Monday, February 16, 2015

I Am Not A Diabetes Jedi

It was a usual morning, with stress and work levels being lower and more managed than they had been during recent days. I was quite productive, and was happy with how the day was moving along at that point.

But looking down at my desk, two things occurred to me:

1. My coffee cup was nearly empty.

2. I needed to do a blood test, because it had been a while (and I wasn't wearing my Dexcom).

At that moment, I didn't feel like standing up or even moving my arm across the length of the desk to grab my USB meter, stab my finger and check my sugar. I was just feeling lazy, or too comfy in my office chair to disrupt the flow of things.

"Maybe.... I can just will it to show me a number. And maybe the coffee will refill all by itself."

I waited, and neither happened.

(Upon reflection: This was probably more me weighing the need for both, rather than actually hoping something Jedi-like would happen here...)

Sighing, I reluctantly grabbed my meter and stuck a strip in.

Even though I was fine with doing a blood sugar check while sitting at my desk, that wasn't going to solve my coffee problem.

The Riley Dog was nearby, resting behind my desk on her floor pillow. I eyed her, hoping to pursuade her with my mind to go fetch me more coffee.

Sadly, that didn't work either.

I sighed, turning my attention back to my blood test by poking my finger and applying the blood to the end of the strip.

Unfortauntely, I had waited too long. The Jedi Mind Trick failed, but enough time had passed that the meter had shut off automatically -- meaning my blood drop and strip were both worless.

"Damn it!"

This woke the dog up, scaring her and making her come cower on the floor next to me.

A second test strip, new finger stab and drop of blood, and a 278 mg/dL.

This whole morning experience took less than 10 minutes, and I'm not even sure why it annoyed me (see: I was being lazy), but it just rubbed me the wrong way in that moment.

Yet, life went on. And I went to refill my own coffee, to get my chi back on.

Oh, and then 15 minutes later, I remembered to actually push the insulin pump buttons since apparently my telekenis was still not working.

Damn diabetes... It's always the little things that get to you, even when they shouldn't.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Insulin, Insurance, Wine, Roses, & Social Media

It costs a lot to stay alive when you have type 1 diabetes, and without insulin that just won't happen.

During my latest prescription refill routine, the full cost of all this truly hit me.

My insulin cost $208 per vial, without any insurance coverage factored in.

I ended up paying half that amount per vial -- certainly a deal, thanks to insurance. Still, it cost me $314 to get my monthly 3-vial supply of insulin. And that amount is certainly higher than it was last year, and the year before that... it's gone up more than 50% in the past few years.

All because Big Pharma is in a quickly-approaching insulin war, with patents expiring and they are trying to bring in as much money as they can before those patents expire and pave the way for lower cost, more generic insulin (should someone actually be able to develop and market something like this, which isn't expected anytime soon).

As a result, we're all being milked dry just to get the medication we need to stay alive.  It's ridiculous.

After leaving my pharmacy, I was angry. Walking through the rest of the store aisles picking up some necessities (like coffee, OJ and some chicken noodle soup thanks to sickness in the house), I stewed about the high cost and grumbled to myself.

In the checkout aisle, a $6.99 bottle of Merlot called my name and insisted I buy it. After all, if I've just spent $314 on insulin plus $35 on other prescriptions, an extra $7 to calm my nerves is certainly no big deal. To me, that's as much a part of the prescription cost as the insulin itself.

Leaving the store, I took to Twitter to co-miserate about the high cost of insulin and how it always seems to be skyrocketing. Others shared in the grief, with their own tales of understanding.

Then, I started feeling guilty about my response to the costs of insulin.

Yes, it cost a lot in my world. But I'm lucky, because I have access to insulin. I can afford it, to the extend that it's "affordable," and I am fortunate to have a pharmacy near my house, insurance coverage to help ease the retail price-tag, and a good-paying job to provide that insurance and money for my insulin-buying needs.

Soon enough, my anger over my insulin cost and guilt about feeling that way transformed into outrage about how inaccessible insulin is across the globe. That 94 years after it was invented, insulin isn't available to everyone who needs it and diabetes is still a death sentence for so many.

This pissed me off to no end.

And so, I decided to appreciate all that I have and make a contribution to a charitable cause that helps get insulin to kids with diabetes in developing countries. The third annual Spare A Rose, Save a Child campaign is going on now through Valentine's Day, and all the money raised for this great cause goes directly to the International Diabetes Federation's Life for a Child program. I've been proud of this initiative for three years now, and so I thought this was a perfect time to give back a little more.

