Battery Blues

Between this post and the one from a couple of weeks ago, this blog is rapidly turning into one in which I bemoan the battery life of my diabetes devices…

The fact of the matter is, though, that I’ve definitely had my share of battery issues lately. The Omnipod DASH problem was resolved (rather swiftly), thanks to the folks at Insulet. But now it’s my Dexcom transmitter battery that’s acting up…and resulting in a whole lot of lost data (and even more frustration) for me.

If I can’t have a working pancreas can’t my diabetes devices at least have everlasting batteries?

It all started about a week and a half ago, when my Dexcom app notified me that my transmitter battery would be expiring in 3 weeks. That was to be expected – Dexcom transmitter batteries last 90 days, and according to my records, the one I’d been using was for sure approaching the expiry date.

What I didn’t expect was that the waning battery life in my transmitter would trigger multiple false blood sugar readings and periods of no readings whatsoever. At least I think my transmitter is to blame – I hadn’t experienced any issues with sensors from my last shipment and the app usually never experiences errors like this unless there’s a problem with the sensor and/or transmitter, so logic led me to conclude that my transmitter was simply losing reliability as it came closer and closer to its expiration.

My workaround was to do finger stick checks any time I was untrusting of my Dexcom, or whenever it was giving me a “no readings” alert. Plus, I’ve got a fresh transmitter ready to be activated once this one stops working, so it’s not like I’ll be without a Dexcom for an unbearable length of time.

In spite of that, I still thought this was worth talking about here on the blog because 1) I can’t remember if I’ve ever had a transmitter fade so dramatically in the last 3 weeks of its lifespan, 2) it was an exasperating situation and I needed to vent, and 3) I’m wondering if this has ever happened to anyone else before, and if there’s a workaround.

At this moment in time, I’m not quite sure what a feasible solution would be besides ripping a sensor off prematurely and sticking to finger stick checks for a few days until my annoyance ebbs…which is exactly the strategy that I decided to go with. I’m definitely looking forward to new transmitter time…

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.