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Let’s Get it ON!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Whether you’re Irish (I am) or not, today is a day when people will wish you top o’ the morning and will also potentially offer you a beer at 9.30 am (I am not).  Today I’m looking back at a post from ten years ago wherein Mills Lane mediates a melee between a beer and a cocktail.  Read on to find out who wins …

*   *   *
The microphone drops down and Mills Lane plucks it out of the sky.

“In this corner, bringing a bevy of boluses and carbonated carbohydrate content, wearing Gold Shorts and a lime wedge, weighing in at about 12 oz is the mysterious new challenger, La Corona!”

He raises his fists in the air and burps.

“And in this corner, The Titan of Tight Control, the A1c Ally, weighing in at about 9 oz and made up of cheap vodka, cranberry juice, and a splash of Tropicana orange juice – the reigning champion, The Mighty Madras!”

Madras also pumps his fists, holding tight to a thin, red straw and a test strip.

“Gentlemen, this is the title match. Nothing below 50 mg/dl and nothing, nothing above 250 mg/dl – do you hear me? I want a good, clean fight. Now let’s get it on!”

Bell rings.

“And the Corona lurches forward right away, fists flailing! Look at those carbs, folks! The Mighty Madras is backing off a bit – I can hear those ice cubes clanking against the side of him! Corona reels back, swings out and oooooh! A solid hit to the jaw of the Madras! He’s falling back! He’s staggering! Could he be out already? Is this newcomer going to knock the ol’ Tried and True out of the ring?

The Madras is leaning against the ropes … he looks exhausted! Only a few minutes into this fight and the Cold Corona definitely has the upper hand! This could be it! …

… But wait, what’s this I see? Yes, the Mighty Madras is on his feet! He’s taken out a blood glucose meter from his pocket. He’s looking to test Kerri – judges? Are we allowing this? Yes, the judges are allowing a blood test. And Kerri, after having two of the icy cold Coronas, is up to 253 md/gl! Her bolus was grossly under estimated! They’re flashing the results across the marquee – indeed, Kerri is high and the Corona can’t stop staring at the number!

And – ooooh! – the Mighty Madras has snuck in a jab while the Corona isn’t paying attention! He’s now pummeling the Corona! There’s lime juice everywhere, my friends … this is truly a gruesome beating!”

Corona is leaning against the ropes, exhausted from the beating. The Madras reels back his fist, angry that Kerri didn’t measure correctly for her drinks and is now high as a kite. He knows he would have been easier to count. He knows he could have let Kerri enjoy steadier blood sugars and a night out. Why did she pick Corona? Was it the price? Was it the fact that “out having a beer” is what she preferred over a more pretentious mixed drink? Madras didn’t know. He didn’t care. All he knew is that the Corona was horning in on his woman and he wasn’t standing for it.

“And the Madras has brought out a bottle of insulin!! And OH MY GOD he’s cracked it over the Corona’s head! Corona is out! It’s a knock-out, dear viewers! This fight is over! Over!”

Corona falls flat against the mat, out cold. The ring smells of sweat and insulin. Mills Lane grabs the championship belt and thrusts it into Madras’s hand, declaring him “Winnah!” Madras, bleeding profusely from the eye and crying, raises the belt to the air and yells, “Kerri! Kerri!” Kerri comes running from the stands, meter in hand, and stands in front of him as she tests. “153 mg/dl. I’m coming down. I’ll be more careful next time I drink high-carb beers, O Mighty Madras. I promise!”

They embrace. The “Rocky” theme swells in the background. Kerri decides that the next time she wants to have a beer, she needs to measure more carefully and bolus with more precision. She also discovers that she has run this storyline into the ground.

Mills Lane wipes the tears from his eyes. “I love a good fight.”

The NEW Jerry the Bear.

Since they’re local to me here in Rhode Island, I drove up to the Jerry the Bear office to meet with my friends Aaron Horowitz and Hannah Chung, creators of Jerry the Bear.

