Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Dexcom’ Category

Second Impressions: Dexcom G5 Mobile.

Disclosure Up Front (where it should be)I have a relationship with Dexcom that includes receiving my continuous glucose supplies at no cost.  More details are outlined here on my disclosures page, but please know that the bias I’m bringing to this is pretty significant, not simply because of the working relationship with Dexcom but also the fact that this CGM has been part of my diabetes care plan since 2006, so I’m in deep for a dozen different reasons.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

It’s been about a month since suiting up with the Dexcom G5 (upgrading from the previous G4 iteration) and so far, the transition has been way less jarring than I had anticipated.  Here are some second impressions:

The Parts I Like:

I was initially concerned about phone battery life, but I haven’t seen any significant change since switching to G5.  (Must be noted:  I upgraded my iPhone two weeks before starting on the G5, so any battery improvement was a big deal after switching from the iPhone 5s, which would eek down to 80% an hour after unplugging.  Also, I didn’t realize until very recently that you can double-click the home button to bring up all active apps and then close said active apps.  These two changes have improved my phone battery life exponentially.)  But having the phone as the sole data receiver has made me fastidious about bringing a back-up battery charger everywhere I go.  Which is not a new thing, but now feels like a necessary thing.

I had doubts about using the G5 on an airplane, as well, until I remembered that Bluetooth can remain active even when a phone is in airplane mode.  I’ve had a chance to test out the G5 while traveling a few times now and the phone makes a fine receiver even when it can’t make phone calls.  This was a relief.

I haven’t traveled outside of the US yet with the G5, but I’ll be headed to Vancouver for the IDF conference this afternoon, so I’ll have a few days to see how the G5 does when my cell phone has no service.  (I’m guessing Share will be out of commission unless I’m connected to wifi.  Filed under:  No shit, Sparling.)

I really dig the Dexcom Clarity application on my computer.  I know this isn’t new with the G5, but I’ve only been using Clarity since upgrading to the G5, and it’s very nice to see the data living happily on that system.  I like the A1C predictor thing, but have found it a bit fickle.  (“Your A1C looks great today!” … three days later … “Your A1C is crap.  Go directly to jail.”)  I’m still waiting to hear what my actual blood-draw A1C is, so I can’t compare the estimation to the lab work, but I’m curious to see how close those two numbers are.

Accuracy-wise, the G5 does seem to be an improvement.  The data is spot-frigging-on with my Verio Sync results.  No complaints there.

The Parts That Could Use a Shift:

I also don’t like that the alarms on the Share are exactly the same as those on the Dexcom app.  This works great for people like Chris, who follows my Dexcom data through the Share app, but for me, I am responding to my personal alarms and the alarms for the people who Share with me.  I would like the ability to change the alarm noises on my Share app so that when a low alarm goes off, I am positive it’s mine.  In the last month, I’ve treated two lows that were not mine because I responded to the alarm noise instead of checking to see which PWD was actually low.  This is a problem unique to PWD who follow other PWD on Share, but it’s making me feel daft and changing the sound would be an upgrade.

The transmitter is bigger than the G4 one.  I was not as irritated by this as I thought I would be, but when I wear the sensor on my arm, it’s very sticky-outty, and I don’t like more space being dedicated to diabetes devices.  It would be awesome to have the transmitter the size of the G4 one.  Or the size of a grain of rice.  The transmitter also claims to work for three months (instead of the six promised by the G4, which actually ended up being more like 8 months), which means I need to order new transmitters more often.  That adds one more item to the constant “to do” list of diabetes supply crap.

The G5 sensors are the same as the G4 sensors, which means the adhesive is the same as before, which means I am allergic to it.  Toughpads are still required under ever sensor, for me, and with winter almost here, my skin is starting to have its seasonal freak-out.  (The rash is not unique. There is a Facebook group with almost 500 members in it that are comparing ways to mitigate the itch.  Come on, Dexcom — find a way to update your adhesive with as much speed as you’ve done with your data transmission.)

I use an Animas Vibe insulin pump and the G5 does not transmit data to that pump.  So if my phone dies, I can’t switch over to the Vibe as my receiver.  I look forward to when the pumps integrated with Dexcom upgrade their abilities to work with G5.  Until then, it’s annoying to take one step forward with Dexcom while standing completely still with insulin pump technology.

The Parts That Remain the Same:

I never thought I’d see streaming glucose data.  I’m so grateful that I have access to this data because this is the kind of real-time safety net my parents were hopeful for back when I was diagnosed.  I’m sorry they weren’t able to take advantage of it then, but I’m glad it’s here now.

Because otherwise, what would wake me up all night long?  The cats?  That’s so 2005.

Lower Arm Real Estate.

“Rotating sites?  Hell yeah, I rotate.”

… sort of.

I’m good about rotating my pump and CGM (continuous glucose monitor) sites, but I’m decent, at best, about exploring new real estate.  Most of the time, I use my outer thigh or lower back/hips for my CGM, going back and forth between those four areas.  This sounds like proper rotating, in theory, but in practice, I am re-using and abusing the same patches of skin.

Because my skin has a persistent and scaly reaction to the sensor adhesives, it takes several weeks for parts of me to heal after they do their seven days of data due diligence.  Which means that I need to stay the eff away from my last two most recent sensor sites, or else a skin reaction blooms in a matter of hours, regardless of preventative measures.

tl;dr – My skin hates everything and I need new real estate for my diabetes devices.

I’ve seen a few of my PWD friends sporting their sensors on their arms, but until recently, I’ve never been able to keep an arm sensor stuck.  On me, the tape always comes loose and even extra adhesive goes rogue on me.  Arm sensors, up where I used to pinch up and do injections on the back of my arm, are a disaster for me.

