Category: Devices

Never Be Ashamed For Being Different

Never Be Ashamed For Being Different

Never Be Ashamed For Being Different

Throughout my school years, I hid my diabetes from my peers. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for having a disease that was easily misunderstood. When I went to class I never came fully prepared for a low blood sugar. I wouldn’t check my blood sugar or administer insulin in front of people. If I had to attend to my diabetes, I would do so in the bathroom. The only people aware of my condition was my family (of course) and a few really close friends.

I didn’t want to be treated or viewed differently from everyone else. It went to such far extremes that I was putting my life at risk at times. Which ironically became even more humiliating when it came down to it. I recall my doctor advising that I should try an insulin pump, which I completely avoided. I didn’t want the looks or stares with wearing a life-saving device.

I remember getting teased on one occasion in particular in school when someone saw a insulin syringe in my purse and accused me of taking “drugs”. I simply explained: “no, this is insulin, a hormone that I MUST take everyday to stay alive.

After many years of battling my self-esteem and confidence, the worry of what other people think went away. What it eventually came down to was realizing my health and well being comes before anyone’s perception of me.

I started talking and opening up to more people about my diabetes which then brought on more conversation and ways for me to express myself. I embraced the person I’ve become by sharing even the littlest details with pride. Hiding it for so long made me feel like a prisoner in my own body.

Now I have an insulin pump and CGM, which I wear proudly. I give myself insulin and check my blood sugars wherever and whenever. And in any given opportunity I try to educate more and more people because I know what it’s like to feel alone and misunderstood. So this is my way of taking strides to inform the public and let other’s know they’re not alone. And that you should never be ashamed for being different but feel empowered for what makes you unique.


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Taking a break from diabetes technology

Taking Breaks From The Diabetes Technology

Taking Breaks From The Diabetes Technology

By: Randall Barker

My daughter, Emma was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a little over 3 1/2 years ago. Being a diabetic myself, it was a moment that has brought us significantly closer. As she was choosing which glucometer she wanted to try out among the countless choices offered to her by the Diabetes Educator in the hospital, my mind was already working on the technological options that were out there.

Of course, Emma was also thinking about the “tech toys” as well; in fact I recall her asking if she’d get an insulin infusion pump before we even left the hospital. It was her doctor that quickly mentioned that she needed to first learn about insulin injections before moving on to the insulin infusion pump. He told her she would get an insulin pump soon, in fact she got her first pump three short months later.

Emma’s insulin pump is a device that she has seen me wear since she was an infant. The insulin pump is a device that is sometimes mistaken by people as a pager. And to be honest it’s about the size of a pager and is usually clipped to a person’s waist.

The pump houses a supply of insulin and gives the wearer a continuous dose of insulin throughout the day. I often describe it as a small IV unit since most people can relate to what an IV machine does. Emma’s choice for insulin pump was one just like mine. She chose a unit made by Medtronic. Her insulin pump was the latest version available on the market.

The pump also included a CGM or continuous glucose monitor. The CGM is another device that has been around for sometime but has recently become more accessible and readily available. The CGM is a sensor that has a small filament that is inserted just below the skin, where it sits for 3-7 days. The filament detects the levels of sugar in the sub-dermal layer of skin and by translates these levels into a blood glucose level reading. By using this device a person can get an accurate idea of how their glucose levels respond to insulin, diet, and other factors.

After just being diagnosed for a little over 3 months, my now 11 year old daughter had some of the newest and most advanced technology available at the time for diabetics. Along with having this equipment, I was watching an emerging advancement in glucose monitoring via the cloud. There was a group of software engineers that were developing code that would allow the parents to see their children’s glucose readings. They saw a need and after doing some “hacking” to the insulin pump, developed glucose monitoring via the cloud. It was a group that would become know as NightScout.

This idea intrigued and frightened me at the same time. I applauded the idea of being able to see my daughter’s glucose reading anytime. Yet, I was scared to attempt the “hacking” on her pump. I decided that instead of testing it out on her pump I would try it on my pump. Ultimately I was successful, but that led me to a new concern.

Was the gear that was required to “hack” my daughter’s pump and then the added responsibility of the end result really necessary? I decided at that time it wasn’t. Emma was still young in terms of her diabetes diagnosis. I wanted her to develop and be involved in decisions that affected her. With that in mind, we decided at that time cloud monitoring wasn’t for us.

Time continued on, as well as advancements in technology. Some of the medical equipment we used changed and some stayed the same. One such instance was with another CGM that was manufactured by another company other than the one we used.

Taking breaks from the Diabetes Technology

It was called Dexcom and the new system was called the G5. It was the latest at the time and it brought new features that I was thrilled to see. The Dexcom system would not communicate to the insulin pump Emma was using, by that I mean Emma’s current CGM would automatically transmit to her pump the glucose reading it was detecting.

By doing that Emma could just pull out her pump and get a decent idea of where her glucose reading was. The Dexcom required a separate receiver to display the glucose readings. That was until the G5 series Dexcom was introduced. The G5 added Bluetooth functionality which meant now devices such as a mobile phone could be used to display the glucose reading.

Another advantage to this setup was now an app could be loaded on a separate mobile phone that could also be used to display glucose readings. Now we had a great solution to our CGM issue. Emma could see her glucose readings on her phone which just like any teenager, her phone was with her all the time!!!

And now her mother and I could see her glucose reading on our phones no matter where we were. We could be sitting across the room or across the globe. In fact I was recently on a trip in Africa and Emma was back home in Texas; I was still able to see how her glucose readings were.

I must say the medical and technology device advancements for diabetes that I have observed over the years are amazing. They have helped to improve the lives of countless diabetics and their families worldwide. Sometimes though these gadgets can create an unwanted effect.

For instance, one can rely on the tech so much that sometimes they forget the basics or fundamentals. I recall one time when my insulin pump simply stopped working. The manufacturer was great about getting me a replacement, in fact I had it the next day. Those 16 hours without the pump were very long though. I had to retrain myself how to do multiple insulin injections in order to keep from going into DKA.

Other times they can create a level of observation that one could almost compare to being watched by “big brother.” I find myself playing the role of a “helicopter parent” sometimes with Emma. By that I mean that I find myself glued to my phone sometimes following her glucose readings. When those readings start getting out of range I find myself quickly checking in on Emma, to then find out she has already taken action to correct the situation.

I have to remind myself that she needs to experience things firsthand in order to know how to react. There will come a time when Emma is out on her own and she will need the experience to help guide her with her diabetes management. Sometimes we become so “plugged in” with the gadgets that we lose sight of how things are without the technology.

These days I try to include my daughter in decisions that concern her diabetes management. She doesn’t always wear the Continuous Glucose Monitor. I understand that sometimes it does become cumbersome. She does routinely check her blood glucose by performing a finger stick so we at least have an idea of how her blood sugar levels are doing. She likes to take breaks from the CGM though. I do allow it because I want her to take responsibility and be involved in her diabetes decisions.

When it comes to insulin management once she was able to get her insulin pump she has never once looked back on it. I’m not sure she would ever want to go back to multiple daily injections. She does take the occasional injection when her infusion set malfunctions or if there is another reason why her blood sugar levels won’t drop. However, I don’t see her ever taking a break from the pump like she does with the CGM.

The technology that has emerged in diabetes care has exploded in the past decade. Having been a Type 1 for over 25 years I stand back in awe at some of the things I have seen. It’s still nice to remember the basics and to keep those familiar for when issues do arise. I can’t wait to see what new tech options are released in the upcoming years, but I never what to forget where things were when I was first diagnosed.

The technology is fantastic but the facts that one can take a break or even a step back is also great. The trick, I suppose is to never become overwhelmed by what options you have at your disposal.


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How The Dexcom Has Changed My Life

How The Dexcom Has Changed My Life With Diabetes

How The Dexcom Has Changed My Life With Diabetes

I remember life with diabetes before I had “beeps” and “alarms” going off reminding me that my sugar is (low) and that I need to eat something.

I remember being so blindsided by a low blood sugar, where I’ve gone unconscious.

I remember having to go to bed hoping and praying that I wake up in the morning, and not knowing if my blood sugar would withstand the night.

I remember the fear so vividly, and not just my fear..but my family’s as well.

It wasn’t until a year ago when I started on the Dexcom (CGM) — only a year! That means I’ve gone without a continuous glucose monitor for 13 years with diabetes. And now I can’t imagine living without one.