“It’s awesome to see you guys! Where have you been the last few years?”

After hugs and hellos, I realized my question was unfair. Because they haven’t been hiding but instead, the team behind Jerry the Bear has been working tirelessly to change their business in efforts to meet their mission of getting Jerry into the hands of every child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes globally.

That’s quite a mission. But if anyone can accomplish this goal, the driven, passionate, creative, and all-heart team behind Jerry can.

Just your friendly neighborhood Jerry the Bear!

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“As a business, we know that Jerry the Bear works, but in order to succeed and survive, we need to make the business work. We’ve been working to move our company from a direct to consumer model to a business-to-business model. This means we’re not selling our bears directly to people but instead have partnered with two different distributors in order to get Jerry into kids’ hands,” said Jerry the Bear co-founder and CEO, Aaron Horowitz.

Namely, they’ve partnered with Beyond Type 1 to handle domestic and international orders (except Canada) and Diabetes Express for our neighbors to the north.

“We want to improve life with diabetes for kids by giving them something positive to associate with diabetes,” said Hannah Chung, co-founder and CCO.

The Sproutel team did a lot of research in developing new Jerry. In addition to marathon sessions with post it notes, building paper prototypes, and “body storming,” the team went into the field to access kids in their natural play habitats. Hannah told me that she went to playgrounds during the development phase in order to work with kids and see if they could hold a bear and a phone at the same time, testing out how the app might be physically managed by their target age range of 4 – 9 years old.

“I’d go into the playground with a bear peeking out of the back of my backpack and a handful of permission slips, talking with kids and their parents. We play games like Simon Says in order to see if kids could find the bear’s belly button or elbow, and whether or not they preferred phones or tablets.”

The mental image of Hannah traipsing through Rhode Island playgrounds with a mission to improve the diabetes experience and a stuffed animal keeping watch over her shoulder sums up the Jerry philosophy for me. This team – Hannah, Aaron, Joel Schwartz, and Brian Oley – are changing the way newly diagnosed kids with diabetes are introduced to diabetes.

I think about my own diagnosis back in 1986 – what a difference it would have made to be handed a friendly bear instead of an orange to practice injections on.

In meeting the new Jerry the Bear, the first thing I noticed was that the touch screen tummy of his predecessor was gone. Coming in at a price point of $55 versus the $299 cost of Original Jerry, New Jerry (henceforth known simply as Jerry) is a soft, plush animal without any plastic or metal hardware attached to him. He’s snuggle-ready. Looking similar to my daughter’s army of Build A Bear stuffed animals and sporting giant, Beanie Boo-esque eyes, Jerry looks like huggable buddy, the perfect comfort companion for kids with diabetes.

What’s replaced the touch screen belly, however, is an amazing upgrade. Jerry now comes with a digital world that lives on an iOS or Android device, and the app is completely free. And on Jerry’s plush body are scannable patches that serve as unique QR codes, giving rise to augmented reality play.

“We were excited to see Pokemon Go! come out and see such success,” said Aaron. “Jerry has that same kind of virtual world superimposed onto the real world. Now it is easier for Jerry’s actions to be procedurally detailed.”

Checking Jerry's BG.

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

This means that you’re not just squeezing the pad of Jerry’s finger, but instead you’re walking through all the details of checking blood sugar, from putting the test strip into the meter, pricking his finger, squeezing out a drop of blood, and applying the blood to the strip. The tasks feel real, and they feel thorough.

DO feed the bear!

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The app doesn’t require an actual Jerry the Bear stuffed animal to engage in Jerry’s world, though, and that’s one of my favorite upgrades to this experience. While Jerry himself requires a purchase, the app is free for download. And with that download comes a full world of diabetes experiential learning through the Jerry lens.

“My favorite things about [new] Jerry are that you can explore Jerry’s world in full just on the app, and also that scanning his sites gives you detailed steps around how to use Jerry’s diabetes kit,” shared Hannah. Aaron agreed, adding, “Also that you can experience Jerry instantly through the app. And that the action of scanning changes the world around you, through augmented reality play.”

