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ALL NEW Jerry the Bear Revealed.

My daughter loves Jerry the Bear.  And not because he’s this fancy teddy bear aimed at teaching children about type 1 diabetes.  She doesn’t care a whole lot about that.  She likes that Jerry is soft and cuddly and has a friendly face, and that he also needs her to give him food and check his blood sugar.

Birdy getting to know Jerry the Bear. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Like you do, Mom,” she says while she counts the carbs in the snack Jerry is about to have.  She’ll bolus him, feed him, and then drag him outside to her playset, where she and Jerry play in the clubhouse.

It’s not about diabetes, it’s about life.  But as she’s playing with this toy, she’s learning about diabetes in a way that speaks directly to her five year old sensibilities.  Jerry is a powerful teaching tool.

Today, there’s a new Jerry the Bear in town, the brainchild of Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz (two Rhode Island locals, making them even more awesome in my Rhody Pride mind).  Hannah and Aaron were kind enough to answer a few questions about Jerry and what’s coming next for the Sproutel team.


Kerri:  How long have you been working on the new Jerry, and what is new about this iteration of the amazing bear?

Team Sproutel:  We’ve been cooking up “new Jerry” in our labs for the past 9 months or so. This new version of Jerry is built from a curriculum centered on general health and wellness education for all kids. We now have expansion packs to customize Jerry’s eduction for kids with type 1 diabetes and food allergies.

Through our work with kiddos with type 1 diabetes and our research into other childhood conditions we began to realize that there are certain pillars of health education that apply to all children. We see this new bear as a platform to deliver high quality health education to all kids.

Kerri:  Why move from an embedded device to Jerry’s new “portal?”  And what are some of the different features of the portal?

Team Sproutel:  Jerry’s new portal is a window into Jerry’s world. As you wave the portal over Jerry’s body it show’s an x-ray view of what’s happening inside. Besides being cool, the new portal enables some neat features. First of all, it means that Jerry is now washable! This is something that parents really wanted because it wasn’t so easy to keep little Jerry clean with all of the playtime he was getting. It also enables us to grow Jerry’s world with new characters. Next year we plan on releasing additional plush characters from Jerry’s world, like his little sister Isabella, who will be brought to life with the same portal.

Kerri:  I see you’ve moved from diabetes into food allergies.  How are you able to have one bear to unite them all?

Team Sproutel:  With this new bear we’ve created a core set of play patterns that are fun for all kids. In order to keep Jerry happy, you have to feed him healthy foods, exercise with him, and keep him nice and clean with a good tooth brushing. This enables us to layer disease specific education on top of Jerry’s core functionality with expansion packs. For each condition we have an accessory (like an insulin pen or epi-pen), condition specific storybooks that teach hard skills, and new behaviors (like a blood glucose level!).

Kerri:  What’s next for our friend Jerry?

Team Sproutel:  Our aim is to continue adding more conditions onto the Jerry platform! We have a long list we’re currently thinking of for our next expansion pack and welcome any suggestions.

Kerri:  How can the diabetes community help move the mission of Jerry the Bear along?

Team Sproutel:  We have so much love for the diabetes community. For the past 3 years it’s felt like we’ve had a new family, one that has supported our growth and loved us unconditionally. We couldn’t be more grateful! It would be incredibly to have the support of the diabetes community to spread the word of what Jerry has done for kiddos with T1D and the hope for what he can do for all children.

Kerri:  And lastly, how can families order their own Jerry the Bear?

Team Sproutel:  We’re currently taking pre-orders on our website for the new Jerry the Bear at a special 30% off discount.

The press release from Sproutel this morning has some great information about Jerry, including Sproutel’s mission to continue to give back to the community.  From the release:  “Best suited for children ages 4 to 9, Jerry the Bear will be available to preorder at $99. Sproutel has pledged 1% of sales to help fight obesity and hunger through the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Expansion packs will support finding a cure for type 1 diabetes through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and food allergies through Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).”

