Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Robot Life’ Category

Wild Krattsabetes.

Wild Kratts have invaded my house in a big way.  It’s okay, because Birdy loves watching them and she learns all this random stuff about animals.  (“MOM! The lion’s mane is the same color as the savannah grass,” yelled from her car seat as we’re driving.  So I’m learning too, apparently.)  She dons her version of a creature power suit and goes leaping all over the basement, pretending to be a lemur or some other critter.

“MOM!!  He has a Dexcom!!” she said one morning.

“What’s that?” I asked her, coming over and sitting next to her while she’s watching television.

“Look!” and she points to the screen.

Sure enough, the wrist communicator that the Wild Kratts use to talk to their team back at the Tortuga looks almost exactly like my Dexcom receiver.  (Please forgive me, because that whole sentence made complete and absolute sense to me.)  See for yourself:

“You’re right, kiddo!  That looks a lot like my Dexcom!”

“Yeah, but they use theirs not to keep an eye out for whoa blood sugars but to talk to Aviva.”

“Who?”

“Aviva.  She helps the Wild Kratts by building their creature power suits.”

And here I thought Aviva was a glucose meter from Roche.

 

Why I Pack Heavy.

“And then Marcus gave me a Valentine and it had SPIDERMAN STICKERS on it and I love Spiderman stickers so that was the best Valentine I got except the one from Maddie that had a pencil and that was ALSO THE BEST ONE,” yelled Birdzone from the backseat as I was buckling myself into the driver’s seat.

“Yeah?  So Valentine’s Day at school was awesome?” I asked her, reaching over my left shoulder to grab the belt.

And then I felt that familiar, gentle * pop * of the infusion set coming loose from the back of my arm.

Rarely do I have the chance to use my emergency supplies (which is a plus because that means I rarely have emergencies), but I always carry them.  Even though I wear an insulin pump, I keep a back-up pen of Humalog floating around in my purse.  Sure, it will eventually expire and I’ll have to swap it out for a new one, but in a pinch, it’s enough.

And even though it’s a bulky little spaceship to keep on hand, I always have a back-up Inset for just-in-case moments, like when I accidentally rip out my infusion set in the parking lot of Birdy’s school.

This is why I don’t ever pack light; when you’re a klutzy PWD, a small purse just isn’t an option.

 

Animas Vibe: A Few Weeks Later.

Again, disclosure:  I work with Animas and have a sponsorship contract.  Here are more details on my disclosures. And this is the Mr. Plow theme song.  Mr. Plow would be great, about now, since the snow keeps dumping down outside.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve switched to the Animas Vibe insulin pump (with integrated CGM technology – doesn’t that sound like a rehearsed phrase?  How about “insulin thing with CGM thing built in and have you seen my coffee, pleaseandthankyou.”), and I thought I’d take a crack at some second impressions, since the first impressions were only compiled after a few days.

Talking ‘Bout CGM:  I am still into the concept and application of having one device that does the work of two.  While the Vibe still requires that I wear an insulin pump infusion set and a CGM sensor as two separate insertions, it removes the need for an external CGM receiver.  I wrote about this last time, but to reiterate:  I am okay with not using the separate receiver.  I’ve traveled a lot in the last few weeks and the first few trips, I brought along my CGM receiver so I could plug it into the SHARE port.

For the record, I still haven’t upgraded to the 505 software.  Judge all you want.  :)   Which may explain my identical CGM graphs.  (And, also for the record, I’m really, really excited to see the new Dexcom receiver.  That may change how I feel about clouding, as it would be much simpler.)

But then Chris and I came to realize that we aren’t good at this whole “data sharing” thing.  As much as it sounds like a good plan in theory, we aren’t good at the application of it.  I think this becomes a patient-specific preference sort of thing, and for this PWD, I’m not a data-sharer.  But as I mentioned with that previous dead horse that I keep flogging, I like options.  Love them, actually.  And anything that gives data options – LIFE options – to people touched by diabetes, I am all for it.

