The Convenience of Technology

Three years ago I did something I have been avoiding for most of my life. I went on an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. For most people, the thought of an insulin pump was a blessing that allowed freedom from shots and ease of dosing anytime, anywhere. I saw the pump as something constantly attached to me ready to be painfully ripped out at any minute. Then, I learned what an insulin pump actually did.

36 years with diabetes every doctor I remember wanted me on an insulin pump but I refused to even consider one and never learned how it worked.

The medical director of the skilled nursing facility I worked in gave a presentation on diabetes management and said “if you have an a1c level consistently over 8 it’s not a matter of if you will undergo an amputation, it’s a matter of when.” Hello, wake up call! I’ve grown rather attached to my limbs (pun intended) and my a1c was consistently double digits. I sat and talked with him after his presentation and he explained to me exactly what a pump does. I went back to my doctor and said “let’s do it.” My bloodsugars fluctuated enough, I also qualified for a continuous glucose monitor. I learned about these new things I was getting and realized I had been living in the past!

I was diagnosed a type 1 juvenile diabetic in 1984. It was the month I would turn 4 years old. I don’t remember life without diabetes. My dad was also diabetic. At the time of my diagnosis, he was checking his blood sugar through ketone tests. My parents had no clue blood glucose monitors existed until the doctors brought them one for me. We went home from the hospital with an accucheck machine and shortly after Dad had new prescriptions for his own testing supplies. That machine in it’s case was practically the size of a VHS tape and the test strips were the length of a finger. It seemed like i was needing to squeeze out a bottle of blood to get a reading. There was color matching, the batteries cost a small fortune, everything had to be recorded in a paper log book that constantly got ruined and my mom needed a suitcase to lug it all around. I remember when I had bad mornings my mom used to come to my elementary school at lunchtime to check my blood sugar again and give a shot if necessary. (I was a late bloomer for doing it myself) My classmates would all gather around and count down the minute, yes a whole minute and cheer if my number was good.

Until recently I went to work instead of school and my blood sugar was checked on an app on my phone. I could see what it is 24/7. The app was connected to a sensor implanted on me and the signal was sent via Bluetooth to show what my sugar was. There was an alarm if I went too high or too low. My amazing coworkers asked if they needed to bring me food anytime my phone made a peep. Unfortunately, loss of employment meant budget cuts were necessary so I had to return to a machine. The new machine is not the VHS tape of the past. It’s the size of a credit card, is rechargeable and downloads right into the computer. I learn what my blood sugar is in 5 seconds after squeezing a teeny weeny drop of blood into a tiny strip. I then punch the numbers into my insulin pump, which resembles a pager from the 90’s. It connects to my belt loop or sits in my pocket and infuses through a port on my belly that I change every 3 days. Along with my blood sugar numbers I also input the amount of carbs I’m eating and it calculates how much insulin I need to cover my meal. I also get a small dose of insulin throughout every hour of the day from my pump. My doctor can connect my pump to a computer through a USB cord and download all my information: blood sugars, corrections needed, when I’m consistently having high or low numbers and when I might be eating too much.

Another part of diabetes is counting. I currently sit at stage 3 chronic kidney disease. I’m desperately trying to avoid dialysis for as long as possible. The best way to do that is to keep a strict diet. 50 fluid ounces of liquid per day, 2500 mg of both sodium and potassium, 80 g of protein, between 30–45 mg of carbohydrates per meal and keep it all in an 1800 calorie diet. How do I keep track? Through an app of course! The fitness app that comes with my smart watch provides nutritional information for what I’m eating. I can pick out the particular numbers I need and store them in my phone’s notepad to add up to reach the numbers I’m allowed. I have a carb count for meal times to enter into my pump. My fluid and calorie intake are swipes of the screen away.

Staying active is a struggle as I’m always in a lot of pain. The best exercise for me is swimming. My smart watch is waterproof so I can wear it in the pool. Not only does it have a timer to ensure I’m getting enough active minutes but I can specifically tell it I’m swimming and it keeps track of my stats such as how far I’ve swam, time per yard and calories burned. It’s fun to be in competition with myself, trying to beat the stats from the previous day. I set reminders for when it’s time to take any of the fifteen medications I’m on and it tracks my sleep habits. My CPAP machine sends a sleep report to my pulmonologist who treats my obstructive sleep apnea and chronic asthmatic bronchitis. At least with my own sleep report I can prepare for the verbal lashing my horrible insomnia earns me.

I sleep with a surge protector next to my bed. It holds the plug for the CPAP, phone charger, pump charger, meter charger, and smart watch charger. My pump and watch get charged while I’m in the shower, making them ready to go when I am.

These devices are by no means a cure and diabetes is still a daily exhausting battle but now I feel like I have a visual picture of what’s going on inside which puts me in greater control. I may appear to be on my phone a lot but I can assure it’s for more than my TikTok addiction. Almost my whole life is laid out on this device. Sure is a lot different than peeing on a stick and matching colors.

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Author, animal lover, crafter, hockey fan

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Cat Writes

Cat Writes

Author, animal lover, crafter, hockey fan

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