Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘dexcom’

When Good Insulin Goes BAD.

Ninety percent of the time, my high blood sugar has an identifiable reason, and there’s a cluster of common causes.  Did I under-estimate the carbs in a snack and therefore under-bolus?  Did I over-treat a low blood sugar?  Did I eat without bolusing at all (it happens)?  Is there a lot of stress floating around that I’m responding to?

Most of the time, those questions cover the why.  Once in a while, my highs are for rogue reasons, like an air bubble in my pump tubing.  Or when I eat something carb-heavy right after an insulin pump site change (it’s like that first bolus doesn’t “catch” somehow).  Or I forgot to reconnect my pump.  Or if the cat bites through my pump tubing.

But rarely, if ever, is one of my high blood sugars the result of bad insulin.

Except it totally happened last week, when two days of bullshit high numbers had me mitigating every possible variable … other than swapping out the insulin itself.  (And clearly I’m stubborn and/or in denial about the quality of my insulin’s influence on my blood sugars?)  I rage-bolused.  I exercised.  I low-carbed the eff out of an entire day.  I did a site change at midnight to take a bite out of the highs.  Nothing.  The downward-sloping arrow on my Dexcom graph had gone on hiatus.

(Always a punched-in-the-gut feeling to see the word HIGH on a Dexcom graph, accompanied by an up arrow.)

But ditching the bottle of insulin entirely and swapping in a new Humalog vial?  That did the trick in a big way.  For once, it was the insulin.  Next time, it will surely be the cat.

LOW.

BEEP!BEEP!BEEP! from the Dexcom receiver on the bedside table.

I heard it beeping for a long time.

Woke up with sweat pouring off my forehead and running down the side of my face, pooling up in my ears and in my collarbone.  The pillow was soaked.  My hair was soaked.  An outline of me underneath me, the line drawn with the panicked sweat of hypoglycemia.

Panic.  But tempered panic, since I was so deep into the low that I was slow in recognizing anything.  My status updated slowly:  This is a low.  This is a bad, bad low.  Eat something in a hurry or you’ll probably die.

The juice box on the bedside table was hard to assemble.  Plastic sleeve around the straw, poking the straw through the foil hole … all actions I’ve done before but it took 30 seconds apiece for me to figure out how the whole thing worked.  I drank the juice as fast as I could, in just a gulp or two and then I settled back into my self-made sweat lodge.

A few minutes later – maybe two, maybe twenty – Birdy arrived fresh from a nightmare, clutching her blanket and asking to sleep in our bed because she was scared.  I don’t remember gathering her up, but I do remember putting her on the outskirts of my dampness, snuggling her up against her still-sleeping father.  I was scared, too, still arranging blankets, trying to find a cool, dry section.  I looked at the Dexcom, and it only told me I was LOW and had been LOW for a long time.

Normally, I get up and brush my teeth after a low blood sugar.  Sometimes I use the hairdryer to dry my hypo-damped hair.  This time, I couldn’t move my ankles without feeling the dizziness flooding up to my hairline.  I used the edge of my t-shirt to mop the sweat from my ears.  So gross.  But necessary.

This morning I woke up chilled to the bone, the result of falling back asleep soaked to the skin and then drying off in the cool, fall night.  The Dexcom told me I had risen up safely to 109 mg/dL, and my meter confirmed that result.  My family bounced up and was ready to start their day, and I followed behind them, nursing the hypoglycemic hangover, grateful for technology that woke me up and for portion-controlled hypo treatment, but pretty fucking pissed off that diabetes was the nightmare last night.

 

Diasend: Now With More CGM!?

Is it a glitch?  A misfiring Internet tube?  A mistake that they haven’t realized yet and now I’m that jerk for pointing it out?  WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?!!

Dexcom data, now available for upload on Diasend.  I don’t know when this changed (last time I looked was over 18 months ago), but it’s working now.  Even here, deep in Rhode Island (can’t go too deep, actually, as it’s a very small state).

After digging through the box of diabetes-related cables that lives in my bathroom cupboard, I can easily upload my glucose meter (Verio Sync), insulin pump (Animas Ping – actually not the easiest upload because it requires dongle dexterity and I can barely say “dongle” without losing it, so being dextrous is extra difficult), and continuous glucose monitor (Dexcom G4).  All my data garbage, dumped into one source.

It’s not streamlined, but it’s closer, and I’ll frigging take it.