Right after I stuffed my three vials of insulin into the butter compartment at home, I made a $15 donation to #SpareARose -- that's three months of life for a child with diabetes.

Totally worth adding that $15 on to the cost of my insulin prescription, bringing the grand total to $336.

And so, that is what it cost me this month for insulin. No, I'm not even going to delve into the insulin pump supplies and syringes still needed, as that just adds even more to the overall cost. That's for another time.

It costs a lot, but I'm glad I have the access and affordability that I do -- even if it means needing a little wine, social media, and global giving perspective to bring it all together.

Buy some insulin, drink some wine, donate to a good cause because you can.

Here's to life.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Glucose Tab Jinx

We were out at dinner the other night, sitting at the bar in our local brewpub and talking about nothing in particular. Really, the conversation was really all over the place, turning to whatever was on the mind at the time.

Since we're regulars there, one of the owners knows that we're from Detroit and I'm a big Detroit sports fan. He enjoys the simple fun of buying old-school baseball card packs, and he gives me any Detroit Tiger cards that he happens to get. That night, he brought me two cards. And that brought up a conversation about the latest baseball happenings, including how Detroit Tiger pitcher Max Scherzer had recently left for the Washington Nationals, and he and his wife put a pretty cool ad in the Detroit Free Press thanking the franchise and fans for his years in D-town.

We both realized we hadn't seen the actual ad, only saw a news story about it. And so, I turned to my smartphone to check out that ad. And afterward, I happened to glance at Facebook to scroll through some status updates.

One post came from a friend in the Diabetes Online Community about stocking up on glucose tabs. This reminded me that I'd planned to do that over the holidays, but forgot and never followed through on that task.

So, I mentioned that casually. And when Suzi mentioned she thought I still had some of those , I pointed out that my plastic jar containers were gone. All I had were a few little t:slim-styled tins with those GlucoLift tabs inside. And that probably was good for the time being.
GlucoLift tabs

Of course, I'm a weird one who happens to enjoy the taste of glucose tablets -- always have, even those now-defunct BD white squares that so many describe as "chalky." Never thought so, and I used to consider glucose tabs to be little candy-like treats. Still do, actually. Especially the yummy fruit flavored ones.

And that's what prompted me to say, "I think there's one of those tins in the car console. I should have one when we get into the car after dinner."

"Why, are you Low? Or do you just want to eat one?"

Yes, it was the latter and I got an eye roll from that.

The dinner went on, conversation evolved, and the evening played out as it usually does.

And as fate would have it, I had jinked myself.

Sometime between 4 and 5 a.m., a low blood sugar kicked me awake, thanks to the Dexcom's loud
vibrating on the nightstand. By the time I took the initiative to pull myself out of bed to treat, I was hovering the 40s. And I could feel the Low symptoms. So, I found my way to the kitchen and had an early morning snack of fruity GlucoLift tabs with a juicebox to wash them down.

Thanks, dinner-time glucose tab comment.

I should've kept my mouth shut, and not tempted fate to mock me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Insulin Pumpers Walk Into a Bar...

This is the tale of finding a fellow insulin pumper in the wild.

It was a Wednesday night, and I was supposed to be at a diabetes camp board meeting being held on the opposite end of town about 45 minutes from where I live. Thanks to some pressing work tasks that day I left later than planned, and heavy traffic at the start of rush-hour delayed my being able to get up to that part of Indy.

Actually, by the time I made the longer-than-expected drive, it wasn't even worth going to the meeting. And since I hadn't eaten all day and my mind was fried, I decided to stop off for some dinner before driving home after rush hour.

I made my way into a Buffalo Wild Wings, and since it wasn't yet the 5 o'clock hour, the bar was pretty empty. I made my way up to one of the seats with a good view of both big screen TVs, and was all ready to just sit and relax.

The nice bartender girl welcomed me and within a couple minutes I'd snagged a cheap pint of
name-your-big-name-light-beer, ordered some boneless chicken wings and mini corn dogs, and began soaking in ESPN news highlights.

(Had to get the latest on the New England Patriots craziness, which I'd been out of the loop on all day).

Diabetes was the last thing on my mind, aside from my need to dose for the food that was coming my way.

And as I pondered deflated footballs and how two baseball greats being all chummy, I noticed from a glance around that my bartender along with a couple others were off to the side chatting away. Loud enough to hear bits of what they were saying, but it wasn't the focus of my relaxation time and I don't even know what the conversation was really all about.

Yet, about a quarter of the way through my pint, I overheard my bartender-server say:

"(Inaudible)... because I'm diabetic, I have to... (inaudible blah)."

Of course, my ears perked up. Diabetes had found me, even though I wasn't searching for it.

They weren't really saying any more, and within a minute or so she brought my food out. And asked if I needed anything else.

Me: "Nope, all good... but did I hear you say you're diabetic?"

Her: "Yeah, I am."

Me: "Hey, me too! Type 1 or 2?

Her: "Type 1"

Me: "Same here. Since I was 5."

Her: "Really?! How about that?!"

We proceeded to chat for about five minutes, with us exchanging diagnosis stories, her telling me she was diagnosed as a teenager, and how she was a fellow Minimed insulin pumper. Yes, we both flashed our Minimed pumps from both sides of the bar and chatted about some of the other brands out there. And one of her fellow bartenders came over as we had our pumps out and said, "That looks like a pager!"

Enter a quick look exchange and, "Yep, it kinda does."

Anyhow, that was about it. She was actually wrapping up her shift and heading out, so it wasn't a very long conversation. But it felt like I'd found a friend.

Of course, I shared this with the DOC on Twitter, like you do.

No, we didn't exchange names or do any of that. I thought about it, but that wasn't the focus for either of us at the moment and it seemed like we both had other things we wanted to put our minds to. Like going home, and huuuuuge deflated football scandal (I live in Indy, remember).

I'm glad we connected, even briefly, because it's always questionable whether fellow D-peeps in the Wild are open to sharing their personal 411 with total strangers. There's not always time or interest, so I'm glad this brief-but-friendly encounter went as it did.

If I'm ever interested in re-connecting and inviting her to an Adult D-Meetup or something, I know where to go.

So yes, two Insulin Pumpers Walked Into a Bar...

... And the whole Indy D-Community and DOC felt like it was there with us in spirit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What I Loved and Feared About Nightscout From the Start

I have to be honest, Nightscout is awesome.

It's great having my CGM in the Cloud and being able to share that blood sugar data with others, and giving myself more access to viewing my data when and where I want in a form that helps me.

First impressions were strongly positive, and I stand by all of that.

Additional observations, from my first six weeks of using my "early Christmas gift" strapped to my waist and wrist:
  • The alerts annoy me at 80 and 180. I'd prefer 70 and 200. -- (UPDATE: I have learned, thanks to Sara, that a Pebble update allows me to customize alert ranges -- so that's awesome!!!)
  • Most of the time, I keep my Pebble on "Quiet Mike" mode which uses a CGM Sleep Mode watchface created by a fellow Nightscouter. But when not quiet, I've seen the tighter range makes me work harder to stay in that range and have tighter control just to avoid the annoying vibrations. Interesting...
  • Recent trip to California was a big test drive for this, but problems with battery life and a charging cable mishap made it so it didn't charge one night and the phone battery died. And that caused my wife at home not be tuned in to a 40mg/dL that hovered in the early morning for a couple hours. Luckily, I woke up and treated.
  • It has given her more piece of mind when we're both at work and apart, and if I'm caught up and not answering the phone or email, she knows it's not BG-related.
  • Nightscout is totally a conversation starter, especially when you're wearing the Pebble watch and you tend to be checking it regularly...
  • I wore this to a recent endo appointment and explained Nightscout to him, and Dr. Health Bug
    was truly interested and took the informational pamphlets with interest. And he said during the month I was using Nightscout, I did seem to have less glucose variability. He may encourage others to look into this, too.
  • My endo also had some sage advice that I've heard before: "It's very cool, but don't lose sight of the fact it's just a tool. In reality, it comes down to you managing the way you want to." 
 Yes, most of experience has been positive so far. But there's a caveat, one that always seems to come into play when you're talking about tech. And in the case of Nightscout, I've found it certainly applies to me:

Nightscout is awesome... when it works.

Remember, before you take all of this as gospel applying to anyone other than me, factor in this simple truth: I'm one of those guys who doesn't like connection cables, and grumbles when needing to do anything from reprogramming the microwave clock, re-connecting the wireless printer, or hooking up a new TV or DVR. I just don't like those things, and so that paints my perception of CGM in the Cloud.