By Andrea Eisenman
Better living through chemistry and technology. But if you had asked me about six years ago, I told my endocrinologist and diabetes educator, “No way, not getting a pump.” I did not want another thing attached to me or to change every so many days. Jump forward to five years ago and I took the plunge to get the Animus pump, just a few months ago, the Medtronics pump replaced it as the Animus was phased out. The insulin pump helped keep my glucose in tighter control.
Just recently, I heard about the Dexcom G5 and that it was all that (and a bag of chips)! To get me prepared for using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), my diabetes educator had me try the Freestyle Libre. I didn’t like it. But I promised her to use it for three months. It was highly inaccurate so I was still testing my blood sugars with finger sticks 8-10 times a day anyway, to treat high or low glucose. The only reason I thought of trying a CGM was that my finger-tips were becoming so calloused and painful, less sticks would be nice. But that was not to be with the Libre. The device did last 10 days before needing to be changed so it was not too much fussing. And then I would forget I had it on the back of my upper arm and use my towel too vigorously and off it came, before its 10-day window allotment. Also, once I was getting a PET scan and of course, it took me a while to get it off.
Just two weeks ago, I got the Dexcom G5 CGM. I am enjoying it, even though, it is not 100% accurate, it is way closer than the Libre device. The Libre was off 60 points sometimes, so far, Dexcom has been relatively close either way within 10 to 20 points. I had to get the Dexcom G5 because I am a Medicare patient and Medicare will not cover the new Dexcom G6—yet. But I hear rumblings that this fall they will start to. I hope to change because this device is a bit large, for me, I am a petit person. The G6 is smaller and needs to be changed every 10 days as opposed to the G5, that changes every seven days.
It is funny to me that I was so hesitant and had to be convinced to use the pump and CGM. These items are only keeping me healthier and in better glucose control.
I do like the ease of checking on my cell phone as well as Dexcom receiver, especially at the gym where I am prone to get lows. Currently, I am checking my blood sugars the old-fashioned way, but much less often (finger tips already look and feel better). I do it to calibrate the sensor and transmitter that sends the information to my cell phone or receiver. Since I just started using this system, it is advised to check at least every 12 hours in the beginning.
While learning this system, I was on IVs, so my port was accessed, I had my pump on and now this G5 device. I look and feel like I am part machine. It also should be noted, I have a Harrington rod along my spine due to scoliosis surgery (at age 16). And, I have two donor lungs (at age 35). When I was diagnosed with PTLD, a cancer that some post-transplant patients can get, I had to get a Port-A-Cath inserted for chemo. I am sporting a lot of metal and extra parts. But it is all part of keeping me alive.
I am still learning the way to insert the sensor and then cover it with the transmitter. It is quite a process but it is similar to what I felt when I first inserted the pump device too. Gradually, after about the two months, it became much easier. Now I can practically do that in my sleep. Currently, I rely heavily on my pump and really like it.
It is funny to me that I was so hesitant and had to be convinced to use the pump and CGM. These items are only keeping me healthier and in better glucose control. While they do not communicate with each other, I am OK with checking them frequently and deciding what to do, regarding dips and peaks in glucose levels, rather than having the machine do it for me, for now. It makes me think back to the movie, The Terminator, where it was human beings versus machines, running the world. If that came true, whose side would I be fighting on?! I feel like I am already part machine.
About the Author: Andrea Eisenman is 54 and has CF, she is 19.5 years post transplant. Diagnosed with CFRD just after her lung transplant, she appreciates new technology to help her manage her diabetes better. She loves cooking and playing tennis or pickle ball and hopes to compete in the Transplant Games of America next summer in those two sports. She has been a director on the board of CF Roundtable and USACFA since 2002.