Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘insulin pump’

Traffic Jam.

Last week, I was up in Boston visiting with Ed Damiano to hear some updates on the bionic pancreas (now known as the iLet – more on that later meeting this week), and our meeting ended late in the afternoon.

Which means I climbed into my car to make the drive home on Route 93 south towards Rhode Island at 6 pm.

For anyone who lives in New England, you know this is a recipe for sitting in the car in maddening traffic for hours.  The drive in and out of Boston is abysmal and unforgiving.  Sitting in traffic for hours on end trying to get to one stupid exit only to have to sit in traffic again for another long while is a waste of time and makes me endlessly grateful for my short commute.

But dude … I was on an iLet high, excited after hearing about how this new technology might help keep me healthy while freeing up brain space previously assigned to diabetes management.  Unfortunately, after peeking at my Dexcom, I was also on a bit of a blood sugar high.

212 mg/dL with an arrow pointing straight up, to be more precise.

“Gosh darn it,” is what I would have said if Birdy was in the car with me.  I was already in traffic.  It was going to be a long, needing-to-pee-because-hyperglycemia.  Time to bolus.

Several boops and beeps later, the correction bolus was en route.


“Oh for pete’s sake,” is another thing I would have said if Birdy was in the car.

I looked at the pump.  I haven’t had an occlusion alarm in ages, so I wasn’t sure what would happen next.  After confirming that none of the insulin had been delivered, I tried it again.


Well okay then.  Time for Plan B.

Plan B is always an option because I am painfully prepared for all kinds of crap things to happen at the most crap of times.  (Except that one time.)  My family mocks me for my giant purse, but when someone needs a bandaid or an insulin set or a t-shirt or a 3 lb bag of coffee or a brick or a small (small) weasel, I am their go-to girl.

Which explains why the contents of my purse often paint me as some kind of drug lord, because I thankfully had a syringe in my meter bag and a back-up insulin pen in my purse, just for moments like these when I’m in Boston traffic and need to shoot up quickly.  I disconnected my pump, uncapped my pen, and took my correction bolus old school style.  Nineteen and a half hours (read: two) later, I was back in my diabetes supply closet safety zone, where I could swap for a new pump set up.

This is exactly why I carry an insulin pen with me at all times. Even when it seems like overkill.

Which also reminds me – I need to update my stash of small (small) weasels.

Guest Post: Does Diabetes Tech Assist or Insist?

Several years ago, I “met” DCScribe (who remains mostly anonymous) on Twitter and he and I did not see eye-to-eye on much, aside from sharing the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  For a while, the lack of common ground frustrated me because I identify with and bond over experiences, but then I realized the alternative viewpoints he provided were not only important but essential to my growth as an advocate.  It is good for me to hear perspectives outside of my comfort zone; they help keep me realistic.  And when I had the chance to sit down and have lunch with DCScribe several months ago, it was really nice to confirm that two people who might butt heads constantly can still share a mutual respect … and a lunch table.

He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 8 months and has lived with T1 for more than 50 years. Over the course of his career as a journalist, he has worked as a reporter in Washington for 26 years covering the White House and Congress as well as conflicts overseas, hurricanes including Andrew and Katrina, and every presidential election since 1988.  He’s recently embarked on a new career in global health that will take him to the frontlines in the battle against Ebola, malaria, AIDs and other scourges around the world.

And today, DCScribe is taking a turn here at Six Until Me to talk about diabetes technology as something that assists or insists.  Read on for more.

*   *   *

The older I get the more I’m struck by how the decisions I make in so many facets of life are deeply informed and influenced by my long career refereeing soccer at the highest levels.  It’s even shaped my relationship with diabetes technology. And yeah, I can hear the rumbling. “Holy hell. Where’s this going? That dude ought to check his ‘sugar.’”

But it does. And here’s why. Reffing has helped me understand the difference between someone (or something) who “assists” and someone (or something) who “insists.”

It’s a question every diabetic should ask when making a decision about the technology you need (and don’t), how to use it and whether it means being in control or under control. Understanding where that line falls and enforcing it is central to my D management and my easy, stress-free life with the disease.

I speak only for myself, of course, and concede there might be gaps in my perspective. After all, only two other people outside my wife and kids and my doctor knows of my condition and my identity. My wife knows I use a pump but doesn’t know the brand or really how it works. I never share my BGs with anyone, though I’ll offer vague updates at home such as, “I’m gonna wait a bit to eat dinner.” It works for me; I’ve never had a single bad day from diabetes in more than 50 years. Sure, some days are better than others but not one has been truly bad or difficult.

