Diabetes For The Day.
Working in a diabetes company means understanding the culture and responsibilities of a person with diabetes. This is easy for me, because I'm a person with diabetes. But not everyone at work is living with diabetes. My fellow employees work with diabetes every, but they don't live with it.
People at work have taken a very active interest in becoming more familiar with the diabetes lifestyle - more than just understanding the "facts" of this disease. They ask questions about the pump, or different insulins, or what a CGM does. They ask how things "feel." One of my co-workers decided to have "diabetes for the day," which included him testing his blood sugar several times and wearing a pump infusion set (minus the cannula - just stuck to his abdomen for "the feel" of it) attached to a makeshift "pump." He spent the day thinking about carbohydrate intake, blood sugar results, and the constant presence of a device, in efforts to better understand the community he's trying to help. Here's his feedback:
Kerri: How did testing your blood sugar affect the way you thought about food?
Co-Worker: I'd love to say that I'm a changed person and that I look at the world through different eyes having worn the shoes of someone with diabetes for a day. Truthfully I think it was the inconvenience pain of testing that caused the greatest hesitation and re-jigging for me. The event that caught me most off guard was when I returned home from work and passed up having a cookie before dinner. My inner dialog went something like, "Mmm cookies. Wait, I'd have to test first. Kerri said I had to test before eating anything. Hmm. I'm going to be eating dinner in an hour so I'd probably have to test twice. BUT. If I have it with dinner, I can test just once ... I think I'll wait."
I have to say, all those fake sugars [note from Kerri - he's talking about artificial sweeteners] are really yucky and drinking mostly plain water is no fun. Give me my plain sugar in my coffee. If I had to inject insulin (saline) I think it might have really changed the way I thought about food because it would have forced me to do more calculations and understand what I was putting into my body (both the food and the insulin). With just testing, I only had to make simple yes/no decisions. Maybe next time I'll get wired up for a pump. Shooting actual syringes saline ... am I getting paid to do this?
Kerri: Did you ever feel inconvenienced by the presence of the meter or the "pump?" How so?
CW: Having the meter/pump on my belt wasn't too conspicuous as I think it looked a lot like a geeky cell phone belt clip. (And I'm pretty geeky.) However, I did almost drop it into the toilet once. Unlike a cellphone, it's wired/tubed to me which created a bit of a juggling act and not one you're likely to see at the circus. Thankfully all my years of playing frisbee came in handy and I was able to prevent a very embarrassing accident. (Since it was just a meter it wouldn't have been too costly.)
I also think that if I wasn't at a place where we talk about diabetes everyday, I might have been a bit more self-conscious.
Kerri: How did the blood glucose numbers make you feel? Did you associate any "guilt" to a higher number? Did any of your results make you raise an eyebrow?
CW: Since I knew that my body could "handle" the swings I wasn't too worried and thus not too guilty. (I had pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner ... and two cookies. Something that I don't think would be part of a typical menu for someone who was managing their BG.) I did have some pretty high swings and it did make me realize that keeping your BG within an acceptable range is not a passive act that can be programmed like a thermostat and left on auto-pilot. There's a constant feedback loop that occurs and I don't think a CGM talking to a pump would be able to easily and reliably handle the delicate balance. (And that's coming from a programmer.)
Kerri: Do you feel as though you have a better idea of what life with diabetes is like? What else would you want to know? What are you grateful for not knowing?
CW: I think what I experienced is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I was forced to stop and think a few times, but I didn't have to pay the "penalty" of being careless and I knew in the morning it would all be over. Sort of like playing with tasers without the batteries. "Don't fake taser me, Bro!"
I am a bit curious as to what a high and low are like. Is it similar to being hungover? Like having a bad flu? Is it worse than a papercut between the fingers? (I really hate paper cuts. How can something so small hurt so much? I'll inject saline before getting a papercut.) The insulin pump is still very intriguing to me. Can you feel the insulin going in? Can you "feel" your BSL/energy change?
No amount of simulation will ever help me understand what it's like to not be able to just disconnect. There is no vacation from diabetes. It doesn't sleep when you sleep. I can't even imagine that. Even as I type this, the concept is so foreign to me.
Kerri: Did this experiment make you appreciate your health any more? Less?
CW: I've been very fortunate and have been very healthy all my life. I have my scars and stories, but overall I can't complain. I don't think the experiment changed how I thought of my own health. I think I appreciate how amazing the human body is to keep everything working properly, but I don't think I'll change any of my habits as a result of the experiment. Don't get me wrong. I'll continue to watch my weight and try to eat healthy food. (I haven't been to a fast food joint, except to use the bathroom, in over 15 years.) But it's about my general health and well being, and not specifically as a way to prevent type 2 diabetes.
The experience will stay with me longer than the lancet marks on my fingers, but I would not classify it as life-altering. Something well worth the time and I'd recommend that other participate in the experiment.