(For a list of supported devices, check out this link.  And if you knew Diasend worked with Dexcom for US accounts a long time ago, sorry for being late to the game.  Also, why didn’t you tell me?  I am now VERY EXCITED and the CAPS BUTTON is sort of STUCK.)

Best Intentions Need to Stick.

Yesterday, my bag was packed with all kinds of good intentions.  My CGM sensor was only three day old, on a bright and shiny Toughpad to prevent adhesive rash!  The Dexcom receiver was fully charged!  My CGM in the Cloud rig was all charged up and ready to send my data into the cloud so that I would have a safety net while traveling to Washington, DC for the night.  Extra test strips and a fully charged Verio Sync meter?  I’M ON IT.  My wallet even had a few slips of Opsite Flexifix tape cut into band-aid sized strips and wedged into the change purse, ready to help hold down a wilting sensor.

Much best!  So intentioned!

… which did me zero good when I arrived in DC and my receiver threw a SENSOR FAILED error message after I went to the gym, forcing me to reboot before dinner.  Which meant I went to dinner without a CGM graph, which made me feel like I was sort of flying blind, but then I realized I left my glucose meter in my hotel room so I was actually flying blind without any way to check my blood sugar or calibrate my CGM during the meal.

… and then, sometime during the night, the sensor came loose and fell off my thigh.

All these good intentions? They need to STICK.

Whoa! Woe.

First this:

Then this:

So whoa!  Much woe.

Clouding on the Road.

The CGM in the Cloud concept matters most to me when I’m traveling alone.  While I was in Orlando last week, my bedside table looked like this at night:

A Moto G hooked up to my Dexcom G4, sending CGM data to the cloud.

And that data being routed to my family back in Rhode Island and to my wristwatch.

A few questions I heard from people throughout the conference:

“What peace of mind does it give you that the CGM itself doesn’t?”

I slept better with this thing rigged up.  It’s a clumsy set-up (all those cables and wires and plugged-in-ports) but the ends justify the means.  Chris could see my data while I was sleeping, and his system would alert him to any wicked overnight hypos, should they occur.  That’s some good peace of mind for me when I’m a plane ride away from my support system.  While my overnights are usually unnervingly spot-on (nailing down my overnight basal has been the luckiest break ever, and I blame my in-range A1C on spending those 6+ sleeping hours in-target), low blood sugars still creep in and can cause chaos.  I liked being hooked up while I was sleeping.

“Why wear it connected throughout the day?”

It was more convenient than I thought to have the graph running on a watch.  I didn’t realize how often I go digging through my bag for my Dexcom receiver until I spent a few days not doing that.  I like the seamless flick of the wrist and the “Hey, that’s my number,” and moving one sentiment.  But, to be honest, I think I kept it hooked up during the day partly because I knew people would have questions/want to see the rig and I wanted to be able to show them. Nothing answers questions better than seeing the system “in the wild.”

“Why don’t you wear it all the time?”

What made it less convenient to keep the system “clouding” on this trip is that I haven’t purchased a data plan for the Android phone yet, and have been running it off of open wifi signals (the hotel, convention center, restaurants, etc).  That’s a definite hurdle, and since the system is most important for me to run while I’m sleeping during travel (or home while Chris is traveling), using wifi seems to work best for my needs.  It’s simple to connect/disconnect from the cloud system as I need to.  I’m also hesitant to tax the USB port on my Dexcom receiver because I don’t have a spare receiver and I also don’t want to break the device I have come to rely on.

“Do you really want your family seeing your numbers all the time?  What about your privacy?”

Really good question.  This is why I’m looking forward to the Dexcom Share application, because that app will allow me to revoke access to my data if I choose.  As it stands now, my CGM data is clouded to a site that I have shared with my husband and my mother, and if I’m hooked up to the CGM in the Cloud system, they have access to my data.  It’s not a password-protected application.  I would love to see the data protected by some kind of password system.  I appreciate the option to share the data for my safety, but not for their scrutiny.  However, when it comes to the overnights while I’m traveling, I don’t care who sees those numbers.  Their having access makes me feel less vulnerable, and I’m willing to sacrifice my data privacy for those 6+ hours.

Clouding CGM data is a work-in-progress.  Much like life with diabetes.

#wearenotwaiting

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

“You trusted it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ally nodded.  “I did say that.”

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

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

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

This is where the Bionic Challenge comes in.

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

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

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

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

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

Because it works.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers