Gaining Perspective

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Gaining Perspective

This is me at age 8. It was 3 years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I am standing at the entrance of Camp Huronda, a summer camp sponsored by the Canadian Diabetes Association for Type 1 children & teens. It was the first time away from home longer than a day since I was diagnosed with diabetes & hospitalized for 10 days in 1975. I learned to inject myself with insulin within a few days of being at Camp Huronda. From that day forward I didn’t want anyone else injecting me. I liked that I could control how my injections felt & when the needle was going in.

Fast forward to 1987. At the age of 16, one morning my Mom finds me in bed, unresponsive, laying in my vomit. After calls to my Paediatrician & attempts to give me fast acting sugar with no success, my parents rush me to the hospital. The things I remember of that morning are Dad standing me in the snow in my bare feet to get me into the car as I refused to, seeing my church as they drove by it & watching my Mom cry at the foot of my bed in Emerg. A few days later as I lay in my hospital bed I noticed that the nurses caring for me didn’t know a lot about diabetes. I mentioned this to my Mom. To this day it seems almost unbelievable to think my Mom prophesied my future career without knowing how big of an impact I would make in the world of diabetes. When I told her my thoughts, she said to me, “You can change that. You can educate them so they know.” She encouraged me to go into Nursing.

If you go back to several of my Blogs you can read about the many experiences I have had living with diabetes & being a parent of a child, teen & now young adult living with diabetes.

Fast forward to 1999. After working in a Licensed Daycare as the School Nurse & caring for 2 children with Special Needs for 2 1/2 years, I decided to start a Home Daycare so I could be home with Cayla & Kurtis. Within 6 months I had a ‘full house’. It was a very busy time but I loved that I could be home for my children & create a home atmosphere for the little ones who couldn’t be home with their parents. Once Kurtis started Grade 1 I felt it was time to gain some hospital experience. While running the home daycare I completed my Critical Care Certificate. Working at the daycare & running the home daycare taught me so many things; time management, communication, creativity, nutrition, working with Special Needs, how to be calm when chaos is all around.

I still remember my first interview at the hospital. The 2 managers interviewing me mentioned I didn’t have any experience. I asked them how was I going to get experience if they didn’t hire me? I surprised myself that I asked them that question. I wasn’t one to challenge anybody. They were surprised too. That got me in.

After several years of working in several areas at the hospital & particularly the Intensive Care Unit, which I loved, I didn’t like the fact I was caring for people with complications, mostly from Type 2. There was one patient who died from complications of Type 1. It devastated me. She wasn’t much older then me. My colleagues would ask me certain questions about diabetes. I liked that. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was at the wrong end of the diving board. My time in ICU was invaluable. I learned time management, critical thinking, stamina, diplomacy, focus, patience, perseverance, when it was the right time to cry when I lost a patient & when I needed to hold back my tears,. I also learned that there are times that the truth needs to be told no matter how hard it is to hear. Working in ICU made it very challenging for me to keep my sugars in check. A critical situation would drive them sky high & a missed break could bring me low.

In 2002 I attended the JDRF Walk For the Cure. To this day, I don’t know what possessed me to do what I did. Kurtis & I used a Lifescan glucose testing meter. I heard there was a new one on the market & I wanted one for each of us. I walked over to the Lifescan booth & began talking to the rep. He gave me 2 new meters. After a few minutes of conversation, my mouth opened & without plan or thought I asked him if his company was hiring. Huh? What did I just do? It just so happened that he was being promoted & his position was opening. WHAT?!? Timing is everything they say. So it was with this as well. The interview process went smoothly, the offer was ready to be presented when an internal applicant surfaced. As with most companies, he was given the position. How did I feel? I was okay with it. I didn’t think it was the right time. The kids were still young & I had a great job-share position that was flexible with shift work. It worked for our family at the time. The Rep I met from Lifescan told me he would keep me connected & that he did. My foot was in a door I didn’t even know existed.