“What’s the weirdest thing you saw during the test group sessions?” I asked.

Aaron laughed. “You wouldn’t believe how often kids feed Jerry’s butt.”

So there’s that.

While Jerry is aimed at helping kids in the  4 – 9 year old range who are newly diagnosed with diabetes, his potential reaches FAR past that specific demographic.  Jerry, in our home, has been used to help my daughter understand her mother’s diabetes.  He’s been a teaching tool to show kids in her class and our neighborhood what diabetes is all about.  Imagine Jerry as part of a diabetes camp experience, where teenagers can lean on levity and being silly with a stuffed animal to work through some of their frustrations.  Or helping open up discussions for all age ranges about diabetes distress or burnout.  Jerry could be a powerful conduit for conversation for all people touched by diabetes.

This little bear has potential, and plenty of it.

One more thing:  I’d love to share Jerry with two Six Until Me readers, and all you need to do is leave a comment.  Through a random number generator, I’ll select two commenters to ship a snuggly Jerry to.  This giveaway will be open until Sunday night at midnight eastern time, and winners will be notified by email.

Want to enter?  Leave a comment, and be sure to include your email!

You can check out Jerry the Bear’s new app by downloading it from iTunes or Google Play. You can also follow Jerry on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. To order your own Jerry, visit Beyond Type 1 (or Diabetes Express, if you’re in Canada). Thanks to the Sproutel team for letting me come over and play!

The Friday Six: Snowed In Edition.

Haven’t done one of these in a while.  But the snow is falling fast outside and school was cancelled before even a snowflake had touched the ground, making a link-love post the only option … as children circle me like cute sharks.

Borrowed from the Glu Facebook page:  “Glu and T1D Exchange are fighting to protect affordable health care for people in the U.S. living with chronic medical conditions. Please do your part by sending a message to Congress and the Trump administration.”  Act now.

This infographic on phone-y healthcare.

This post is terrifying.

“The only good aspects of the proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are the things it would keep from the Affordable Care Act. The rest of the bill is bad news for Americans and the future of their health.”  More from A Sweet Life.

A deep dive from diaTribe about automated insulin delivery systems.

Patient and family engaged care—going beyond tactical buzzwords” – an editorial at the BMJ.

Looking for some diabetes sisterhood this fall?  There’s a DiabetesSisters conference coming to Virginia – find out more here.

Diabetes Forecast tackles adhesive allergies and efforts to increase general stickability.

And some favorite Tweets:

 

ConnecT1D Retreat: Sign Up NOW!

Last summer, when I was 17 1/3 months pregnant, I traveled to Seattle to take part in the ConnecT1D Retreat.  Despite being a round mound of hormones, I had an awesome time connecting with other PWD adults and sharing experiences.  It was put together by an amazing team of PWD leaders, and today, the Board President of ConnecT1D is sharing details about the 2017 conference.  

(And note:  registration ends on March 15, so register today!!)

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Kerri:  Hi Cassady! Thanks for making some time to talk. Can you let readers know a little bit about you and your connection to diabetes? 

Cassady:  Hi Kerri! A few fun facts about me: I enjoy plants but do not like to garden; gummy bears are best served cold so I keep mine in the refrigerator; my current binge-watching show is “Seinfeld”, and my two cats were in my wedding this past year when I married the coolest guy in the world. We created a special wagon covered in toole for them and my niece pulled it down the aisle—not as a flower girl, but under the official title of “Head of Feline Transportation: Ceremony Division.”

Also, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about 22 years ago. As a teenager, I struggled quite a bit with T1D, both physically and emotionally. Despite having all the medical care I needed, I was labeled a “non compliant” patient who just couldn’t seem to get it together. I remember feeling so alone and overwhelmed with shame and guilt during those times. That’s when I came to see the bi-directional relationship between physical health, especially chronic medical conditions and psychological well-being. Luckily I started seeing a counselor, and discovered the power of emotional support and connection.

