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Posts from the ‘Guest Diabetes Blogger’ Category

#WalkWithD: John’s Story.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was seeking to learn more about my peers with diabetes, specifically folks with type 2 diabetes.  Living with type 1 diabetes myself, it’s hard to me to “walk a mile in their shoes,” so to speak, when I felt so uninformed about type 2 diabetes in the first place.  A few people left comments on that post, and I’ve been working to bring more of their journey with type 2 diabetes into the forefront, so I can learn from them, and so we can learn as a community. 

I want to know what it’s like to walk with type 2 diabetes, and today, John, a self-proclaimed 67 year old “youngster” and currently living in the southeast Alaska panhandle, is answering a few questions about what life is like for him.

Kerri:  Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, John.  When were you diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?

John:  I think it was October 18, 2007.

Kerri:  Did you know anything about diabetes before your diagnosis?

John:  Yes a little, I had a cousin, uncle and a niece that had type 1 and even though I was a few years older than my niece we used to play together as children and were quite close.  I was also a babysitter to her when she was young.

Kerri:  How did your diagnosis impact you, physically?  How about emotionally?

John:  I was told to lose some pounds, I was 260 when diagnosed and they wanted me down to 190.  It took me almost a year to get 196 and I found that I couldn’t maintain it and feel comfortable at all, so I let my weight drift back up to about 210 and have remained at that weight ever since.

Emotionally?  I was relieved, I was having some heart problems and it seemed to me that it was getting worse and the doctors couldn’t figure out why.   Then one of the E.R. doctors noticed that every time I showed up in ER that my blood sugar was somewhat elevated.  That led to an A1c, which was off the chart.

Kerri:  Now that you are a few years into your diabetes journey, what have you learned along the way?

John:  Quite a lot about the disease, I at first researched Type 2 only and then I read an article about how diabetes progresses in the body if left unchecked and I thought at first that it was an article about Type 1, but then as I reread the article again I realized that it did not make any difference how the diagnoses was made it was the same disease.  The only difference was in how we each contracted it.  Right now, it is known that in the PWD’s T1, the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas  and destroys them, and, PWD’s T2’s there are several ways that the same cells are either destroyed or made to under-perform.  The end result is a disease called diabetes.  So I then stopped looking at it as the type of diabetes someone had and started to notice how they were treating their diabetes, so that I may be able to treat mine better.

Kerri:  What makes you want to tell people about your diabetes journey?  Why do you think it’s important for people with all kinds of diabetes to share their stories?

John:  My story is going to be similar to someone out there and just maybe that person needs to know that they are not alone.  The more people that stop being afraid of this disease and start letting people know that they have this disease the more that diabetes will be recognized as a viable threat to their own health.

Kerri:  What do you want people to know about life with type 2 diabetes?

John:  What I want everyone to realize is that I don’t have “type 2 diabetes” but that I do have “diabetes” and the way it came about is type 2(reason unknown).  I treat my diabetes just the same as many thousands of other diabetics and it does not make one bit of difference what type it is.  Being a certain type is good for person to person conversations in a give and take on how we treat our own version of diabetes and it’s good that our doctors know, but beyond that it’s useless.  Living with diabetes is not easy, it takes a lot of time that I would like to be doing other things.  It often times scares the heck out of me and it is not a set in stone science, it at times does things that seems to defy all reason and it will bite you if you don’t pay attention.  It never stops and that is the worst one, it is there all the time, no letup.  But with knowledge and the right tools it can be managed and quite well, just not controlled, at least not by me.

To every negative there should be a positive, my positive is that I am in better general health than almost all of my friends that don’t have diabetes, you see, I now take the time to take care of myself, eat right, exercise.  Before I was diagnosed with diabetes I never seemed to have the time to do those things.

Thank you so much for sharing, John, and I’m looking forward to sharing more perspectives from my type 2 peers in the coming weeks. 