In 2004 I ended up with one of the best jobs I could ever imagine having. I became a Diabetes Consultant for Novo Nordisk. It was one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs. I learned Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes inside out & backwards. The company kept me current in Clinical Studies & relevant literature. What I liked most about it was meeting Family Physicians for the first time & them telling me they don’t ‘do insulin’. Several years later I had these same GP’s thanking me for teaching them & how much easier it was then they thought. Through out my years at Novo Nordisk my Mom’s words echoed in my mind several times. I educated Nurses, Dieticians, Doctors, Pharmacists and Nurse Practitioner’s. I did business on all levels of health care including hospital contracts & nursing homes. Working at Novo Nordisk helped me learn time management, business planning, triaging, focus, drive, passion, knowledge about every insulin available on the market, knowledge about every oral anti-hyperglycemic agent on the market, every insulin pen, syringe & pen tip available & it’s implications on therapy.

One of the most difficult decisions I ever made in my careers was leaving Novo Nordisk to work for Medtronic. It provided me an opportunity to expand my career, work experience and meet more Health Care Providers working in the field of diabetes. It was a short tenure as Medtronic decided to restructure the Corporation both in the U.S. & Canada. I was one of ~ 100 in Canada who lost their jobs as a result. Being a Territory Manager at Medtronic taught me many skills I needed to become better at or hadn’t experienced. It was a valuable experience despite the outcome. I learned about all of the insulin pumps provided by the medical device companies. I got to know Pumps & Continuous Glucose Monitoring really, really well. Little did I know how much of an advantage that would be. I worked within a team of 3 & communication was essential to follow up & close each sale. I learned how to work directly with the consumer & their needs. Though out the years I learned how to read body language & verbal tone very well. It took a long time but I learned to listen to my gut. For the most part it was right.

After I lost my job at Medtronic, I decided I wanted to leave the world of diabetes. I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I was certain I didn’t want to be an educator. I couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk staring at someones blood sugars, listening to their excuses. Why did I have this perception? I have thought about that a lot. How could I think like that given I live with diabetes? I think that in my mind a diabetes clinic consists of Type 1 & Type 2 together, intertwined…somehow connected but shouldn’t be. I didn’t want to educate like that. They are 2 different animals & so they should be treated as such. It wasn’t the patients fault I felt like that, it is how clinics are structured that frustrates me. So…I went out on my own as an educator & consultant through my company “Diabetes Beyond Borders” to change that. As a result Diabetes Beyond Borders has over 6,700 ‘likes’ on Facebook. I became a Certified Pump Trainer for Medtronic & Accu-Chek. I had a contract with a large on- line pharmacy in which I created marketing materials, provided education on insulin pump infusion sites & cartridges.

I have applied & been through several interviews for diabetes sales jobs. I would’ve taken them if they were offered but I just didn’t feel it anymore. What was I meant to do? Where was my passion?

A few months ago I was invited to a conference. It is called Type 1 Think Tank. It’s mandate is to more or less “think out side the box” to provide better care & outcomes for people living with Type 1 diabetes. I didn’t realize I was that important! I didn’t realize my experiences were so valued. At the conference I met a long time friend & colleague. She is the founder of the Charles H Best Diabetes Centre. I called on her clinic as a Diabetes Consultant & Territory Manager from 2004-2009. My son Kurtis went there briefly after his diagnosis in 2000 before a Paediatric clinic opened closer to home. The founder, Marlene, approached me and asked if I would be interested in a position as a Diabetes Nurse Educator. I never turn down opportunity but I was pensive given it was a 2 hour/day commute & I would be ‘stuck’ inside 4 walls 8 hours/day.

As soon as I sat down to the interview I understood why I had experienced so much throughout the years. This is exactly where I needed to be, where I want to be. I just didn’t know it. I have travelled down a road of learning & ultimately making an impact though all levels of diabetes. It was time to share those experiences with the people that really, really mattered. It was time to share my experiences with the children, teens, young adults, adults & their families living with Type 1 diabetes.

The Stealth Fighter of Diabetes

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The Stealth Fighter of Diabetes

I liken a Stealth Fighter to an undetected low blood sugar. Until I started back on my Continuous Glucose Meter a few weeks ago I thought I was overwhelming tired at times because there was too much going on.

Until I experienced a few incidents…one thankfully I detected & treated by finger poke thanks to the prompting of my fiancé & subsequently, the next detected by CGM.

The first happened shortly after I woke up. Our routine involves enjoying coffee & tea while catching up on local & international events & updates. I became extremely tired soon after reading updates on my computer. By the time I was in the kitchen making eggs, my heart was beating fast & I began to have a hard time breathing…not symptoms I usually have with a low blood sugar. In my mind I reviewed the things that may be overwhelming me. I am forever making a list in my head of the days & weeks ahead. I thought maybe I was getting ahead of myself too much, putting myself in a bit of a frenzy. I realized it wasn’t that, BUT I just couldn’t put a finger on the pulse. As we sat down to breakfast & I began to eat the poached eggs the racing heart & difficulty breathing continued. As I ate my poached eggs, I realized I was having a hard time eating. I felt nauseated…almost like a brick was in my stomach. I began to tap my foot in an attempt to focus on what the issue was. Within a few seconds of tapping my foot my fiancé Steve asked me what was wrong. By this time I had tears in my eyes & a lump in my throat. In my mind I was thinking “What the heck is wrong with me!!”. I said to him, “I don’t know.” He summated what could be causing it. Then he asked if I had checked my sugar. I agreed that was a good idea. I was 3.2 mmol/L!! It didn’t feel like a low I would usually have! Once treated, these crazy, weird symptoms disappeared.

Shorty after, I decided it was in my best interest to start wearing a Continuous Glucose Sensor again. I have to be honest, when I have a sensor in I love it. It truly is the ultimate advancement in technology that I never thought could exist given what I have experienced in 38 years living with Type 1 BUT I have a huge block with taking the time to prepare, insert and calibrate. It’s not that much more work than I do with wearing a pump, but I guess it’s just that one more step or three that I just don’t want to do. The motivation to take those extra steps becomes exponential when experiencing a stealth fighting low like described above.

The second undetected one I had was shortly after I had the first sensor in. It was shortly after breakfast (do you see the morning BG’s as being my source of trouble!). Again, I became tired. Not the same tired I get with other lows…I didn’t think so. I went upstairs to have a shower. I checked the CGM graph to see what my BG was at. It was 5.4 mmol/L. Good! I have my cell in the bathroom for those ‘just in case’ moments. I never stop being a Mom even though the kids are in their 20’s. Although none of them were from my kids I hear my phone ring, text tone and email going off. I border on irritation as I promise myself that for the few minutes I’m in the shower the world & my kids will survive without me having access to my cell, thus me having a peaceful moment in the shower. Still feeling not quite right & overtly irritated given how good natured I usually am, I am not able to put a finger on it. My pump begins to go off. It is alarming like crazy. By this point, I realize I’m quite low. I finish as quickly as I can & get to my pump. As seen in the pic above I am 2.4 mmol/L & still going down!! I put in a temp basal of 0%, put some clothes on & head downstairs to get some fast acting sugar. It took an hour to have the residual symptoms subside. Boy was I ever tired!! It scared me.

It occurred to me that I had been having these incidences many times a week for quite sometime. The reason why I didn’t pick up on the lows by finger poke? Each time I tested when I felt tired except for that day at breakfast, the lowest I tested on my meter was 4.1 mmol/L. Even that morning after my shower my meter only tested to 4.0 mmol/L. Which do I trust? Based on how I felt & the technology I decided that these lows were truly stealth-like. Based on the fact that glucose meters can ‘ideally’ have a variability of 20% in tests, I decided it was time to take action.

It has taken a lot of work in the past 3 weeks to nail it all down, but changes have been made & I notice a huge difference. Be ware of the Stealth Fighter of Diabetes…it is alive, well & undetectable.