Continuing from last week, I’m picking up this morning with Laurie Schwartz, mom to Adam (T1D) and an active and supportive voice in the CGM in the Cloud group. In the last week, I’ve had many interactions with people from the CGM in the Cloud group and every single person has been happy to share their experiences, eager to share their expertise, and more than patient with my questions because their goal is to help people. Laurie is no exception. Laurie Schwartz is a retired dentist, now residing in Colorado and partnering with her husband in life, love, home-education of three kids, and pursuing a better understanding in diabetes management for her son. And today, I’m really pleased that she offered to share her experiences with CGM in the Cloud here on SUM.
Kerri: What’s your connection to the diabetes world?
Laurie: Diabetes has been a very large and recurring theme in my life since 1980. I have lived with diabetes from the perspective of a child watching a diabetic parent struggle. I have experienced the disease as pregnant woman fearing the damage to an unborn child when diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The most emotionally challenging connection is definitely as a parent caring for a child with this disease. Recently, I have added the view from an early diagnosis for myself as I become more and more glucose intolerant. My father was a brilliant physician who suffered for decades from the complications of insulin dependent type 2 or he might actually have been misdiagnosed and was LADA. His struggles with fears of lows as a surgeon, to poor control and long standing hyperglycemia from lack of frequent monitoring, to my witnessing all of the devastating complications he lived with has influenced me heavily in my approach to our son’s current management.
My third and youngest child, Adam was diagnosed in June 2008 with type 1 at the age of five years old. Our diagnosis story is included in a book “Lifesaving Labradors.”
Kerri: So how did you find out about the CGM [Continuous Glucose Monitor] in the Cloud group?
Laurie: In the pursuit to have every tool possible for maintaining “normal blood sugar”, I found myself embracing the benefits of the diabetic alert dog. I have been active in the Diabetic Alert Dog community since training our alert dog in 2010. Willow Wonka is our son ‘s alert dog. Willow is a very skilled and polished dog, who has contributed significantly to our ability to maintain Adam’s a1c between 5.4 and 6.0 since June 2011. My use of the alert dog with the CGM has been our focus for better management.
On April 20, 2014, our close friend who heads a wonderful diabetic alert dog organization, Crystal Cockroft of Canine Hope for Diabetics, screenshot and texted me a picture of a Pebble watch with CGM information. She thought I would like the technology. I immediately wanted to jump on a plane to San Diego and pay any amount of money to acquire the technology. I was shaking with excitement over the envisioned benefits the system could offer. We had to have it!
The picture was posted on her Facebook friend’s page, Jason Adams. I contacted Jason minutes later on Facebook and he” heard” my desperation. He assured me that a plane trip or an expensive fee was not required. By April 22, just 48 hours later, we had purchased everything and had the system working. Then, remarkably within just 3 hours, the CGM in the Cloud potentially helped us avert a dangerous medical crisis.
Kerri: Within three hours? What do you mean?
Laurie: My desperation to acquire this technology resulted from a culmination of stress due to five months of bitter fighting with our mail-order pharmacy to stop shipping us 90 day supplies of warm insulin. Just the days earlier, I had finally gained approval from our insurance to receive local retail pharmacy, in the hopes it would be properly stored and handled cold insulin. My recent success was a result of my efforts the previous week frantically arguing that bad insulin would kill my child because his body and our pump settings were all adjusted to the unknown effectiveness of warm less effective insulin. My claims were my true fears but I didn’t truly understand what that could look like.
We have had our kids in year-round swim team for four years mostly because the exercise is fantastic for blood glucose control. We have systematically created a process to maintain stable blood sugars during practice with Adam’s consumption of simple glucose drinks. We check blood glucose midway through practice or more frequently and one parent is always close by.
Our prior success in managing to maintain steady blood glucose even with potentially weak insulin gave us a false sense of security. In hindsight, it was a recipe for disaster. We were so comfortable with our carb/exercise protocol that I was even taking the alert dog to classes away from our son during some swim practices.
University of Denver Hilltoppers has 80-100 kids in the pool every evening. On this night, when we had the Cloud system for the very first time, I was at dog agility class with Willow. My husband was swimming his own laps in the open adult lane with Adam just 2-3 lanes away. I watched on the CGM in the Cloud Adam’s CGM readings decreased and then report a 49 mg/dL. I repeatedly texted my husband, then determined he was probably unreachable by text because he was swimming and for the first time since Adam was on the team, called the pool office and asked that Adam and my husband be removed from the pool to check his blood glucose. The BG check revealed Adam was 70. For us, a BG of 70 is not necessarily an emergency but Adam had been consuming simple glucose all through the practice and should have been 100-140. My husband gave him (an unusually large amount for us) 15 g of carbs without additional insulin, waited 15 min. and with Adam’s insistence that he was fine, let him back in the pool. Adam got out five minutes later reporting feeling extremely low and sick. His feelings of that symptomatic persistent low did not resolve appropriately as his BG would not increase above 70 mg/dl for about an hour even with additional large amounts of dextrose and interrupted insulin.
