Restarting the Dexcom G6: Attempt #2

“If there’s a will, there’s a way.” This statement totally describes the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) and its collective determination to find workarounds when it comes to extending the life of certain diabetes devices.

In November, I briefly wrote about my first stab at restarting my Dexcom G6, which was completely unsuccessful. So why bother going through with a second attempt at it? Two reasons: 1) I know that other T1Ds have been able to triumphantly restart the G6, and 2) I know that there are multiple methods out there that people have used in order to do so.

I wasn’t necessarily on the hunt for a method I hadn’t tried yet, but I stumbled across one when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed a few weeks ago. Shout-out to Leah (Instagram handle: @the.insulin.type) for sharing her technique, which you can view for yourself by clicking this link.

You’re probably wondering whether it worked for me, so let me cut to the chase and give you a super annoying answer: yes and no. I restarted the G6 according to Leah’s process, but received the “Sensor Error: Temporary issue. Wait up to 3 hours.” message, which resulted in graphs with sporadic gaps created by a lack of readings. That message popped up at least three or four times over the next 48 hours, before the “sensor failed” message notified me that I had to put a brand new sensor on and finally get rid of the restarted one.

This means that attempt #2 went better than my first try at restarting a sensor, but it was far from the flawless restarts that I know other people have experienced.

I haven’t given up hope, though. I do think that I’ll achieve success, eventually, after some more trial-and-error. I do have my theories that might explain why this didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, and it has to do with the following factors:

  • I restarted my sensor on day eight of wear
  • The sensor error message was on my receiver when I began the restart process

Next time I try this method, I want to see if it makes any difference to let the sensor expire naturally on the tenth day of wear. And if that doesn’t work, I want to at least give it another shot when the sensor and receiver are communicating properly and there are no error messages causing interference.

All in all, the experiment wasn’t a total failure. I did manage to extend the sensor’s life by about six hours – it was due to expire at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the tenth day of wear, but the sensor didn’t fail completely until about eight o’clock that night. So TECHNICALLY speaking, I got a bit more usage out of it…but then again, those six hours (and probably slightly more than that) got wiped out by those stretches of time that I was dealing with sensor errors.

As I work through more restart attempts, rest assured that I’ll post about them so hopefully someone else will learn a method that works for them, too. But remember…restart your Dexcom G6 at your own risk. It’s not guaranteed to restart or, even if it does, to be accurate.

 

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Feeling Pretty with Diabetes

Diabetes can be an ugly disease.

It’s defined by finger pricks, drops of blood, infusion site bruises. Diabetes rarely leaves beautiful markings behind on the body; rather, it can make me feel unsightly.

Needless to say, diabetes occasionally makes me feel worse about my body. I try to project body confidence when around others, but on the inside, I’m terribly self-conscious about the way I look.

So that’s why it was wonderful to feel pretty with diabetes this past weekend.

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Unicorns on my patch and in the background. Because you can’t be surrounded by too many unicorns. If only someone would tell that to my blood sugar…

I got all dressed up to go to a “punk prom” that my friend helped organize. The night was all about singing along to the angst-filled tunes of our youth, listening to local bands jam out onstage, and getting glamorous so we could pose for an endless number of photos with fellow attendees.

In the hours leading up to the event, I was a bit anxious about wearing my insulin pump and CGM in visible spots. They didn’t exactly match the dress I’d dug out from the bowels of my closet (and that I’d last worn in the 9th grade). But as I applied hairspray to my carefully coiffed curls, it hit me that I should just own the look. Sure, nothing about boring medical adhesive or the words “Dexcom G6” screams formal wear, but I had a couple tricks up my sleeve that could doll up my gear nicely.

Namely, I had Patch Peelz. Created by the folks over at Pump Peelz, this patterned tape could make my CGM look fancy. Between the unicorn print and the dark purple and blue color scheme, the patch would look like it was styled to match my dress. I couldn’t help but beam once I was 100% ready for the evening. Coordinated aesthetics aside, I felt like one of the unicorns on my patch: magical, vivacious, and yes, pretty.

What to do When Diabetes Technology Fails (at the Worst Possible Time)

This past Saturday afternoon, my Dexcom G6 sensor stopped working. It wasn’t sending data to my smartphone app or my transmitter, so I was forced to fly blind…at a party with tons of people I’d never met before, an impressive food spread, and few beverage options other than beer from a keg or spiked punch.

Definitely not a good time for my Dexcom sensor to go kaput, especially considering I was getting on a plane the next day and didn’t have a backup. And I wouldn’t get my hands on a fresh sensor for a couple more days, when I would return home from my adventures in Washington, D.C. and Nashville, Tennessee.

So yeah, it was pretty much the worst timing ever for my heavily-relied-upon diabetes technology to fail.

How did I handle it? It might sound incredibly obvious, but…I just reverted back to life before a CGM, meaning that I tested my blood sugar much more often than I do when the ol’ Dexcom is up and running. At the aforementioned party, I sucked it up and pulled myself away from conversations to check my numbers every so often with my meter. I still participated in barbecue and beer consumption, but I dialed it back because I couldn’t be sure of what direction it would send my blood sugar in, or how quickly it would happen.