But a few days ago, I took a crack at a lower arm sensor, placing it six inches or so above my elbow.  It’s more on the front of my arm (giving my bicep a strangely LEGO’ish look), but so far, so good.  The adhesive is staying put, the Toughpad seems fine, and no skin irritation here on day three.

Above the elbow Dexcom sensor. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Placement of sensor on arm. My arm. (Why does this caption sound so formal?! Over and out.) #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

I’ve been having trouble keeping sensors comfortably stuck in the last few weeks, so I’m hoping a true and proper site rotation helps heal what ails me.  Otherwise, I may scratch my skin into oblivion and will be forced to slather it with Brad Pitt lotion.

[Dexcom disclosures. And all my other disclosures, if you'd like some light reading.]


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.


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.


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. :)

Longest Dexcom Break in Six Years.

“Is it because of the skin thing?” he asked, watching me put the transmitter and receiver on the bedroom dresser.

“Yeah,” I replied, only it wasn’t exactly the truth.  Sure, my skin had some pretty irritated patches from the constant application/reapplication of my CGM sensors, but it was manageable, especially if I was more diligent about rotating my sites.  But it wasn’t just the physical itch or the bulk of another device stuck on me.

I needed to fly blind for a while.

Which sounds ridiculous, because I am lucky as hell to have access to that data insight in the first place.  Twenty-some-odd (they’ve all been odd) years ago, I would have laughed in you face if you told me I could have access to all-day streaming blood glucose data without having to prick my finger ever five minutes.  I remember putting on my first Dexcom sensor and being amazed at the trends alone (the old STS wasn’t up to G4 standards).  Using a CGM helped me corral my blood sugars in pursuit of a happy-baby-range A1C without working in a pile of low blood sugars.  And throughout my pregnancy (and the subsequent raising of my now-not-so-small Bird), the data was beyond useful.  It became indispensable.

But after six years of wearing the sensor almost all the time, feeling like the two hour booting up time frame was an eternity, I needed more than two hours off.  I needed more than two days off.  I needed to take the sensor off and put it on a shelf for a week or two in order to stop leaning on it so heavily and to help retrain my body and my mind to tune in more actively to diabetes.

Because when the sensor is on and throwing data, I trust it.  Trust to the point of crutching out on it, not testing my blood sugar often enough throughout the day and making corrections and meal doses off the CGM data.  (Do as the FDA and Dexcom say, not as I do.  Consult your doctor before ever consulting the likes of me.  See also my Dexcom disclosure.)  For years, the CGM data was making me better at the job of managing my diabetes.  I liked it that way, but in the last few weeks (admittedly, months), I haven’t been doing a good job of staying on top of my diabetes.  Instead, I’m letting the technology take control, when the one at the helm should be me.

Took a break.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

So I took off the sensor about a week and a half ago.  Defiantly, but also half-expecting to cave and put another one on right away.  For the first two days, going to bed at night was the toughest part because of my concern for overnight hypoglycemia.  But I was testing more, and I set an alarm one night to double-check, and then there was this moment when I wasn’t panicking about the lack of data because I had started re-trusting my own ability to do this myself.

Because I can do this. I have done this. This Friday marks 29 years of doing it and doing it and doing it well. I’m in control, despite the work it takes to get there and the patchy moments of “Yeah?”

This afternoon, I’ll pop a new sensor on and watch my glucose live-stream again.  But it will be different because I won’t feel like I’m along for the ride with this diabetes bullshit.  I feel a little more like I am back in the driver’s seat, with technology as my seat belt instead of my airbag.

Traffic Jam.

Last week, I was up in Boston visiting with Ed Damiano to hear some updates on the bionic pancreas (now known as the iLet – more on that later meeting this week), and our meeting ended late in the afternoon.

Which means I climbed into my car to make the drive home on Route 93 south towards Rhode Island at 6 pm.

For anyone who lives in New England, you know this is a recipe for sitting in the car in maddening traffic for hours.  The drive in and out of Boston is abysmal and unforgiving.  Sitting in traffic for hours on end trying to get to one stupid exit only to have to sit in traffic again for another long while is a waste of time and makes me endlessly grateful for my short commute.

But dude … I was on an iLet high, excited after hearing about how this new technology might help keep me healthy while freeing up brain space previously assigned to diabetes management.  Unfortunately, after peeking at my Dexcom, I was also on a bit of a blood sugar high.

212 mg/dL with an arrow pointing straight up, to be more precise.

“Gosh darn it,” is what I would have said if Birdy was in the car with me.  I was already in traffic.  It was going to be a long, needing-to-pee-because-hyperglycemia.  Time to bolus.

Several boops and beeps later, the correction bolus was en route.


“Oh for pete’s sake,” is another thing I would have said if Birdy was in the car.

I looked at the pump.  I haven’t had an occlusion alarm in ages, so I wasn’t sure what would happen next.  After confirming that none of the insulin had been delivered, I tried it again.


Well okay then.  Time for Plan B.

Plan B is always an option because I am painfully prepared for all kinds of crap things to happen at the most crap of times.  (Except that one time.)  My family mocks me for my giant purse, but when someone needs a bandaid or an insulin set or a t-shirt or a 3 lb bag of coffee or a brick or a small (small) weasel, I am their go-to girl.

Which explains why the contents of my purse often paint me as some kind of drug lord, because I thankfully had a syringe in my meter bag and a back-up insulin pen in my purse, just for moments like these when I’m in Boston traffic and need to shoot up quickly.  I disconnected my pump, uncapped my pen, and took my correction bolus old school style.  Nineteen and a half hours (read: two) later, I was back in my diabetes supply closet safety zone, where I could swap for a new pump set up.

This is exactly why I carry an insulin pen with me at all times. Even when it seems like overkill.

Which also reminds me – I need to update my stash of small (small) weasels.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers