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Posts from the ‘Diabetes Products’ Category

Go Bionic: Ed Damiano, Clara Barton Camp, and How the Bionic Pancreas “Really Works.”

During my visit to Clara Barton Camp yesterday, I heard the same sentiment over and over again from the kids wearing the bionic pancreas:  “It works.”

“It was weird not to touch the buttons when it beeped,” Addy said, an 11 year old camper at Clara Barton Camp who has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was two.  “I’d reach down to look at it or touch it when it beeped but then I’d have to remember not to touch anything.”

“A big change from needing to check every beep and look at the devices all the time, right?  So when did you feel like you were used to wearing it?”  I asked her.

“Yesterday.  Yesterday, it beeped and I didn’t reach down.  I just said, ‘Whatever.’”

“You trusted it?”

“Yes.  I trusted it.  It works.  If you check it, it’s perfect.  My blood sugars are perfect.”

Addy has been wearing the bionic pancreas since Sunday, part of  the Bionic Pancreas study taking place at The Barton Center (and also the Joslin Camp) this summer.  She’s one of thirteen campers at Barton taking part in the study, ages ranging from six to 11 years old, six girls suited up with the bionic pancreas last week and seven this week.  “My blood sugars have been perfect – I haven’t been low at all and I haven’t been high, except for one 203 mg/dL.”

If a week without blood sugar excursions sounds like an impossible dream, take heart.  Take pancreas, too, because this technology actually exists and is currently attached to seven girls in Massachusetts.  And not “seven girls stuck in a hospital bed under strict activity guidelines,” but seven girls who are running amuck at camp, swimming, dancing, singing in the dining hall, and burping at picnic tables outside of the cabins.  The bionic pancreas has been highlighted in the New York Times, NPR, chronicled extensively over at diaTribe, and has also been the subject of a frequently-downloaded-and-rabidly-shared New England Journal of Medicine article.

The system has a few moving parts:  two t:slim insulin pumps with the Bluetooth switched on for communicating with the phone (one filled with insulin and one filled with glucagon), a Dexcom CGM, and an iPhone.  An in-depth look at how the technology works together can be found in the NEJM paper, but the basic gist is that the Dexcom monitors blood sugars and sends that data to the iPhone, which is running an algorithm that doses insulin, glucagon, or refrains from dosing anything at all.  Lows can be corrected by glucagon, highs by insulin.  Meals aren’t carb counted, but instead the algorithm “learns” what a big meal, small meal, or snack is based on minimal input from the PWD.

“It’s beautiful,” I said to Ed Damiano, one of the principal investigators on the project, after seeing some of the blood sugar outcomes from previous studies.

“It’s still a little clunky,” he replied.  “I want to see one device, one infusion set.  But this?  It works.”

Currently, the camp study at Barton has girls on the full bionic pancreas system for five days, and then five days on their own insulin pump, but with the CGM blinded to the user and still uploading to the cloud.  Bionic pancreas campers are required to check their blood sugar at least seven times per day.  Due to camp safety protocols, the study team can’t let low blood sugars “ride” and assume that the bionic pancreas will step in with glucagon in time, so success on some levels isn’t judged by minimal time below 70 mg/dL but instead the reliable metric becomes how many times did the study team need to intervene for a low blood sugar.

This summer, there are a few new features on the bionic pancreas.  One is “microburst glucagon,” which is most useful for when people are disconnecting the system for swimming or similar, in efforts to provide a safety net for low blood sugars while doing that kind of activity.  There is also an option for temporary targets, which allows people to adjust their target thresholds.  “Normally, we aim for 100 mg/dL, but if we can adjust the threshold and show a change in the A1C based on that adjustment, we’re able to titrate A1C levels using the bionic pancreas,” said Ed.

Some challenges still exist with the system.  The bulky devices, for one, are their own challenge, but as the project moves forward, the diabetes community rallies to support current needs.  “Donna from Tallygear came up and made these ‘GO BIONIC!” belts in a matter of 48 hours.” Ed said, smiling.  “We didn’t ask her to do that.  She offered, and we are so grateful because the kids love them.”