If you are living with diabetes of any kind, please raise your voice.  Your story matters!  #walkwithd

Guest Post: No Child Should Die of Diabetes.

Veerle Vanhuyse is off and running … literally.  Verlee lives with type 1 diabetes and is running the NYC Marathon in a few weeks, aiming to raise awareness and funds for the IDF’s Life for a Child program.  Today, I’m proud to be hosting a post from Veerle about her marathon goals!

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A quarter of a century it’s been already but it still feels like yesterday. About to turn 16 and counting the days to leave for France with a bunch of teenagers to learn the language. I hadn’t been feeling well over the last few weeks and my trip to France became a trip to the hospital. Diabetes! I took my very first shot of insulin on my birthday. Sweet sixteen indeed!

In the beginning, I did really bad, didn’t take care of it at all. Only in my late twenties(!), I took diabetes more seriously and got my a1C’s from 9+ to 5%.

Eighteen years and a child later, I started running. And in eight years time I went from 100 meter and being exhausted (I’m not kidding), to 5K, 10K, half a marathon and finally the full monster; Berlin Marathon 2012.

That sad girl back in 1987 would’ve never guessed she would be doing what I’m about to do in one month:  Being at the start of the mother of all marathons, New York City 2014!

Needless to say, I am very excited about this upcoming event. But make no mistake, there’s no such thing as knowing exactly how to anticipate with the sugars before a long run, or any run for that matter. Every workout is different, depending on so many factors all diabetics deal with every single day.

Three weeks before the Berlin marathon, I suddenly realized I should grab the opportunity to raise money for diabetes. And I did. 1.700 euro went to research at the University Hospital in Leuven, Belgium. But this time I wanted to do something more specific. It didn’t take me long to find a new great goal. Surfing the web for a few hours I found a wonderful initiative called ‘Life for a Child’ supported by the International Diabetes Federation. I read about Dr. Marguerite De Clerck, a Belgian nun who spent the past 55 years treating children with diabetes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It instantly hit me! THIS was a project I immediately believed in and I wanted to make a difference for.  In the end my goal is comparable to the wonderful Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign: Provide children and youth in developing countries the basic care they need to stay alive with diabetes.

So far, I raised 2.500 euro, and I’m working really hard to at least double this amount.  I’m hoping to help families in Kinshasa keeping their loved ones alive.

It is a clear message: No child should die of diabetes.

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I asked Veerle to provide a bio, and the one she sent to me in first person language was too laced with passion to edit in any way.

Here’s Veerle, according to Verlee:  “There’s the Belgian, so called ‘outgoing’ 43 year old, who talks a lot and who’s always in for a joke. And there is the T1 diabetic since 27 years, who can be really sad about the battle she has to fight against the disease every single day. “She deals with it really well,” people – even close to me – would say. They have no idea. One way to “deal with it” is running ! A lot! And in less than 4 weeks, I’ll be living my dream: NYC marathon ! Last race, because there’s also arthritis in my foot now. With this last 42,195km, I’ll be raising money for Life for a Child, to provide children in Kinshasa with the necessary supplies, proper care, and some decent education they need so badly. I am extremely passionate about it, and I want to scream as hard as I can: Please people, read my website and find it in your heart to donate, donate, donate!!!”

To donate to Veerle’s efforts, please visit this link on her websiteThanks for raising awareness, Veerle!

Guest Post: Diabetes and Our Relationship with Food.

Georgie is a twenty two year old university student and future French teacher living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s had type 1 diabetes since 2010 and has become very talented at hiding her pump in various dance costumes.  She hates her pancreas but loves the DOC, and is in the very slow process of creating an organisation Down Under to help those with type 1 diabetes and eating disorders. 

I feel lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with Georgie (she is my favorite holiday card buddy), and today I’m very lucky to have Georgie guest posting about disordered eating, diabetes, and the way we view food.

