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A Wicked Rash.

When I was younger, my pediatric endocrinologist told me that I shouldn’t be poking the syringes into the parts of my skin that didn’t hurt.  “If you don’t feel the pinch of the needle, that means you have scar tissue building up, which can lead to poor absorption of the insulin.”  She stayed on me about rotating injection sites, and even though I didn’t like rotating to new spots that hurt a little, she was right.  The more I rotated, the better my skin felt and fewer egg-bumps of scar tissue formed under my skin.

… shame on me for not following that same rotation protocol when it comes to Dexcom sensors.  I wear mine almost exclusively on my outer thigh because that’s where they feel the best, stay put the best, and are least apt to peel away before their time is up.  For several years, this worked fine because I rotated within the thigh site, making sure not to reuse an area in the same month.  But once the Dexcom adhesive rash started, I was screwed because the skin was taxed not just by the sensor itself, but by the residual rash.

Dexcom rash management has been better lately because of precautionary measures, but sometimes the rash flares up as a result of ten different factors (all ones that itch).  Last week, I was traveling for work and kept applying Opsite Flexifix tape to my Dexcom sensor as it was starting to peel away (and yes, I had a spare sensor on me but still didn’t want to pull the one that was working.  I’m a stubborn human.)  I covered that thing with tape.  And for two days, it was great.  But then it started to turn a little red underneath the tape (not the sensor adhesive, but the skin underneath the tape).  After another day, it went entirely bananas and turned bright red and started to swell.

“I can feel the heat of the infection through my jeans,” I said out loud to Chris.  At which point, I realized I was a frigging idiot for not pulling the sensor off.

Off it came, and what lurked beneath was gross.  (“It was the worst Dexcom rash … I ever seen!!”  Actual Large Marge quote.)  No way was I going to take a picture for evidence because it was horribly nasty and I’m irresponsible for letting the cost/convenience/reinstallation of the sensor supersede the integrity of my skin.  What was underneath the Toughpad was completely fine, but every bit of skin that had come into contact with the Opsite tape alone was raised, red, and borderline blistering.

It took a week for that site to heal, and only after I carefully applied Neosporin and bandaged to it.  Which brought me to that unfortunate realization:  I suck at rotating my Dexcom sensor sites.  And I need to be better about it, especially since the data is very important to me.

So I’m trying out a new spot in efforts to give my thighs some time to properly heal.  For the last week, I’ve had a sensor on my lower hip and it has worked much better than I thought it would.  It’s just below the belt time on my outer hip (see Gingerbread Man for placement accuracy because holidays) and despite the rub of pants, etc. it is staying put and not peeling up.  I have a little bit of Opsite tape on the lower edge and so far, so good.

I hope this sensor can run its seven day course without leaving a mark.  Because otherwise … itch, please.

Animas Vibe APPROVED in the US!

Oh YAY!!!

[Disclosures first:  I have a sponsorship relationship with Animas and have since early 2010, so everything said here is colored by that bias.  For more information on my disclosures, you can read my disclosure page.]

I was really excited to see in my inbox this morning that the Animas Vibe insulin pump has been approved for use in the USA for adults.  This device integrates my insulin pump and my CGM into one device, giving me one less thing to lose and one less thing to carry (and one less expensive thing to throw when frustrated).  As a human being who is not a kangaroo, this is a plus for me.  And integration with the CGM product that I know and trust (and also have a disclosure about – bias!) is an even bigger plus.

Worldwide President at Diabetes Care for LifeScan/Animas, Val Asbury said:  “We are excited to celebrate this significant milestone in our efforts to expand Animas® Vibe’s™ global footprint and our insulin delivery offerings to adult patients (ages 18 years and older).  Animas® Vibe™ is an important addition to our product portfolio because we are now able to offer patients in the US a solution that allows them to view glucose data and administer insulin right from the pump – simplifying and aiding in their ability to make more informed decisions and fine-tune insulin delivery.”

(For the record, Val and her team added their own little R-in-the-circle thing because they are official.  I am not as official.  I’m just excited.)

I asked the Animas team about upgrades for folks who are using an Animas pump but are still within warranty, and the response I received from Dave Detmers (Director of Communications) was:  “Once Animas® Vibe™ is commercially available in the US, we will provide an EZAccess Upgrade program, which offers patients who qualify the opportunity to upgrade to our latest technology. More details will be available surrounding the EZAccess Upgrade program once the program has launched.”  Like you, I am not sure how that will shake out, but once I have more details, I’ll share ASAP.

For now, I’m thankful that the Vibe has finally been approved by the FDA, as this moment marks progress.  I like progress. And I’m excited to see it happening.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!!  <3 the Sparlings

Diabetes Month, Diabetes Year.

Diabetes Awareness Month is almost over, closing out on November 30th.  Throughout the month, I’ve watched some really inspiring efforts take flight to raise awareness for diabetes, including the Project Blue November campaign.  Project Blue November has been a big part of my Facebook feed throughout the month, showcasing photos of advocates and celebrities alike sporting their blue circle pin.

