Packing for my 1st Trip Post-Vaccine…Diabetes-Style

I’m going away this weekend!

It’s just a one-night trip, but one that I’m super-excited about for a few reasons: 1) It’s for my best friend’s bachelorette weekend, 2) it will be the first trip that I’ve taken since I got vaccinated, and 3) it will be the first time in just shy of a year and a half that I will be gathered in-person with a group of people.

My anxiety and nerves are starting to kick in, but it’s not because I’ll be under one roof with nine other people (every person attending has been vaccinated, in most cases completely, and each individual will be taking a rapid-result COVID test to ensure the health and well-being of everyone for the duration of the weekend). Rather, I’m on edge because I feel like I’ve forgotten how to adequately prepare for an overnight trip.

Packing for a trip during a pandemic in which vaccines are becoming more and more available is just…uniquely different compared to how packing for trips used to feel.

Let’s be real, prior to the pandemic, traveling with diabetes could get tricky. Even if I was only going to be an hour away from home, I’d still pack back-ups for my back-ups, or at least do my very best to do so (let’s pretend that I did during that near-DKA episode a few weeks back). In addition to normal overnight trip things like clothing and toiletries, I’ve always had to leave extra room in my bags for spare pods, alcohol swabs, insulin vials, my meter, and the like. But for this trip, not only do I have to be cognizant of packing the “normal” stuff and the “diabetes” stuff, but I also have to take care to remember the “bachelorette” stuff – snacks, paper goods, and alcoholic beverages that I signed up to bring. And extra masks, hand sanitizer, and such because I want our group to be protected and to help protect others. There’s just so much to remember! I’m positively terrified that I’ll forget something, but I can’t let my stress cloud my thinking because that won’t lead to a positive outcome.

As a result, I’ve come up with a strategy to make sure that at the very least, the diabetes aspect of traveling is well covered. I started packing earlier in the week and made out a list of the must-bring items as well as the just-in-case items. I went to the store to buy extra juice boxes and snacks so I won’t have to worry about access to food at all times. I’m definitely erring on the side of cramming so much into my bag that the seams will split, but you know what they say – better to be safe than sorry.

So when I head out of the house tomorrow morning, my arms will be laden with so much stuff that it’ll appear as though I’m going away for much longer than one evening. But such is life – not just with diabetes, but with people you care about who make it worth it to bring so much to a weekend getaway.

This Valentine’s Day, Spare a Rose and Save a Child

Like so many other things, Valentine’s Day is probably going to look and feel a little different to you and your sweetie this year.

But not everything has changed. One thing that remains the same is the fact that a bouquet of a dozen roses is practically synonymous with the holiday.

A dozen red roses is a classic Valentine’s gift. But what if you received 11 roses in your bouquet, instead of 12? What if you knew that a rose was spared because the value of that flower helped support a child living with diabetes in a less-resourced country?

I bet you wouldn’t mind getting one less rose in that case.

Who knew that the value of a dozen roses could pay for a child with diabetes to live another year of life?

This Valentine’s Day, please consider sparing a rose. Life for a Child is a nonprofit charity that created the Spare a Rose campaign. They’re able to support nearly 20,000 young people living with diabetes by using donations to buy them insulin, syringes, clinical care, diabetes education, and more. Anyone who’s familiar with diabetes realizes that access to care, education, and resources is critical to living a healthy and normal life. No one would want to deny another, especially a child, from having to forgo these resources because of the financial burden associated with them.

I’ve written about the Spare a Rose campaign for the last few years because I think it’s a beautiful way to celebrate a day that makes some swoon and others sick to their stomachs. A common complaint among people in this day and age is that too many holidays are all about raking in the dough for companies like Hallmark; in other words, most holidays have lost their original meaning and have become too commercialized.

So here’s your chance to bring back some significance to Valentine’s Day. In the face of a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we do all that we can to help people with diabetes access life-saving supplies and care.

Spare a rose and save child this Valentine’s Day.