(That sentence was a grammatical nightmare.  Ignore the sloppy parts and move on, yes?)

DiasendYesterday, for the first time in a long time, I downloaded (uploaded? loaded.) my data to Diasend.

The data collection portion is cumbersome.  I hate dongles and charging cords and all the extra beeps and wires required to make sense of diabetes data.  (Which is why I’m such a fan of the Verio Sync idea, which uses bluetooth technology to automagically suck the results off my meter and spit them into my iPhone, but there are issues with that system, too, because it’s only iOS compatible.  Pluses in one way, minuses in another.  But see aforementioned “I love options” sentiment, because it still applies.)  But I did download my pump data, which also downloaded my CGM data.  And, because I was feeling ambitious, I uploaded my glucose meter, too.

So this was my first time looking at Diasend with information about my insulin doses, glucose meter results, and CGM results on the same screen.  (No, I am not sharing my results.  My numbers have been absolute shit lately and I’m not going to pepper my blog with confirmation that I have diabetes.  I’ll let the c-peptide test that’s required by my insurance in order to cover my insulin pump serve as that confirmation.  Yes, that’s a thing.  Yes, more on that later.)

Diasend is good for granular information, but the information on the “compilation” tab was ace for me.  Seeing my blood sugar averages based on time of day was powerful.  (I have midnight to 11 am nailed and awesome.  Everything not in that time frame needs a solid snuggle these days.)   As a Mac user who hasn’t explored the new Dexcom/Mac Portrait (I’m woefully behind on everything that doesn’t involve Birdy these days), seeing my Dexcom data on my laptop is amazing.  I’ll be exploring Portrait in the next few days but in the meantime, I’m happy that information can be siphoned over to Diasend.  And it puts the constant flow of data into digestible context.

Pump Stuff.  Since I was a Ping user before, using the Vibe feels familiar and easy.  I’m still glad this sucker is waterproof and the button clicking process is familiar to me.  All of that feels the same.  One thing I have noticed is that the more my CGM needs attention, the faster the battery in my pump needs replacing.  This is annoying, but makes sense despite the annoyance.  For the first time ever, I’ve invested in lithium batteries for my pump and it seems to hold much better than the alkaline ones I have been using for the last … forever.  But overall, the pump feels familiar and comfortable, and since I hate change, that familiarity is a plus for me.

Alarms, for whatever reason, remain easier to hear and feel when they are coming from the pump.  This was a huge concern of mine because I thought the pump alarms would be muffled by clothes and bedding, making them hard to catch.  But I actually respond to low and high alarms more readily on the Vibe.  I am not sure why.  Maybe because it’s attached to my hip and I feel the vibration?

What remains to be seen is how the changing state of Dexcom progress will affect my feelings about this pump.  Right now, it’s the only one integrated with the CGM I already use, so that’s a huge plus.  But I am concerned about the fact that the software in the Vibe is already behind on the current Dexcom system.  I know the FDA process creates hurdles that are hard to clear, but since the Vibe has already cleared the Big One, can I expect that updates and upgrades will come fast and furious?  As a PWD using the Animas product, I hope this is the case.

And lastly, I’m hoping to have this pump covered by my insurance company.  I’m still trying to get a c-peptide test done (travel, snow, and issues with fasting) to fulfill the requirements issued by Blue Cross Blue Shield, so that journey remains ongoing.

Thankfully, I’m still pretty effing sure I have diabetes.   So yay?  Yay.

Twitter Rant.

The lows that have been creeping in lately need to stop.  They are inconvenient at best, completely debilitating at their worst and the in-between is a muddled mess of glucose tab dust and frustration.  Yesterday I had a diabetes technology fail coupled with a highly symptomatic hypoglycemic event that occurred simultaneously with a phone call to the Joslin Clinic … which sent me over to Twitter with an agenda of rage.

First, it was my Dexcom receiver that went berserk on me, telling me on both my Animas Vibe and my G4 receiver that my blood sugar was 202 mg/dL with double arrows down but after my feet weren’t responding to the “MOVE!” commands from my brain, I grabbed my meter to double-check. And saw a blood sugar of 43 mg/dL.

I immediately went for the glucose tabs and housed several of them. The low symptoms were intense – confusion, anger, tears, and a hand too shaky to hold the jar of tabs properly, so I held it with two hands, like those stock photos of baby panda bears drinking from a baby bottle.

Then the phone rang, and I answered it because: 1. When I’m low, I make bad decisions, and 2. It was the Joslin Clinic calling and I always answer their calls because Joslin.

Yes, my insurance company is requiring a c-peptide test to confirm my type 1 diabetes status in order to cover my new insurance pump.

The irony was not lost on me.

I felt like a crumb for ranting but sometimes I’m a crumb.

And then the anger/adrenaline surge subsided and I was in that “weak with post-hypo panic, stupid body, knew I’d be fine in a few minutes but what the fuck” sort of fallout.

Eventually, as it always does, my blood sugar came back up and my brain tuned back into things happening on the planet. My CGM/Vibe/meter were back in alignment, showing me in the 80′s and holding steady.

But I’m still waiting for Joslin to call me back. You know, to confirm the type 1 diabetes I’ve had for 28 years.

Diabetes Interruptus.

Yesterday I had a hovering sort of low before a conference call, a low that took its sweet time letting my brain check back into the conversation despite my blood sugar number coming up reasonably quickly.

This morning, my pre-conference call routine involved a quick site change at my desk because I ran my insulin reservoir down to the fumes.


Standard work day: computer, iced coffee, insulin pump site change. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Diabetes, I have another call this evening.  I fully anticipate that you’ll dress up in a clown suit and come skipping through the Skype screen waving your arms and burping, subtle interrupter that you are.

Knotted Tubing.

Apparently I knit insulin pump tubing into cute little pretzels while I sleep.

#WeAreNotWaiting: The (Not So?) Brief Story of Tidepool.

Technology has scrambled forward by true leaps and bounds in the last few years, making my Clinitest urinalysis kit of 1986 seem pretty archaic.  Now, people touched by diabetes can see their glucose levels with a flick of their wrist, and there’s more on the horizon as far as data and diabetes management.  Today I’m so happy to have Howard Look, President, CEO and Founder of Tidepool, sharing his personal diabetes story on SUM, talking about why he simply cannot wait.

*   *   *

“Katie, why are you going to the bathroom again?”

“I have to go! And I’m SOOOO thirsty!”

Our story is probably familiar: We were on a weekend camping trip and all together in our family-sized tent. Katie, now 14 but 11 at the time, had gotten up THREE TIMES that night, unzipping the tent and wandering with her flashlight to the campground bathroom. The next morning, breakfast was the usual campground fare – several glasses of orange juice and pancakes.

By noon, Katie was throwing up.

It was an exciting time in our family, full of possibility. Katie had just started 6th grade at a new school. She was making new friends, trying out for the softball team, and was ready for new challenges and a new chapter in her life. Who knew.

Katie one week before diagnosis. I look at this now and realize how much weight she had lost.

Katie one week before diagnosis. I look at this now and realize how much weight she had lost.

A day later, we were at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. I just wanted someone to say “Don’t worry, your daughter is not going to die.” I wasn’t so sure. After a sleepless night and a morning full of words we didn’t understand (beta cells, boluses, ketoacidosis…) our heads were spinning. Fortunately, our day-one angel, Jen Block, looked Katie straight in the eye and calmly reassured us: “Katie, I just want you to know that everything is going to be OK. You are going to be fine. I have type 1 diabetes just like you.” Jen showed Katie her insulin pump and explained how she could have the same thing. In Jen, I could see a grown-up Katie. And finally I knew everything was going to be OK.

Well, sort of…

Like Crawling through Broken Glass
I’m a nerd, a Geek Dad. I’ve lived and worked in Silicon Valley since college and have been really fortunate to be a part of some really cool things: I was on the founding team at TiVo and was VP of Software at Pixar. Just prior to Tidepool I was VP of Software at Amazon.

Like geeks do, I dove in to try to understand what T1D was all about. Katie had mastered computing doses and giving herself shots really quickly (great at math, that’s my girl) and we saw the value in an insulin pump and CGM right away. Within three months, Katie was on a pump and a CGM.

I tried to get us up and running with the software that came with her pump. Bzzzzzt. No sorry, thank you for playing. It won’t work with your browser. OK, you made it work with your browser, but your plugin is out of date. OK, you updated the plugin but BEWARE: it’s an unsigned app that you shouldn’t trust. OK, you are willing to take that risk, but your new computer has USB 3.0 and the USB stick isn’t compatible with that.

Some people wonder why almost no one uploads their pump data… I think I know why: because getting it to work can be like CRAWLING. THROUGH. BROKEN. GLASS. And remember: I’m a software guy, a Geek Dad… I usually LIKE dealing with this stuff. But I found that even if you could get it all to work, the software didn’t provide intuitive, actionable insights.

To make matters worse, Katie didn’t like her first CGM. It hurt to put it in (we called it “the harpoon”) and it wasn’t accurate for her. Fortunately, the Dexcom G4 had just come out, which worked MUCH better. It hurt less and gave readings that were dead-on with her BGM.

But unfortunately, Dexcom Studio is PC only we are a Mac family. I sorted that out (with Parallels for Mac), but still, we had one piece of software for the CGM, a different piece of software for the pump and BGMs, and no way to see it all together in one place.

I asked myself, over and over:

Why is this so hard? And WHY ISN’T ANYONE DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT???

Right around that time, fellow Geek Dad, T1D guy and tech blogger Scott Hanselman posted
The Sad State of Diabetes Technology in 2012”. I was fist pumping and shouting “Yeah! What he said!!!” while reading it. If you scroll halfway down the comments, you’ll see me chiming in:

“… I have a dream that a smart, motivated team of people could create ‘The Mozilla … of Diabetes Technology.’ … What if we … did it in a way the wasn’t constrained by VC funding and sought goodness, not profit?”

Scott’s article catalyzed me to take action. I met with anyone that would talk to me and looked for people who felt like I did. Jen Block introduced me to Lane Desborough (at Medtronic at the time), who introduced me to Aaron Kowalski at JDRF, who introduced me to Brandon Arbiter, who had invented this amazing app called Nutshell. I had found my peeps.

Jen also introduced me to Dr. Joyce Lee, who connected me to Dr. Saleh Adi at UCSF, and to Steve McCanne, yet another Geek Dad (or as I called us “D-Dads with Attitudes”). Steve also has a teen daughter with T1D, and had been hacking some code to make it easier for Dr. Adi to review his daughter’s data, all in one place. When I saw what Steve and Dr. Adi and the team at UCSF had put together, I knew it was the start of something beautiful.

#WeAreNotWaiting
Fast forward to now, early 2015. Tidepool has existed for just over a year and a half and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished in a very short period of time. As the hashtag says, #WeAreNotWaiting.

In the beginning, we got funded by some very generous donors. That allowed me to hire an amazing team of developers and designers. Six of us have T1D, and two of us have family members with T1D. We like to say “We have pancreas in the game.”

Our mission is simple: Deliver great software that helps reduce the burden of managing T1D.

We’re tackling that mission in a pretty unique way:

  • We are a non-profit. We’re not in this for the money. We’re in this to help make things better for the whole diabetes industry. By not competing, we can get more done.
  • We are an open source project. This lets us leverage a vibrant, motivated community. It also means we are giving away the source code for free.
  • We feel strongly that design and usability matter. T1D is a burdensome disease. You don’t need the software to be making it worse.
  • We are building everything with the utmost attention to privacy, security, HIPAA and regulatory compliance. Yes, this is more work and takes longer, but without this, we can’t achieve broad distribution and help as many people as possible.