As for the rest of my trip, and my travel days, I remained diligent. I’d test and correct as needed approximately every two hours. I set alarms for the middle of the night so I could be certain that I wasn’t too high or too low. I went back to relying on sensation – was I feeling thirsty because my blood sugar was high? Was my shakiness a sign of an oncoming low? It surprised me how easily I slid back into those routines, but I guess that after so many years of practicing them, it makes sense that I was still in tune with my body.

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No data…no problem.

And, perhaps most shocking of all, I remained pretty calm about the whole situation. Normally, it’d send me into a panic and I’d chide myself over and over for not having a backup sensor. But, really, I carry around enough diabetes junk – adding a clunky sensor insertion device into the mix sounds excessive. After all, the sensors are supposed to WORK for the full ten days that they guarantee. It gets exhausting, having to anticipate technology failures when they should never happen, so I shouldn’t be upset with myself for not carrying more than the essentials.

The lesson in this experience, I think, is to be unafraid to depend on my intuition. I literally grew up managing my diabetes with hardly any technological aid, and I can do it again now in a heartbeat as long as I trust myself and the process.

Diabetes Connections: Gym Edition

“Are you a diabetic?” Despite the fact that I was wearing earbuds, I heard the question that was undoubtedly being directed toward me.

I glanced to my right and met the gaze of the teenage girl on the treadmill next to me. I smiled, tugging an earbud out, and said, “Yes, I am. My OmniPod gave it away, didn’t it?”

She nodded eagerly. “I have a Medtronic pump, but I know what an OmniPod looks like. When I saw it, I had to say something to you.”

This marked the beginning of what wound up being a thirty minute interaction with Shae, a high school senior with bucketloads of energy and questions for me about life with diabetes. We specifically chatted about college, and I couldn’t resist telling her all about the College Diabetes Network and what a useful tool it was for me during my three and a half years at UMass. The more we spoke, the more it felt like I was looking at a mirror image of myself from seven years ago. She had just finished taking her AP Psych exam and was relieved it was done. Her senior prom was in a few days, and she described how she’d wear her pump while donning her fancy gown. She was excited about college, but a little nervous about the dreaded “Freshman 15” and whether her diabetes would adjust well to college dining halls.

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It’s so funny to think how something as crappy as diabetes can introduce so many amazing people into your life.

I did my best to answer Shae’s rapid-fire questions frankly but reassuringly. As I told her about how much my CGM helped me in college (especially since I was still on multiple daily injection therapy at that time), she exclaimed that I was inspiring her to want to give her CGM another shot (pun unintended – I love spontaneous diabetes humor).

As we parted ways, we both grinned broadly and wished one another well. This is why moments like this – diabetes in the wild – are so great. Diabetes instantly bonds you to a stranger who you might not otherwise ever interact with, and the beauty in that immediate connection is priceless.

The CGM Experiment: Comparing the Dexcom G5 to the G6

I have the extremely good fortune of being one of the first people in the world to receive the Dexcom G6, the latest in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology. After spending almost two years eagerly anticipating its FDA approval, I could scarcely believe that I finally had it in my hands when it first arrived a few weeks ago.

I am partway through my second-ever G6 sensor, so I’ve had enough time to come up with some initial opinions on the system as a whole compared to the G5.

Let’s start with what I knew going into the first insertion of the G6. I knew that the transmitter would have a sleeker profile than the G5. I also was aware that the insertion process would be much more streamlined – all I would need to do is push a button and it would be on my body.  Plus, the G6 required 0 finger sticks or calibrations, could be worn for 10 consecutive days, and would no longer block acetaminophen (Tylenol) like its predecessors did. So far, me and the G6 were off to a solid start.

Then, it came time for me to actually put it on. Rather then end my current session with my G5, I decided to leave it on so I could see how accurate it was compared to the G6.

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I was amazed by how easy it was to insert the G6. All I had to do was input a 4-digit code located on the sensor into my receiver. Once the code was accepted, I peeled the adhesive off the sensor, placed the system on my abdomen, folded the orange safety clip until it snapped off, and pushed the big orange button. I cringed when I did it for the first time; truthfully, I was prepared for it to hurt. It made a ka-shunk sound as the sensor inserted itself into my skin, and I…didn’t feel a thing. I marveled at how ridiculously comfortable it felt as I snapped the sleeker transmitter into place. I pressed one more button on my receiver to get the sensor warmed up, and that was it. Once two hours elapsed, my G6 system would be fully operational and could determine my blood sugar without requiring manual calibrations.

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While it felt great to know that I didn’t need to worry about calibrating my new device, I was more interested in seeing how well it matched up with my G5.

And I was a little let down…at least, I was in the beginning.

Initially, I was not impressed at all by the G6’s reports. They matched pretty damn closely with my G5. I was beginning to wonder whether the technology really was that excellent, and then my G6 proved to me that it was, indeed, kind of a big deal.

That moment came when it caught a low blood sugar sooner than my G5. I was feeling the early signs of a low, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it alarmed. But what was particularly neat to me was that it was able to tell me that a serious low blood sugar (below 55 mg/dL) was oncoming in the next 20 minuets or less. In other words, it knew that I needed to treat my blood sugar right away to prevent a more urgent hypoglycemic event. That predictive feature was definitely a pleasant surprise.

As I wore my first G6 sensor for a few more days, it seemed to adjust better and better to my body. As evidenced in the above picture, it proved to be spot on when I compared it to the blood sugar readings I got from my meter. There’s absolutely still a bit of the classic CGM lag, as it takes about 15 minutes or so to catch up to what’s actually going on in the body, but that was to be expected.

I’m already on second sensor and I think it’s safe to say that I’m sold on the G6. But I don’t think that any product comparison/review is complete without a list of pros and cons, so here’s what I’ve come up with:

Pros of the G6 (compared to the G5)

  • Slimmer transmitter profile
  • 0 fingerstick calibrations (which I really loved when I didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to calibrate a sensor I inserted before bed)
  • Predictive low feature
  • Modern touchscreen receiver
  • Absolutely painless and foolproof application – honestly, it was THAT good that it might win me over from the G5 if that was the sole difference between the two

Cons of the G6 (compared to the G5)

  • Clunky applicator – as many other members of the DOC have noted, the system is comprised of a lot of plastic. Probably not very environmentally friendly. I wish it was possible to recycle it somehow
  • Automatic expiration after 10 days – with the G5, you could restart a sensor after a week had elapsed, and in theoryyou could use the same single sensor more than once for a few weeks in a row. The G6 automatically shuts down after 10 days, so you’re forced to put on a new sensor. This medical device is already pretty expensive, and you could at least get your money’s worth with the G5
  • No super noticeable improvement in blood sugar reporting capabilities

The bottom line is that the G6 is unquestionably an upgrade in diabetes technology. It requires fewer blood sugar checks and allows for greater discretion with its smaller size. The G6 is far from perfect, but it’s still a valued component of my diabetes toolkit. I’m excited to continue on this journey with it and discover just how much it helps me take the best possible care of myself.

So THAT’S How Long and Sharp the Dexcom G5 Insertion Needle is…

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Oh, I cringe just looking at that.

This is a rare photo of the Dexcom G5 insertion needle. Yikes! I only captured it because somehow, my last sensor change with the G5 went awry and I wound up being unable to use this particular sensor. Before I threw it away, though, I played with it a bit to see if I could get a closer look at the needle that helps secure the sensor to my skin.

Obviously, the mission was accomplished. Even though I was slightly horrified by the needle’s pointy length, I was also relieved to know that it would be the last time it would puncture my skin. That’s because I knew my G6 was on its way and that one of the major improvements to it was making the whole process painless. Little did I know how true that would be until I put my first G6 sensor on…

In a couple days, I’ll *finally* publish a post that reveals my initial thoughts on my brand-new Dexcom G6. I’ll compare it to my experience with the G5 and share whether I think the G6 is worthy of all the hype it’s received.

 

What It’s Like to Wear a Medical Device 24/7

A question I’m often asked is: “Can you feel your CGM or insulin pump on your body?”

The simple answer to that is: usually, no. It’s something that you just get used to. You grow accustomed to seeing a lump underneath your clothing. You adjust to putting clothes on (and taking them off) carefully to avoid accidentally ripping a site out. You acclimate to showering without being completely naked.

And, of course, you get used to the questions from strangers asking about that device stuck to you.

But the more honest answer to that question would be that there are times that I feel it more than others. For example, sometimes I forget where I’m wearing my pump until I hit it against something (I’m a major klutz who constantly runs into doorways and trip over things, almost always managing to catch my pod on whatever it is), resulting in pain at the site and a curse word or two to fly out of my mouth.

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My OmniPod (on my arm) and my Dexcom (on my stomach) are stuck on me 24/7.

I feel it the most, though, when people stare. Whether unconsciously or purposely, people do ogle at it in very not subtle manners. Which makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. It’s worse when they don’t even ask me what it is – I’d rather have a chance to use it as a teaching moment than to have someone walk away not knowing what the device does. This tends to make swimsuit season a little less welcome for me. Nothing will stop me from donning a bathing suit at the beach or by the pool, and I do so as much as possible in the summertime. But it’s just not as fun when I’ve got to cope with lingering looks, especially when I’m an admittedly insecure person in the first place.

So it’s a more complex question to answer than you might realize. Wearing a medical device 24/7 is humbling. It keeps me alive. I’m privileged to have access to it. I’m grateful for the ways it’s improved my life. I’m always wearing it, but it’s not at the forefront of my mind – unless it chooses to make its presence known by alarming, or I’ve got people blatantly checking it out. It’s kind of like diabetes itself. It can make you feel a gamut of emotions, but no matter what, it’s always there. It’s just a part of me, and I can deal with that.