“Gimme a sec, I’m multitasking right now…owwwwwww!”
I was talking to my boyfriend on the phone and changing my Dexcom sensor at the same time when I was caught off-guard by (and yelped in surprise at) the sharp sting of the sensor’s needle plunging into my arm. It was a sting that evolved into a burn that lasted a solid 24 hours, much to my discomfort.
People often ask me whether or not my diabetes devices hurt. The answer is almost always no, because I’ve grown accustomed to the constant pricks and pokes. But once in a blue moon, I have a sensor or pod insertion that hurts so badly that my eyes well up with tears or I have to deal with a night or two of uneasy sleep, because it aches any time I roll over onto the stinging site.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve had at least 30,000 (yes, I did the math) shots and site changes over the years – diabetes still hurts, sometimes, and that’s just talking about the damage it does physically.
Diabetes hurts mentally, too, though that type of scarring is a whole lot more difficult to quantify.
The bottom line? Diabetes doesn’t hurt all of the time, but on the rare occasions it does, it’s a painful reminder that this is just the way of life for people like me who’ve got no other choice than to deal with it.
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.
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!
“Diabetes in the wild” is a phrase I first learned about several years ago from, of course, the diabetes online community.
The phrase refers to those moments when you’re out in public and suddenly, randomly, you happen to spy another person with diabetes. Perhaps their pump site gives them away, or maybe they’re doing a fingerstick check. The person could have a diabetes tattoo, or they might be doing an injection. Whatever the scenario may be, these moments can be kind of exciting because they often trigger me to think, hey, there’s someone just like me right over there – it’s like that instant knowing that this person knows better than anyone else what daily life with diabetes is like that results in an inexplicable comfort, that feeling of realizing you’re never alone. And it’s truly a powerful feeling.
More often than not, these diabetes in the wild moments also come with some level of interaction with the other person. Maybe I’ll toss a compliment their way (nice Omnipod!) or the other person might ask me a question about my diabetes devices, because they’re curious about them and considering whether or not they should try it. These interactions are almost always super polite and the awkwardness is minimal…
…but naturally, there are times when diabetes in the wild moments are not so nice and just plain weird.
Here’s the story behind my most recent, bizarre, and mildly uncomfortable diabetes in the wild experience.
I was at the grocery store on my lunch break, taking great care to somewhat hustle up and down the aisles because I had a short window of time in which to complete my shopping. The store was pretty empty and for the most part, I was able to go from aisle to aisle without bumping into other people.
Until John and Jane (not their real names, I actually have no clue what their names are) appeared.
John and Jane were what I like to call…spatially unaware. They had zero regard for my personal space and apparently, no manners, which I deduced from the fact that I had to move my cart and my body so close to the shelves of one aisle that I was practically touching the shelves in order to make way for them as they trod down the aisle in a wide berth as opposed to walking down single-file (like I would’ve done had I been with another person).
I was mildly annoyed, but it definitely wasn’t a big deal. I continued shopping and was dimly aware of the fact that John and Jane were going down a haphazard path, ignoring the arrows on the floors of the grocery store that indicated how to navigate up and down the aisles.
As I made my way to the next aisle, I realized that they were approaching me again, and even though we were the only three people in the aisle, they got extremely close. This time I was absolutely annoyed. I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to encroach on my personal bubble like that, but it got worse when I heard Jane say to John, directly behind my back, “Look, that’s a Dexcom like Stevie wears.”
I could feel my cheeks redden as two pairs of eyes ogled at the Dexcom sensor that I was wearing on my arm. I froze, wondering if I should acknowledge the comment, but before I could do so they were both wandering away.
The incident left me confused and a little angry. I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to discuss my Dexcom right within earshot of me – really, they literally talked behind my back. They could’ve waited until they were further away from me to talk about it if they wanted to, when I couldn’t overhear them and feel uncomfortable by the whole exchange, which left me feeling like I was a caged animal at the zoo. I can’t remember a time when people had so openly stared at my Dexcom like that, and it’s a weird feeling…and it’s one thing to stare, and a whole separate issue to comment on it without addressing me directly.
I don’t know, maybe I was being overly sensitive about the whole thing, but I can’t help how it made me feel. It would’ve been a much different story had they maybe talked to me about it – I can imagine spending a couple minutes talking with them about their little Stevie and ending the exchange by telling them to take care or sharing some other pleasantry. Who knows how it could’ve been different. But one thing it taught me is that diabetes in the wild moments, as fun as they can be for me, they can also be not so great for others. I’d hate to think that I ever made anyone else feel awkward or strange about their diabetes because I called them out on it.