My blue circle pin is something I wear every time I’m out in public.  I have one that I take on-and-off whatever jacket I’m wearing and a one permanently stuck on the bookbag I use when I’m traveling.


Diabetes Month is almost over, but I wear my awareness everywhere I travel. #PWDpride. Also, #rhodypride.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

I don’t spend the majority of my days on a diabetes advocacy soapbox, but having that pin on me at all times makes me feel like I’m wearing a teeny Bat-Signal of advocacy.  It sends out a signal that I love someone (many someones) with diabetes.  It’s a beacon for broken islets.  It’s a sign that I care about the community as a whole.

Every month is diabetes month when you live with it.  This disease is every day, every month, all year long without respite.  But it’s not a “woe is me” headgame.  It’s more a “keep going; life is worth the effort” sort of mentality.

This month has been more scattered than usual, and I felt like I kind of phoned it in for diabetes month.  My focus was on other things, other people, other events and honestly?  That break felt good.  I think when the focus is “supposed to be diabetes,” I lose steam.  (File it under “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” which might be the biggest file in my mental cabinet.)  Advocacy has to feel right, and natural, and not forced for me.  Finding my footing sometimes requires a few weeks of mental quiet.

I’ll keep my pin on.  And when I’m ready to raise my voice again, I’ll do just that.  In the meantime, I need to feel comfortable with whatever level of storytelling and sharing fits my need, regardless of the month or awareness initiative.

Birdy the Kid and Jerry the Bear.

“Jerry has diabetes, like you do, mom.  So I give him food and insulin and check his blood sugar and he likes to play archery.”

A brief pause as Birdy rand her hands over Jerry’s soft bear ears.

“Mom, what’s archery?”


A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

[Disclosure:  Jerry was a gift from Hannah to Birdy.  We did not purchase Jerry.]

Yesterday, Hannah Chung from Sproutel kindly visited Birdzone and I to drop off a new friend for my daughter:  Jerry the Bear.  Jerry is a stuffed animal bear who has type 1 diabetes, and part of snuggling him and playing with him can also include checking his blood sugar by pressing a button on his paw.  Developed to help kids make sense of their own diabetes diagnosis, Jerry helps normalize diabetes by being a kindred spirit who also needs insulin and glucose tabs. 

He’s a stuffed animal who happens to have diabetes.  Similar to how I’m a mom who happens to have diabetes.

And that’s exactly how I want my daughter to learn about life with diabetes, with the constant, comfortable caveat that diabetes provides a to-do list, but it can be done.  And it can be fun.

Birdy knows quite a bit about diabetes, but mostly the brass tacks sort of stuff.  She likes to press the button on my lancing device (though she’s always surprised when a drop of blood comes out – “Does that hurt, Mom?”  “No, kiddo.”  “Are you sure?  Because I see blood.”), she prides herself on selecting the spot for my insulin pump infusion set, and she has a solid grasp on the meaning of the sounds ringing out from my Dexcom.

What she and I have not discussed, however, is what so many of the numbers mean.  She knows that my glucose meter gives me numbers of some kind and that I respond to them with certain sets of actions, but the numbers aren’t in context.  165 means the same at 50 means the same as 433 … nothing.  They are just numbers, or at least they were, until yesterday.  Yesterday, through her interactions with Jerry, Birdy learned what “high” and “low” look like as glucose numbers.

“Jerry is high.  See?  His number is one-seven-six.  He has to pee.  I need to give him some water and some insulin,” she said to me yesterday and she and Jerry were coloring at the kitchen table.

“Oh yeah?  So what will you do, then?”

“Mom, I already said I will give him insulin.  And some water.  I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay then,” and I turned away so she couldn’t see me smirking.

Later in the afternoon, she asked me how many glucose tabs she needed to give to Jerry if his blood sugar was low.

“How many do I usually take?” I asked her.

“You stack them up on the counter.  You take four.  Is four right, mom?”

(And this is where she teaches me something  – I do stack up the glucose tabs on the counter before I eat them.  I take out a set number and make sure I eat precisely what I take out, to help avoid over-treating and to also help protect me from forgetting to eat enough in the flurry of a hypoglycemic episode.)

“Yes, four should do it.”

“Okay.”  She “feeds” Jerry four glucose tabs and checks his blood sugar.  “Oh, I fixed it.  He’s not low anymore.”  She smiles, satisfied.  “Hey, do you know that if I smush his fur down and draw my finger through it, I can make eyebrows for Jerry?”

I want her to continue to draw eyebrows on Jerry.  Just because his little stuffed pancreas doesn’t splutter the way it should doesn’t mean he should have weak eyebrow game, yeah?

