Diabetes and Technology

This November, I participated in the #HappyDiabeticChallenge on Instagram. This challenge centered around daily prompts to respond to via an Instagram post or story. I’ve decided to spread the challenge to my blog for the last couple days of National Diabetes Awareness Month. As a result, today’s post will be about diabetes and technology.

Diabetes and technology: a pair as iconic as peanut butter and jelly, Lucy and Desi, and Han Solo and Chewbacca. I can’t imagine managing my diabetes without all the technical tools and devices I have in my arsenal.

I’m grateful for all the tools we have at our disposal these days, because I know that this wasn’t always the case. I didn’t have to experience a time without a test kit. I didn’t have to deal with checking my blood sugar only once or twice daily using a complicated urinalysis system. Though I chose to take insulin via manual injections for many years, I had the option to try an insulin pump whenever I was ready. And when the CGM came around, approximately ten years after my diagnosis, I was able to start using this new technology.

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Just a few of the key technological components in my diabetes toolkit.

So I guess that diabetes and technology makes me think of two, somewhat contradictory, concepts: privilege and freedom.

It’s a privilege that I have a wide array of technology available to me. I’m lucky that I’m able to use it, because I know that many people with diabetes in this world cannot afford it or do not have access to it. It makes me upset to think about how diabetes might be harder for these individuals due to a lack of treatment and care options, but in that way, it reinforces how freeing diabetes technology has been for me. I have the freedom to bolus quickly and easily as needed. I’m free from annoying tubing, thanks to my OmniPod pump. I’m free to live a life less interrupted by diabetes, because my technology helps me manage it with greater finesse than if I were doing it 100% on my own.

That being said, I won’t ever take my access to diabetes technology for granted.

I can only hope that, as technology innovations continue to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes, technology accessibility becomes more widespread, as well.

I Want to Love my Dexcom G6, but…

…this keeps happening on Day 9 of wear:

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I don’t understand why the sensor error occurs. But it almost ALWAYS happens on the ninth day: My sensor will work wonderfully and provide me with extremely accurate data, but then BOOM it’ll sporadically stop working and produce graphs like the one above that are virtually useless. Even worse, there’s no telling when exactly it’ll start communicating again with my receiver. The error message SAYS I’ll get data back within 3 hours, and I normally do, but there’s a big difference between going 10 minutes and going 2 hours without any readings.

This device has so many good things working in its favor: longer wear, painless insertion, increased accuracy, compatibility with acetaminophen, slimmer profile. But I’m of the opinion that if something says it will totally function for a certain length of time, then it WILL. The fact that it doesn’t, and that this has occurred more than once to me, is alarming and frustrating.

The only possible explanation I’ve come up with is that maybe the upper arm isn’t a great place to wear the G6. As we all know, Dexcom devices are FDA approved to be worn on one location, the abdomen. However, that hasn’t stopped the cheeky diabetes community from wearing it elsewhere. Besides the upper arm, I’ve seen people with it on their forearms, thighs, and calves. I even know one clever person who chooses to wear it on the upper bum during the summer months to prevent tan lines (hilarious and brilliant, IMO). I choose to wear my CGM on my upper arm most of the time because it’s comfortable there, and I like to give the sites on my belly a break. But maybe it’s time I start wearing it more frequently on my stomach, the “officially okay” site, to see if that prevents these ridiculous sensor error scenarios.

What I’d like to know in the meantime, though, is has this happened to you or anyone you know using the G6? Has anyone pinpointed a cause, and is it worth notifying Dexcom of this issue? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts – drop a note in the comments or get in touch with me directly!

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.

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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.

Favorite Things Friday: My Verio IQ Meter

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

One of the most crucial components of a T1D toolkit is the glucometer, also known more simply as the meter. This little device instantly measures blood sugar levels in a person with diabetes: stick a test strip in the meter, poke a finger, and wipe a drop of blood on the test strip in order to get a blood sugar check within seconds from the meter.

Ideally, a meter is used multiple times a day by a person with diabetes – the exact number depends on how often they prefer to check their levels. Personally, I check my blood sugar five or six times each day, so I’m using my meter fairly frequently. As such, it’s always been important to me that I have a meter that is accurate, user-friendly, and compact.

Fortunately, I found all of that with my Verio IQ meter.

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I can’t imagine checking my blood sugar with any other meter.

The slim, bright white device fits nicely into my Myabetic case, making it easy to tote around with me everywhere. It’s pretty trusty and generates results commensurate with my CGM. It doesn’t run on batteries; rather, it can conveniently be recharged every 10 days or so. But my favorite feature of my meter is the back light: If I need to wake up in the middle of the night to check my blood sugar, I don’t have to switch on the lamp that sits on my nightstand. Rather, I merely stick a strip into the meter and it lights up on its own, making it easy for me to see where to wipe my drop of blood. After five seconds elapse, bam, my blood sugar reading pops up on the screen in bold numbers.

I can’t remember exactly when I started using my Verio IQ – definitely prior to college – but I’ve stuck with it for at least eight years now because it works so well for me. When I got onto the OmniPod three years ago, it never even crossed my mind to give up my Verio in favor of using the PDM to check my sugars. It might seem crazy to others that I carry around one superfluous device, but it’s what works for me.

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.

So This Just Happened…

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Whoa! It’s incredibly surreal to see myself on Dexcom’s Instagram feed, but there I am! Shout out to my T1D buddies who messaged me the day this appeared and made me feel like a rock star!

Glamour shots aside, this quote really does capture how I feel about Dexcom. It’s truly one of the most powerful tools in my diabetes care kit. In addition to helping me improve my blood sugars by giving me crucial data, my CGM also provides me peace of mind because it does a lot of extra work for me – saving me a lot of time and energy.

This just makes me even more excited to get my hands on the Dexcom G6, which is bound to make life with diabetes even easier! I have the feeling that I’ll get one sooner rather than later…

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…