I think that context is key when it comes to experiencing diabetes in the wild…sometimes it’ll be totally appropriate to talk about it in public, other times not so much. We all just have to be a little more careful about determining the right contexts.
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!
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!
Have you ever noticed that certain activities have a swift and obvious impact on your blood sugar levels?
Well, if you aren’t a person with diabetes, then the answer to that is probably “no”…but I digress! Recently, I realized that there are five things that absolutely, definitely, without-a-doubt make my blood sugar plummet before long. Here’s my list – what’s on yours?
1 – Vacuuming. I live in a fairly small condo – less than 900 square feet total – but when it comes time to vacuuming the floor, it takes me a good chunk of time to do a thorough job. Maybe about 30 minutes total. So it shouldn’t be surprising that by the time I’m done, I’m normally a little sweaty and often in need of a snack because all that moving around has made my blood sugar drop.
2 – Baking. This might be surprising because I’m the type of baker who must lick the spoon and sample the finished product as soon as it’s done, so you might assume that this activity makes my blood sugar go up. Not so. And this is because I am also what I call a “frantic baker”. I shuffle around the kitchen, rifle through cabinets, curse when I can’t find an ingredient and need to rush out to the store to get it…now you must get the idea. I’m always in motion when I’m baking, which pays off in the end. I need to try my baked goods in order to boost blood sugar that went low in the process of creating them. This is one of the many reasons why I love baking!
3 – Playing with my puppy. Little Miss Violet is four months old now and more rambunctious than ever. She loves fetching, running, chasing…and nine times out of ten, I’m fetching, running, and chasing right along with her. Before too long, Violet’s winded and on her way to dreamland while I’m on my way to the kitchen to grab something that will treat my low blood sugar.
4 – Cleaning the bathroom. A self-professed neat freak, I have a very specific process when I’m cleaning the 1.5 bathrooms in my condo. This process probably isn’t the most efficient because it involves a lot of walking up and down the stairs to gather various cleaning supplies, but it does do one thing well: lower my blood sugar, of course.
5 – Walking. This is pretty dang obvious because any sort of physical activity/exercise is bound to make my blood sugar drop, but not in the same way that walking does. I swear that 10-15 minutes of walking at a normal pace is enough to drop my blood sugar by about 100 points – that’s how effective it is for me. Walking is my sneaky little trick when my blood sugar is a tad too high: Instead of taking insulin to correct it, I just have to get a quick walk in and I’m falling fast in no time.
It started with the emails…then progressed to phone calls.
Voicemail messages were left and I tried calling back. No answer.
Emails were sent (yes, multiple) and still…no answer.
Am I describing a creepy, stalker-y movie plot OR my experience with Dexcom customer service???
If you guessed the latter, then ding-ding-ding, you’re right! (Sorry if you’re disappointed it’s not the former, this blog post is most definitely not about to take a When a Stranger Calls type of turn.)
No fewer than five Dexcom representatives have tried to contact me in the last month and up until a few days ago, I had no freakin’ clue why.
Let’s go back to the emails: I got THREE that said something along the following lines:
We have a new update regarding your pending Dexcom order. We have attempted to reach you but were unsuccessful. Please call me or respond to this email…
I haven’t placed a Dexcom order since the year began because 1) I wasn’t eligible to order new supplies yet and 2) I have enough sensors and a brand-new transmitter that will tide me over for the next two months at least. So I really didn’t understand why my order was already pending and, more importantly, why the “new update” wasn’t just written out in the email.
So I responded to the first two emails that I received that were like this, and was annoyed when nobody ever replied. But then I got an email about a reimbursement that really sent me into a tailspin. What reimbursement?!
I called Dexcom myself and spoke to a real, actual human being who told me that the reason why Dexcom reps were reaching out is because they did my annual review of insurance benefits and determined that I was eligible to reorder my supplies. Oh! I explained to the rep that that made sense to me, and now I understood why they were trying to get in touch with me…but what was this reimbursement business?
Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell me and instead informed me that I’d have to call the Dexcom billing department. This irked me, but I accepted it and began to wonder whether maybe the email was simply another notification that I could go ahead and reorder my supplies. I decided that I wouldn’t give Dexcom a call back, making the assumption that they were done with me.