There are lots of reasons, but an important one is my comfortable but always skeptical relationship with technology.

I have no idea if I’m different in that respect. But from scanning the Diabetes Online Community twitter feed and beyond, I wonder if enough people asking the question about technology’s proper place and power. (Here’s one place where it was asked and discussed publicly. It’s a cautionary tale and luckily I can’t ever imagine finding myself in a similar place.)

At the same time, I’m not immune from the pull of technology. I use a pump and have for 16 years (though my current pump is 7-years-old. Let’s face it: a pump is little more than a tricked-out syringe.) It’s why I got my first blood glucose meter in the 1970s and have used one ever since (though my one-and-only meter today is 9-years-old.) It’s why I’ve never used a continuous glucose monitor and never will. I’m constantly examining that distinction and that, along with my natural skepticism keeps me from chasing the latest, often imperfect, shiny object until its use and accuracy are proven.

This also fits with my belief that too much information can be more of a burden than a savior, especially if that information is imperfect. I wonder too if a fixation on technology diverts attention from proven and powerful “human factors.” For me, the basis of my success and easy life with D is rooted in discipline when it comes to food, making sure I’m physically fit and a refusal to ever use diabetes as an excuse for anything at any time.

Which brings me back to the beginning and “the pitch.”

In soccer, most games have three refs (though in a lot of my games there’s also a Fourth Official.) The Center Ref is the only one with a whistle. He or she prowls the entire field and is the one person responsible for fair play and safety; for keeping the official game clock and chaos to a manageable level. The Center Ref is the ultimate and singular authority. All decisions start and end with him or her.

The Center Ref uses his or her experience, training, knowledge and physical fitness to manage the game, navigate nuances and the many “gray areas” woven into the Laws of the Game and to ensure the rules are applied in a fair and consistent way.

But the Center isn’t alone. Along for the ride are two Assistant Referees, one on each sideline. Without ARs, the Center’s job is difficult if not impossible, especially on a regulation field that measures 120 yards by 80 yards.
The ref crew is a team in the truest sense, but to work well, everyone understands this: Good assistant referees never “insist.” Their job is to “assist.” That means there are times when the Center Ref will wave down a flag (or tell an AR through the headset) because the Center Ref is in a better position or has more experience or a different understanding of the larger picture.

Replace “AR” with “diabetes technology” and you get the idea.

That’s why I seldom follow the number my bolus “wizard” spits out. Its why, when my meter says I’m 70 mg/dL and I’m getting ready to ref a game that will require running upwards of seven miles and demand thousands of decisions, including a few that are game critical, I don’t hesitate. I appreciate my meter’s “assistance,” jam a granola bar in my mouth, wash down with a gulp of sports drink and go. But not always. Sometimes I simply walk on the field and start the game.

I seek assistance in carefully chosen places. That makes perfect sense to me. It doesn’t mean I’m anti-technology.

I’m a guy, so I’m hard-wired to get all tingly from even most dubious technological “innovation.” It should be no surprise that I would have instantly given up insulin before surrendering my satellite phone or the solar charger for my up-armored laptop when I was reporting overseas. In the early 1980s I had a very public and very serious relationship with my 30-pound Teleram “portable” computer that I happily lugged from one corner of the country to the next so I could transmit stories to the Mothership at the wondrous rate of 1,200 baud per minute.

And yet, I still use a 5-year-old iPhone and have zero urge to change because … it works.

Technology is great. I love it. I use it – a lot of it. But skepticism is more useful for me, as is enough patience to make sure the latest, greatest bit of technology works as advertised, and that whatever tech I use in my ride with diabetes knows its place, no matter how hyped or magical or shiny.

*   *   *

Thanks for your perspectives, DCScribe.  And for the link to the oldest computer ever. 

My IOB and Me.

There’s a lot of data that PWD (people with diabetes) spin through on a daily basis – carbs counts, insulin units, blood sugar results, blah, blah, blaaaaaaah there’s so much shit sometimes.  I’ve been encouraged by my endocrinologist to download my data and review it every week or two in order to assess trends over time, but I don’t do that as often as I should.  I’m more of a monthly downloader, and I definitely download every night-before-the-endo-appointment, but a systematic review of my diabetes data is one of those things I could do more consistently.

