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.

 

To Pump or Not To Pump

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To Pump or Not To Pump

I have some great questions about Insulin Pumps today.

At this point, I will now take a moment and apologize because I have pumped for 12 years & have the benefits of being covered for insulin pump therapy throughout this time, I assume everyone knows what I know about them. I also assume, if they have the ability to, they would automatically want to be on one. That is very ignorant of me and I’m sorry. I started Diabetes Beyond Borders for this very reason, to educate and give as much information to empower you. Unfortunately I missed the mark on this one.

One more small disclaimer. I worked as a Territory Manager for Medtronic Inc. selling Paradigm Insulin Pumps. This Blog will not sell one pump over another. At this point I am now doing Insulin Pump starts & follow-up for Medtronic and Accu-Chek. As a Health Care Professional, peep living with Type 1 & Mom of a Type 1, my aim now is to give you an unbiased summary about Insulin Pump Therapy so that you can research more to see if pumping is right for you & which one best suits your lifestyle & needs if you decide to.

So…here we go….

SIZE: In general, all pumps are bigger then a pager but smaller than a cell phone. Many people have mistaken mine for a pager or cell. In the picture in my hand is one of the smaller ones. I don’t need a lot of insulin, so I use a smaller pump.

COLOURS: You want colour it, you got it. There is charcoal, clear (like mine), pink, green, purple… You can buy covers & skins to decorate it anyway you see fit. I like the clear one because I wear mine in my bra a lot…I don’t want it to be seen through my shirt. A lot of guys like charcoal because it looks more like a pager.

PARTS OF THE PUMP 101:

1. BUTTONS: Used to navigate the pump.  About 5 buttons on the face/front of it, some pumps have ~1 or 2 on the side as well.

2. REMOTE:  Some pumps have remotes that work also as the glucose meter. Not all have this.

3. CARTRIDGE: Fits in the pump which has Rapid Acting insulin such as NovoRapid, NovoLog, Humalog, Apidra (when on a pump you no longer take Long Acting insulin such as NPH, Levemir or Lantus). The cartridge is plastic.

4. TUBING:  It is attached to the cartridge of insulin which comes in various lengths, as short as 18″ to as long as 43″ & a few lengths in between. The tubing is flexible & durable. There is a new ‘patch’ pump on the market that does not have tubing.

5. INFUSION SET: This is the teflon tube or needle that sits under your skin to deliver the Rapid Acting insulin. The tubing connects to the infusion set. It can be connected & disconnected as needed for showering, activity,or intimate moments. There are a variety of infusion sets to choose so that you have the right one for your lifestyle.

BASIC FUNCTIONS OF THE PUMP:

1. BASAL RATE: I call this the ‘base’ or ‘fasting’ delivery of insulin that your pancreas would be doing for you if you didn’t have diabetes. The Long Acting insulin you are taking tries to do this through 1 or 2 injections per day. On the pump, you can customize your basal rate to meet the different needs your body has throughout the day. You can make these changes on an hourly basis if needed. Most people only need 3 − 5 different basal rates during a 24 hour period. They do not change often after they have been established. BUT, the beauty is, you can change them and the time of day you need to. Basal rates are delivered in very small increments throughout the day, each pump delivers the rate based on its own calculation in which that company feels is best for their product but at the end of the day, the delivery is balanced & tiny enough it provides better balance when you are not eating. It is easier to skip a meal or get off schedule without suffering the consequences of a low blood sugar because of the features of a basal rate.

2. BOLUS: Essentially it is the Rapid Acting insulin you inject with. The beauty? The tube is already under your skin so you don’t have to inject. The other benefit is the pump does all the work to calculate your insulin dose. The increments that can be delivered on a pump can be as small as 0.025 units and as big as 35 units. I imagine now your routine on injections involves adding up your carbs, trying to decide how much extra to adjust for a high or low BG, taking a calculator or phone & crunching the numbers to find how much you will inject with your pen or syringe, which usually has to be rounded up or down to the nearest half or full unit of insulin. The built-in bolus calculator allows you to input your BG (usually remotely through the glucose meter), input your carbohydrates. The pump then shows you the breakdown of why it has decided you need a certain amount of insulin. It considers a correction for your sugar to bring it to target, whether that means adding extra to treat a high or subtracting some off to avoid a low. It also shows the carbs you chose & how much insulin you will get based on that. It also takes into consideration how much insulin you still have in your body. Having bad lows from unaccounted insulin still floating around in your body will be no more. The pump remembers.

