was getting dotted with red. I wasn’t really freaked out, per se, because I knew that if I just pressed hard enough with a tissue, then I’d be able to staunch the wound. And sure enough, within 5 minutes or so, I’d successfully done just that. I peeked under the last tissue I’d used and noticed a purplish mark at the old pod’s site, which indicated to me that I must’ve hit some sort of vein when I had put that pod on. Definitely not intentional, but something I hope to avoid going forward.

And undoubtedly…definitely not my favorite way to start the day!

CGM Sensor Adhesive: Not as Sticky as It Used to Be

I’ve had four CGM sensors fall off in the last six weeks or so.

Four! And they’ve all been in different locations, too – both the left and the right sides of my thighs and my stomach. I’ve worn overlay patches – at times multiple – to help keep them on, and I’ve still dealt with adhesive that just doesn’t want to lay flat against my skin.

What gives? I can’t recall a time in which I’ve had worse luck with my CGM sensors staying stuck.

I’ve gone through quite a few overlay patches in the last few weeks in an attempt to get my CGM sensors to stay stuck on my skin…with mixed success.

Normally, I’d blame it on weather, but it hasn’t exactly been warm here in New England yet. Temps have mainly stayed in the 50s and 60s, so it’s not like I can pinpoint the problem on heat.

The only silver lining in this scenario is that Dexcom does have a nice replacement program. They make it really easy to submit a patient support request online that goes straight to Dexcom support for processing. Filling this form out takes me no more than five minutes and by doing so, I’ve received a replacement sensor for each one that’s fallen off in the last month and a half. And while I was starting to worry that I was submitting too many requests, Dexcom hasn’t further inquired me on the matter yet, so I feel a little better knowing that I can count on them to give me replacements for sensors that won’t stay stuck.

Until the adhesive improves, though, it looks like I’m stuck wearing at least two or more overlay patches on my sensors to ensure their 10-day lifespans.

I guess they just don’t make ’em like they used to…