However, the data is crucial to my health success.  I just tend to lean more heavily on the daily data than the month-long reviews.

Like my beloved IOB.  IOB stands for “insulin on board” and it’s a tool in my insulin pump that calculates how much insulin from my most recent boluses is still “active” in my system.  And I don’t know if most pumpers love their IOB data as much as I do, but I LOVE mine.  Love.  Stupid love.  It’s part of the trifecta of diabetes that I rely on every night before bed.

The checklist is short, but always, always the same: every single night before I go to bed, I check my blood sugar on my meter, comparing that number against the CGM graph.  Then I click through on my CGM graph to get feel for how the day has mapped.  And then I click through on my pump to check my beloved IOB to see how much insulin might be in play.  (Okay, honestly I check on my daughter in her bed first.  She’s usually asleep with her hair tousled into a huge mess against her pillow, with Loopy curled up against her legs.  But then I do all the diabetes garbage.)

Checking the IOB in conjunction with the CGM graph and my glucose number gives me a fighting chance against middle-of-the-night hypoglycemia.  And in the last year or so, it’s been a check that’s worked really well.  Several times (last night, for instance), I will look at my data sources and determine that a low might be teased out overnight, and I can pop a glucose tab or run a temporary basal rate on my pump for an hour or two to keep me in range.

My overnight lows are way less frequent than they ever have been before, and that means I clean juice and sweat from my sheets way less often, so there is a practical bonus aside from the whole “not going wicked low while sleeping” thing.

There’s the takeaway:  IOB monitoring helps cut back on laundry.  Use all the money you save on detergent to buy a bionic pancreas!



“Can I lay here?”  I pointed to the almost-available section of the couch, where if Chris moved his legs juuuuust a little bit and Siah got her fat furry butt off the cushion, I could curl up and let my brain go quiet after a full day of writing.

“Sure thing,” and Chris adjusted his body.

“No,” was the message Siah sent me with her cat telepathic powers, but I snuggled in anyway.

And in one, seamless movement, the couch cushion leapt up and grabbed the infusion set from my arm with its teeth and ripped it off.  The couch’s fangs were gigantic and its talons just as daunting, determined to keep any diabetes device from properly resting against my skin.  I was livid – this infusion set was only a day old! – but I knew I was no match for the couch.  It was huge, and it had an agenda of rage.

I eased away from the cushion slowly, trying to keep from agitating the angry beast.  The couch snarled and tensed, poised to make a play for my Dexcom sensor if I dared to get comfortable against its fabric again.

“You okay?”  Chris asked.

“Yeah.  The couch ripped off my infusion set,” I started to say, and then I felt the slow drag of couch claws against my shin, warning me to embrace silence.  “I mean, I ripped off my infusion set.  I did it.”

The couch quieted and settled back against the floor.  And I went upstairs into the bathroom to put a new infusion set on.  And when I came downstairs, I sat on the floor, the steady breath of the wicked couch prickling the hairs on the back on my neck.

“Next time …” it panted like Dr. Claw.  “Next time.”


Flick of the Wrist.

In the interests of getting through TSA in Orlando as quickly as possible and making my way over to my gate so I could find some iced coffee and a banana, I disconnected my insulin pump and put it through the x-ray machine, caring very little if it melted in the transaction because I was melting in the transaction.

The tram to the gates was arriving just as I was finished at security, so I grabbed my pump off the tray and held it in my hand. dragging my bag to the shuttle. Just after “stand CLEAR of the closing doors,” I reached around to the top of my hip and reconnected my infusion set, sticking the pump into my pocket.

A woman boarded the tram, her infant daughter strapped to her chest. I noticed her noticing me while I reconnected my pump.

“Insulin pump?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is that an insulin pump? Sorry – my son has diabetes and I recognized the pump.”

“Oh, yes.” I searched her wrist for an orange or green CWD bracelet but didn’t see one. “Were you here for the conference?”

“What conference?”

“The diabetes conference. It’s called Friends for Life and it’s put on by an organization called Children with Diabetes. It takes place here in Orlando, over at Disney.”

She smiled. “I’ve never heard of it, and I live right here in Orlando. What’s it called?”

“Friends for Life. It’s a diabetes conference for families with diabetes. Lots of kids with type 1 attend with their parents, and lots of adults like me who go to connect with other adults who have diabetes. It’s really nice, like diabetes camp. Community helps, you know?”

She nodded, and the baby on her chest flapped her arms happily. “My son goes to camp. He loves it. But I’ve never heard of the conference before.”

I reached into my bag and fished around for a pen. Nothing. Checked my pockets for a business card. Nothing. The tram was about to stop and ditch us at the gates, leaving me just a few seconds to try and explain how a few days in Florida can change your life for the better.

“What’s the conference called again?”

I grabbed the edge of my green bracelet and pulled it off my wrist.

It's on. #ffl15

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“I know this seems weird to hand you a slightly-used conference bracelet, but the URL for the conference website is on it. Everyone who has diabetes wears one of these green bracelets. You see one of these and that person understands, you know?” I handed her the bracelet, pointing at the website address. “I hope this doesn’t seem creepy. It’s just an amazing experience, being around all of those other families, and it would be great to have you and your family check it out, if that’s your thing.”

She took the bracelet and put it in her pocket. “This is very nice of you. Thank you. I’ll check it out for sure.”

The tram doors opened and we stepped out.

“Where are you headed home to?”

“Rhode Island.”

“And you come here just for that conference?”

I thought about the week that had just passed, when I was surrounded by people who redefined family.

“All the way here. Green bracelets are pretty awesome.”

She waved, and her baby waved, too. “Thank you for passing this along. Safe travels back home. Maybe we’ll see you next year.”

Usually when I board the plane home from Friends for Life, I like to look down at my green bracelet because it reminds me of my PWD tribe.  This year, with a flick of the wrist, I was grateful it had found a new home.

Pump Peelz Giveaway Winners!

Time for the Pump Peelz Giveaway winners!  The original contest rules are from earlier this week are here, and the entries came in through blog post comments and Twitter. Some were poignant, some were silly, and all were written by people touched by diabetes.

Ahem … here we go.

All were so awesome
Random number thing picked three.
These are the winners:

It’s midnight again
Sugar monsters sucking life
Double-stuffs for win!

- Susan C.

Diagnosed last year
The only thing he can’t do
Is make insulin

- Maria Conroy

Winners!  I’ll be connecting you with Scott from Pump Peelz to receive your prizes, and for those who didn’t win, you can still use the “SixUntilMe” discount code at Pump Peelz for 15% off your order. Thanks for playing, and thank you so much to the team at Pump Peelz!!!

No Disassemble.

I need to exorcise the technology demons in my house.  Because everything is breaking.

It started several months ago, the issue with my laptop, but in the last two weeks, my computer has gone entirely bananas.  I have a Macbook Air as my primary office computer and the bulk of my work is on that machine.  And it worked fine for several years, until the trackpad on the computer started to over-react to everything.  I’d tap my finger on the trackpad and every email in my inbox would open, files would delete themselves, and browser windows threw themselves against the side of the glass.  Crazy shit.

“Why are you so sensitive?!” I yelled at the computer.

“I don’t knooooooooooooow!!” It sobbed in return.

I did a lot of Google searches, and my computer wasn’t the only one feeling super fragile and sensitive.  It was not alone.  (And if your computer is going berserk, you are not alone.)  But last week, while traveling, the computer refused to click on any damn thing while simultaneously clicking on every damn thing, it wouldn’t connect to wifi, and it bit me when I opened it.  (Sharp teeth on that little sucker.)  Because I do not work in a formal office but instead house my business entirely in a computer, I had to make the rotten decision to replace my computer.

Fine.  That problem is solved, albeit in the most expensive and irritating way possible.  Then last night my FitBit decided to go rogue on me, in the middle of an intensely competitive FitBit challenge (cough – @miller7 – cough), rendering it useless.  This morning, my Dexcom receiver did that weird “BEEEEEEEEEP!” thing where static electricity or something courses through it and it restarts on its own.  En route to a doctor’s appointment at the crack of dawn this morning, the GPS in my car took me to somewhere that was not the doctor’s office but instead a supermarket (so I bought apples).

Everything with a battery or a digital footprint is breaking.  I’m afraid.  And then I realized that the way I receive my insulin is via an insulin pump, powered by a battery, chock full o’ breakable technology.  A cold panic washed over me as I worried the tech demons were contagious.

“Shhhhhhh … you’re okay.  You’re my friend,” I said to my insulin pump, as I held it in the palm of my hand like a fuzzy hamster.  “Be good.  No disassemble.  Keep working,” I murmured to it, stroking it gently with one fingertip.

Here’s hoping.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers