5 Things I Hate About Pod Failures

I’ve had a slew of pod failures – three in the last two weeks.

What gives? I’m not exactly sure yet, but I’m hoping to get to the bottom of it. I sent my most recent failed pod to OmniPod/Insulet for analysis, and my suspicions are telling me that I have a bad batch of pods in my arsenal.

While I wait to hear back, I decided to write a blog post listing the five things I hate the most about pod failures as a form of catharsis…

1 – How suddenly and randomly they occur. Pods don’t give an eff as to whether or not they fail at an inconvenient time. In the middle of a conference call? Fails can happen. Sleeping? Fails can happen. On a date? Fails can happen. Just sitting there minding your own damn business? Yes, still, fails can happen. The unpredictability of pod failures makes them doubly obnoxious and loathsome.

2 – That wretched, unrelenting BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Crying babies, barking dogs, ambulance sirens – I’d much prefer any of those other sounds over the high-pitched scream of a failed pod. I get why it’s necessary – how else are you supposed to know that a pod is no longer functioning – but it makes my ears want to bleed. Plus, you’ve got no choice but to silence the pod by sticking a paperclip/toothpick/other equally skinny object into that teensy-weensy crevice in the corner of the device! Let’s be real here, who has a paperclip just…available like that at all times in the event of a pod failure? It’s no wonder I chose to silence my most recent screeching pod by taking a hammer to it (note to anyone else who chooses to use this method: DON’T DO IT INDOORS, go outside and smash it on the pavement or in your garage…and maybe wear something to protect your eyes, just in case).

I smashed this screaming pod with a hammer and let me tell you, it felt great to release my frustration that way!

3 – The perfectly good insulin that gets wasted. When I deal with a pod failure, I can sometimes salvage the remaining insulin left within by inserting the syringe from the brand-new replacement pod into the insulin reservoir and sucking it out (literally the opposite of adding insulin into the reservoir for a routine pod change). But it isn’t always possible to rescue the insulin due to time constraints, amount left, and so forth. So it’s extra painful to just toss the failed pod away knowing there’s insulin left inside it that I just won’t be able to use.

4 – You don’t always find out why it happened in the first place. I am a naturally inquisitive person who is always asking “why”. So when a pod fails, I want to know what went wrong. Unfortunately for me, I don’t always get an answer. OmniPod/Insulet customer service representatives might be able to tell me why based on the reference code I provide them when a pod fails – when that reference code is found in their database, the answer might be that static electricity caused it to fail, or that when the pod was performing its routine and automatic safety checks, the pod itself determined it could no longer be used. But there have been plenty of other times that my reference code didn’t signify anything, leaving me permanently clueless as to what happened to make the pod fail. SO FRUSTRATING!

5 – You have to call customer support in order to get a replacement. As someone who has customer support experience, I dread these sort of calls. It’s just a giant pain in the neck to have to go through everything about your experience with a failed pod, such as how long I was wearing it for, what brand of insulin I use, where the pod was located, the lot, sequence, and reference code numbers…the list of questions go on and on. The silver lining here is that I’ve almost always had a very positive experience when calling OmniPod/Insulet to report a pod failure. My issue is usually documented in 10 minutes or less, and I’ve never had a problem getting a replacement, which shows is indicative of superior customer service.

But…is it so much to ask for the dang thing to simply work the way it’s supposed to 100% of the time?!

A Full Vlog Review of my Livongo Meter

As promised, here’s my vlog showcasing my thoughts on the Livongo meter! (Yes, I know it’s 10 minutes long, but I couldn’t help going into detail and really tried to showcase all of its features. Hopefully, my rainbow nails and peppy personality keep you engaged.) Like I say in the video, be sure to ask me any questions you may have about the meter – as I use it more, I discover additional details that I will cover in a follow-up post in the future. But for now, ENJOY the video and know that all opinions are my own: I am not being compensated in any way, shape, or form for creating this video and sharing my views.

5 Reasons Why I Took a Break from Continuous Glucose Monitoring

I’ve decided to take a break from continuous glucose monitoring. This means that for an undefined period of time – maybe 3-4 days, a week, or a few weeks – I’m not going to wear my Dexcom G6 CGM.

Initially, I wanted to give myself a break because I was just burnt out from wearing it all the time and feeling so dependent on it. But as I started thinking about more, I realized that there were some other really great reasons for me to take a break from my CGM:

1 – I wanted to wear one less device. It can be tough to wear two medical devices 24/7. Sometimes I get super self-conscious of them. Other times they just aren’t comfortable to wear, such as when I roll over one the wrong way when I’m sleeping at night. So it’s nice to feel a little more free with one less device stuck to my body at all times.

2 – I was sick of the constant data feed. All those alarms going off whenever I cross my high or low threshold are straight up annoying!!! I know I could just turn them off on my CGM receivers, but the point of them (for me) is to try to maintain as tight of a control on my numbers as possible. But now that I’m intentionally not wearing my CGM, I’m realizing how much I appreciate the reprieve from all that buzzing and beeping.

Pink Minimalist Kindness Quote Instagram Post
There’s lots of reasons to take a break from continuous glucose monitoring, but sometimes one is enough.

3 – I have some new blood glucose meters to try. The only way that I can really put my new meters to the *test* (lol) is to use them – and goodness knows that I have very little desire to do manual finger stick checks when I’m wearing my CGM.

4 – I’d like to hold myself more accountable. I rely on my Dexcom heavily at all times. I look to it before I start exercising, before I eat something, before I do anything, really. I bolus using the data it provides and trust it implicitly. But I’ve recognized that by developing this habit, I’ve become lazy. I don’t measure out food as much because I figure that if I bolus too much or too little for it, I can just watch what my Dexcom tells me and treat from there. It’s kinda sloppy, in my humble opinion, so I’m trying to put more of the trust back in myself for my diabetes monitoring.

5 – I’m trying to reacquaint myself with my body’s cues. Before CGM technology, I was really good at recognizing high and low blood sugar symptoms…but then I started using a CGM and found myself reacting to highs and lows (e.g., treating them prematurely), even if I didn’t feel those high/low symptoms. So I want to retrain myself so I can make sure I never lose that ability, because I think it’s important to know exactly how my body alerts me to various blood sugars, rather than depending solely on a piece of technology to do it for me.

 

First Impressions: My New Livongo Blood Sugar Meter

I shared that my company is offering a sweet new benefit for its associates with diabetes: a free blood sugar meter with free refills on test strips and lancets as the need arises.

Great perk, right?!

Naturally, I took advantage of this offer as soon as I could, seeing as I was eager to start playing around with a new meter (I talk about the reasons why in this blog post).

While I waited for my new meter to come in the mail, I did some research on it. I was excited to learn that it would be a back-lit, full-color touchscreen. It looked sleek and modern, and I was impressed that it seemed to have a lot more features compared to my blood sugar meters of yore (I still remember having to use a giant droplet of blood and waiting an entire minute for my blood sugar results to appear on a very clunky screen…oh, the 90s). I couldn’t remember the last time I was so pumped about a new piece of diabetes equipment – my anticipation for this Livongo meter was hiiiiiiiigh.

First Impressions_ My New Livongo Blood Sugar Meter
Here she is – my new Livongo meter which I’ve dubbed Livi. Because what else would you call it?!

So when it arrived, I eagerly checked out all of its features. It is, indeed, a well-designed meter – though a bit heftier than I was expecting. Maybe I’m too used to the lightweight nature of my Verio IQ, but this Livongo meter almost feels like a chunky smartphone. It’s not as big as my OmniPod PDM, but it’s in that neighborhood.

I was more so surprised by the test strips – they looked and felt huge compared to my Verio strips! They reminded me of the test strips I used in the first few years of my diabetes diagnosis.

I admit that I didn’t have the patience to read through the instruction manual, I just jumped right into my first blood sugar check. After all, once you’ve used any one type of meter, it’s pretty easy to figure out how the rest of ’em work: insert a test strip, prick a finger, swipe blood onto the strip, and wait for results.

That’s exactly how this meter works, with one caveat. Once I inserted the test strip into the machine, I got a message that notified me the machine was “checking” the test strip. Uhh…checking for what, exactly? I’m not really sure, but the “check” took about 3 seconds before a soft-pitched beep let me know that I could put my blood onto the test strip.

So I did, but I was mildly bemused by the actual amount of blood the strip needed – it felt like it needed more than my Verio strips. I have no idea if this is truly the case, but there is distinct design difference between the strips beyond the hardiness of the Livongo strips, which are not only at least double the size of Verio strips but also feature a vertical line for the blood sample rather than a horizontal. It’s slightly trickier to get just the right amount of blood onto the strip, and I admit that I’ve wasted 2-3 test strips at a time with the Livongo machine so far because I was unsuccessful in getting enough blood on the strips.

Anyways, once I applied blood to the strip, I noticed that the machine didn’t countdown to my results – it merely informed me it was processing them. My very first check with the Livongo was high, in the 250s, and I was yet again surprised when I received an actual message along with my results.

“Your blood sugar is high. Did you know that exercising after meals can help lower blood sugar?”

(I should note that the meter knew I’d just eaten dinner because once it makes the blood sugar result available, you notify the machine whether or not this result was before/after a meal/snack, and then you let it know how you feel – you can select from a handful of pre-loaded options.)

I was taken aback by the message because, well, of course I knew that my number wasn’t great, and I’ve always known that exercising after meals can help bring blood sugar down. This meter is kind of funny, because as I continue to use it, it populates a bunch of different messages depending on my blood sugar in a given moment. Sometimes I get a “kudos”, other times I get random facts about nutrition like, “did you know that spinach is a great source of potassium?” Maybe if I was a newly diagnosed person with diabetes who didn’t know much about nutrition or ways to improve blood sugar levels, I’d find these tidbits of advice more helpful, but for someone as experienced as me they come across as both funny and judge-y.

Since receiving the meter, I’ve used it to check my blood sugar dozens of times and I’m still formulating my opinion on it in terms of its accuracy, usability, design, and overall appeal. I’ll say this for now: I’m intrigued enough by the meter and its ability to immediately send blood sugar data to a cell phone/computer via Bluetooth. It’s definitely one of the most high-tech blood sugar meters I’ve ever used and the touchscreen does make it kind of fun to play around with.

I plan on making a video to better showcase the actual experience of doing a blood sugar check with the Livongo, and I’ll have a full review available in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

How Long Do OmniPods Really Last?

When people notice my OmniPod insulin pump, the first question that I’m asked is “what IS that?”

After I explain that it’s my insulin pump, and it’s called a pod, the second question I’m asked is some variation of “how long does it last?”

The canned answer that I provide is something about having to change it every three days, because that’s how the OmniPod is advertised.

But I’ve used this pump for years now and never bothered to really test this three-day limit. I’ve known for a long time that my pod works a handful of hours after the expiration alarm starts chiming, but I wasn’t sure about exactly how many hours I had before a pod expired for good.

So, the other day, I decided to find out.

Life's too short to have regrets
Have you ever made your pod last longer than 3 days? If so…are you a wizard???

My pod expired at 10:22 A.M. Since I prefer to change my pods in the evening, I figured it was the perfect time for this little experiment, assuming that the pod really would last me for the majority of the day.

And, well, it did! At 10:22 on the dot, the pod beeped at me to notify me that it was expired. And in the six hours after that, it would alarm every hour (on the 22nd minute) to remind me, time and time again, that it was expired. In the seventh hour – beginning at 5:22 P.M. – my PDM started chirping at me on and off every 15 minutes or so. First it was because I was running out of insulin, but then it was to really get the point across that my pod was expired!

I was determined to use every last drop of insulin in the pod, though, so I bolused for my dinner around 5:45 and I was pleased to discover that I got my full dose of insulin without any issues. As I was cleaning up after dinner, that’s when the signature OmniPod BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP went off as one blaring, unceasing alarm. I checked the time: 6:22 P.M.

So there was my answer. An OmniPod can last precisely 80 hours after you initially activate it for the first time (or in other words, 8 hours after you receive the first expiration message)…as long as it still has insulin in it. It’s definitely something good to know for sure now, because in the future, it might come in handy and help me avoid wasting precious insulin.

Bloody Dexcom Sensors: No Go or A-Okay?

This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on February 18, 2019. I’m re-posting it today with some updates because I recently noticed this post gets a LOT of clicks – this topic is one that many people are curious about it. Read on for my two cents on whether or not bleeders are readers, and note that I haven’t updated this because my experience with bleeders remains the same…

I placed the new Dexcom G6 sensor on my abdomen, hovering my index finger above the large orange insertion button. I pressed it, exhaling as I felt the minute needle pierce my skin’s surface. I looked down, and started to rub the adhesive in circles to make sure it was stuck, when I saw blood. Not just a drop, but a decent-sized pool forming beneath the sensor. Before long, just about the entire surface of the white adhesive was soaked in red.

Yeah, this was going to be a no-go.

It’s pretty rare for me to experience blood at the site of a Dexcom sensor. If I had to put a number on it, I would say less than 10% of my insertions draw blood. An even smaller amount – like, 2% – have caused me to bleed as much I did in the scenario described above. But I know I’m not alone in my bloody sensor experiences – it’s something that many other T1Ds who use a Dexcom have gone through.

There’s a bit of debate, though, that I’ve noticed in the past on Twitter threads and Instagram posts. What to do with a bleeder? Keep it and assume that it’ll read blood sugars normally? Or change it immediately and call Dexcom for a replacement?

Are bleeders readers? Or does it depend?

Bloody Dexcom Sensors_ No Go or A-Okay_
Do you think that bleeders are readers?

I’m going to go with…it depends.

Obviously, in that situation I described in the opening of this post, I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to keep the sensor on my body. There was too much blood and I didn’t trust that it would adhere well to my body. I didn’t know how long it would take for the blood to stop (only a few minutes, but still), and I couldn’t be sure that it wouldn’t mess up my readings. On top of that, I wasn’t trying to stain my clothing, if I could help it.

So in that circumstance, I did change my sensor right away, and was glad that the second try resulted in a much cleaner, blood-free insertion. I called Dexcom, explained what happened to the customer support representative, and got a replacement sensor mailed to me.

However, just about any other time I bleed upon a sensor insertion, it tends to be a minuscule amount of blood. I usually don’t even notice until it’s time to replace the sensor, and there’s a bit of dried blood left on the site. Other times, I’ll see small beads of blood forming underneath the spot where the transmitter snaps in. And there’s been a couple of occasions that I’ve bled a fair amount and been totally unaware of it until I caught my reflection in the mirror and noticed the blood staining the white adhesive. And in all of those cases, I’ve kept the sensor on for the full ten days, without noticing any discrepancies in my readings.

All that considered, in my inexpert opinion, I think that bleeders usually are readers and that they’re safe to continue wearing. Of course, there will be exceptions, like when there’s just too much blood to salvage the sensor. But every time I’ve kept using a bloody sensor, I’ve had the same amount of success with its functionality…so yes, I think that for me, bleeders are indeed readers.

The Top Three Things my Diabetes Devices Get Mistaken For

When I started using an insulin pump and a Dexcom CGM – and even when I switched to a more modern glucometer – I never really anticipated what other people might have to say about these devices. Yes, I figured that people would notice them, and they’d probably occasionally stare out of curiosity (and sometimes, rudeness).

But I never thought that people would think that they were anything but medical devices. I shouldn’t have so much faith in people.

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Can I see the confusion between my old iPod and my glucometer? Um, sure!

Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to what people think my devices are…here are the top three things that my various gadgets are mistaken for:

  1. My OmniPod PDM is typically confused for a beeper. A freakin’ beeper? Helloooo, we’re not in the 90s anymore! Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time that I saw a legitimate beeper/pager device…so it really cracks me up when people ask if I’m carrying around such an old-school piece of technology.
  2. My pods and Dexcom sensors look like cigarette patches, apparently. The first time someone asked me if my pod was a cigarette patch, I asked them, “Do I look like a smoker?” (Not that smokers are supposed to “look” a certain way.) I was more amused than offended, but also kind of awestruck that somebody would confuse a patch that from my understanding is fairly discreet/sleek in design with a lumpy pod or sensor.
  3. My glucometer seemingly resembles an iPod nano. Once, a person asked me why I was wiping blood on my iPod. I wish I was kidding. I’ll allow that my Verio IQ meter and iPod nano are similar in shape and size, but the similarities end there.

Truth be told, it’s actually pretty funny when people think my devices are something other than medical gadgets. And whenever a comment is made and I have to gently tell whoever it is that they’re incorrect in their assumptions about the device(s), I can almost always guarantee that they will end up feeling foolish for what they said. I almost feel bad, but…not really. For the most part, at least I can say that all’s well that ends well, because these interactions usually lead to a valuable teaching moment that the other person won’t forget.

And clearly, I won’t ever forget these moments, either!

 

The Red Wedding

If you’re reading this post and knew immediately what the title was referring to…rest assured that what you’re about to read is not nearly as dramatically violent as The Rains of Castamere episode of Game of Thrones. I just chose the title because it semi-accurately described what I encountered with my CGM at a weekend wedding I recently attended. And because the final season is here in a mere FOUR DAYS and I’m struggling to hold in my excitement/terror/anticipation.

Anyways, the day of said wedding began normally, if not a bit early. I put on makeup and a nice dress, tried (and somewhat failed) to curl my hair, and ate a light breakfast. Somewhere between slipping on my jewelry and singeing my hair with the curling iron, I heard my CGM’s alarm blaring, notifying me that my blood sugar was going up. That wasn’t surprising, since I’d just eaten food. But I was caught off-guard when it stopped alarming after two alerts went off…I hadn’t dismissed the previous two, so why was it no longer making any noise?

I checked the app on my phone and saw “sensor error” on the screen…and said out loud, “NOT today, diabetes,” as I promptly stopped my sensor and ripped it off my body. I didn’t even hesitate to do it because I knew that the sensor was due to be changed that evening, anyway, so I saw no harm in doing it a bit early.

“What?” My partner yelled from behind the bathroom door.

“Nothing, nothing,” I said dismissively, which reflected my determination to just brush this inconvenience away and stick a fresh sensor on my body.

Oh, if only it were that simple…

It should’ve been an easy, routine sensor change; alas, upon pressing the button on the insertion device, I let out a little pained squeak. Sensors don’t normally hurt, but every now and then, I get myself in a sensitive spot. And I definitely did this time around. Before popping the transmitter into the sensor, I noticed a bit of blood pooling underneath the sensor’s adhesive.

Save the date

Pools of blood as I make my way to a wedding…do you get the red wedding connection now?

Fortunately, this tale has a happier ending than it did for much of the *spoiler alert* Stark family. Sure, my sensor kinda freaked out when it warmed up two hours later and measured blood instead of interstitial fluid, and it took like 12 hours for it to get its act together and display my readings accurately, but…it all worked out in the end. And thankfully, not a single person had any clue that there was a patch of blood on my belly throughout the wedding…it didn’t even stain through my dress.

My CGM Sensor Ripoff

Oh, the Dexcom G6. You have no idea how much I simultaneously love and hate you. I love you for your painless insertion, increased accuracy, acetaminophen-blocking capabilities, and your sleeker profile. But I effing loathe you for having communication issues with the sensor on days 9 and 10 of wear…that is, if you even last that long on my body. You have serious sticking issues, old pal. Your adhesive tends to be a bit of a ripoff – both literal and figurative.

You see, I was just trying to roll over into a more comfortable position in the middle of the night when you decided right then would be the ideal time to just fall off my arm, prompting me to go from blissfully snoozing to wide awake and angry in less than 10 seconds. Way to go! It pissed me off because it happened with very little effort. I would’ve understood if I had scratched or touched it in any way, but all I had done was flip from sleeping on my left side to my right. Not fair and definitely not the ideal way to wake up.

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The ripoff sensor in question.

I wish I could say it was a one-time occurrence, but no, it happened a couple months ago. Again, it was the middle of the night and again, it was ripped off prematurely. I think that in both cases, I still had at least another three or four days of use before it was due to be changed. And even before these two middle-of-the-night ordeals, I had trouble with a freshly inserted sensor that was peeling all around the edges. What the heck is going on with Dexcom G6 adhesiveness?

Maybe this is a sign that I need to start using something in addition to an alcohol swab each time I change a sensor. Perhaps Skin-Tac or more regular usage of Pump Peelz/Grif Grips will prevent future sensor ripoffs. But still can’t help feeling ripped off, because this never really happened when I was using my G5 sensors.

The small mercy in this situation is Dexcom customer service. Kudos to their team for being understanding and willing to replace my not-so-sticky sensors…but I wish I could say that I had more faith in a G6 sensor’s ability to stay on my body for the full 10 days that it was intended to.

Favorite Things Friday: My Fave Carb Counting App

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

I’ve written about my favorite diabetes-specific apps in the past, but I’ve also got a couple others that aren’t directly related to T1D that are mainstays on my iPhone. But there’s one in particular that 1) on the surface, has nothing to do with diabetes and 2) has been exceedingly helpful at giving me guidance when it comes to carb counting in certain situations. So without further ado, let me share the name and what I like so much about the app itself.

MyFitnessPal is my carb-counting app of choice. As the name implies, it’s an app that revolves around, well, fitness. It’s designed to provide users with a comprehensive log that tracks activity levels, food/water intake, nutrition information, and so much more. Initially, I downloaded it to keep a record of my daily calorie consumption and quickly discovered that it wouldn’t only help me figure out what dietary changes I needed to make, but it would also improve my carb counting.

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An example of MyFitnessPal in action – if I wanted to know the carb count in a cup of veggie soup from Panera, I can find it by simply searching for it within the app. 

How? The app contains a comprehensive food library – sort of like the one that’s built into the OmniPod PDM, except this one is much, MUCH more substantial. It includes foods from fast food restaurants, regular dining establishments, grocery stores, and just about any other place you could order food from. It’s been an absolute godsend in situations in which I’m really struggling to figure out how many carbs are in a dish that I’d like to order/buy. It’s not an end-all, be-all source of information – just like anything else in life, the food library isn’t flawless – but it’s a solid starting point when it comes to foods I’m less familiar with.

In addition to showing me how many carbs I consume in a day, the app has also taught me how logging simple information related to diabetes can go a long way in establishing trends, such as how different foods affect my blood sugar. The act of logging or writing something down can sound like a pain, but really, the few minutes it takes each day is worth the knowledge it ultimately imparts.

Readers, what about you? Do you use carb-counting apps? If so, which ones and why? I’m especially curious in hearing feedback from anyone who uses Figwee – I’ve heard nothing but praise for that one. Drop a comment here, tweet at me, or leave a note on my Instagram page about your favorite carb-counting app!