We can only attribute this never before seen persistent low to the use of the new effective insulin combined with the effects of heavy exercise on his body’s insulin sensitivity. The timing of our access to the CGM in the Cloud was so fortunate, and I believe lifesaving. The realization that we so narrowly escaped a tragic situation motivates me to continue to express my gratitude and assist in other T1 families learning about this amazing system.
Kerri: That’s some tech validation, right there. Is this in line with what you see being discussed in the CGM in the Cloud group?
Laurie: The group was created to share the personal experiences and observed benefits of the system. Our swim practice incident was just one instance that demonstrated that this technology advance to the CGM system was too important to keep private.
The group discussions are varied from sharing success stories, sharing how distance monitoring allows for parents to coach grandparents and friends while away with a T1 child, to assisting in technology set up questions, and to discussing future development ideas and approaches.
All of the contributions made by the group members assist in the direction of the future advancements to the system. [Editor’s note: The emphasis added was mine, because her statement is beautifully true.]
Kerri: How is this group moving current diabetes technology into tomorrow’s tech space?
Laurie: This is a technology was created out of necessity by real parents living with the shortcomings of what the industry had to offer. The ever-growing bank of ideas and knowledge is flourishing with new approaches from all over the world. This group is collaborating to create software and hardware advancements for T1 monitoring, data transfer, and utilizing this community’s conversation to draw the direction to which the effort should be best focused.
Kerri: As I had asked John last week, do you fear the FDA? Or the companies that make the CGMs? What are your concerns about how Big Companies might view this movement?
Laurie: I am concerned that greed or other human failings might slow the progress of this technology. The FDA has its role to review the safety of medical devices. In this case, the FDA has played its part by testing the inserted sensor materials, the exposure to the transmitter signal and reviewed the data reliability in studies comparing the BG and venous draws to the CGM readings.
In my opinion, the FDA has little place in restricting how the patients use their own medical data. Once collected, the data is used for improving and intelligently monitoring diabetes management decisions and should not be restricted. How the data is usefully transmitted is not an FDA matter, it should not be restricted or slowed.
The cloud group is not about redesigning wonderfully effective medical technology, but rather improving user interface. The biggest facet to effective diabetes management is constant awareness of your body and its metabolic status. Making that information as convenient as glancing at your watch or smart phone is invaluable to the process. Dexcom is a leading company in the CGM industry, approved by the FDA as a medical device company and should focus its efforts on continuing to improve materials for interstitial fluid monitoring of glucose. How the patient uses or shares the medical data should be a patient decision. If the open market technology world designs advancements to support the Dexcom technology, the tech advancements can promote the company’s continued success in the industry. This can be a win-win for Dexcom and the T1 community through the careful construction of continually improving the technology bridge.
Kerri: Okay, so let’s look at some of the nitty-gritty. How easy is it for members to get one another suited up and running on a remote device, and how does the CGM in the Cloud community help one another in this process?
Laurie: Many new members have assisted each other in the set up process. Jason Adams had contracted a freelance university student, Rajat Gupta to help him set up his own Cloud system. Without hesitation, Jason shared that with me, a complete stranger, connected by desperation to help one’s child. Jason and Rajat assisted in our set up and many many more set ups since. Rajat’s system has been very successful and easy to utilize for the non-tech families. Our setup was literally a 20 minute process once the android, pebble watch, cords and case were purchased. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out Rajat for continuing to support this community with many uncompensated hours.
Jason Adams started the Facebook group to help share the clear benefits that having the Cloud system offered. Since that beginning where Rajat offered an emailed application, the group has grown and and additional option to acquire the Cloud system has emerged with community support for a “Do-It-Yourself” system. Regardless, of which way a PWD or CWD acquires the CGM in the Cloud, the system offers unique access to real time distance monitoring of CGM data.
Kerri: And last, but certainly not least – why is this CGM in the Cloud technology important to you?
Laurie: Personally, every single advancement is an opportunity for better control. I remain tormented by my father’s struggles with diabetes, and I am driven to help my child live better with diabetes. We have many systems in place to assist us in our management goals. We strive to maintain non-diabetic glucose ranges to the best of our ability. The effort it takes to manage tight control is very complex. and requires constant vigilance We appreciate various devices for their contribution and do not focus on shortcomings. We embrace any and all systems that can help us to make better, faster and smarter management choices. We pursue the latest most accurate blood glucose meter, the least intrusive pump, the best trained alert dogs, the newest generation and best rated CGM and any extension that can be added to those systems.
The BG meter is a static point in time and as quickly as that reading is offered in a few short minutes a very different glycemic situation could be occurring. Considering the margin of errors each and every BG reading may reflect, it is almost based upon tradition or superstition to why anyone uses a BG meter for making important decisions regarding the titration of a lethal drug like insulin.
The alert dogs are preemptive tools requiring proximity to the T1. The DADs (diabetic alert dogs) give a signal that alerts us to impending changes prior to the meter and CGM. The dogs give us a heads up that we need to pay attention. That heads up is usually significant in shortening the amount of time or our son is out of range with a high or low event. The biggest drawbacks to their service is the necessity of proximity (limits set by distance scent can travel) and the handler’s ability to interpret and utilize the advanced warning alert. By proper interpretation of the dogs alerts extremes glycemic events can be minimized and ranges tightened.
The CGM shows trends and data. Reviewing data gives valuable information for discrete dosing adjustments to basal rates and bolus ratios in the short and long term. There is overlap with the CGM high and low alarm alerts with the dog’s alerts to some extent, but not quite. The diabetic alert dog’s alerts are usually ahead of the meter, CGM and symptoms and the CGM historically lags the event. Similar to the dog’s scent ability, the CGM is also restricted by proximity through the limits of range of signal from the sensor’s transmitter to the receiver. What the CGM in the Cloud uniquely brings to our arsenal of management tools is real time distance monitoring. No other tool allows for the person with diabetes to have the assistance of a person at distance contribute to the management in real time. The distance component is lacking in the current management tools. By having the Cloud broadcasting a constant flow of information that can be accessed by interested parties, those parties can assist in collaboration for better treatment decisions, faster or slower or more discrete interventions.
From a social and emotional perspective, the Cloud system also offers a more discrete monitoring contribution. With this technology, we can assist our child in treatment decisions in a more timely fashion but also with less unnecessary intrusions to the parent-child relationship. We can lessen our queries for CGM readings or BG results and more unobtrusively suggest a timely intervention of a BG check, suggest a small carb snack or insulin dose. By utilizing the Cloud, some of the relationship interruptions caused by diabetes are minimized.
With more intelligent distance monitoring by parents; the teachers, babysitters, grandparents and parents at play dates have support staff, experienced diabetic managers on their team to help the T1 child safely stay closer to normal ranges.
For a parent to develop strategies to promote safe independence, safety need not be compromised. Traditionally, parents gave their children carbs before bed. The bedtime snack was to help prevent a low during the late hours. That same snack probably caused a high but without testing or monitoring the highs were not confirmed and the child was hopefully expected to survive the night without a deadly low. Sleepovers and bedroom assignments were dictated by proximity to parents’ bedroom because that was needed for monitoring.
Sending a child to participate in a sporting event or physical activity usually involved increasing the blood glucose, so there was a margin of error for the exercise induced energy drain. With the CGM in the Cloud, more timely monitoring can provide the opportunity for the parents to avoid unnecessary highs as a prevention technique for lows.
The real story is in those who created this technology. The determination and drive of these parents with T1 children to work tirelessly to create a system that overcomes the limitations of current medical technology is so impressive. The value in this system is that it was forged out of necessity. These parents had a vision and they created and labored to succeed. Their decision to their solution with complete strangers speaks to their integrity and generosity. Our interest, gratitude and support should be focused on their efforts and selfless contribution. These individuals have careers, families, sleep-deprivation from living with children with T1 and they are not looking for the fast buck or to “cash in.” Subsequently, others will come looking to help and develop this process. There will undoubtedly be some looking to make a quick buck, but the developers released their work to open source for the good of the T1 community. Regardless of who continues to develop this system, my hope is that the diabetic community will be improved as this much-needed technology continues to develop. I offer my information as an end user of the CGM in the Cloud and my enthusiastic support of the system for its life saving and life improving capabilities.
Thank you so much, Laurie, for sharing your story. To find out more about CGM in the Cloud, you can visit the Facebook group (up to 2,779 members now) and connect with folks who share your desire to have the data where, when, and how you want access to it. And later this week, I’ll show you the system they helped me build and why it matters to me, as an adult with diabetes.