The kids sing the praises of this device.  Ally, diagnosed in 2009 at the age of five, wore the bionic pancreas the week before Addy suited up. “It really works. When I saw the video online, I thought it was made up. I thought the girl in the video was lucky, and that her numbers were just perfect that day. And then I wore it [the bionic pancreas] and I was like, ‘Wait … it really does work!’”

Addy chimed in, her bionic pancreas belt visible over her shirt:  “Ally wore this last week and now I’m wearing it.  She said to me, ‘If you don’t want to wear it, can I wear it for you?’”

Ally nodded.  “I did say that.”

“Does the weight of the device bug you?”  I asked Ally.

“No.  It’s a little heavier but I don’t care.  Even with all the pumps on and the phone, I could still do a back-handspring in the grass.”

The study at Barton concludes this week and then moves over to the nearby boys’ camp.  But after this study finishes, there is still work to be done.  The amazing bionic pancreas team has come so far and the 2016 pivotal study is in sight, but needs community support to get there.

This is where the Bionic Challenge comes in.

According to the website call-to-action:  “The Bionic Challenge asks each family to raise $5,000 in 60 days (by September 1, 2014). If each family in attendance here today can turn to their friends and relatives and obtain 50 $100 donations (that means finding only about one donation per day for the next seven weeks), we can resume our development effort in September and keep on schedule for our final pivotal study in 2016. If we cannot resume in September, it could jeopardize our ability to secure a recently announced time-limited $20MM NIH funding opportunity, which is due in about nine months (April 15, 2015) and could support all of the clinical costs of our pivotal study.”

tl;dr:  the project needs the support of the diabetes community because, without it, the goal of a 2016 pivotal study may be delayed. If you can donate, please do. If you can’t, please consider sharing this information with someone who can. The more people who know how to help, the better.

After being promised a “cure in five years” back in 1986, the idea of the bionic pancreas being delayed because of money makes me feel insane. I could understand a delay if the technology wasn’t up to snuff, but to delay due to funding is unreasonable.  I saw kids playing outside yesterday afternoon, running around and laughing and having fun and the burden of diabetes seemed only as heavy as the belt around their waist, which with time and technology becomes smaller and lighter.

“I look at diabetes as management and maintenance,” said Ed, as we sat in the Barton Center bionic pancreas command center, where the study team was hard at work monitoring the campers blood sugars from the cloud.  “The maintenance part is the changing of an infusion set, the changing of a sensor, the checking of blood sugars.  The management part, to me, is the emotional part of diabetes.  The fact that you are so often told that you’re ‘wrong’ because you’re trying to thread the needle.  This device doesn’t take away from the maintenance part because it still requires that you wear something, do something, change something.  But it does make the management part smaller.  So much smaller.”

I don’t know if a biological cure will be seen in my lifetime.  I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1986 and have been living well, but not without frustration, as a host to this disease for almost 28 years.  My perception of what a “cure” is has changed as I’ve grown older, and my hope for something that takes this disease away fades with time.  But seeing the bionic pancreas at work, around the waists of children not much older than my own, and watching the worries of diabetes lifted from their minds and the minds of their families, I feel renewed hope.  More hope than I’ve felt in a long, long time because this is real.  I held it in my hand.  It filled me back up.

Because it works.

You can follow the progress of the bionic pancreas on the Bionic Pancreas website and “like” their Facebook page for more updates.  Links to articles featuring the bionic pancreas are here , and this video shows you how, and why, the bionic pancreas works:

Giveaway: iHealth Meter (but not a bird).

A few weeks ago, a couple of iHealth glucometers showed up in the mail, courtesy of the marketing team at iHealth Labs.  I have not tried this meter out yet, and I have no clue how it performs against my current glucose meter … but I’m curious.  It’s a teeny little meter and it plugs into the headphone jack on my phone, so it definitely gets points for subtlety and discretion, but since I haven’t bled on the thing yet, I am clueless.

Which is why I’m giving away two iHealth glucometers, so you we can figure this thing out together.  Would you like to try one out?  Enter below by leaving a comment, answering the age-old question of “Which finger is your go-to one for blood glucose checks?”