As she learns, I want her to feel safe and feel protected, empowered to ask and to help.  Resources like Jerry aren’t just for kids with diabetes, but for kids touched by diabetes on all levels.  I want my daughter to learn about my diabetes absent discussions about complications, fear, and pity.  I want her to see type 1 diabetes in the context of my actual life, which is filled with joy and chaos unrelated to my health.  She should know about this health condition because it’s part of what I do every day, and part of what she does, too, after a fashion.

Because it’s not about diabetes; it’s about life.

Airport Connections.

The plane from Cincinnati to Washington, DC was a petite one, leaving little room for carry-on luggage and even less for calm.  After ferreting out my medication bag from my suitcase, I checked it at the gate and ended up second-to-last to board the plane.

“Smells like … something, doesn’t it?”  The gentleman behind me asked casually.  I wasn’t sure if he was addressing me, but I answered anyway.

“It does.  Like a ham sandwich.  Or Bad Thanksgiving,” I replied, noticing that the plane had a “stale cold cuts” smell to it.

We boarded the small plane and took our seats at the back of it.  Turns out the scent-sitive man who boarded behind me was also my seatmate.

We chatted briefly for a few moments about what we did for work – he worked for a surgical medical device company, I told him I was a writer – and then the discussion turned specifically to medical devices.

“I’m familiar, to a certain extent, with some medical devices.  I wear a few for diabetes management,” I said.  “Going through TSA is always interesting.”

He looked at me for a minute.  “Diabetes?  Type 1?”

“Yes.  Since I was seven years old.”

“My daughter is nine.  She also has type 1.”

And over the course of our flight to Washington, DC on the plane that smelled like spoiled lunch, this kind man and I compared notes on life with type 1 diabetes from our different perspectives.  It wasn’t a life-changing moment or a pivotal interaction, but served to confirm once again, how diabetes becomes a common thread that brings strangers together.

Even on a stinky plane.

 

Breakage.

Yep.  Bullet points.  It’s that kind of post.

  • It’s been several days since I’ve checked in on this blog.  Someone emailed me and asked me if I was still alive.
  • This is to confirm that yes, I am still alive.  :)
  • It was an unintentional break from blogging (and all things social media) due to the chaos of selling our house, buying a new house, and then moving into that new house.
  • It was weird, though.  The first day or two of not posting was top-of-mind for me, but after a couple extra days, it felt like a nice break.  My brain revolted, at first, not checking email and not being up on what was being discussed re: World Diabetes Day and all the advocacy stuff related to November.
  • But then it felt good.  A respite from the flow of diabetes.  Not that there was a break in my own personal diabetes flow (I still have type 1 diabetes, still pumping insulin, still CGM’ing, still testing my blood sugar … the list goes on), but I had no idea what was going on in the community and I was actually okay with that.
  • I spent World Diabetes Day packing and hanging out with Chris and the Birdzone.  Can’t complain even the littlest bit about that.
  • And now we have a new home (still proud Rhode Islanders) and are adjusting to life in a new town with a lot of cardboard boxes still waiting to be dealt with.
  • A lot of diabetes things have happened in the last week or two, though.  Stuff I want to make sure I mention before my synapses collapse.
  • Like the new Dexcom transmitter.  The lower-profile Dexcom transmitter has made a big difference in my wearability of the sensor.  The sensor has always worked well for me (since the STS days from years ago), so it’s not a matter of accuracy, etc.  But the larger transmitter that came with the G4 originally was noticeably bigger, and the “bulge in my pants” jokes were made as a coping mechanism, not because I enjoyed having this big lump in my pants.  The slimmer transmitter is better, for me, since my sensor is on my outer thigh the majority of the time.
  • (I can’t write “lump in my pants” or “bulge” without feeling creepy and immature.  Which makes me creepy and immature.)
  • I haven’t downloaded the 505 software update, though, because we don’t have a PC handy in our house.  So I’ll need to siphon off of a colleague’s computer in the coming days.  I’ve heard good things about the 505 update, and I’m excited to see progress coming monthly instead of … decade-ly?
  • Hey, there is still time to do your Big Blue Test!  Have you done it yet?  You can.  You don’t even have to have diabetes.  Seriously.  Just move your ass a little.  More here.


  • This cartoon reminds me of the time my macular edema was something the doctor informed the computer screen about, instead of looking at me. That was a crummy moment. Patient-centered shouldn’t mean screen time replacing face time. Or, you know, HUMAN INTERACTION.
  • Came across this word tonight and am better for it. What a great word – “ensorcell.”
  • In cleaning out our old house, I found an old bottle of witch hazel.  If you’ve ever had a bad night with tequila, don’t use witch hazel to clean your face or your body will have a prompt flashback.
  • I found this while packing:

    Never trust a big butt and a smile.

    A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

  • And on a very personal note, my cousin is an aspiring filmmaker and is part of a group putting together a documentary about homelessness in New Haven, CT.  Here’s a link to their Kickstarter campaign, H A V E N.
  • AND THIS THIS THIS IRONMAN THIS!!!!! Man, that is cool and I can’t wait to tell Birdy.
  • And that’s it. Brain, emptied!

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