All of these devices can and do fail. My insulin pump has broken numerous times over the years and had to be replaced. Pump tubing kinks, insulin goes bad in the heat. Hands covered with unseen food residue causes errant fingerstick meter readings. My CGM sensor simply falls off my body sometimes or the receiver breaks when it falls to the floor. Diabetes technology has given me the confidence to travel, have a family, live an active, mostly normal life. But knowing that any one of the things I depend on to live can be taken away at any moment can make me feel more vulnerable than if this technology didn’t exist at all.
Even with all the benefits of diabetes technology advancement, I’ve still considered ditching all of these devices. They are expensive, and they don’t always work. I’ve come to depend on them to live a full life, and that makes me feel defenseless against their flaws. There are some in the diabetes community who advocate going back to basics: limiting carbohydrates, multiple daily injections of insulin, fingerstick blood sugar checks only, to avoid the known anxieties that come with the constant feedback of CGM.
Then there’s the other camp, those working tirelessly to bring about technology to improve the lives of those living with diabetes, such as the artificial and bionic pancreas projects and CGM in the Cloud. My weekly two hours without CGM reminds me not of what my life was like before it, because then I couldn’t imagine the wonderfully secure feeling of the device quietly monitoring the unseen. It reminds me that my future with diabetes technology will be even better, despite the sometimes paralyzing fear of its failing to do the work my pancreas can’t.
Back to the kitchen again. This time I grab a square of dark chocolate from the cupboard. It is delicious. A handful of almonds wouldn’t hurt either.
I try to distract myself for the next 45 minutes. Logically I know that my blood sugar will be fine during that time. I could check it with my meter at any moment for goodness’ sake.
Sometimes I think I have a sort of blood sugar PTSD during these warm-up times as flashbacks of near diabetes disasters arrive from my memory, unwelcome. The hot afternoon I spent carrying groceries in from the car, my baby daughter left on the floor of the kitchen in her car seat. I feel woozy, check, and am 28 mg/dl. I shovel in handfuls of marshmallows as the edges of my vision start to grow dark. Or the time on an overnight trip on our sailboat when I couldn’t stop vomiting. Was it seasickness or the 450 mg/dl glucose meter reading, a result of kinked insulin pump tubing?
I try not to think of diabetic friends I’ve known that did not survive such disasters.
My CGM receiver buzzes again in my pocket. This time the calibration symbols are on the screen. I check my glucose with my meter, then punch in the number, twice. I wait, probably not aware I’m holding my breath again. The reading pops up at long last at the top of the screen and the new graph begins.
Right then, my family comes tumbling in through the front door. My oldest daughter a stream of steady commentary about all the things she saw in the woods, my youngest wailing that she’s hungry as she heads for the kitchen. I hug them all and tuck the CGM receiver back into my pocket, assured that it’s watching over me again.