The Biggest Diabetes Mistake I Made on My Trip to California

A couple weeks ago, I shared about my fears over flying again for the first time since before the pandemic.

Fast-forward to now and I’m happy to report that basically none of those fears came to fruition over the course of my trip…

…but of course I did experience one snafu that was definitely avoidable.

All smiles in scenic California in this pic, but I definitely wasn’t grinning like this when I made my mistake.

The biggest diabetes mistake I made on my trip to California was neglecting to charge my OmniPod DASH PDM as often as it (apparently) needs to be charged.

I’m not going to make excuses for myself because I should’ve planned better, but I will say that I’ve only been on this system for about six weeks or so now…and I’m still getting used to some of the PDM’s quirks. In particular, I have yet to figure out exactly how often I need to charge my PDM. It runs on a lithium ion battery, which is the same thing that most cell phones use. So one might make the assumption that I’d need to charge the PDM daily, but that’s definitely excessive – I’d guess that I only use about 20% of the PDM’s battery each day, but of course that depends on how frequently I need to bolus or play around with my basal rates. However, using that rationale, I’ve been charging the PDM every 3-4 days, or whenever I notice the battery falling to a 20% or less charge.

My logic failed me, though, when I falsely assumed that my PDM’s battery would last a day trip into San Francisco when it had a 40% charge.

I still have no idea what happened – all throughout my day walking the hilly streets of San Fran, I was careful to turn off my PDM screen whenever I wasn’t actively looking at it, and I was only turning it on to bolus slightly more than usual (I was basically snacking my way through the city the whole afternoon).

I consider myself pretty lucky, though, because I made the discovery that my PDM battery was dead towards the end of our day, right when we were headed on the subway back to our Airbnb: If there was a time for this to happen, it’s definitely better at the end of the day’s activities rather than at the beginning or somewhere totally inconvenient.

At least, this was what I tried to futilely tell myself in an attempt to feel better about my negligence.

Instead of feeling better, I was beating myself up over making what felt like a rookie mistake. I should’ve charged the PDM because, after all, there was no way that I was about to go into a brand new city for the first time with my phone battery at 40%, so why on earth did I think it was okay to do that with my PDM? Moreover, how the heck did this happen in the first place – does the battery really just drain super quickly and/or easily?

I knew there was no point in trying to figure out why it happened at that point in time – it was more important for me to charge the PDM as soon as possible so that my partner and I could experience In-N’-Out for the first time on our way back to the Airbnb as we had planned.

So, because he is brilliant and calm in “emergency” situations (unlike me), he came up with a plan: I’d head over to In-N’-Out, order our food, and wait for him in our rental car while he ran up the street to a nearby CVS to see if they sold any USB cables (you know, the types of charging cables that everyone has because most electronics are charged with those). And his strategy worked out beautifully. Soon after I had our bag of In-N’-Out in hand, he arrived at the car with the charging cable and I was able to plug my PDM into it so I could bolus for dinner right then and there instead of having to delay it. (We could’ve just waited until we were back at our Airbnb, but then I would’ve either had to eat a cold burger [blech] or eaten it fresh and run the risk of my blood sugar jumping up without the necessary insulin in my system. Obviously, we went with the more appealing option.)

All things considered, if that was the biggest diabetes mistake I made in California, then I’d say I did pretty good – more to come soon on my strategies for maintaining decent blood sugars while on vacation.

As for now, I’ll leave you with this – In-N’-Out is kinda overrated.

First Impressions: The OmniPod DASH

At long last, the day has come…the day for me to share my first impressions of the OmniPod DASH!

Full disclosure: I’ve only been using the system for 3 days as of this writing. But I thought it was important to capture my beginning thoughts on how it works because they’re bound to change over time as I gain more experience and familiarity with the system.

So without further ado, here’s a bullet point list (‘cuz who doesn’t love a good list) that hits the highs and lows – yes, pun intended – of the DASH so far:

  • It was shockingly easy and fast to set up. I was worried about inputting all my settings from my old OmniPod into the DASH system and assumed that I would need a block of time to do so. This is why I decided to do my set up on a free and clear Sunday afternoon with minimal distractions around me. Turns out, though, that I didn’t need so much time set aside – it took me exactly 10 minutes to get all my settings straightened away. In fact, it probably would’ve taken closer to 8 minutes if I hadn’t agonized over choosing my background photo for my lock screen! The PDM made the entire setup process extremely intuitive and easy to navigate, much to my relief.
  • The PDM is incredibly high-tech…and, at times, suffers from that. I’ve spent a lot of time marveling over the clean, sleek design of both the touchscreen and the PDM itself. It’s almost identical to my iPhone, which I think is both a pro and a con because I can see myself confusing one for the other in the future (though it’d be extremely obvious which was which once I unlocked the device). The touchscreen and menus are thoughtfully designed, but my big beef with them is twofold: 1) Some menus are totally buried – it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to set a temp basal and 2) Anyone who ever claims to suffer from “fat fingers” or struggles to hit the right buttons 100% of the time on a smartphone might find navigation on the PDM to be a challenge. The good news is that it’s really easy to go back if you’ve mistakenly navigated to a menu that you didn’t need and to correct any accidentally hit buttons, but I could definitely see some users taking issue with the operation of the touchscreen as a whole – even though I personally haven’t found it bothersome.
Shout-out to the Insulet/OmniPod website for providing a much better image of the DASH PDM and pod than I ever could!
  • The pod change process has a new addition to it. DASH users have the option to record the site of their new pods, a feature that I think is pretty neat! I’ve always been pretty good about rotating sites, but having a record of exactly where I’ve placed my pods over time is bound to be helpful so I don’t ever use one particular site too much.
  • Speaking of the pod change process…I almost activated a pod when it wasn’t even on my body yet. I’m used to the pod change process consisting of multiple pages on my PDM that outlines everything step-by-step. The DASH system aims to consolidate things a bit and features more than one step on a page. This was all fine and dandy up until I hit the last step of the process – I touched the button to activate the pod, thinking that I was navigating to the last page in the setup process! This was mostly user error because I should’ve read the screen more carefully, but luckily, I had to hit a “confirm” button in order to actually activate the pod (so there’s basically 2 buttons that have to be hit to activate a pod, not one).
  • So far, I’m unsure how I feel about the rechargeable battery feature. I thought this would be a huge improvement over the old OmniPod, which took 2 AAA batteries, but now I’m having some doubts. Those AAA batteries easily lasted 6 weeks – maybe even longer. Now I’m going to have to recharge the DASH PDM at least once or twice a week, depending on how often I’m actively using it. This is going to be a slight pain, but according to what I’ve read, the PDM is still useable when it’s charging, so that makes it more tolerable. But I’m also thinking from the perspective of someone who is away from home at least a few nights a month – this is going to be just ANOTHER charger that I have to remember to pack every time I go away, which is a bit of a bummer.
  • The system sounds are SO MUCH BETTER!!! OMG, I think the days of OmniPod beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeps are in the past! I haven’t noticed any of those lingering, ear-shattering beeps yet; instead, they seem to have been replaced with a pleasant chiming sound. I’m sure that over time, I’ll grow to hate that sound, too, but for now I’m just loving that I’m not being pestered with pod reminders by those grating beeps!

Like any diabetes device, I knew there would be some faults with the DASH system. But generally speaking, those faults are extremely minor and I’m still thrilled that I’m on this new system…and extremely curious as to how my thoughts and feelings about it will change over time. I’ll be sure to post about my new discoveries and experiences with it in the future!

A Diabetes Waiting Game

I am smack-dab-in-the-middle of a very long, very annoying diabetes waiting game.

I’ve waited for my Dexcom sensors and transmitter refill for two months now.

I’ve waited to transition to the OmniPod DASH system for a few weeks now.

I’m very glad, and fortunate, that this waiting game does not apply to the most crucial of my diabetes supplies, which is of course my insulin.

But I’m still tired of waiting.

I don’t mind it as much for the OmniPod DASH; after all, I’d rather use up my remaining pods before diving right into full-time use of the new system.

But the Dexcom sensors and transmitter? That wait has been borderline ridiculous.

I may have to wait to use my new DASH pods, but at least I have ’em here when I’m ready to put them in action.

To sum it up, the wait is due to a series of miscommunications between me, my doctor’s office, my health insurance provider, and my DME (durable medical equipment) provider. And it sucks, because just like anyone else who has diabetes, works full-time, manages a household, and has a social life, I’m doing everything I can to address the matter when I have the time and mental bandwidth to do so, but still blame myself for not getting my prescriptions sooner.

It sucks that I feel failed by the healthcare system.

And again, I find myself feeling grateful that this is my first time experiencing anything like this in 23ish years of life with diabetes. But what’s opened my eyes is that this is a reality for some people with diabetes all the time. That doesn’t just suck – it’s unacceptable.

When will we stop having obstacles block the paths to getting essential, life-saving medications and equipment?

DASHed Hopes No More

I have some exciting news…I’m switching to the OmniPod DASH!

While I won’t start using my DASH until after my old OmniPods are used up (first generation OmniPods aren’t compatible with the DASH PDM), I’m still really excited about switching things up. Nearly a year ago, I expressed my desire to switch to the DASH in addition to my frustration that it would be more expensive for me to make the change.

But with a new job comes new health insurance and a whole new set of “rules” that I’ve been figuring out in the last couple of months.

And let me tell ya…it hasn’t been easy. But more on my struggles to get my basic diabetes prescriptions filled under my new health insurance to come in a blog post very soon…

Violet is excited about my new DASH PDM, too!

Anyways, back to the DASH. When I called Insulet to report a failed pod not too long ago, the representative I was speaking with was asking me if I’d heard about or was interested in the DASH system. Normally, I would’ve brushed her off and explained that I was only interested in getting a replacement for my failed pod that day, but I happened to have some spare time on my hands and decided to ask her if she could see if/how my new insurance would cover the DASH.

She kindly did some research and reported back to me that yes, it was indeed, and that all I’d have to do is get my doctor’s office to prescribe some DASH pods to me and in the meantime, Insulet could send my DASH PDM to me so that I had it on hand when I was ready to start using it. What really sold me, though, was the price – I’d be paying less for a 90-day supply of DASH pods than what I was paying for regular OmniPods under my old health insurance plan.

It was a no-brainer, really.

Even though I’m not DASHing away to start up my DASH (again, gotta make use of those old pods first), I’m still looking forward to getting acquainted with a new piece of diabetes technology that will feel familiar to me because of my years on the OmniPod system. I can’t wait to share more when I finally get DASHin’!

DASHed Hopes

It’s funny how much I’ve changed regarding diabetes and technology in the last decade.

I grew up not wanting to try the latest and greatest devices. I had zero interest in an insulin pump and was very set in my ways of doing multiple daily injections and finger stick pokes.

My (semi-forced) introduction to CGM technology when I was in my teens, though, changed everything for me. And I haven’t looked back since then. Actually, if anything, I’ve become more curious and excited about new technologies because they symbolize greater freedom from the heavy burden of diabetes.

So imagine how PUMPed (hehehe, diabetes humor) to hear about the redesigned OmniPod insulin management system!

This next iteration of OmniPod is known as the DASH system and it’s freaking cool. The clunky PDM has been upgraded to a sleek, touchscreen format and it’s rechargeable (no more AAA batteries). Plus, it comes with a whole host of upgrades and features that make the first generation of OmniPod look totally outdated.

Naturally, I wanted to give the DASH system a SHOT (LOL look at me, I’m on a roll with the puns).

it's not always diabetes' fault (1)
I took this image from the Insulet/OmniPod website so you guys could see how awesome the DASH system looks!

So I called Insulet and asked whether my insurance would cover the new PDM and pods, and how much everything might cost me. I learned that the major difference between how I receive pods now and how I’d receive the new DASH pods (because the DASH pods use Bluetooth, I can’t use my old radio-frequency-enabled pods with the DASH system) is that instead of getting pods directly from Insulet, I’d actually receive them through my mail-order prescription service (Express Scripts). That was fine by me – I get the pods in the mail anyway – but I wanted to know how it’d work in case a DASH pod fails on me. I was reassured by the representative that I’d still call Insulet to receive a replacement, just like I do now.

Okay, good information to know. But I really wanted to know about pricing. So I was connected with an Express Scripts representative, who informed me that the cost for a 3-month supply of DASH pods would be about $50 more than I pay now for my current pods.

I did the math. That’s around $200 more each year that I’d have to pay for my pods. That might not seem like a lot of money, but I pay right around that amount for a 3-month supply of insulin. Hypothetically, let’s say that I become financially strapped in the future, and I have to make the choice between paying for insulin or paying for my pods – when it comes down to it, obviously I’d choose insulin – but I shouldn’t have to make that choice.

So it looks like my hopes to go onto the OmniPod DASH are, well, DASHed (sorry, last bad pun, I swear) for now. I’m a little disappointed, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that prices are lowered for DASH pods in the near future so I can take advantage of a very nicely designed, high-tech insulin pump system.