My New PDM

After four years filled with various highs and lows, I had to say farewell to the PDM that was virtually glued to my side, working with me to manage my diabetes.

Our parting was inevitable. Around the Fourth of July, I noticed that the battery symbol on my PDM was low, meaning that the triple A batteries within needed to be replaced. I put fresh ones in, but upon the system restarting, the PDM asked me to input information such as the date and time. And then…the pod I’d been wearing for less than 24 hours beeped loudly, signaling to me that it had failed. I figured it must be due to the battery replacement, but this definitely wasn’t normal. So I did some investigating.

I consulted with my mom and she told me that this was a sign that the internal battery within the PDM, the one that cannot be replaced, was starting to run out of life. She advised me to call Insulet to get a replacement PDM. That’s how I discovered that the warranty on my PDM actually expired in January of this year, and that I’d have to pay a nice chunk of change (about $500) to get a new one, under warranty.

It was a painful process, as I’ve detailed in recent posts, but I finally did get my new PDM. Fortunately, it only cost me $100 (I guess I should be glad I met my $900 deductible so quickly).

My New PDM.png
A very special delivery.

I waited to power up the new system until I was due to change a pod – didn’t want to waste a pod if I didn’t have to – and I’m really glad I set aside a half hour or so in order to input all of my settings into the new PDM. It was a bit stressful, really, and just as I was cursing the PDM for not automatically knowing all of this stuff about me, it was set up and ready for action.

It was a strange feeling, disconnecting myself from that PDM I’d relied on for four years. It sounds dramatic, I know, but that PDM and I have been through a lot. As I powered down the system, I had a little moment and felt gratitude toward the PDM (and I suppose all of its little quirks). I put it inside the box that the new one arrived in, and the old PDM now sits in my diabetes supplies cabinet, neatly tucked away so in the event that I need to consult it for old information or data, I can.

And now I can say I’ve got a shiny, pristine PDM that’s under warranty, which I must admit is a relief.

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…

79D46312-CF33-4E28-834E-9CDE7608BFEE
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.

 

My One-Month Dexcom G6 Review

My first month on the Dexcom G6 went by so quickly. The G6 entered my life during a particular hectic period: between a trip to Vegas, my 25th birthday, family gatherings, and work obligations, May was marked by constant activities…which made me that much more grateful to have my G6.

Before I continue with this review, I’d like to note how I got priority access to the G6. Approximately one year ago, I applied on Dexcom’s website to be a “Dexcom Warrior”. Basically, this just means that I filled out a form with my information and some background on my diabetes story. I didn’t expect anything to come of this; if anything, maybe I’d be contacted for someone to write a bio piece about me.

Fast-forward to January 2018: I receive an email informing me that I’ve been selected to participate in a Dexcom marketing campaign. There weren’t too many details other than that a shoot was taking place over two days in Atlanta, Georgia in February and that Dexcom would pay for my flight and hotel if I gave them my time that weekend. I was thrilled to receive the offer and gladly accepted. And I’m grateful I got to have such a unique, fun experience.

I didn’t learn until several weeks later that my participation in the marketing campaign would allow me to receive early access to the G6. In other words, I was going to be one of the first in the world to try this technology. My head is still spinning from that fact, and it’s not something that I take lightly. I understand that I’m fortunate to have access to it, and in return for this special privilege, I am putting as much truth and transparency as possible into my reviews of it.

Onto my one-month evaluation…new observations include:

  • The whole 10-day automatic shutoff thing bothers me a little more than it did in the beginning. There’s no workaround, so I’ve got to know exactly when my sensor is going to expire so I can have a fresh one on hand. This can be irritating, especially when *life happens* and I forget about changing my sensor.
  • The adhesive seems to be one thing that has made zero improvement (but it’s not like it’s gotten worse, it’s the same). I think the surface area of it is a little smaller? But it’s held up fairly well for me for the full 10 days. I’ve only had to use OpSite FlexFix tape on it once, and that was on the ninth day.
  • I am LOVING not having to calibrate the receiver after the two-hour warmup period. My blood sugars automatically start getting recognized by the receiver after the two hours have elapsed, and it’s awesome.
9A60AC29-96C0-4DD5-98B9-5D8A501F4294
A view of the G6 mobile app.
  • I’m still experiencing an utterly painless application. I’ve yet to try a site other than my abdomen, though. I don’t think a different site will hurt more, though I’m curious to see if readings are less accurate.
  • Speaking of readings, I’d say that they’re within the ~15 point range compared to the blood sugars my meter reports. Not bad at all.
  • The battery on the receiver is kind of weak. I have to charge it at least twice per week, which is slightly annoying. But I also have the G6 app downloaded on my phone, so it’s not a huge deal if the battery on my receiver depletes completely.
  • The G6 app works well. Aesthetically speaking, it’s clean and modern looking, and very easy to read. It works better for me than the G5 app did, but I had a myriad of issues going on with it that affected my user experience.

I’m pretty satisfied with my G6 experience so far. I’m hopeful for the future – perhaps it’ll be possible to extend a sensor’s lifespan or easily recycle the chunky plastic applicators.

But I’m interested in questions you might have – are you still wondering about something regarding the G6 that I haven’t addressed? Please let me know. I’d be happy to provide insight.

The CGM Experiment: Comparing the Dexcom G5 to the G6

I have the extremely good fortune of being one of the first people in the world to receive the Dexcom G6, the latest in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology. After spending almost two years eagerly anticipating its FDA approval, I could scarcely believe that I finally had it in my hands when it first arrived a few weeks ago.

I am partway through my second-ever G6 sensor, so I’ve had enough time to come up with some initial opinions on the system as a whole compared to the G5.

Let’s start with what I knew going into the first insertion of the G6. I knew that the transmitter would have a sleeker profile than the G5. I also was aware that the insertion process would be much more streamlined – all I would need to do is push a button and it would be on my body.  Plus, the G6 required 0 finger sticks or calibrations, could be worn for 10 consecutive days, and would no longer block acetaminophen (Tylenol) like its predecessors did. So far, me and the G6 were off to a solid start.

Then, it came time for me to actually put it on. Rather then end my current session with my G5, I decided to leave it on so I could see how accurate it was compared to the G6.

5af0f7d2789dd724634597

I was amazed by how easy it was to insert the G6. All I had to do was input a 4-digit code located on the sensor into my receiver. Once the code was accepted, I peeled the adhesive off the sensor, placed the system on my abdomen, folded the orange safety clip until it snapped off, and pushed the big orange button. I cringed when I did it for the first time; truthfully, I was prepared for it to hurt. It made a ka-shunk sound as the sensor inserted itself into my skin, and I…didn’t feel a thing. I marveled at how ridiculously comfortable it felt as I snapped the sleeker transmitter into place. I pressed one more button on my receiver to get the sensor warmed up, and that was it. Once two hours elapsed, my G6 system would be fully operational and could determine my blood sugar without requiring manual calibrations.

IMG_6655

While it felt great to know that I didn’t need to worry about calibrating my new device, I was more interested in seeing how well it matched up with my G5.

And I was a little let down…at least, I was in the beginning.

Initially, I was not impressed at all by the G6’s reports. They matched pretty damn closely with my G5. I was beginning to wonder whether the technology really was that excellent, and then my G6 proved to me that it was, indeed, kind of a big deal.

That moment came when it caught a low blood sugar sooner than my G5. I was feeling the early signs of a low, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it alarmed. But what was particularly neat to me was that it was able to tell me that a serious low blood sugar (below 55 mg/dL) was oncoming in the next 20 minuets or less. In other words, it knew that I needed to treat my blood sugar right away to prevent a more urgent hypoglycemic event. That predictive feature was definitely a pleasant surprise.

As I wore my first G6 sensor for a few more days, it seemed to adjust better and better to my body. As evidenced in the above picture, it proved to be spot on when I compared it to the blood sugar readings I got from my meter. There’s absolutely still a bit of the classic CGM lag, as it takes about 15 minutes or so to catch up to what’s actually going on in the body, but that was to be expected.

I’m already on second sensor and I think it’s safe to say that I’m sold on the G6. But I don’t think that any product comparison/review is complete without a list of pros and cons, so here’s what I’ve come up with:

Pros of the G6 (compared to the G5)

  • Slimmer transmitter profile
  • 0 fingerstick calibrations (which I really loved when I didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to calibrate a sensor I inserted before bed)
  • Predictive low feature
  • Modern touchscreen receiver
  • Absolutely painless and foolproof application – honestly, it was THAT good that it might win me over from the G5 if that was the sole difference between the two

Cons of the G6 (compared to the G5)

  • Clunky applicator – as many other members of the DOC have noted, the system is comprised of a lot of plastic. Probably not very environmentally friendly. I wish it was possible to recycle it somehow
  • Automatic expiration after 10 days – with the G5, you could restart a sensor after a week had elapsed, and in theoryyou could use the same single sensor more than once for a few weeks in a row. The G6 automatically shuts down after 10 days, so you’re forced to put on a new sensor. This medical device is already pretty expensive, and you could at least get your money’s worth with the G5
  • No super noticeable improvement in blood sugar reporting capabilities

The bottom line is that the G6 is unquestionably an upgrade in diabetes technology. It requires fewer blood sugar checks and allows for greater discretion with its smaller size. The G6 is far from perfect, but it’s still a valued component of my diabetes toolkit. I’m excited to continue on this journey with it and discover just how much it helps me take the best possible care of myself.

So THAT’S How Long and Sharp the Dexcom G5 Insertion Needle is…

IMG_6621

Oh, I cringe just looking at that.

This is a rare photo of the Dexcom G5 insertion needle. Yikes! I only captured it because somehow, my last sensor change with the G5 went awry and I wound up being unable to use this particular sensor. Before I threw it away, though, I played with it a bit to see if I could get a closer look at the needle that helps secure the sensor to my skin.

Obviously, the mission was accomplished. Even though I was slightly horrified by the needle’s pointy length, I was also relieved to know that it would be the last time it would puncture my skin. That’s because I knew my G6 was on its way and that one of the major improvements to it was making the whole process painless. Little did I know how true that would be until I put my first G6 sensor on…

In a couple days, I’ll *finally* publish a post that reveals my initial thoughts on my brand-new Dexcom G6. I’ll compare it to my experience with the G5 and share whether I think the G6 is worthy of all the hype it’s received.