3. BG READINGS: The pump stores your readings if you enter them into it, whether manually or through your remote meter.

4. CARBS: The pump keeps a history of the carbs you have eaten, when & how much insulin.

5. INCREMENTS: The increments on the basal rate & bolus can be as small or as large as needed. Some pumps vary, so make sure the one you choose fits your needs. Type 1 & Type 2 peeps do very well on pumps for this reason.

6. DELIVERY: The rate a pump delivers insulin varies from pump to pump. Be aware how comfortable you are with the rate it infuses into you.

7. SENSOR: There are only 2 companies that I am aware that offer Continuous Glucose Sensor technology; Medtronic & DexCom. I will post another Blog about this technology. It is far too complex to include it in this one. Suffice to say, having used the technology personally, I see the impact it has on diabetes management & glycemic control.

RESPONSIBILITIES AS A PUMPER:

1. BG TESTING: At least 4 times per day and more often as necessary.

2. INFUSION SET/CARTRIDGE CHANGE: Infusion sets need to be changed every 2 − 3 days, depending on the set you choose. Some companies are saying to change the cartridge & tubing every 3 days, others support 6 is the way to go.

3. DIABETES KETO-ACIDOSIS PROTOCOL: With only having Rapid Acting insulin in your body, it is only in a matter of hours that you will ‘run out’ of insulin in your body if something doesn’t work with your pump. It is easy to trouble shoot & correction can be quick. The trick is to be acutely aware when you test high & adhere strictly to protocol to treat the high sugar. It is rare it can happen but when it does it is SO important to follow the few simple steps it takes to correct it.

WHERE TO WEAR THE PUMP

There is an assortment of clips, pouches & belts that are available from pump companies & online stores. This allows you to decide whether you want it under your pants on your calf, under your skirt around your thigh, clipped on your belt or around your waist, in your bra, around your arm. Creativity, convenience & comfort are key. I know many with  careers from police officers, construction workers, nurses, teachers etc that find living with their insulin pump provides better quality of life for them. It is trial and error of where to place it at first, but once you get your groove, it’s a no-brainer. You’ll forget it’s there.

PROS OF A PUMP:

1. Less low sugars
2. Less variability
3. More flexibility with lifestyle & scheduling
4. Less needles
5. Ability to pro actively prevent low & high sugars with activities, exercise, work etc.
6. Less calculating

CONS OF A PUMP:

1. Have something attached to you 24-7
2. Remembering to change the infusion site, tubing & cartridge on time. (I developed a system to help me remember, some pumps have a reminder in it)

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A PUMP

1. Ease of Use
2. Technology available that suits your needs
3. Software available to download the results to manage your diabetes
4. Cartridge size (they come in 1.8 mL, 3.0 mL, 3.15 mL)
5. Insurance Coverage
6. Long term costs
7. Pump Company Customer Support
8. Ease of ordering supplies
9. Features within the pump that meet your needs
10. Basal & Bolus delivery increments that meet your insulin needs
11. Infusion set choice (one pump company’s sets are proprietary so you will need to order their supplies only, make sure they have what you want)
12. Some companies require you replace your battery cap & cartridge cap every 3 months. It will be at a cost to you. Make sure to ask about this.
13. Some pumps are waterproof & some are water tight. I have always put it this way…I wouldn’t swim with my cell so why would I swim with my $7,000 pump. Especially in a lake…if it goes to the bottom of the lake there is no getting it back.

I liken deciding to pump & choosing one to buying a car. It’s a long-term, expensive decision you will live with for 4 − 5 years. Shop wisely & make sure to ask a lot of questions. If you have the option to trial one using saline in the cartridge before buying, I urge you to do it.

Always keep in mind:

1. All companies give a 4 year warranty.
2. You have 90 days after you order your pump to return it. If you decide it’s not the right one & you want a different one OR if pumping just isn’t for you. There is no cost to you to return it.
3. Please, please make sure to add your pump to your house insurance policy. If your pump is stolen (which I know people it has happened to!), you want the reassurance you can get it replaced.

You can email me at tracy@diabetesbeyondborders.com with any questions. I am here for you.

Saying No.

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Saying No.

How can one word cause so much stress?

Is it the concern of being selfish? Is it the fear that we are not allowing ourselves the opportunity to have new experiences and challenges? Is it the fear of believing there is no one else that can do what you’ve been asked to do? Are we afraid to disappoint? Do we need to prove a point to ourselves or others? Are we afraid of conflict and burning bridges?

In this day and age the pressure we are living under to perform, accept, accomplish, respond to, access and be accountable for is too much, not just as adults but teens and young children are being subjected to this prematurely. Our private lives are jeopardized by the creation of global urbanization and technology with the expectation to keep up at all costs.

Yes is stress. But saying no is too. How do we find balance?

Take a look at how stress can influence our health:

1. Stress hormones raise blood sugars
2. Stress contributes to insulin resistance
3. Stress leads to weight gain
4. Stress can increase blood pressure
5. Stress can suppress the immune system
6. Stress can worsen or create allergies
7. Stress can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke
8. Stress can impair fertility
9. Stress can accelerate the aging process
10. Stress can create psychological imbalances such as anxiety and depression
11. Stress can cause or enhance addictive behaviours such as drugs, alcohol, sex, exercise etc.

Here are some guidelines to assist in determining when it is right to say “No’ and find or keep your balance.

1. When you have a bad feeling and your gut says “this doesn’t feel right”…trust it!!! Be true to yourself!
2. Thinking about saying “Yes” to the request causes you to feel overwhelmed before you have even committed to it.
3. Your principles, ethics and/or beliefs are in jeopardy.
4. The financial expense doesn’t fit your budget.
5. It is not fulfilling the goals and objectives you have set for yourself.

It’s OKAY to say “No”. Words and body language are our most powerful ally. How you respond will empower you and the person who has asked.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey

Yesterday and Today

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Yesterday and Today

In 1975, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after months of my Mom telling our family doctor something was really wrong.

He insisted it was a cold & I would recover in time.

Finally, after several months of symptoms such as wetting the bed at night (after having been toilet trained for years), having to pee before we got to the end of the driveway for a walk, weight loss (my Mom says my ribs stuck out, she thought when she picked me up she would break them), extreme thirst & sitting on the toilet crying because it burned so bad when I peed, my Mom felt relieved as she thought she knew what was wrong…. I had a bladder infection.

After the refusal of our family Doctor to see me anymore and upon the firm insistence of my parents, I was finally seen by another Doctor. When they dipped my urine for an infection, instead, they found large amounts of ketones. I was rushed to the hospital. I was also diagnosed with Whooping Cough. I was hospitalized for 10 days. Back then my Mom couldn’t stay with me overnight. I still remember that stay. It was very traumatic. I missed my Mom so much. I hated when she left each night.

I was just weeks shy of my 6th Birthday & weighed a mere 31 lbs (14 kg). I was started on 1 injection in the morning of Lente & Toronto insulin. Both insulins were unpredictable. The needle length went into my muscle instead of my subcutaneous tissue making the unpredictability worse, but there was no one then who was aware that a 13mm needle was too long for anyone, big or small. My Mom tested my sugars by urine through a dipstick. The goal was to have a dipstick with Trace sugar & no ketones. I did not receive my first glucose meter until I was 11 based on the cost which was about $200.

Based on my diagnosis, experiences, changes & the management I have experienced throughout the years, I am thankful for so many things:

1. My parents were told I would never have children. Although at the time I announced my pregnancies there was a lot of worry, I successfully have had two pregnancies (although very challenging) & two beautiful children.

2. I am blessed to have no complications after 37 years, which is rare.

3. I am living in a time where the technology advances in managing diabetes are becoming available faster then we can acquire them but provides the opportunity to get access to & manage it better.

4. We seem to be closer to a technology that allows for less management on our part & the reliance on bio feedback mechanisms that will reliably do most of the work for us.

5. Pharmaceutical companies that create, manufacture & produce insulin, such as Novo Nordisk Inc., are creating programs which offer easier access to children living with Type 1 diabetes living in developing countries that otherwise would not have it and risk dying due to affordability & access. Much still needs to be done about this (one of my passions) but the movement by corporate has started to fill this huge gap.

6. The choices and dissemination of media communication and access is the forum for supporting curiosity, access, acquisition of knowledge and action with regards to living with diabetes. This is essential to empower people living with such a complex disease.

7. I have been blessed to be part of a network with many gifts, experiences & an education that enables me to practically & clinically share with each of you, no matter where you live, what is needed to live with Diabetes Beyond Borders.