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Sometimes I read things while procrastinating on the Internet that strike a chord with me. Usually they are quotes that revolve around cats and wine, but occasionally there is one gem that sticks with me. I read a quote recently while scrolling through Tumblr that read:

“We are prescribing for fat people what we diagnose as disordered eating in thin people.” – Deb Burgard, keynote at the 2011 NAAFA conference.

At first this quote didn’t surprise me – it seemed quite obvious really, I muttered a ‘duh’ and kept scrolling until I hit the funny cat pictures instead. It wasn’t until I was sitting down to my dinner that night, slowly adding up my carbs, and berating myself about my 16.8 (288 mg/dL) that I realised that there was a reason for that. I was identifying with that quote so strongly not because I am morbidly obese and have had doctors make me count my calories, but because I have type 1 diabetes and “disordered eating” is basically my normal.  We are asked to weigh our food, count our food, know everything there is to know about our food, and yet somehow keep a healthy attitude towards what we put in our mouth every day. Some people manage this – but I know a lot of us don’t!

People with type 1 diabetes are set up for a weird relationship with food, no one seems to mind, and it’s driving me crazy.

“You have to see what’s on your plate as numbers!”

“Don’t eat that, that’s bad!”

“What do you mean, you’re not weighing your food?”

We are doubly lucky though – not only do we have healthcare professionals telling us what to eat, we also have the Food Police!

We all know the Food Police. They can be sneaky – they come disguised as your work colleague, your neighbour, or your aunt at a family dinner. They usually come armed with “lots of knowledge” about diabetes, because their third cousin’s grandma had diabetes, and she “DIED because she ate too much cake!!!” It hides under the guise of concern, but mostly it’s a nosy way to exert control over you while claiming that it’s for your own good. At one point I had a member of the Food Police say, “What if I hadn’t been there to tell stop you eating that? Haha!” Oh, I don’t know, I would have eaten this muffin anyway, but without the omnipresent feeling of shame?

The only other group of people that I know whose food choices seem to be up for public comment are obese people – which is why I think the quote above stuck in my head. We are both told to live a life that revolves around counting our food, and people in our life feel the right to comment on whatever is on our plate. Is it any wonder that some of us start to see food as the enemy? The most ridiculous thing about this is that we CAN eat what we want – we are just like anyone else, except our pancreas comes in syringe/pump form. Would you ever look at the food on a twelve year old’s plate and say “There’s way too many carbs on that plate – remember, you’re trying to lose weight”? No? Then why do you feel obliged to say it to a child who happens to have type 1 diabetes?

Food shouldn’t just be a number; food is there to be enjoyed! I look at a piece of bread and I see “15 grams,” but I should also see “I am full of delicious grains to get you through the afternoon” and “Damn, I taste delicious with some avocado.”

Food is not inherently bad or good. Did your donut creep up on you during the night and rip out your pump site while letting out an evil cackle? The only labels food should have is a Post-It saying, “Eat me, I’m delicious.”

Food is food – what you eat does not define your worth as a person, and leading on from that, what you eat, how much you weigh, and what your hba1c is does not define how “good” of a diabetic you are. We HAVE to stop looking at our A1Cs, our weight, our food choices, and our insulin dosage as something that we can measure and evaluate ourselves against.

How is that healthy? Disordered eating doesn’t necessarily mean an eating disorder, it means eating in a way that could or does harm you physically or psychologically,  and I’m pretty damn sure that some of the practices that healthcare professionals are advocating do not create healthy and balanced attitudes towards food.

When I was volunteering on a kids’ diabetes camp last year, a twelve year old girl was sitting next to me at supper and wouldn’t eat her cookie.

“Why honey? The dieticians told you the carbs, right?”

“Yeah … but Mum won’t let me eat stuff like this at home, she says it’s bad.”

“Food isn’t bad or good, food keeps us going and it’s delicious – don’t you like it?”

“Yeah I do, but … Mum would be so angry – is there an apple or something instead? I can’t eat bad foods.”

My heart nearly broke – this girl, already under pressure from society to look a certain way, can’t bring herself to eat a cookie because her Mum, and no doubt her healthcare team, has told her that foods are ‘bad’ and ‘good.’

I appreciate that it’s a very fine line for carers and healthcare professionals, between keeping their patient healthy and not causing them to hate everything they put in their mouth – but food is not the enemy.  Food is not something we should judge ourselves by – we have to stand up for ourselves. Don’t let the fact that we’re acutely aware of what we’re putting in our mouths affect our enjoyment and love of food.

Food is not the enemy, our pancreases are!

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An In-Depth Look at the Diabetes UnConference.

Peer to peer support has been shown to be highly beneficial to those living with diabetes. The report, “Peer Support in Health – Evidence to Action,” summarizing findings from the first National Peer Support Collaborative Learning Network shared that: “Among 20 studies of diabetes management, 19 showed statistically significant evidence of benefits of peer support.”  In keeping with that theme, The Diabetes UnConference, the first peer-to-peer support conference for all adults with diabetes, is on tap for March 2015.

Founded by Christel Marchand Aprigliano, The Diabetes UnConference is facilitated by volunteers well known to the diabetes community: Bennet Dunlap, Heather Gabel, Manny Hernandez, Scott K. Johnson, George Simmons, Dr. Nicole Berelos, PhD, MPH, CDE and Kerri Sparling [me ... can you tell this part was a bit of a cut-and-paste from the "about" page on the UnConference website?  Yes ma'am.]  These diabetes community leaders are familiar with the topics that will be covered; each live with diabetes.

The Diabetes UnConference will be held at the Flamingo Las Vegas from March 12 – 15, 2015, and today, I’m talking with founder Christel Aprigliano about the when, how, and most importantly the why of this ground-breaking event.

Kerri:  I know you.  And think you’re awesome.  For those who haven’t met you yet, who are you, and what’s your connection to diabetes?

Christel:  I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of Six Until Me times two. (That would be twelve years old, if you have problems with math like I do.)  I didn’t know many other Type 1s growing up and spent a lot of my teens and early 20s ignoring the physical and psychological issues of having this disease. I had a great medical team that stuck with me and helped me to learn how to live with it, not fight against it.

In August of 2005, I complained to my then boyfriend (now husband) that there weren’t any weekly podcasts about diabetes. Next thing I knew, we had started diabeticfeed, talking about diabetes research news and interviewing people doing amazing things with diabetes. (This interview was in January, 2006 with a woman named Kerri Morrone. We talked about Jettas and diabetes.)

I joke about being a part of the DOC before it was the DOC. While we stopped producing diabeticfeed, I’m doing other things: writing at ThePerfectD, working with other advocates on cool projects like StripSafely and CGMSafely and founding The Diabetes UnConference. While I’m not thrilled to have diabetes, some of my most favorite people in the universe came from connecting with others because of it.

Kerri:  There are a lot of conferences that center around diabetes.  Why the UnConference? 

Christel:  I’ve been to a lot of diabetes conferences and some of the best experiences I’ve had are not in the research sessions or keynote presentations; it’s hallway moments when I’m connecting with another Type 1 or sitting around a lunch table sharing stories and tips. I would leave these conferences wishing that I had more time to talk about the emotional aspects of having this disease and how to live well with it.

During a brainstorming session at the Medtronic Advocacy Summit in January, a question was asked: “What could you do this year in the diabetes community to make a difference?” And the next thing I know, I’m saying that I wanted to have a conference that would bring adults with diabetes together to talk about living with diabetes and learning from each other  – an “unconference.”  (Unconference is a concept made popular by the tech community, where the agenda is decided by the participants during the first hour of the conference. No keynotes, no research sessions, just talking and sharing in a safe environment where there’s no judgement.)

