The Day My Insulin Pump Outsmarted Me

I stare at Gizmo, my insulin pump. I review its user settings, and basal and bolus rate set-up. But nothing within this gadget tells me how to change my reservoir numbers.

Yes my body is no longer producing enough insulin. And yes that means I must use more insulin to function on a daily basis. My basal rates have increased from .325 to .900, and my bolus rates have increased from 1 unit of insulin per 20 grams of carbs to 1 unit of insulin per 13 grams of carbs.

When my roommate a few years ago told me her basal rates were 1.000 unit, I scoffed and hoped I would never reach that level, at least not for another five years. But now having only had diabetes for six years I am now almost there.

The downside? I’ve been switching out my pump’s reservoir every two days. It used to be that 100 units of insulin would last me three days, if not four. And in the past month, it’s only lasted me two days. Continue reading

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Taking a Break But Not Forever

Much has changed since I started this blog on September 11, 2013. My nonfiction grad school cohort can tell you how much I didn’t want to write about diabetes for my MFA thesis – the book that became the start to this blog. And in the six years since I’ve been diagnosed, I am still learning new things about myself with this disease.

I wanted to share those experiences with the world and contribute to a community of Type 1s. And maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I could manage life given this short end of the stick. What I didn’t expect when I started this blog back in 2013 was where it would take me and what kind of content my readers would inspire me to write.

I cannot tell you much I value your readership and support these past two years. You are the reason I keep this blog going. You are the reason I continue to write. And although this blog has kept me writing and contributing to this online community, I must now re-focus my priorities and take what little time I have to write to devote to other publishing opportunities. Continue reading

My Life With Diabetes: Am I in Control?

I walk down the cracked sidewalk along Wisconsin Avenue, past the Starbucks and Regal movie theater in Bethesda. My fingers start to tingle, and my heart rate increases. Suddenly I feel extremely weak. Each step is an effort, and I feel a steel box closing in around my heart. I am out of breath. My limbs start to shake, and my vision is less reliable. I can’t read the street sign in front of me. I stop at the next intersection and look for the glucose tablets in my purse.

I scramble to chew four of these tablets quickly, leaving a powdery residue on the tips of my fingers. I lean against the side of a brick building and call my supervisor. I’m supposed to be in a meeting in two minutes but until I get my blood sugar back up, there’s no way I’m making it back to the office without help. I’m only a five-minute walk away, but right now my vision is blurry and my hands are shaking.

My supervisor doesn’t answer his phone so I call my work colleague and let her know of the situation. I usually don’t tell people when I’m having a low blood sugar, but in this case, I realize it’s the safest thing I can do in case I do have a seizure in the middle of the street. My work colleague has severe allergies so we’ve both agreed to be each other’s medical back-up. I know where her EpiPen is, and she knows what to do if I pass out from low or high blood sugar. Continue reading

Needles, Reservoirs, Cannulas, and More

The other day I was replacing my insulin pump reservoir. This requires a series of steps that I will reiterate for those who have never had to replace their insulin pump supply (as a side note, manufacturers, physicians, and researchers alike recommend switching this supply every three days although I sometimes stretch mine to four).

Replacing my Insulin Pump Reservoir

The first thing one needs is an alcohol swab, reservoir, infusion set, a blue cylinder-shaped device to inject the infusion set underneath the skin, and of course the insulin and pump. So after wiping the spot on my stomach with alcohol and then the top of the insulin vial, I use the reservoir to fill the plastic insulin container with insulin from the vial (it’s important to make sure you remove all air bubbles from the plastic container). And then of course my cat knocks the vial from my desk (it’s small enough this is harmless).

I then twist the reservoir into the end of the infusion set. I rewind the insulin pump so that it knows there is zero insulin inside and can essentially start to recount my usage (I tell it I use 100 units per new supply). I place the new reservoir into the insulin pump and then fill the 23-inch thin plastic tubing of the infusion set so that I know insulin will safely travel through the cannula from the pump to underneath my skin (this usually requires 6-9 units of insulin per fill). Continue reading

A Not So ‘Silent Spring’

Rachel Carson Silent SpringIt should be amazing to me that in the six years since I’ve been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and the four years I’ve been involved in the sustainability movement, I have yet to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a classic for environmental health advocacy. This is the book that catapulted events leading to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the ban on the production of DDT (the effects of this chemical are sadly still with us today).

And yet it was published in 1962 by a woman. That was more than 50 years ago, and I admit Carson might appreciate that we have taken her words to heart, but she would probably be disappointed with the amount of toxic chemicals that still plague our homes and health statuses.

Even though my chronic disease is “autoimmune,” my body showed no evidence of this fact. And even though my doctors tell me it’s probably genetic, I have no family history. The media and scare over the diabetes epidemic would have you believe it’s my fault, but I’ve always taken good care of myself and have always been in good health until six years ago. Continue reading

Today I Became A Billy Goat

Great Falls ParkToday, after a night out dancing in DC (I don’t know why the person who never drinks thought it was a good idea to mix three different types of liquor), on another date, I visited Great Falls Park for the first time. This rocky water wonderland is a mere 16 miles outside the city. That is one thing I love about here – you can feel like you’re out in the country yet still live in an urban environment.

But in visiting the Maryland side of the park (and as my date would point out the better, less crowded side), I successfully climbed the Billy Goat Trail (and yes, I use climb for some very specific reasons). I had heard stories of the Billy Goat Trail and how I should definitely give it a try. What no better time than in my hungover state?

For some reason, I imagined this trail was like any other paved pathway, a little debris and uprooted branches but nothing strenuous and then at one point the trail would become a short ledge one would have to maneuver around before getting to the top. Yeah that was what I imagined. Clearly I did not think about the words “Billy Goat” in the name. Continue reading

My Body Is Okay

I was sweating my ass off on the way to my third doctor appointment this month. I decided to take the time from work and travel halfway downtown (plus another 15-minute walk from the metro) to see a specialist about my recent lab results – results my former endocrinologist said showed I had another autoimmune disorder.

I wasn’t so sure. For one, I didn’t have any symptoms. For two, only one result came back abnormal, and the level was barely below the normal range. And for three, I couldn’t handle the idea of having another autoimmune disorder, even if it only meant taking a pill every day for the rest of my life.

But in the past week since I learned of these results and made this follow-up visit, I started questioning myself. Had I gained weight in the past few months? Wasn’t I feeling more tired lately? Hadn’t I been more depressed than usual? Didn’t I feel thirsty all the time? Didn’t it feel like I had a sore throat even though I knew that was impossible? Continue reading