Why Backup Supplies are Important to a T1D

“It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

Growing up, this mantra was frequently repeated by my mother regarding my diabetes supplies. More often than not, I’d roll my eyes at the saying – not because I was annoyed with her, but because the prospect of carrying extra supplies “just in case” felt very inconvenient. My purse/backpack/overnight bag would already be crammed to maximum capacity, so squeezing in backup needles or insulin was practically impossible. But typically, I’d cave and make it all work somehow, because the fear of not having something essential when I was away from home was strong enough.

I’ve kept up this practice in my adulthood, as overnight travel and increased distance from home have become more common. And I was reminded why it’s a good idea very recently.

I was staying at a friends’ place for the night. They live about 45 minutes away from my house, which isn’t far, but it was far enough for me to want to make sure I had extra supplies. I definitely did not want to have to make that drive twice in one night, and I knew it wouldn’t even be a realistic option, because chances were good that I’d be drinking alcohol – it was game night, after all.

Capture
If you have T1D, always be prepared.

Pizza, beers, and laughs were had, and before we knew it, it was one in the morning. We all headed off to bed, and just as I do every night, I checked my blood sugar before I got totally settled.

I was wicked high – the mid-300s, actually.

I was worried, because I thought I’d been on top of my blood sugar for most of the night. I gave myself an extended bolus for the three slices of pizza I ate, limited my beer intake (too many carbs), and kept a watchful eye on my CGM. While I did know that my blood sugar was climbing, I thought that I was staying on top of it with correction doses. Apparently not.

No matter, I figured. The best I could do was take more insulin, drink some water, and try to relax a bit before bed. I didn’t want to sleep until I knew my numbers were coming down, but I also knew that my willpower to stay awake was fading. So I set an alarm on my phone to wake up in an hour and check my blood sugar again.

When I did, I was 377! I couldn’t believe it. I followed the same process again – bolused, drank water, set an alarm to wake up in another hour – and hoped for the best. But when my alarm blared again at 3 A.M. and I discovered that I was STILL stuck at 377, something told me that there was more to the story here. I lifted up my shirt to check my pod, which should’ve been securely stuck to my belly…except it wasn’t. The end with the cannula was sticking up, revealing that the cannula was not underneath the surface of my skin.

I felt simultaneously pissed off and relieved. I was mad because I’d just changed my pod earlier that day, so it should not have come off so easily. But I was relieved because finally, I had an explanation behind the super-high, super-stagnant blood sugars.

And I was seriously relieved that I’d thought to pack my insulin, a spare pod, and an alcohol swab in my overnight bag.

So there I was, changing my pod at 3 A.M. Far from fun, but it was necessary. I even wound up giving myself an injection with a syringe – yet another diabetes supply that I don’t really need to carry but had stowed away in my kit (just in case) – to ensure that my system had insulin in it to bring my blood sugar back down.

From there, it was a long night (morning!) as I set numerous alarms for the next few hours to wake up, check my blood sugar, and bolus more as needed. I couldn’t rely on my CGM for readings, because guess what? It got torn right off my arm as I tossed and turned in bed. Go figure, right? (I didn’t have a backup sensor because the CGM is one thing that isn’t exactly necessary. It makes life a helluva lot easier, but for a single overnight trip, an extra sensor wasn’t needed.)

4F83304E-8212-46EF-8223-A7D47CE2CD0C
What a long night…

I probably only got three hours of sleep that night, and I was pretty damn defeated looking at a shitty CGM graph the next day. But you know what? The whole incident serves as a stark reminder that it’s important to ALWAYS have backup supplies: You never know when you might depend on them.

No More Fingerpricks Campaign

Diabetes Awareness Month may have only started a few days ago, but boy, has it been jam-packed with advocacy and awareness efforts so far! In fact, I think this is the most active year yet for most social media platforms. I’ve seen tons of different campaigns, hashtags, and posts that were all created especially for this month, and it’s absolutely wonderful to see such inspired content as well as high participation rates.

And I hope to keep the ball rolling on this! That’s why I’m sharing my #NoMoreFingerpricks post today. This campaign was launched by Dexcom and Beyond Type 1. Participants are encouraged to take a picture or video wearing the foam finger from Dexcom, or to draw an “X” on an actual finger (if they don’t have a foam finger). For every photo or video posted on Facebook/Instagram with an @Dexcom and #NoMoreFingerpricks, Dexcom will donate $1 to Beyond Type 1.