What also makes The Diabetes UnConference unique is that it will bring type 1 and type 2 adults together in one room for a multi-day conference. No other conference does that. We all have non-functioning pancreases (only varying by degree), we have many of the same long-term complications, we all have to deal with depression and burnout and stigma, and we all want to live well with diabetes. We can learn from each other in a safe environment.

Kerri:  What was the scariest thing about taking the leap to put this conference together?  What was the most empowering?

Christel:  The scariest thing has been the idea that I’d be sitting in a huge meeting room in Las Vegas by myself, eating several thousands of dollars worth of food by myself to fulfill the contract that I signed with The Flamingo. I don’t have enough insulin to bolus for it all! (Thankfully, everyone I’ve spoken with about The Diabetes UnConference has been excited about it.)

Really it’s the idea that there people out there who need and want to talk with other people with diabetes and don’t know that this exists. It’s always that way with something new and innovative, isn’t it? We also have scholarships available for those who do want to come but may not have the financial resources to attend.

The most empowering? Knowing that it’s the community that is making this happen. I may have had the initial idea, but without amazing facilitators and participants who want to create this unforgettable experience is mind-blowing. This is about a community helping each other, learning from each other, and connecting with each other. This community empowers me to believe that we can do so much when we listen to each other.

Kerri:  Why should people attend the conference?

Christel:  We spent a few hours each year talking with our healthcare team, mostly about lab results and medication adjustments or treatment recommendations. The rest of the year, we’re on our own. We don’t have time to talk with them about our feelings surrounding living day-to-day with diabetes.

Our community is amazing. We can talk about the emotional aspects of living with diabetes online, but nothing can take the place of looking into each other’s eyes when you talk about fears and burnout. It’s rare to find someone willing to talk about diabetes sexual dysfunction in public, but by creating a safe environment where others might have the same issue and may have a solution? You may not feel comfortable talking about job discrimination online, but in person? I want people to have a safe place where they can express their feelings and get support and hopefully options…

Plus, when the diabetes community gets together, we build these incredible friendships and have an insane amount of fun. Laughter is always in ample supply.

I don’t want people to feel alone with their diabetes. I felt alone for years. That’s why people should attend.

Kerri:  How can people register? 

Christel:  Go to www.DiabetesUnConference.com to register and learn more about the conference. (It’s March 13 – 15, 2015 and being held at The Flamingo Las Vegas. We got great rates for the hotel, too!)

Our scholarship applications are open until September 30, 2014.

We’ve got some wonderful surprises up our sleeve, thanks to our sponsors. Insulet, Dexcom, Roche, and B-D have committed to helping make this conference happen, and I’m so grateful. (That being said, any company who is interested in helping can contact us and be a part of this.)

Kerri:  Thanks, Christel.  And for those reading, the scholarship applications are open until September 30th, so if you’d like to apply, please click over and send in your applicationHope to see you all in March in Las Vegas!!

Guest Post: Becoming a CDE.

Abby has been busy.  Busy doing what, you ask?  Earning her certified diabetes educator credentials!  And she’s done it!  (Congratulations, Abby!!  Hard earned, and well deserved.  The diabetes community is lucky as hell to have you in both the peer and healthcare professional capacity.)  Today, Abby has returned to guest post about her journey in becoming a CDE. 

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So remember WAY back when I used to talk about how I wanted to take and pass the CDE exam and then work as a pediatric diabetes educator?

Well, it happened. I’m not writing to brag or make you all jealous (though if you are, I don’t blame you; my job is awesome) but more so because I wanted to follow up on the process now that I’m at the end of it.

You can find the requirements toward becoming certified on this website … which is all well and fine, except they seem unattainable for most of us. I had a lot of people contact me when I started my journey asking how I was going to obtain the hours, how I was going to study, when I would take the exam, and how on earth I would find a job in this field. Here is how I did it (and by no means was this path anything short of lucky and filled with connections).   It may stir up some ideas for you out there looking to sit in my seat (actually, please don’t – I finally got a comfy chair at work and I’d appreciate if you didn’t steal it).

Step 1: I worked at diabetes camp. I worked for very little pay with crazy, crazy teenagers. I barely slept, I yelled at invisible squirrels with my co-counselors. I gave glucagon to unconscious friends and was the sounding board when someone needed to admit they were struggling with diabulemia. I let the kids dress me up as a goth teenager, I ate many meals without my hands. I checked blood sugars on sleeping 6-year-olds and jumped in a disgusting pond with all of my clothes on. And I loved every second of it. My time at diabetes camp was invaluable both to my personal life and to my overall diabetes education. As a PWD (person with diabetes), I learned more about my own care than I had in the years of living with it, and as a future CDE I learned the biggest lesson of all: no two diabetes are the same, and yet they all have to follow the same rules.

Step 2: My time at diabetes camp then helped me land a job as a triage nurse at an adult endocrinology office. Oddly enough, most of my job was NOT diabetes-related. In fact, I learned more about the other glands in the body than I did about diabetes, at first. What I did learn here – which proved to be more useful than the diabetes stuff, on some levels – was knowledge about Medicare, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia (among other co-morbidities). These are things that we usually don’t think of when we think of diabetes, but they play a bigger role than you’d imagine. Being a CDE means that you have to not only understand what insulin dose to change, how to check a blood sugar, and how to teach someone to use a pump, but you are required to know how all of this will effect the whole person, and the rest of their life. My time in this position taught me just how much I didn’t know about diabetes. I learned what to do for colonoscopy prep, how to manage blood sugars after a G-tube was put in, how to relay orders between a doctor’s office and a nursing home, how to deal with company reps, and how to talk someone through glucagon over the phone. It’s not all test strips and CGMs.

Step 3: I knew people who needed me. A local pediatric clinic needed a person to fill a role as a diabetes educator, and I applied. I had not yet taken the exam, but they were okay with hiring me knowing that I was eligible. (I also knew one of the CDEs already employed there from my camp connections, which I think helped a little.)

Step 4: The exam. Of the 200 questions, 175 of them were graded. Only 26 of this 175 were about disease management. Well, what were the other 149 about you ask? Good question. I had at least four questions about Medicare guidelines (see how my first job really helped here?). Many questions about which lipid lowering medication is indicated, or hypertension drugs I would recommend. Basically, this exam had very little to do with actual diabetes education. Diabetes infiltrates SO much of everyone’s life, and doesn’t end when you leave the doctor’s office. Aren’t you glad to know that CDEs are expected to not only realize that, but be knowledgeable about how diabetes can affect every other part of your health and wallet?

After all of that, I passed the exam (after waiting six very long weeks for my results) and I’m where I want to be. My path was not easy, but definitely not as difficult as it could’ve been. I was able to earn my required hours in a job that taught me a lot about diabetes, a lot about nursing, and was fun (the 8 – 5 work day didn’t hurt either). I was not forced to take the traditional “work on a med/surg floor for three years” route that all of my nursing instructors wanted me to do. I found my own path that made me happy and helped me reach my goal.

There are many positions out there that you can take to learn about diabetes and get in your hours. I know quite a few nurses who are the “go-to diabetes nurse” on their ortho floor, or pediatric floor, or even post-op floors. You don’t have to land a job in an endocrine office. You don’t even need to be a nurse to become a CDE. I would highly suggest getting involved with camps or orgs to boost your resume and skills, and from there do what you can, and learn what you can.  It’s not impossible, I’m living proof!

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Abby is a 20-something living in a much-too-cold state constantly wishing she was on a beach. She has had type 1 diabetes for almost 16 years and is currently updating all of the letterhead in her office to include “CDE” after her name. Her favorite color is purple, she just adopted two very cute little kitten brothers, and she would really appreciate if you could tell her peppers and tomatoes in her garden to ripen up already. If you have any questions about her journey from irresponsible college student to RN, CDE, she is more than willing to chat [Editor's note:  You can leave a comment for her in the comments section].

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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