Boy oh boy, was I wrong!
One night, Dexcom called my cell phone, and then my parents’ home phone (they must have it stored in their records from when I lived there), and then EMAILED ME AGAIN saying that they have an update on my pending order. By this point in time, I was furious. I tried calling back the TWO DIFFERENT NUMBERS for TWO DIFFERENT REPS and one line never even rang, while the other one went straight to voicemail (I couldn’t even leave a message because the inbox was full). I vowed to call back Dexcom customer service the next day to get to the bottom of this, once and for all.
When I called, I explained the situation – how I’ve received a handful of phone calls and emails that I’ve tried to reply to but never got answers. I also detailed how I’d spoken with a company rep in the last week and I thought I made it clear to her that I take care of my own Dexcom ordering using their online system, and that I don’t need a rep to walk me through the process. It was a longer-than-it-should’ve-been phone call because I felt like the rep wasn’t really listening to me: She kept talking over me and couldn’t seem to grasp that I’m perfectly capable of handling reorders on my own. Finally, things got resolved in the end when she told me that she just emailed my account representative and informed him that I can handle my reorder in my own time, and that should he need to talk to me, please get in touch with me as soon as possible.
Listen, y’all – I love my Dexcom CGM. It’s one of the first diabetes devices that I wore and it revolutionized diabetes care for me. I also appreciate Dexcom employees for their hard work, and as someone who used to do customer service over the phone, I seriously value the amount of time and energy that it takes to deal with dozens of customers each week and try to walk each of them through a satisfying solution. So the point of this blog post is to not dis a company that I like, but merely to point out that there are clearly some flaws in the customer communication system.
I mean…going back to my earlier point, if Dexcom knew what the “update” was, why didn’t they specify it in the email or the voicemail message?
I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer to that, but I do know this and I’m making a mental note of it now: Remember that next January, an insurance benefits check will be completed by Dexcom and I’ll probably be contacted about it – even if they don’t tell me that’s why they’re trying to get in touch, at least I’ll now have a sense as to what it’s about the next time around.
Despite the best of efforts to “control” all aspects of life with diabetes, the bottom line is that it can still be totally unpredictable from time to time.
Usually, these unexpected diabetes experiences aren’t exactly welcome…but sometimes, diabetes surprises me in wonderfully delightful ways.
Here’s three of ’em that have occurred in semi-recent memory:
1 – That time I was able to eat an entire homemade blueberry muffin WITHOUT BOLUSING FOR IT. Um, that’s crazy, right?! I had planned on eating half of said muffin in order to bring up a low blood sugar, but, well, it just tasted so damn good that before I knew it OOPS the whole thing was gone. I hemmed and hawed for a long time over whether I should bolus for the excess carb intake, and finally decided that I would just monitor my blood sugar and correct it as needed. But, weirdly enough…I saw my BG slowly rise and settle into the mid-150s and STAY there. Absolutely amazing, right? Maybe blueberry muffins are the new cinnamon cure for diabetes…
2 – When a pod change coincided with said pod running on its very last unit of insulin. Talk about using insulin to the very last drop, right? I still don’t know how I managed to pull this one off, but all I know is that I wore a pod for the maximum amount of time (80 hours) and had just one unit of insulin left inside it by the time it expired for good. I wish I could make this happen with every pod change, but then again, it is a little nerve-wracking to go down to the wire like that on a pod…
3 – That one instance when I drank one cocktail too many and my blood sugar behaved perfectly. This was a total freak incident and let me say upfront: I condone drinking with diabetes as long as it is done by individuals 21 and over in a safe, educated manner!!! Okay, now that I have that out of the way…like other grown-ass adults, sometimes I like to unwind with an adult beverage…and like OTHER grown-ass adults, once in a blue moon (please acknowledge the pun) I go a little overboard. Now, normally when I go a little too hard, I pay for it the next day with a hangover and high blood sugar, but on New Year’s Eve? When I drank Prosecco and a beer and a frozen Irish cream cocktail that was insanely good but carb-o-licious? I wound up with stellar blood sugars (and only a slightly hangover that was likely me just being overtired thanks to my puppy)…a head-scratching occurrence that was an absolute pleasant surprise.
And these are just three happy diabetes accidents that I can think of – I’ve absolutely had others over the years. Dumb luck? Total coincidences? Events that happened because I actually do kind of know what I’m doing? Whatever you want to call them, I can for sure classify these moments as the good kind of diabetes surprises.