But there’s a bit of a catch – if you win the iHealth glucometer, I would really appreciate it if you would share your feedback with me, so I can share it with my brain (and also include it in a review post).  Would that be okay with you?  Two winners will receive one iHealth glucometer and a box of 50 test strips.  Again, I have absolutely no idea how this meter performs and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD remember that nothing you read on this blog is medical advice, so be sure to check with your medical team if you have questions or concerns or an itchy rash.  (Especially if you have an itchy rash.)

iHealth glucometer and test strips

(bird added for … just for fun, actually)

The giveaway runs until tomorrow night at 10 pm EST and is for US residents only.  The bird does not come with the giveaway, nor do the scratches on my coffee table.

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How Often Should I Change My Lancet? (A “Grost.)

source: Type 1 Diabetes Memes

(Taking a cue from Glu today because when this post rolled through my feed, I was like, “Hmmm.  A lot now, but before?  NEVER!!”)

Every single time there’s a new meme about changing the lancet in a finger pricker device (nope, that is not the technical term), I laugh because they are all true in that “whoops” sort of way.

Upstairs in the bathroom closet, I have boxes and boxes of lancets for all kinds of different poker devices (again, not the technical term).  All different sizes and shapes and gauges … years and years worth of lancets for half a dozen different devices.  (Except The Guillotine.  That thing was retired decades ago, thank goodness.)  And the reason I have so many lancets stashed?  I went years without regularly changing my lancet.

Gross.  I know.  And I’ve seen that photo of what a needle looks like before use, after one use, and after six uses and yes, it grosses me right the hell out.  But for a long, long time, I changed my lancet once a month.  Maybe once a week, depending.  And I only changed it if it didn’t procure a good blood droplet or if it went into my fingertip and got “stuck.”  (You know what I mean … when you press the button and the lancet deploys, only it lodges itself into your fingertip and has a weird suction feeling when it pulls out?  Horribly horrible.)  Lancet swapping-out was a shameful non-priority for a long time.

Two things made me start changing my lancet regularly:

ONE.  A friend told me about how she’d heard a story about a person with diabetes whose fingertips were downright gangrenous because they didn’t change their lancet.  “Ew, really?”  “Really.”  And even though I stand firmly on the “hope vs. fear” motivation concept, this story about mostly-dead fingertips made me want to throw up.  Then I started searching the Internet for information on needle reuse and the photos made me want to apologize profusely to all my digits.  I had no idea how nasty and serrated the needle edges became after just one use.  I thought about all the times I had injected syringes through my jeans in high school.  I thought about how a box of lancets could last me two years.  I thought about how gross I was.  Gross, gross, groooooosssssss.

TWO.  And then I explored lancing device options.  I had heard really good things about the Accu-Chek Multiclix (mostly from Sara, because she frigging loves hers), and the device was snazzy because it comes with a drum of lancets that automagically swap out, but the size of the thing was too big for the case I kept my meter in.  Switching to the One Touch Delica was the winner, for me, because the lancet gauge is so thin that I’m forced to change it regularly because otherwise, I don’t bleed.  (It becomes that dance of pull back the device, press the button, nothing happens, repeat 10x, change lancet and curse.)  Like it or not, I have to change my lancet regularly or the device becomes useless.

Now I change my lancet once a day.  Every day.  And every time I kill a box of lancets, I feel accomplished because in the last four years, I’ve gone through at least two dozen boxes.

In the 20+ years prior?  Probably the same number of lancet boxes.

 

 

CGM in the Cloud: Personal Preferences.

“Why would you want your continuous glucose monitor information in the cloud?”

Fair question, especially coming from folks in the CGM in the Cloud Facebook group, which is heavily dominated by parents of children with diabetes.

I didn’t want to answer, at first, because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.  When I meet with parents of kids with diabetes, the instinct to protect them is undeniable.  I want to tell them stories about people who are thriving with type 1 diabetes – “Hey, have you heard about the guy who is running across Canada?  Have you heard about the woman who gave birth to twin boys?  Have you heard about the couple who met and fell in love via the diabetes community?” – because that is the perception of diabetes that feels best to share.  It feels good to share successes, triumphs, proud moments.  You can thump your fist against your chest in pride; we are not held back by diabetes.

This is what I want to tell the parents of kids with diabetes.  Their kids will be okay.  Because that’s true – their kids will be okay.  But not without compromise, and that’s hard to articulate because it seems to fly in the face of “your kids will be okay.”  I don’t like reminding people that their kids with diabetes will become adults with diabetes because this disease is forever.  It’s uncomfortable to admit that diabetes is hard.  It’s hard to find words to illustrate the concept of, “I’m fine … sort of.”

“Why would you want your continuous glucose monitor information in the cloud?”

I’ve had some low blood sugars that have rocked me so hard I couldn’t recover, even after I had technically recovered.  Whether you want to admit it or not, diabetes requires extra planning.  Even the best and tightest and most well-controlled diabetes still comes with the threat of lows or highs.  This is why glove compartments end up crammed with jars of glucose tabs, and why back-up insulin pens litter the bottom of purses.  I was always taught to hope for the best – you can do anything with diabetes! – but to have a plan for the worst, should it happen.  Never ride a subway without snacks.  Never put diabetes supplies in checked luggage.  Always check blood sugar before driving.

“Call me when you wake up so I know you’re alive,” is a phrase casually uttered by my mother when my husband is traveling, but the honesty to it stops me cold.  Does my mom worry that something will happen to me at night?

Before Birdy was born, I had a healthy fear of lows, but after she arrived, that fear became something different entirely.  Now, a debilitating low blood sugar doesn’t just touch me, but it could hurt her, too.  When she was a few months old, my husband went away on a weekend trip and it struck me for the first time that if I didn’t wake up, no one would be there to take care of my daughter.  I pictured her in her crib, crying, alone, and without care.  The idea of her going without breakfast hurt me more than picturing my own unresponsive body.

Sounds dramatic?  It’s dramatic as fuck, because diabetes is quiet, until it’s not.

“Why would you want your continuous glucose monitor information in the cloud?”

Why?  Because having someone else able to monitor my blood sugars makes me feel safer.  I can’t make insulin anymore, but I can create peace of mind for myself, and for my family.

So I’m not waiting.  I’m not waiting for bad things to happen.  I’m taking a preemptive bite out of fear by putting another safety net into place.  When I’m traveling for work, I will have my CGM data streaming to the cloud, and my husband and my mother (as needed) will have access to it.  When I am alone in a hotel room, my family will have the peace of mind knowing that they can see my blood sugars while I sleep.  Same for when my husband is traveling and I am alone with our daughter.  As much as I know the CGM companies are working hard to bring this technology to patients, waiting removes the safety net that would help me sleep better at night.

I am not waiting.

 

 

Tallygear Giveaway! Exclamation Point!

Tallygear is awesome, and I’ve been a big fan for many years.  After switching over to the Dexcom G4 continuous glucose monitor, I was so happy to see that Donna at Tallygear had created a case to protect the G4 (and have been using it daily since).  And now she’s up and running with a lot of new cases for the Dexcom G4 unit, as well as some other colorful ways to dress up the otherwise drab world of diabetes devices.

Check out some of her new designs!

Donna was kind enough to send some samples to me, and I’d like to turn that favor around to you guys.  But there’s a catch.  I have three Tallygear “gift packs” (in quotation marks because there are things from Tallygear that I’m including, but I’m sending the packages myself, so there will be some additional surprises to be determined by how much cat hair I can collect from Loopy and Siah … just kidding … sort of …) to give away, but I want to couple this up with the recent, and important, discussions about diabetes stigma.

To win one the Tallygear giveaways, you’ll need to leave a comment here on this blog post or Tweet about this giveaway (see the Rafflecopter widget below), but not in the “promote me!” sort of way.  Instead, I want you to answer this question:

“How will you help change the perception of diabetes today?  #dstigma“ 

As a community, we can help change the face of diabetes, one moment at a time.  Dealing with diabetes-related stigma isn’t something that can be “fixed” overnight, but every time we make diabetes visible in an accurate, educated way, we’re taking a bite out of stigma.  Kind of like McGruff the Crime Dog.  So let’s keep talking.

You can follow Donna from Tallygear on Twitter @Tallygear and on Facebook.  The official Tallygear website, with a complete product listing and a catalog of colors to choose from, is at Tallygear.com.  If you’re one of the winners, I’ll contact you for your mailing address (so be sure to leave a valid email).

And thanks for playing along.  I’m excited to see the discussions that have cropped up about diabetes stigma, and I hope to contribute to them.

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We Are Not Waiting: CGM in the Cloud (Part 2).

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.

We Are Not Waiting: CGM in the Cloud (Part 1).

Waiting, when it comes to diabetes, frustrates the hell out of me.  According to the “cure in five years!” mantra that rang out constantly when I was diagnosed in 1986, I’ve been waiting for a cure for almost 30 years.  Currently, I wait (impatiently) for the Animas Vibe to become available to US patients.  I wait for the Dexcom Share application to become available.  I wait for doctors to call me in for appointments and on the phone with mail order pharmacies and on and on … lots of waiting.

I hate waiting.

But people aren’t waiting anymore.  There’s a whole movement in the diabetes community embracing that very concept.  And today (and tomorrow) I’ll be taking an in-depth look at how amazing people in this community are taking their diabetes data into their own hands.  We are not waiting, indeed!

Today, John Costik, one of the founding members of the CGM in the Cloud Facebook group, an engineer, and diabetes dad to Evan, talks with me about the #wearenotwaiting movement and how he was inspired to make CGM data bend to his needs.  (This is a long post, but his perspectives are awesome.)

Kerri:  What is your connection to diabetes?  And can you tell me about the CGM in the Cloud group, with some background on the We Are Not Waiting movement?

John Costik:  When Evan was diagnosed, it felt like the floor to the lives we knew had vanished. The grief, anxiety and denial were all very real, and once we had our hospital training and sent on our way, the reality of it all sank in. Type one management is hard! But my wife, Laura and I are both engineers; we saw, almost immediately, that processes can be improved, data can be collected and analyzed. If we could make life (even just a little) more like life without T1D, we had to try. After researching pumps and CGMs around Christmas of that year, we decided we wanted to start on the [Dexcom] G4 as soon as possible. The DOC was very helpful – your first and second impressions posts, along with other reviews, made it pretty clear that this was an amazing device.

We danced with the insurance company, fortunately not for too long, and we had Evan’s CGM in hand in late February of 2013. I decided to start tweeting about it – it was a very real shift to a more optimistic attitude in all of us.

I was hooked, and the anxious father in me never wanted those numbers and trends to be more than a glance a way. Less than a week after getting the G4, using files provided with Dexcom Studio (libraries), we had a windows laptop pulling the data and sending to a simple Google doc for Laura and me to pull up throughout the day. I built a simple trend and number app for our iPhones that pulled this data – sitting in a dock at work, Evan’s BGs were a glance away.

I also wanted to cover the “gaps” in data – recess, walks around the ponds at daycare; arguably the riskiest times for a low to creep up on Evan. I then began to look into using a cellphone to read the G4, and send the data to a cloud service that any number of devices could pull from. I took family medical leave starting in April 2013: Evan’s honeymoon was ending, pump therapy was beginning, and Kindergarten prep wasn’t going to be as simple as we’d expected (plus, Laura and I were exhausted). I set aside a few weeks in May to see if I could make the cellphone chat with the G4. Fortunately, I didn’t let my technical shortcomings keep me from trying, and I figured it out pretty quickly. An Android app that can read G4 data became a thing!

This led up to an email from the wonderful Lane Desborough. We got talking, I shared my simple Windows uploader with him, and he began working on “Nightscout” – a glance-able BG chart that could be viewed throughout a home. After several months of testing, improving the Android app to work more reliably, I shared the code – Lane continued to develop Nightscout, with assistance from Ross Naylor – I leveraged the chart code in our own “Care Portal” and grabbed a Pebble watch to play with.

We continued to work on our apps and tools, more folks on twitter began to notice – and it became very clear that people really wanted this tool. It was life changing for us, and other parent’s immediately saw the value, the hope for a less complex, safer, healthier life it can bring. Freedom!

The “CGM in the Cloud” facebook group started from these early twitter interactions and helping just a few other d-parents looking for a better way. We have wonderful tools, but they can do more! Jason Calabrese, Jason Adams, and Toby Canning deserve the credit for scaling this system.

Jason Adams started the group, because he knew that we were not the only ones tired of waiting.

A simple tweet that started something bigger:

#wearenotwaiting was coined by Howard Look, d-parent and CEO of non-profit start-up Tidepool. It was the call to arms for the first “d-data exchange” hosted by Tidepool and DiabetesMine, just prior to their Innovation Summit in November 2013.

As a movement, it is all about doing more & not waiting for:

  • Anyone else to step up and change the standard of diabetes care.
  • To cut through the old proprietary systems of big medical.
  • To take ownership of our data.
  • To use the combined data (BGs, Nutrition, Insulin, and Biometrics) to unravel the unique mystery that
  • everyone’s T1d is.
  • To go out on a date with a spouse, without T1d’s shadow tagging along.
  • So many things!!

Kerri: What kinds of discussions have you seen taking place in the group?

JC:  Wonderful Testimonials! I can’t express how amazing it is to see so many people “taking back” from T1D.  Parents out on dates, children riding bikes, going on sleepovers – these events were either put off or filled with anxiety and fear over the constant “???” Removing the mystery makes it possible. It makes averting dangerous lows possible… To see others experience what we experienced, it is still overwhelming.

HELP! And lots of it freely given… New folks learn, and teach others, the combined learning of hundreds, now (potentially) 1,500+ people. How do you pack this setup together? How does your child carry it?  What phone works best? What cables do I need? How do I compile the code? I see the full spectrum of technical prowess in the group members, but no one should ever (and I hope hasn’t) feel that there are any questions off limits. I know, as I’m typing this, that there are at least 20 conversations going on covering how to install the pebble watch to the best Nintendo 3DS case to stuff this setup into.  The future! Don’t like ???’s We can see through them – Want less lag in your CGM data? That’s coming.

The discussions in the group also point out the very real shortcomings of a DIY system – all of a sudden, instead of just worrying about a sensor problem or being out of range – you have cell service drops, weak wifi, bad cables, phone battery life, all these new points of failure… but we work through them, because not one or all of those new concerns can topple the improvement in life the “CGM in the Cloud” brings.

Kerri:  How is this group moving current diabetes technology into tomorrow’s tech space?

JC:  CGM in the Cloud gives us a look at the future of connected devices – a space that consumer products are starting to fill, but medical devices lag. It’s understandable: regulatory delays, walled-off device ecosystems that, by design, keep you tied to a single device maker, and device hardware focus (not the integration or software) induce this lag (among many other things). CGM in the Cloud bridges this gulf in time – simply knowing how to “talk” to a device and get the same data we see on a receiver screen, that’s all we need to get started. The remaining technology is there to be bolted on and consume the available data, to display it in such a way that unobtrusively integrates it back into our lives. What works for me may not work for someone else, but that’s fine – there’s no limit to what or how we use or access the data.

Light bulbs that can turn themselves on, change color, audio systems that can wake up the neighborhood, an app that can call someone when conditions merit. Standards, and organizations like Tidepool will make this fly – I would much rather read a standards document than decode byte arrays. I would love a single platform or application that lets me talk to all of my medical devices – not three separate and poorly designed apps that I hate so much I never use anyway…

Publishing protocols and using standards will benefit device makers – I wonder how many new G4 Platinum systems have been sold because CGM in the Cloud exists? I know people that were on the fence between Enlite & G4 – and CGM in the Cloud was the deciding factor (I know people that have switched out right – Insulin suspend or Remote monitoring … remote monitoring was a bigger benefit to them)

Kerri:  Is this group only for Dexcom G4 users? Or is someone dabbling in Medtronic/Abbot space?

JC:  I “hacked” the G4 because it is the best CGM product for us, available to us – d-parents, PWDs – anyone that uses a medical device to keep them alive & well should be able to use device that suits them best. The company name on the device should be irrelevant – I have zero brand loyalty when it comes to CGM, BGM, and pumps – I will use the best product available, and that’s it.

If the Enlite is the best product for someone, and they want to use the CGM in the Cloud tools, they can – we just need to know how to get the data from a 530g to the cloud, preferably wirelessly, and the rest is ready to go. I actually think Medtronic would be doing themselves a favor by letting us know how to read the data in this way. As I mentioned, I know people that have switched or picked the G4 because they can see the data virtually anywhere in the world.

I hope these companies understand that something as “simple” as internet accessible, real-time CGM data makes a big difference for a lot of people.

Kerri: Do you fear the FDA? The CGM companies? Anything? (Or is part of the movement to also #techwithoutfear?)

JC:  I don’t fear the FDA or CGM companies … anymore. My biggest concern, and why it took nearly a year to make the code open source & available on github, is the fear of litigation from individuals. Covering those bases was extremely important. Doing all this work to make our (my family) lives better, only to risk financial ruin would’ve been, well, awful. Licensing, disclaimers, LLC’s – they can cover you pretty well, but it’s the larger CGM in the Cloud community that offers the most help. The programs that CGM in the Clouds use are part of an open source repository owned, not by me or anyone else, but to the group – it’s open to any and all contributors. Ben West has taken on curating the group code, and that code is as much yours as it is mine.

The FDA is coming around – the group will “pre-submit” to the FDA at some point, and if their new guidance is any indication, we could eventually see a “CGM Uploader” app in the “Google Play” store.

In fact, I have several apps and tools that remain private, and these regulatory changes would make sharing them a no-brainer.

Dexcom has been largely silent, but always aware of what we’re up to – I see very little reason to be afraid of them. Every interaction with them has been great. I hope they like what they see!

Kerri: I’ve downloaded the “CGM in the Cloud” high level set up. How easy is it for members to get one another suited up and running on a remote device?

Photo credit to the CGM in the Cloud Facebook grouplarger image here.

JC:  Pretty easy! From phone advice to actual setup help (Rajat Gupta is amazing, I think he’s helped over 60-70 people get it set up), it’s all there, and Facebook group posting style can make it challenging to find an answer – so a new post is always okay.

Laurie Schwartz, Jason Adams, and Jason Calabrese are the group admins, and they’ve done a great job guiding users and staying very current on the posts with their very sage advice. As much as any of us that wrote the original code may have done, they’re the ones that carry it up and on to a level I never would have thought possible. [Editor's note:  Look for more from Laurie tomorrow!]

Kerri:  John, why is this tech important to you?

JC:  It makes life better, it gave Evan a school year with but a single BG below 60. It gives Evan non-diabetic A1c’s – with pizza and cake still on the menu! And hypo and hyper a mere 1% for over a year. (Caveat: Evan eats anything and everything, which allows very good timing and 100% pre-bolus capabilities – solving for specific foods by collecting the data, analyzing and improving the bolus strategies)

It lets Laura and I go on dates, and actually pay attention to something other than diabetes!  Evan and Sarah can play for hours outside, without mommy and daddy hovering or interrupting constantly.  As I’ve said before, it takes back some of what type 1 took from us that day in August.

Technology is only as good as the good it does for people. If it doesn’t make life better, easier – skip it,find something that does. For us, and our use, it goes beyond merely seeing BGs all the time. The increased awareness, even at its most passive, helps us understand diabetes a little better, and it gives a CWD or PWD a team of people that understand it as well. Our school nurse is amazing, and she used a custom site (which will end up in the open source repositories this summer) to view his BGs, log treatments, and view those treatments on the same Chart. Her own intuition about Evan’s diabetes was key to a virtually hypo-free year.

I hope the shared awareness continues to lighten the burden for Evan, and helps prevent burnout as the tasks ramp up. I told him, if we haven’t cured it, I will always be happy to mind his diabetes if he needs a break from it – whether 13 or 53. Technology like this enables me to do just that, without actually impeding or limiting Evan’s ability to enjoy life.

Kerri:  And lastly, how can the greater DOC support this movement?

JC:  Share use cases – how would you make it better, how could it make your life better? YMDV, and no system will meet all needs all the time, but we can try – the beauty of a crowd-sourced tools like this -someone else probably wants what you want, and if you’re alone, there’s still someone more than willing to help make it happen for you.

The DOC can spread the word, and help build the community. Together we can show the device makers what products we really want – if a group of 1,500 can get some attention – the stronger our voice, the better. It’s hard to find better motivated people than the DOC – what we do to keep ourselves, a child, a spouse, a friend, (and so on) happy and healthy comes from a place of great love. I suspect our best ideas, our biggest innovations come from the heart, and not a desire to make money.

Thank you, John, and to learn more about CGM in the Cloud, visit the Facebook group. 1909 members … and counting. More about this group from group admin and D-Mom Laurie Schwartz tomorrow!

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