FDA2CBBD-C531-48F6-8357-01562F3C4383
Here’s my #NoMoreFingerpricks campaign photo! And yes, I deliberately wore blue – the color of diabetes awareness.

Yup, it’s that easy to do! And it’s exactly the kind of social media campaign that can catch on quickly. Recruit your family and friends to take photos and get posting! And be sure to teach them a couple of diabetes facts and what the whole #NoMoreFingerpricks hashtag is all about. For instance, you could mention that:

  • 34% of people with T1D know nothing or little about CGM
  • 80% of people with T1D still prick their fingers more than 3 times a day
  • 96% of CGM users would recommend CGM

You could even direct inquiring minds to visit nomorefingerpricks.com to learn more about continuous glucose monitoring technology and this campaign.

So…what are you waiting for?! Draw an “X” or grab that foam finger and post your photo to educate, advocate, and celebrate living beyond!

A Not-So-Sticky Situation

There’s nothing worse than medical adhesive that just won’t stick.

If an infusion site or CGM sensor fails to stick to the body, that almost always means that there’s no choice but to dispose of it prematurely. And that is the definition of a total waste, which is a horrible feeling when it comes to exorbitantly expensive diabetes supplies.

So you can probably imagine my vague sense of panic when less than 12 hours after inserting a recent CGM sensor, it started to peel around the edges. Actually, that’s phrasing it a bit lightly – one half of it was practically flopping off my arm. No matter how much I pressed it back against my skin, it wouldn’t stick. I knew that I needed to save it somehow, and fast.

My first resort was a Patch Peel – it’s cut to accommodate the CGM transmitter; as such, it was the most secure option I had available to me. But seconds after applying the patch, it started peeling all around the edges. WTF?! It was definitely the same strong adhesive that Pump Peelz uses on all of their products, so I didn’t understand why it wasn’t sticking. I cursed under my breath as I racked my brain, thinking of anything else I could use to salvage the sensor. I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it away after less than a full day’s worth of use.

c1d1cca3-498d-41d4-b703-88e9cfcd97b8-e1535137408367.jpeg
Smiling big with my salvaged sensor.

Then I remembered I had SkinTac, which is so strong and glue-like that I normally avoid using it. But desperate times call for desperate measures, right? I lifted up the edges of my patch and wiped the SkinTac all around my skin, patting the patch gingerly back into place as the SkinTac dried. And…it worked! My patch got wrinkly as hell as the adhesives bound together, but I didn’t care because I’d managed to save the sensor. Will it hurt in a few days when I peel off all those layers of adhesive? Oh yes. But I won’t mind at all because I didn’t have to waste a sensor with a retail value of about (cue the gasps) $165.

A Good Diabetes Day

I’ve blogged plenty of times about my “bad” diabetes days – you know, those posts that I talk about stubborn blood sugar that won’t come down/up, or how technology refuses to cooperate, or how I’m feeling intense diabetes burnout.

This made me wonder about the “good” days. Besides my blood sugars looking so perfect that I question whether my pancreas has magically started to produce insulin again, what sets those days apart from the “bad” (and plain, old, ordinary days)?

 

The answer likely varies among people with diabetes, but let me describe my version of a darn good diabetes day:

  • Going to an endocrinologist appointment first thing in the morning and discovering that your A1c has dropped nearly half a point, down to 6.7. YAAAAAAS!
  • Being told by said endocrinologist that you’re doing an amazing job, and passed all other blood work tests with flying colors – I was most thrilled with my HDL cholesterol (the good kind) levels, which have gone up due to my current exercise regimen. And she said I lost a couple pounds, to boot!
  • Coming home from work to a package from Dexcom containing the brand new G6 receiver, transmitter, and sensors. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a delivery!
  • Topping it all off, my blood sugars throughout the day weren’t too shabby.
ezgif.com-video-to-gif.gif
Dancing excitedly with my new Dexcom G6! My puppy couldn’t understand what the hullabaloo was all about.

It’s days like that that make me feel validated – like all my hard work is worth it. It isn’t easy to manage diabetes every moment of every day, so when the diabetes stars align like this, it feels…wonderful.