You can find out more about Jerry the Bear, and his team, through their website.  Or by following @JerryTheBearCo on Twitter.  Or by watching this video about the new and improved Jerry.  Huge thanks to Hannah and Aaron for continuing to remain true to the cause and the community, and for creating a profoundly effective teaching tool that you can hug.

Reaching the Summit.

Last week, I was in Sweden for work, for the fourth annual blogger summit that Animas hosts during the EASD conference.  (Here’s a look at the first summit, and the second one, and last year. And here’s a look at my disclosures, as my work with Animas is what brings me to these different places.)  I’m in the process of downloading my brain on conversations that took place over the last week, in search of a few thousand words to express what I’ve learned, but in the meantime, isn’t there a thing about pictures saying a thousand words? 

If so, I’m cashing that concept in for this blog post.

EU Blogger Summit

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

More Sweden.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Stockholm. #nofilter #latergram

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Old City. #latergram

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Me and my Bird, checking out Stockholm Old City.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And, in unrelated news, I have discovered a new favorite writer. That person is whoever the genius is behind the Iceland Air in-flight menu copy.

@icelandair, you are fun.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Looking Back: Postcards from Eddie.

This morning, I thought about Eddie.  Eddie was the kid who I shared the hospital room with back when I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1986.  He popped into my head after I woke up, jet-lagged and confused from traveling yesterday, and watched a spider scuttle across the ceiling of this apartment.

Eddie had been bitten by a spider; I had been bitten by my immune system, after a fashion.

*   *   *

Sometimes the only concrete proof that diabetes hasn’t been with me forever are the cards my classmates sent.  Made from Manila paper, the kind found in abundance in elementary school, the kids in my class used their Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils and a fistful of crayons to let me know they were thinking about me.

“Dear Kerri, I heard you were sick.  We cleaned out our desks yesterday.  You left your lunch here.  The pear was all rotten.  Hope you feel better soon.  – Mike.”  This card was illustrated in pencil, showing a skeleton picking up a spoiled bag lunch from the garbage can.

“Dear Kerri, Get well soon!  Love, Megan.”  A rainbow of three colors, – pink, blue, and purple – sprawled across the sky, represented by one line.  A tree with two apples hanging enormously from its branches stood exactly the same height as the building labeled “Hospitoll”.

These cards are safely packed away, somewhere at my dad’s house, with the pee alarm and the old blue comfort pillow that I used to clutch while I sucked my thumb.  My mother always claimed that she’d give me these things before my wedding day, a promise she followed through on when my husband and I married in 2008.

Even if I never see them again, I remember the cards.  I remember snippets of those years like they were postcards from someone else’s life.

A picture of the carousel near my childhood home brings back memories of black raspberry ice creams, riding my bike into the village with that Jack of hearts card stuck in the rear tire, and collecting the perfect, miniature shells that washed up on the shoreline after the hurricanes made their tour.  No memories of a finger stick or an injection.  But I do remember that, if I rode my bike all the way to the beach, I could have ice cream without taking a shot.

I don’t remember everything about my diagnosis.  They spoke mostly to my parents.  My dad paced the room and looked out the window.  My mom sat at the table with the endocrinologist, listening and taking notes.  Books on long and short acting insulin, a proposed diet, and a chart to log my blood sugars slid across the table.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to these attempts at education.  The 13 year old boy who shared my hospital room had been bitten by a poisonous spider and was hooked up to an IV drip bag that I found much more interesting.  The bite mark was an angry pink and the boy said it itched tremendously.  He and his IV pole and me with my Kitty sat in the children’s ward and watched television.  He introduced himself as Eddie.  I told him my name, too.

“What are you in for?”  He raked his fingers down the side of his ankle, where the bite waged war on his immune system.

“I have diabetes.”

“Oh.  I’ve got a spider bite.”

“Wow.  Can I see it?”

“Sure.”  He rolled up his pant leg and exposed the sore.  “Where’s yours?”

“I don’t have any marks on me,” I responded.  We watched TV while our parents talked to doctors.

In a box in my attic today, I found a postcard from Eddie.  We corresponded as pen pals for for several years.  I remember writing to him about cats and going to the beach, ice cream and bike rides, but never diabetes.

 

29 Years with Type 1 Diabetes.

Even though my diabetes diagnosis was twenty-nine years ago today, I feel kind of done with letting it serve as a milestone marker for me.  In years past, I liked marking the day because it felt like a moment of flipping the bird (not this Bird) to diabetes.  Over the last few years, I’ve kind of liked not paying much attention to the anniversary; it was an opportunity to remove the bold underline from diabetes.  Diabetes is something that’s part of my life, but letting it blur my focus isn’t a good head space for me to be in.

SO.

Instead, I’m focusing on the shit I like.

Like how my daughter is five and a half years old and she’s a really happy kid.  The smile that spreads across her face when she sees the school bus approach in the morning is my new favorite thing.  That, and watching her walk with a book bag that’s half the size of her body.

[Total aside:  I also really like that, in our neighborhood, the school bus drives in and picked up the kids, goes up the road and through the cul-de-sac, and then drives by us again as it leaves our street.  Which means that the parents stand there and wait for the bus to come back, then we all wave like lunatics.  It’s a very strange custom and one I already find comforting.  (I wonder if the sidewalk group of showered-and-dressed parents eventually devolves into a ragtag pile of bed-headed, bathrobe-wearing, coffee-cup-clutching adults.)]

I like my husband.  So much that I taught our daughter how to write names in the peanut butter.  She thinks it’s a weird custom, but got all excited when given the opportunity to write “LOOPY” in the untouched surface of a new jar.

I like my job.  Living with diabetes can be an intrusion and as I mentioned last year, the intrusion seems to have dulled over time for the most part, but the career and the voice that I’ve had the good fortune to build as a result of this frigging disease is more fulfilling than any other job I could imagine.  I’m looking forward to the chance to meet with my European counterparts in Stockholm next week, and very excited for what’s on tap for 2016.

I like my health.  There are bits and pieces I’d change, if given the chance (see also:  bringing diabetes back after 30 years, mostly because I’ve kept the receipt this whole time), but on the whole, I am extremely lucky to have a disease where I can strongly influence my personal health outcomes.  I am in the driver’s seat, even if I have an unruly passenger.  Despite diabetes, I can still run.  I can still dance (badly).  I can make mistakes.  I can make a difference.  I can still stay out late and laugh hard (resulting sometimes in a snort, which is not cool, body).  I can raise a family.  I can be a crumb.  I can also be a good person.

I canAnd you can.  (Toucan.)

And I like you guys.  A lot.  Your support and camaraderie has been instrumental over the last decade, and I think I’m in a better mental health place as a result of this community.  Twenty-nine years ago, community was limited to my zip code.  Now, some of my best friends are based in this community, and I’m grateful as eff.  Access to this digital database of truly amazing human beings has been the best thing diabetes has brought to my life, islets down.

So onward, you guys.  ONWARD.  To another year of BYOI(nsulin).

xo

Whoops.

In almost ten years of using a CGM, I’ve never, ever had this happen.

This morning, when I went to insert a new Dexcom sensor, I followed all the usual protocol:  Put a Toughpad down against clean skin, place the sensor adhesive against the Toughpad, and then insert the sensor right through into my skin, allowing the giant needle to pull back into the applicator, leaving the sensor wire embedded in my skin.

Right?  So imagine my surprise when I pulled back the applicator and instead of seeing a sensor housing ready for the transmitter, I instead saw the stupid needle sticking out of my leg.

“Whoa!”

It hurt, so instead of documenting the needle in my skin (as a good diabetes blogger should – ? – in efforts to get the best grost), I pulled it the hell out and inspected it to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with it.

The needle in my Dexcom sensor application tool. Filed under "oh hell no." #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on


And you know what’s wrong with it? IT’S HUGE.

EDITED:

The sensor was damaged when the needle gave up on me, leaving the sensor wire poking out from the underside of the transmitter. Pointless prick. 🙂

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