I decided to take my personal experience and combine it with professional training as a mental health therapist, and that’s what I do now! I help people with diabetes and other chronic illnesses address the psychosocial issues that, much like that awful bunny onesie Ralphie gets in “A Christmas Story,” so often show up uninvited. No one gets what he’s going through, but I bet they would if they had to wear one. I get it, because I, too, have worn the pink bunny suit.

Kerri:  Who hasn’t worn the bunny suit?  You’re involved with ConnecT1D. Can you tell readers what that organization is about and what your role is there?

Cassady:  I am the Board President of ConnecT1D, which is a nonprofit in the Pacific Northwest that sees social support as a vital part of type 1 diabetes treatment. That’s why we create social support opportunities for families, teens, and adults living with T1D. We do this by bringing people together for meet-ups, educational meetings, retreats, and lots of other fun programming. Speaking of which, I am also the Co-Chair of the ConnecT1D Adult Retreat

Kerri:  Good timing with that mention. The ConnecT1D retreat is coming up soon! What makes this event awesome?

Cassady:  The Retreat is an opportunity for adults living with T1D (partners welcome!) to get together to relax and connect with people who have a deep understanding of what life with diabetes is like. It’s great to be in a room where people are whipping out needles, talking about carb counts and you are not required to explain yourself when you mutter things like, “I’m high” or that when you say “basal”, you are not referring to an underrated garden herb. (Please see “Fun facts” in Question 1.) Inclusion can be life-saving. Isolation can be devastating.

Kerri:  I was lucky enough to visit last summer and hang out with the ConnecT1D team. The event was awesome. What can attendees expect from the 2017 conference? 

Cassady:  We will spend a weekend at the Clearwater Resort and Casino, just a 15 minute ferry ride from Seattle, WA. National and local speakers (who have T1D themselves, or a close connection to it) will lead workshops on a variety of topics promoting social connection and emotional wellness while living with T1D. Mike Lawson of the Diabetes Hands Foundation will be our keynote and he’ll talk about his own experience with and ideas for overcoming diabetes burnout. We even have a workshop for partners/T3s! Being a support person of a PWD is not always easy and often has it’s own set of challenges, and we want to have a dialogue about elements of the T3 life as well! In the evening, we’ll hang out and take advantage of the Resort—whether that’s heading to the casino to listen to live music or sitting fireside with a new friend.

Kerri:  I’m sure people want to go check it out. How can folks find out more about the event??

Cassady:  For more information or to register, please go to connect1d.org/retreat. Once you register, you can join a closed Facebook group where attendees can connect and get updates on the Retreat. The page also ends up being a cool resource even after the Retreat because it’s a place where we can build on and keep in touch with the community formed during the weekend, ask questions, share resources, and post hilarious cat-themed diabetes gifs.

Just kidding. They don’t have to be cat themed. Registration ends March 15th and space is limited!

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Thanks, Cassady!   Whoops one more:

 

 

The Follow Up About Dexcom.

Today is Day 7.  I’ll be pulling this sensor off in six hours.

Day 7. No filter. No rash. No worries. #dexcom

A post shared by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

No rash.  No filter.  Does this mean no worries?

(For reference, this post is a follow up from a week ago when I put on a Dexcom G5 sensor and transmitter without a barrier underneath the sensor.  For the last four and a half years, I’ve had an allergic/irritation response to the sensor.  Big, scaly rashes would blister up and take weeks to heal … like the one currently on my left thigh.  But rumor had it that sensors with an expiration date past 8/17/2017 were not causing this rash reaction.  

So I tried a 11/2017 expiration-dated sensor and the result?  No rash. NO RASH! The only issue I noticed was some blood around the transmitter after inserting it, but I wonder if that happens more often than I realize and the Toughpad had previously kept the blood from being visible. Whatever the case, I’m not itchy yet and I’m really, really hopeful that this rash issue is tabled forever. Next question is what to do with the box of sensors that has a pre-August 2017 expiration date …)

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