Most importantly, we are helping the industry see the value in liberating device data. We’ve made it very clear: We believe that patients own their own health data. People should get to choose what software they want to use to for their diabetes therapy with that data.

We’ve made great progress on the open data front: Asante, Dexcom, Insulet, Tandem and Abbott have all given us their data protocols. We also have great supporters at Animas and Medtronic and they are considering it. We will also implement and support the IEEE 11073 standards for BGMs, CGMs and pumps, which will make it that much easier for device makers to create interoperable products.

What is Tidepool building, and where are we headed?
The Tidepool Platform enables the next wave of diabetes applications. It’s secure, HIPAA-compliant and lets you choose how you want to see and share your data. We hope that it will foster a whole new ecosystem of applications that help reduce the burden of T1D.

The Tidepool Uploader gets data from any diabetes device that has made their device protocol available.  It’s a Chrome Extension, so it works with Macs and PCs (and Linux, too, if you’re a geek like us :) . JDRF generously funded development of the Uploader. The project will also make it easier to gather data that will be useful to artificial pancreas researchers.

Blip is the home for all of your data. You can see it all in one place. You and the people who support you can use Blip to look, learn and make informed decisions together. Blip is currently being used in a pilot study at UCSF. We’re talking to other clinics like Stanford as well. We hope to have Blip ready for broad testing and deployment in the first half of 2015.

Nutshell is a mobile app that remembers what you ate and ties it together with your diabetes numbers. The next time you order that burrito, you can figure out how much insulin you need with confidence. Nutshell currently exists as a working prototype and we’re looking for funding to take it further.

Going forward, we have lots other projects to tackle:

  •  We’ll be asking users if they’d like to donate their data to an anonymized research database. We plan on exposing that database freely. We also plan on creating the “Tidepool Query Language” and APIs that will enable researchers to easily use our platform to conduct studies based on device data.
  • We will integrate fitness data from apps Strava and RunKeeper and devices like FitBit and FuelBand.
  • Our platform is the perfect foundation for artificial pancreas research and commercialization.
  • We’d love to build an advanced decision support interface that will help people and their doctors optimize their insulin therapy. We have a prototype of this called Sonar.
  • Some device makers will choose to let us host their data and applications. For them we’ll need to expose APIs so they can access their device’s diagnostic data and let them connect directly with their customers. We hope to generate modest revenue by doing this so that we can become a self-sustaining non-profit.

Which brings us to…

How you can help?
Most importantly, we need your financial support. So far, we’ve had some very generous donors who have supported us. Unfortunately the funding that we have received up to this point is not enough to get us to where we need to be.

The good news is that we have a solid plan to generate just enough revenue to break even and become a self-sustaining non-profit, hopefully by the end of 2015. That means that you can think of your donation as an investment in the future of diabetes technology. There is no financial return on this investment since we are a non-profit, but you will definitely rack up Good Karma.

There are other ways you can help to. If you are a developer, tester or UI designer you can volunteer as a contributor to the project. Join us at https://developer.tidepool.io for more detail. If you have experience with regulatory filings, you can help us with those. It’s a lot of work!

If you want to stay in touch with us and hear about updates, you can sign up for our mailing list at tidepool.org, join us at facebook.com/Tidepool_org and follow us on Twitter @Tidepool_org.

Thanks to Kerri for letting us take the mic for a little while, and to the entire diabetes community for your ongoing support of our efforts.

#WeAreNotWaiting

Cheers,
Howard

*   *   *

Howard Look is the founder and CEO of Tidepool, a 501c3 non-profit with the mission of reducing the burden of managing diabetes through technology. Prior to Tidepool, Howard  was on the founder’s team at TiVo where he was VP of Software and User Experience. He was also VP of Software at Pixar, where he led the team developing Pixar’s proprietary film-making system, and at Amazon where he ran a secret software project to develop devices that leverage cloud services. Howard has a BS in Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. His teenage daughter has T1D.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers