Favorite Things Friday: Vial Safe Insulin Protector

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

Okay, so it’s DEFINITELY been a few months since I last wrote about a favorite thing of mine. I admit that I started running out of things that I deemed worthy enough of sharing with my readers! It felt silly to continue doing it on a monthly basis if I didn’t have anything particularly great to write about, so I stopped, promising myself that I’d pick it up again the next time I got excited about a product.

Enter the Vial Safe insulin protector sleeves that I just ordered.

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I’d seen posts about these little insulin vial jackets before on Instagram, and I always had them bookmarked in the back of my mind as something I should order. After all, I’ve felt the agony of a shattered insulin vial before, and let me tell you: It’s awful. I was somewhat young when I broke my first (and hopefully only) vial and basically brushed the whole thing off because I assumed that it would be easy (i.e., free) to get a replacement. But now, at age 26 and in my first few months of being on my own health insurance plan, I know better. Accidentally breaking an insulin vial in this day in age seems like the equivalent to setting a stack of hundred dollar bills on fire – completely pointless, unnecessary, and wasteful.

So I’m betting that my two new Vial Safe sleeves will help protect me from ever experiencing a shattered vial again. I’m especially looking forward to bringing them with me on my next trip, as they’ll surely keep my vials more secure as I have the tendency to shove them wherever I can find space in my luggage.

I bought my Vial Safe insulin protectors on Amazon, but there also available for purchase here. And no, I wasn’t asked (and I’m definitely not being paid) to write about these or any other products I’ve ever mentioned on Hugging the Cactus – I simply believe in spreading the word about a quality item if it has helped make diabetes management easier for me in some way.

 

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Navigating Health Insurance Hell

I am one month into my new health insurance plan, and I’m more confused than ever.

I’ve sent several emails. I’ve engaged in a number of live chats. I’ve made countless calls to my insurance company, my insulin pump provider, a mail-in pharmacy service, and my CGM provider just to try and get some answers. And almost every time I hang up the phone or walk away from the chat service, I feel lost because nothing is clear to me.

Am I stupid?

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I can’t be the only one who just doesn’t get how it all works…right?

Why can’t I just get definitive answers as to how much I’ll need to pay for insulin each month?

Why does my health insurance company advertise a partnership with a mail-order pharmacy that puts a cap on insulin costs…when in reality, it doesn’t (or at least, nobody has informed me that it does)?

Why am I learning, at this stage in the game, that my prescription plan isn’t integrated with my medical plan, which means that any prescriptions I fill using the mail-order service don’t qualify towards my deductible?

Why is it all so convoluted?

As mystified as I am by all of this, I’m coping with a strategy that my parents have helped me develop, which I’ll share with you: Anyone who is going through all of this right now, or anyone who is about to go through all of this, needs to remember to be their own advocate. (I’m reminding myself to do this on the daily.) Frequently, I tell myself that I have every right to make as many phone calls or contact efforts as needed until I understand the costs associated with reordering my supplies. Although it’s easy to get frustrated when a representative on the phone speeds through an explanation or provides contradictory information, it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand.

As I continue to figure all of this out, I’m going to take note of questions that crop up and have a notepad and pen in hand any time I make a call. I’m keeping track of all messages exchanged online and I’m using the next couple of weeks as my fact-gathering stage. It’s almost like I’m assembling pieces to a puzzle…a ginormous, complicated puzzle, but one that will result in a more complete picture of the cost of my prescriptions going forward.

Metformin Update #2: Reintroducing Myself to the Big White Pill

It’s been a minute since I wrote about my Metformin journey on the blog. The last time I posted about it, I had made the decision to stop taking it after experiencing a scary low blood sugar. That, coupled with the fact that I just didn’t feel ready to be experimenting so much with my diabetes medication, convinced me that the timing wasn’t right for me and Metformin.

Fast-forward to May 30, 2019. I had an appointment with my endocrinologist. It was a productive one, because we addressed a number of my concerns that have cropped up in the last three months. One question I had for her was whether she thought I should give Metformin another shot.

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Really though, why do these darn pills have to be so large?

She thought that I should. We went over the benefits: it’d make my insulin more effective, thereby fighting back against my current insulin resistance and reducing my total daily intake. With less artificially-made insulin in my system, I may be reducing my risk for cancer (according to studies she’s read), and I may also shed a few of the pounds that I’ve been struggling to lose.

By the time of this appointment, I was feeling frustrated with the amounts of insulin I was using each day. Ever since I got off my parents’ health insurance plan, I’ve been super conscious about my supply of insulin as I try to figure out how I’ll afford it under my new plan. And it hasn’t been easy. So in an effort to reduce my overall insulin use, I decided it was time to give Metformin another go.

I’m more cautious this time around. My doctor and I talked about my fears and she helped me come up with a plan to reintroduce it to my diabetes care and management routine. I’m starting to take less insulin at dinnertime and I’m running a temp basal overnight to see how my blood sugars fare. We’re playing it safe by somewhat dramatically reducing my dinnertime insulin-to-carb ratio, but I’d much rather do that than be overly aggressive.

It’s only been about a week since I’ve started the new regimen. That’s not enough time for me to attest to whether or not I’ve adjusted to it, because I deliberately skipped taking Metformin on a couple nights in which I knew I’d be imbibing alcohol…again, it’s all about being smart and not introducing too many variables at once. We’ll see how it goes. Until Metformin update #3, that’s all I’ve got for now.

The $2,000 Mistake

Have you ever received an email that made you stop breathing for a moment? Did it feel like time stood still as you blinked rapidly and tried to comprehend the meaning behind it?

It sounds like a dramatic overreaction, but imagine getting a notification from your pharmacy notifying you that your prescription would cost almost $2,000. That’s a big old chunk of change. The mere thought of paying that much for a supply of insulin makes my heart race and my palms sweat.

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I nearly keeled over when I saw this dollar amount.

I’m happy to report that this was a giant mistake; for whatever reason, my doctor’s office sent my prescription for Humalog to my local pharmacy, even though I explicitly told them that I use Express Scripts for my insulin orders. It was a total mix-up, and the approximately $2,000 was an amount that I would pay if I didn’t have any insurance coverage. I do, and though I’m not sure how much I’ll be paying for my insulin yet, I know that it can’t possibly cost this much.

I’m relieved that I was able to call the pharmacy and straighten this out without spending a cent of my money. But it was also a major wake-up call to a reality that many people are forced to face when it comes to refilling insulin prescriptions. It’s not fair. (That last sentence is the understatement of the century.) I can’t make any sense of it and I don’t know how many people have no choice but to fork over such a large sum of money on a monthly basis in order to live. Thoughts of those individuals and their dire situations scare me far more than navigating the world of health insurance ever could.

While I didn’t appreciate the mini heart attack this email triggered, I guess I am glad that it alerted me to the fact that I’m going to have to be aware of things like this going forward. As I figure out my health insurance costs and coverage, I anticipate more confusion, surprises, and expenses…but hopefully I can also expect/experience a pleasant discovery or two along the way.

Hello, 26…and Goodbye, Health Insurance

Well, today is my 26th birthday. As I alluded to a few months ago in another blog post, I’ve pretty much been dreading this particular birthday.

Love always wins.

Today’s the day I’ve got to switch health insurance carriers. I’m going off my parents’ plan and signing up for the employee plan offered by my company.

Am I nervous? Yes. Am I scared? Hell yes. But am I alone? Hell, no. I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I’ve got so many resources in my life – family, friends, the DOC –  who will help me navigate the confusing world of health insurance.

I’m also well aware that many, many other T1Ds have been in this position before me. While it’s impossible to forget the horror stories about people who have been unable to afford their medication due to a lack of insurance coverage, or who have a hard time paying for insulin and other diabetes supplies in spite of having health insurance, there’s so many more people who have found ways to make it work without having to sacrifice their health or general well-being.

So I’m going to focus on how blessed I am to have resources all around me, as well as a job that offers decent health insurance (or just a job, period…there’s plenty of jobless people out there who have double the hurdles to jump over compared to someone like me). Today, I won’t dwell on my fears and anxieties about health insurance. Instead, I’ll celebrate another year of life and enjoy the day.

Every Last Drop

27 units. That’s exactly how many units of Humalog were left in my pod, and I had no choice but to literally throw them away. My pod was expired – it had been for 8 hours – and to my knowledge, 8 hours after a pod expires, it will cease working entirely.

I kept the pod on those 8 extra hours because I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting insulin.

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27 units and no choice but to throw all of them away.

It’s a strange, messed up game that I played. I was taking a bit of a risk by wearing my pod for so long after it expired. After all, it’s just a piece of technology, and it can sometimes be difficult to know whether or not it’s working properly when it’s brand new, let alone within the window of expiration. But this is the game that I have to play, along with so many other people with diabetes, because insulin is precious.

Insulin keeps us alive.

Insulin is a need, not a want.

Insulin is exorbitantly expensive, so much so that it ranks #6 on a listing of the 10 most expensive liquids in the world.

With that in mind, tell me…would you feel comfortable throwing away even one single unit of it?

One could argue that maybe I could’ve tried to extract the 27 units from the old pod and reuse it in a new one – but to me, that’s an even more dangerous game to play. I have no clue whether that’s safe, or if there’s too much risk involved with germs and cross-contamination. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but when it comes to my health, I have to be.

So as much as it pained me to be unable to use every last drop of insulin, I made the only viable choice for me and disposed of 27 units of Humalog.

27 units, 16 units, 3 unit, 1 unit…no matter what the quantity is here, every last drop of insulin is invaluable.

When will we see change? Is it really too much to ask for insulin to be affordable to all?

The Hellacious, Headstrong High

There’s lots of different “kinds” of high blood sugar. There is the type that is self-inflicted due to inaccurate carb counting or insulin dosing. There’s the sort that can be blamed on technological error – an insulin pump failure or a cannula kink, for instance. And another kind is linked to illness, when a cold or other sickness prevents insulin from working efficiently, thereby stopping blood sugars from coming down to normal levels.

And then there’s the type of high blood sugar that simply can’t be explained. It’s high for seemingly no goddamn reason, and it’s the most frustrating high of them all.

That kind of high is also the kind that takes what feels like forever to come down.

I experienced this after a Saturday of travel earlier this month. I’m fairly accustomed to traveling, especially if it’s a quick trip on a plane or just a few short hours in the car. I say this because I’m almost positive that my hours-long high blood sugar had nothing to do with my travel day…although when it comes to diabetes, nothing can truly be ruled out.

Anyways, I digress. That day involved me heading out of the house at 10 A.M. I drove to the shuttle that would take me to the airport. I got to the airport about an hour before my flight was due to take off. I went through TSA Pre-Check – my first time using the service, which I totally recommend – without any issues. I had enough time to pick up some food for a small lunch, but when I checked my CGM and noticed that my blood sugars were hovering in the 200s, I decided to deliberately pick lower-carb snacks to munch on in lieu of a real lunch. Turkey jerkey and cheddar popcorn weren’t the most filling snacks, but it was something.

I figured that by the time I got on the plane, my blood sugars would be stabilizing. No such luck. I was still in the low 200s. I took one or two more boluses during my quick hour-and-a-half long flight, thinking that I must be heading for a blood sugar crash by the time I deplaned. Nope. I was still running high, even by the time I met my partner by the baggage claim. I raised my temp basal and kept my fingers crossed that by the time we reached the restaurant we were bound for, I’d be coasting down. As we got settled at our table, I checked my blood sugar and felt slightly relieved to see that I was 183. At least I was finally below 200.

Teacher's Month 2020

I pushed blood sugar worries out of my mind for the next hour or so. I just wanted to enjoy my meal and my time with my significant other. But as we finished eating and made our back to the car, I couldn’t help but notice the repeated buzzing coming from my CGM. I was rising gradually, well on my way to 300. I tried to not panic and gave myself more insulin. We arrived home and the vicious cycle truly began. For the next three or four hours, I tested and corrected every hour, on the hour. Midway through that interval of time, I changed my pod – perhaps it stopped working properly – and prayed that the new pod would finally bring me back down.

And, spoiler alert: It eventually did. But in the agonizingly long hours I had to wait before my blood sugar was down…I experienced a bevy of emotions. I was mad. I was upset. At one point, I was very technical and rational, going through my next steps both in my head and out loud to my worried partner. He asked me what we should do in the event that my blood sugar was still elevated after a certain length of time, and that’s when I started crying tears of fear and frustration. It all felt so unfair. I was doing all the right things and it wasn’t make a difference. That was a hard reality to swallow. And I couldn’t help but cry harder when he asked me to show him how to use glucagon again (it’s been at least 3 years since he had formal training with my diabetes educator). Part of me felt better, knowing that he was prepared for adverse affects of taking so much insulin to combat a high, but I think I was more focused on and distraught by the fact that he might need to intervene, which was an especially upsetting scenario because I never want to put that responsibility on anyone.

Once I calmed down, I filled a water glass, sat down on the couch, and texted my mother, who is always my T1D sounding board. She reassured me that I was doing the right things, and that I should continue to wait and see what happened. She also advised me that I should be prepared for a crash, because sometimes, it seems like all the insulin kicks in at once when blood sugar drops too quickly/low from a high.

So I waited. I drank water. I showed my boyfriend the app on my phone that simulates glucagon injections – just in case. I played video games. I tried to keep my cool. Before long, it was nearing midnight, and I desperately wanted to curl up in bed. I went through my pre-bed routine, washing my face and brushing my teeth, knowing I’d check my blood sugar for the umpteenth time that night once I was done.

And…it was 153. Better yet, it didn’t go as low as it could have overnight: I dropped to about 75 by 8:30 A.M. All things considered, it was a decent outcome.

The hellacious, headstrong high had finally subsided. I was so, incredibly relieved. And I’m so, incredibly hopeful that I don’t experience a day like that again any time soon.