No — it’s not a cure. I still have a broken pancreas. I’m a Type 1 Diabetic. I still have to count carbs, calculate how much insulin to administer myself and check my blood sugars manually to make sure the Dexcom is giving accurate readings.

But this acts as a “safety net“. So much can happen between normal blood sugars checks. That even a 20 minute period can be a very crucial time for a diabetic. It sometimes can even become a life or death situation if not treated in time.

The Dexcom lets me know where my blood sugar is trending and how quickly. Sending me alerts when it’s dropping or rising rapidly and when it reaches dangerous levels.

This device has changed my life, despite being an imperfect technology system. I can almost guarantee that it has likely saved me from many life-threatening events. While I still have the burden of diabetes on my shoulders, I don’t have the immense amount of fear at all times. I now have some peace of mind where I can be more productive.

Now having a family and children — this device has given me a new life. A better life. A safer life.

While I am fortunate enough to be able to obtain this medical device, this is not the case for every diabetic. I truly believe everyone should have access to this! This is not a want, it’s a dire medical necessity for those who battle diabetes.

Why CGM Coverage Matters To Me

Why CGM Coverage Matters To Me

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) has been becoming more widely used by diabetics. There’re a few different companies who supply it. I, personally use the Dexcom. I only starting using it a year ago during my third pregnancy. I’ve always been a brittle diabetic who has hypo unawareness. So my doctor suggested this device to help keep a close eye on my blood sugars while relieving some uncertainty.

At first, I will admit I was hesitant to start using something new. I thought I had too much to juggle already. Taking insulin—checking my blood sugar—and raising children. I knew this wasn’t a cure. Was this really going to help? I will say that it absolutely has helped! This device has changed my life! I wish I knew about it sooner. Now I can’t even imagine my life without it.

Why CGM Coverage Matters To Me:

1. Fewer fingersticks

I went from checking my blood sugar 8-10 times a day, now down to 2-3. It’s given me freedom to not have to “think as much”. The CGM goes everywhere with me. It’s reassuring knowing it’s there to alarm me of my blood sugars especially when exercising, driving, and out of the house. I no longer have to drop everything I’m doing to see what my blood sugar is. I only have to calibrate it twice a day to make sure it matches up with my fingerstick blood sugar meter. It gives me the knowledge of what my blood sugar is at all times and the trends throughout the day.

2. Safety net

Having the CGM gives my family the reassurance that I’m okay throughout the day. When I don’t answer my phone, for instance, they can check on the Dexcom share app and see what my numbers are. The receiver alarms me if my blood sugar is low or high. The issue I had prior to this is I would go from 120 down to 50 in a matter of a half hour, and not even realize it. This has helped prevent many hypoglycemic episodes beyond belief. Granted—this isn’t always 100% accurate, but only by 20 points from my finger stick meter.

3. Feeling in control

I use the CGM in conjunction with dosing my insulin. I no longer have to make sure I washed my hands thoroughly in hopes of getting an accurate reading on a normal blood sugar meter. This is constantly attached to me (besides the 2-hour warm-up) and is constantly supplying me with readings. Once taking my insulin, I’m able to see how accurate my bolus amount was to what I ate. In a normal occurrence, without the CGM, I’d often give myself too much insulin and risked hypoglycemia without knowing. This device helps prevent DKA, seizures, and other diabetic related emergencies.

While in modern day diabetes care we have advanced so much. But we continue to battle with insurances covering this device as deeming not medically necessary. It’s been announced that the FDA will be having a meeting on Thursday, July 21, to discuss CGM access and approving CGM as the replacement for insulin dosing.

Why is this so important?

  • This will take prominence over fingersticks for its given accuracy.
  • More Insurances including Medicare will be more enabled to cover this device.
  • This is a breakthrough of what’s to come for the future in managing diabetes.

Why CGM Coverage Matters To Me…

 

Why CGM Coverage Matters To Me

I could never go back to the day before I started on the Dexcom. It’s given me a better quality of life. I feel freer and I’m able to relieve some of the stress that comes from having to manage this disease. Replacing CGM over fingersticks is so important—this will help this device become available to so many more people. I strongly believe in having CGM coverage for all.