T1D Tests More Than Just Blood Sugar…

Turns out, living with type 1 diabetes means that I’m testing a whole lot more than just my blood sugar levels…

…I’m testing my memory, too – and rather frequently.

As a person with T1D, it’s on me to remember to do basic things like bolus for meals, be prepared with back-up supplies at all times, get prescriptions filled before I run out of anything, and so much more. More often than not, I pass these memory tests.

But naturally, I’m bound to fail one every now and then.

Case in point: I forgot where I left my PDM the other day. I had prepared my dinner and went to take a bolus for it when I realized that I couldn’t remember when or where I last saw it.

When the “Find my PDM” feature fails, there’s nothing to fall back on other than memory…and maybe a bit of luck, as well.

It was an infuriating scenario. I knew it was somewhere in my home. I hadn’t left the house all day, other than to take my dog outside to do her business. I spent the better part of a half hour wandering up and down the stairs, searching with an increased sense of franticness, for my PDM. The urgency to locate it only heightened when I tried to use the “Find my PDM” feature on the Omnipod Display app and it wouldn’t work. That was a first – up until this day, I’d always been able to use it to track down my PDM when I’d misplaced it. It showed no indication that it was going to suddenly start working again any time soon, so I gave up and was forced to retrace my steps in order to find my PDM…which was going to be difficult considering in the middle of my search, my Dexcom went off, alerting me to an impending low blood sugar.

Think, think, think…I could practically feel the wheels turning in my head as I tried to recall where I last saw my PDM. I’d bolused for lunch earlier in the day, most definitely. That much I knew. I had eaten lunch downstairs, so I surmised that I brought my PDM upstairs with me when I was done so I could have it nearby as I continued on with my workday.

I looked high and low, all around my bedroom, without success. That’s when it dawned on me that there was a slim chance that my PDM fell outside of my pocket when I took my dog out just before I’d made my dinner. So I ventured outside, sweat starting to bead on my forehead as I grew shakier from my low blood sugar. I scoured the parking lot and the lawn for my PDM and no dice. That was when I decided to head back inside, drink a juice box, and take a moment to really contemplate the time and place I last saw my PDM.

That’s when it hit me – it had to be on my bedroom floor, next to my bed, because I suddenly remembered how it had accidentally slipped off my bed when I’d placed it there after lunch! I raced back upstairs, feeling triumphant and relieved when I saw the PDM in that precise spot and could confirm that my memory had finally served me correctly.

Now, this might sound like some silly, random anecdote about how I had a forgetful moment. But to me, it actually demonstrates just how much a person with diabetes needs to remember to do on a daily basis. It’s so much more than the finger stick pokes or insulin injections – it’s a lot of accountability. It shows that diabetes tests a whole heck of a lot more than blood sugar…it tests patience, responsibility, and yes, in this particular situation, memory. This is why I think people with diabetes deserve recognition for dealing with these daily, innumerable tests as gracefully as we can.

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!

How Long Do AAA Batteries Last in an OmniPod PDM?

How long do AAA batteries last in an OmniPod PDM?

The answer to this question has subtly haunted me for years.

My PDM is the only device in my diabetes management kit that actually runs on batteries. Everything else, such as my Dexcom receiver and my blood sugar meter, can be recharged, which is highly preferable over batteries. But until I make the transition to the OmniPod DASH system (which uses a rechargeable lithium battery in lieu of AAA batteries), I’m stuck with replacing the AAAs in my PDM whenever they drain.

But it was never overly clear to me…how do I actually know when the batteries are out of juice?

Just by looking at the battery display, you’d think that I’d need to swap out the AAAs A.S.A.P…but I discovered that isn’t the case.

There’s a battery icon on my PDM, of course, that shows roughly how much life my batteries have left in them. When new batteries are put into the PDM, it shows a fully charged battery. Some time after that, the battery icon is half full, and then after more time, it goes down to a tiny sliver to indicate the batteries are running low.

Ever since I became an OmniPod user, I always assumed that the batteries had to be replaced as soon as the display ran down to that itty bit of battery life. I just figured that was the signal. Plus, I didn’t want to run the risk of delivering a bolus or changing my pod only for my PDM to completely die halfway through, leaving me to figure out how much insulin I had left to deliver – or worse, with a pod not fully activated that I’d have to scrap.

For a long time, though, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been changing the batteries prematurely. Maybe they had more life past that little sliver. So I put my theory to the test: Last month, my PDM displayed the low battery icon. Instead of changing the batteries immediately, I decided to wait and see what would happen.

And I can report that my batteries did last much longer after that initial low battery icon appeared. In fact, they lasted an addition 7-8 pod changes (I lost track after the first handful). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my PDM could make it almost an additional month past that first indication of a low battery! And even better, I learned that the system does give a warning that makes it crystal clear when the batteries should be changed: The battery icon goes from having a tiny bit of life left to a flashing display showing a completely empty battery. I forget what the exact message was on my PDM, but I also got a system notification telling me to change my batteries soon.

I wish I remembered exactly when I changed the batteries last, but if memory serves me correctly, then it was sometime in November. So the AAA batteries in my OmniPod PDM lasted roughly three months.

Not too shabby, and now I know exactly when I can expect to change my PDM batteries.