My Pharmacy Mailed Me a Broken Vial of Insulin. Here’s How I Handled It.

As soon as I opened the package, I knew something was wrong.

The contents of said package were five vials of insulin – my regular 90-day supply. On the surface, nothing seemed wrong. They arrived in their usual styrofoam cooler that was taped shut. After removing the tape, I saw four ice packs next to the plastic packaging containing the insulin vials; again, this was all expected.

When I picked up the plastic package and used scissors to cut it open, though, a pungent odor greeted my nose.

A medicinal, harsh, familiar scent…the smell of insulin.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that one of the five cardboard boxes encasing the vials was totally damp to the touch. Gingerly, I opened it from the bottom flap, which was sticking out slightly due to the wetness. That’s when I saw the shattered insulin vial: Somehow, the bottom part of the vial had broken, spilling and wasting all of its contents.

I wish that smell-o-vision was a thing, because OMG…the smell coming from this was STRONG.

I was shocked. In all my years of diabetes, nothing like this had ever happened to me before!

I didn’t really give my next step a second thought: Immediately, I jumped on the phone with Express Scripts, which is the mail order pharmacy that I use for my insulin and some other medications. I spoke with and explained the issue to a customer service representative, who connected me with a technician that promised a replacement vial would be mailed to me at no additional cost to make up for the broken one. I asked if they needed me to send the broken one back to them, but I was reassured that it wouldn’t be necessary because I had called them so they could document the incident.

My issue was resolved, just like that, in fewer than 15 minutes. While it was annoying to have to take time out of my day to figure that out, I’m very happy that I got a replacement quickly and easily. But really, where was quality control on this one?!

Insulin is expensive, as we all know. And to see that a perfectly good vial full of it was rendered useless due to defective packaging was a major punch to the gut, indeed.

But this reminded me of the importance of being proactive whenever I suspect something is wrong with any of my diabetes supplies…when in doubt, do something about it.

Why is it so Difficult to Order Life-Saving Medical Supplies?

When it comes to obtaining my diabetes supplies – life-saving pieces of medical equipment – I’ve discovered that it’s not a simple process. It’s not exactly like purchasing something on Amazon with a single click. Rather, it’s a convoluted, head-scratching, infuriatingly long procedure that apparently involves multiple calls to a variety of companies.

As of this writing, it took approximately 4 calls to my endocrinologist’s office, 12-14 calls to Insulet (the maker of my OmniPod insulin pump), 6 or 7 calls to Dexcom (for my CGM supplies), 2 calls to my health insurance provider, and 1 call to Express Scripts just to get everything all straightened away. These calls took place over the course of 2.5 months, and as they grew in frequency, so did my overall frustration and confusion.

The biggest headache was definitely caused by the lack of effective communication between Insulet and my endocrinologist’s office. I needed to get a new PDM, and Insulet’s job was to contact my doctor’s office and get a letter of medical necessity in order to get a PDM shipped out to me. Simple, right?

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My call log looked like this for several days in July – so many phone calls to Insulet/OmniPod and to my doctor.

Far from it. About a week after I placed the order for the new PDM, I got an email from Insulet saying that my doctor’s office had failed to return their faxes. I was advised to contact them to determine the delay. When I did, I spoke with a receptionist who, despite my clear explanation of the issue, misunderstood what I was asking for and left me a voicemail to say that she didn’t know what Insulet was talking about seeing as their information showed that I had received a shipment from them. (For whatever reason, she thought I needed more pods, which I did have delivered around the same time that all of this was going on.)

After several more back-and-forth phone calls, I cracked the case wide open: Insulet had the wrong contact information for my doctor. While my endocrinologist hasn’t changed in about a decade, her office location has, and Insulet still had the old one. I felt like an idiot for not realizing this sooner, but then again…why was I the one who was jumping through so many hoops and making so many contact attempts in order to figure out what the hold-up was? It was absolutely ridiculous, but I certainly felt relieved – and satisfied – to have personally solved the mystery.

I wish I could say I had a better experience with Dexcom, but that proved to be similarly headache-inducing. I thought that I was set to receive my supplies after I’d signed a payment plan for a 90-day supply of sensors and transmitters, but when they didn’t show up after a month of waiting, I knew something was wrong. I called Dexcom and discovered that the order, for reasons unknown, just didn’t process, so I had to sign a brand-new payment plan and had my case assigned to a different customer service rep. I was pretty pissed off by the lack of communication, but the one silver lining was that I’d already managed to pay my deductible in full (ha, no surprises there), so my Dexcom supply order would cost me less. Again, it was unbelievable that I never got an update from the company regarding my order’s status, but I did feel a sting of pride in myself for getting it all worked out on my own.

I don’t know why everything about this process is so agonizing. But what I do know for sure is that it seems that the only person I can count on to get my supplies ordered properly, in the end, is myself.

Memory Monday: The Shattered Insulin Vial

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the insulin vial that my mother and I accidentally broke in the bathroom of a restaurant, many years ago. R.I.P., tiny vial of Humalog.

This goes back to the days of having to scurry off to the restroom soon after ordering our meals to check blood sugars and inject insulin. And it was a pain. We wanted to be considerate of other diners around us in the restaurant, so doing our diabetes things at the table wasn’t an option. That left us with the most logical choice, the bathroom.

On the night of the broken vial, we were having dinner at a local restaurant. Once our dinner orders were placed, we headed off to complete our routine. And it went just as expected: We knew our blood sugar levels and did the mental math necessary for figuring out our insulin intakes. If memory serves correctly, I was still at an age where I wasn’t totally comfortable with injecting myself yet and would ask my parents to help me whenever we were in a public place (I felt better about self-injecting at home, my literal comfort zone). So my mom ushered me into a stall and went about filling her syringe, then mine. Soon after she stuck me with the needle, it happened…the vial fell. I don’t know if it was my hand or her elbow that knocked it off from its perch, but something caused it to tumble down to meet its end.

Capture

 

It was a dramatic moment. If a slo-mo camera had captured the ordeal, I’m sure it would’ve shown my mother and I donning identical, horrified expressions as the vial smashed into smithereens on the tiled bathroom floor.

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t the end of the world; after all, we’d just taken our shots before the incident, and the vial wasn’t completely full. But it was just full enough that we were upset about all the wasted insulin that formed a small puddle on the floor.

I remember my mom gingerly picking up the pieces of the fractured vial and disposing of them, sighing as she went about the task. That whole experience resulted in a few things. 1) We made sure to get a vial protector soon after it happened to help cushion future insulin vials that were accidentally dropped and 2) We got insulin pens a bit further down the road, which proved to be much more durable and portable than vials. In fact, they made it so we could do injections at the dinner table, in the car, and just about anywhere with ease and discretion.

But this incident remains etched in my memory because it instilled always being careful with my diabetes supplies from that moment on. All of my diabetes stuff is expensive and extremely precious because of what it does for me, my mom, and millions of other people on a daily basis – it’s got to be treated carefully, always.

Dexcom Delivered When I Needed it Most

Last week, I received not one, not two, but FIVE packages in the mail. No, I didn’t go overboard with some online shopping – it was all deliveries from Dexcom to help me get my CGM up and running again.

You might be wondering: Why were there so many packages? In theory, I just needed a couple of replacement sensors and a new transmitter – couldn’t it all go in one box? Well, I wound up getting a little more than just the aforementioned supplies…

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Not pictured: another two boxes I received from Dexcom. Not sure why they couldn’t send everything in one large box, but beggars can’t be choosers.

That’s because I had the stupendously (emphasis on the STUPID-sounding part of that word) great idea to power up my old G5 CGM while I waited for my G6 materials. I had a few G5 sensors leftover from before I made the transition to the G6, and to my knowledge, I had a working G5 transmitter. So I followed the procedure to get my G5 going: I inserted a G5 sensor (ouch!), snapped the transmitter into place, and started the warm-up on my G5 transmitter.

But something was…off. The Bluetooth icon was blinking in the upper left-hand corner, and I couldn’t see how much time had elapsed in the two-hour warm-up period. At a loss as to what to do next, I left the receiver on overnight to see if it would ever pick up a signal from my G5 sensor/transmitter, to no avail.

That’s when I made the “fatal error” of shutting the system down and trying to restart it. This triggered the G5 receiver to enter a reboot cycle that wouldn’t stop. Any time I pressed the circular home button, the system would buzz and the screen would light up, as if it was about to start working. After 45 seconds or so, the screen would go black again. There was no way to interrupt this reboot loop – even sticking a paper clip into the tiny hole in the back of the receiver wouldn’t correct the faulty software.

So now, not only was my G6 out of commission, but my G5 was a goner, too.

After a few phone calls to Dexcom technical support, I had answers as well as supplies sent my way. I learned that there’s a known error with the G5 system that causes the reboot cycle to launch. I should have waited longer for the G5 transmitter to connect with the Bluetooth on my receiver (i.e., I should’ve waited for the Bluetooth icon to stop blinking), but it wasn’t necessarily my fault for having a device with a known software issue. I would receive a new G5 receiver because my old one was still under warranty, as well as a G5 replacement sensor. I would NOT get a G5 transmitter, because I’m convinced the battery on the current one is still good, but I was informed that once a transmitter is activated, the battery keeps going until it runs out of juice. Interesting. That means that it could, in theory, stop working any day now, because the transmitter was activated and last used in April 2018.

Hopefully, I’ll never have to get another G5 transmitter because I’ll be able to rely on my G6 from here on out. It gives me comfort to know I have backup G5 supplies, but I’m pretty much married to my G6 at this point. Dexcom kindly sent me the required new transmitter for the G6 system, which arrived on Thursday of last week. I got a return kit for the old G6 transmitter the previous day, and on Friday, my new sensors came in along with a return kit for my defunct G5 receiver.

Sure, it was a lot of packages to sort through in the mail. And it was mildly frustrating that I had to wait two days between getting my new G6 transmitter and compatible sensors. But the most important thing is that I’m now reconnected to my G6 and feeling thankful that Dexcom delivered when I needed it most.

 

Keep or Toss? Decluttering my Diabetes Supplies Stash

Warning: The following image may be disturbing to anyone adverse to messiness and general disorder.

Viewer discretion is advised!

Okay, ready? Here it is…

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My extremely disorganized diabetes supplies stash evokes a one-word reaction: Yikes!!!

I told you it wasn’t pretty. Hence, I took it upon myself the other night to go through my entire stash of diabetes supplies to see what I should keep and what I should toss.

It was much easier than I thought it would be, albeit time consuming. It was a matter of putting the supplies into two separate piles (keep or toss), and then putting them away in a manner that made sense.

Items that wound up in the “discard” pile included expired test strips, duplicate instruction manuals, product boxes (which were empty; therefore, merely taking up space), old batteries, and used CGM transmitters. I decided to keep three or four spare test kits (you never know when they’ll come in handy), extra chargers, single copies of instruction manuals for all of my devices, all unused and unexpired pods/sensors, and that lava lamp – because it’s groovy, duh!

Once I had my two piles, I threw out the bunch I wasn’t keeping – freeing up my work space – and sorted through the items I was keeping. I wanted to make sure that items I need access to regularly (such as my pods and sensors) were within reach, so I left my box of pods on top of one set of drawers, and put my sensors in a stack in the front top part of the other set of drawers. Everything else, like the manuals and spare test kits, were placed neatly in the first and second parts of the bigger set of drawers.

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Ahh…much better! (Don’t mind the Harry Potter mugs)

And…voila! Just like that, my supplies were organized and I’m feeling great about it. I like knowing the exact location of all my diabetes materials. This way, I won’t be rifling through a haphazard heap when I’m looking for something in particular – it’ll just be a matter of sorting through my tidy supplies stash.