Waiting for the Shift in Numbers

Call me crazy, but sometimes, I find myself staring at my Dexcom app in anticipation of catching the numbers changing.

It might be because I’m hoping for a change (coming down from a high, coming up from a low). Or it could be because I find a strange satisfaction in receiving real-time data of my blood sugar levels. Whatever, so be it: I’m a diabetes nerd!

I remember this particular example bringing me happiness, because I’d been hovering pretty close to my high limit (170 mg/dL) for a couple hours. So watching that three-point shift happen reassured me that I was going to come down. And sure enough, 15 minutes after capturing these screenshots, I was going down closer to my target of 100.

When it comes to diabetes…it’s the little things, right? Am I the only one who likes monitoring my CGM this closely, every once in a while? Or am I just weird?

Maybe don’t answer that last question…

Memory Monday: 1st Generation Dexcom CGMs

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…Dexcom CGMs made their debut?

It was just over ten years ago that the Dexcom SEVEN CGM System launched. I didn’t actually know more about it, though, until a couple years after the fact. That was when my endocrinologist encouraged me to sign up for a week-long trial run with this new technology to see how I liked it.

023E152D-A6FF-4555-80F0-67764C9523BB
Then: The Dexcom SEVEN CGM System

I didn’t like it, I LOVED it. I quickly became obsessed with the ability to monitor my blood sugar levels at all times. But it’s funny to think back to how bulky and just plain different that first-generation system was compared to today’s sleek and highly functional models.

A few key differences between now and then:

  • Size. The first CGM was large. It was roughly the size of my OmniPod PDM, which might not seem so significant, but it is when measured up against newer CGM models.
  • Display. The screen on my first CGM was very simple. No colors, no frills – just readings of my blood sugar. That was all fine, but I have to say that I’m a fan of color-coordinated blood sugar reports (red for low, yellow for high, gray for in-range numbers). In a weird way, it motivates me to keep my graph as gray as possible.
  • Distance restrictions. I hated that I had to keep my first CGM so close to me at all times, or else run the risk of losing data! It was hyper sensitive and my readings would be lost if I left the same room as the CGM for more than a couple of minutes. My CGM is now able to pick up readings from much farther away – sometimes, even when I’m downstairs and it’s upstairs.
  • Sounds. My memory is a little foggier on how the sounds compare between old and new Dexcom CGM generations, but I do recall the beeps and vibrations being far more aggressive and annoying on older models.
  • Smartphone access. This might be one of the biggest and best changes – the ability to download an app on your smartphone that can replace a Dexcom receiver. How awesome is that? Plus, if you choose to do so, you can invite family and friends to monitor your blood sugar along with you, which can be helpful in certain situations. Cell phones are so ingrained into society, so this move was brilliant on Dexcom’s part.
IMG_4180
Now: Dexcom data, on my iPhone!

All these improvements have made me a member of Team Dexcom for life. It’ll be neat to see what they come up with next to help make the lives of people with diabetes easier and better.

Diabetes Data Overload

I’ve always been a words girl – never a big fan of numbers. So isn’t my T1D ironic, being that it’s an illness ruled by numbers?

Think about it. PWD have a ridiculous number of…numbers to be concerned about on a daily basis. Between blood sugar checks, insulin dosage calculations, carbohydrate counting, basal rate testing, and more, there’s a lot to take into account.

And as time has gone on and technology has evolved, it seems like these numbers are constantly accessible on an endless volume of devices. I can determine trends using my Dexcom CGM – using either my mobile app or my sparkly pink receiver. I can scroll through my record log of blood sugars on my meter. I can find out how much insulin I took in one day using my OmniPod. I can even download several weeks’ worth of blood sugar graphs from my Dexcom by simply hooking it up to a computer.

It’s information overload.

As much as I love having the ability to access all of this data, it’s also too much to swallow at times. I could drive myself nuts looking through days’ worth of graphs and logs to figure out why I was inexplicably high at 3 o’clock in the morning one day, but I can also just chalk it up to a fluke and better spend my energy worrying about my blood sugar in the present (as opposed to the past).

The point is, it’s exhausting to have my life dictated by all this data. I wish I could take a break from it sometimes, but then again, it’s helped me become more accountable for my own health. And I can still express my hatred for numbers by using my love of words, so it’s not all that bad.