LifeAfterDx--Diabetes Uncensored

A internet journal from one of the first T1 Diabetics to use continuous glucose monitoring. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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Location: New Mexico, United States

Hi! I’m William “Lee” Dubois (called either Wil or Lee, depending what part of the internet you’re on). I’m a diabetes columnist and the author of four books about diabetes that have collectively won 16 national and international book awards. (Hey, if you can’t brag about yourself on your own blog, where can you??) I have the great good fortune to pen the edgy Dear Abby-style advice column every Saturday at Diabetes Mine; write the Diabetes Simplified column for dLife; and am one of the ShareCare diabetes experts. My work also appears in Diabetic Living and Diabetes Self-Management magazines. In addition to writing, I’ve spent the last half-dozen years running the diabetes education program for a rural non-profit clinic in the mountains of New Mexico. Don’t worry, I’ll get some rest after the cure. LifeAfterDx is my personal home base, where I get to say what and how I feel about diabetes and… you know… life, free from the red pens of editors (all of whom I adore, of course!).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Failure and rescue

I've known for a long time that God has an ironic sense of humor. I was reminded of that on Sunday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I'm in the Hall of Life on the second floor looking at Health Exhibits with my three-year-old, Rio. No kidding, while I'm reading a display on Diabetes my Guardian alarms to tell me she's not working. Oh shit.

There is no telemetry and for the last 10 or fifteen minutes I have no data. Oh shit. We’re doing a lot of walking. I tend to get hypo when I exercise.

So three-year-old in tow, with a stroller, my emergency bag, his supply bag, and our coats I’m off to find the nearest bathroom to check the sensor set and try to figure out what’s going on. “Daddy, I’m not ready to gooooo!” We gotta go, NOW.

In the bathroom, after getting myself and the stroller caught in malfunctioning automatic door for wheel chairs, I find nothing seems to be wrong with the set. Of course, what is there to see? The transmitter is still plugged in to the sensor, and senor is still plugged in to me. Well, shit.

“Daddy, I’m hungry. Hungry. Hungry. Hungry.” OK, well I can’t think what to do, my mind is numb. Better feed the little one. Down we go to the T-Rex Cafe. Juggling stroller, bags, jackets, three-year-old; and now a tray with a salad for me and salad and fruit for the little one. Did I mention that my wife and my mother are off on a separate adventure, leaving us “men” to fend for ourselves at the museum? I have a new appreciation for the difficulties faced by single parents....

Finally after getting us through the line (twenty bucks for a couple of salads???), and out to the tables, and then back to the cash register for the plastic “silverware” and paper napkins I’d forgotten, and then back to the tables; my mind quickly goes through anger, confusion, despair.

Anger: this damn thing is brand-new and already it broke!
Confusion: what the hell am I going to do now?
Despair: can’t cry in front of the boy! ;-)

I’ve left the manual at home. I’ve left the test plug at home (the test plug is a device tech support can use to check the systems). I’m not carrying my spare sensor with me, it’s back at the room in the fridge. I try to work out what to do next with my limited knowledge of the system.

Monitor read outs are functioning. The back light is bright. So it is not likely to be the batteries. I’m not getting a telemetry icon. So it would seem that the transmitter is not sending out a signal. The transmitter is supposed to last a year. I’ll be pretty irked if it lasts less than a week. I’ve had some weird readings on this sensor. Could it be a bad sensor? If a sensor starts to get used up I’m supposed to get an alarm to warn me it needs to be replaced. I haven’t had that alarm. If a sensor did fail, would that cause the telemetry to fail too?

I’m thinking to myself that I’ll trying changing the sensor when I get back to my room and see what happens. If that fails I’ll have to wait until I get back to New Mexico. Then it occurs to me: maybe it is something simple. Maybe it is something that Medtronic can help me with. They have a 24-7 tech support line. Do I have the number? I take the monitor off my belt and slip it out of the case. I remove the belt clip, and thank goodness the 800 number is printed on the back of the monitor.

I’ve finished my salad, Rio is still working his way through a mountain of fresh fruit--dipping watermelon chunks and strawberries into ranch dressing. I get out my cell phone and call. I’m very quickly talking a real person. I explain the problem. The young lady at tech support starts taking me though a series of checks to narrow down what the problem could be. We confirm that the monitor knows the transmitter’s number. We check a couple of other settings. I’m starting to get depressed. My contact tells me to try initiating a search. This is the same procedure you use when you’ve put a new senor in. The monitor starts an 8 minute count down during which there is an electronic mating dance between the sensor and the monitor. Of course with a new set, you start the count down, plug in and in an instant they are linked up. I start the count down and then my Rio says:

“Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom.” You gotta be kidding.

Now I don’t know how many of you either have, or have had, three-year-olds. But when they tell you they need to go, the clock is ticking and you haven’t got much time. So off we go, three-year-old Rio, stroller, bags, coats, cell phone on shoulder, monitor out of case, belt clip off; now with a bottle of water and a bottle of strawberry milk to add to the load.

Is it possible to call you back? I’m figuring in the middle of this I’m gonna end up dropping either the cell phone or the Guardian in the toilet. She gives me her name, wishes me luck and tells me to call her back as soon as I’ve got the situation under control.

About ten minutes later, I situate us and our gear in a more quiet corner. I pull the Guardian out of my pocket. She’s working again. I call my contact back for a post mortem.

Her best guess: some sort of radio interference (maybe from the electronics in the museum exhibits?) interrupted the telemetry link. I’m told that cell phones sometimes do this, as do some types of computer equipment. Usually if there is a break, the two will link up again. If the interference goes on too long a manual search needs to be done. She’s not sure the length of time.

That’s OK. She’s got me up and running again; and I know what to do if it happens again. And Rio and I are off to see the Egyptian mummies...


Blogger Sandra Miller said...

Wow! I've finally gotten around to visiting your site-- what an amazing amount of information about this new technology (and the challenges of integrating it into your day-to-day life).

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. My 10-year old son was diagnosed just over a year ago (he's been pumping since Jan 26, 2005). And he's on a wait list now at our clinic to trial the Guardian...

Funny, when you describe how erratic your sugars have become (in your masthead), I wonder if you might be leaving the honeymoon stage of the disease (I posted about this just today).

Anyhow, I will continue to read with interest about your adventures with the guardian.

Take care,

p.s. I could so very much relate to the 3-year old needing to get to the bathroom experience. Though, I don't generally have quite so many balls in the air when it happens. :)

12:01 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

I love every word of your blog entries. This one was precious and should be published in a magazine!

You mentioned that you were having some odd readings with this particular sensor. Would you mind elaborating?

BTW, did you see that in Qatar they are releasing the Paradigm/Guardian combo? I posted the article here:

Thank you so much for all you are sharing.

Ellen (an outdated website but it was once a passion)

6:02 AM  
Blogger Kerri. said...

Printcrafter -- I read your blog almost every day, excited to see how this amazing technology is affecting your life.

Well written, PC. Bravo!

9:14 AM  
Blogger Twinbridge said...


Do you know why Guardian RT is currently only for 18 years or older?

7:09 AM  
Blogger Sandra Miller said...


Hopefully, you'll be checking back here...

As far as I know, that is not the case. Our pediatric diabetes clinic has the Guardian RT CGMS, and they are currently allowing children to use it for a 7-day period.

Sooo, I'm wondering if it's only available beyond 7 days for those over 18... hmmmm... I'll check back with our clinic, and post on my blog when I get the answer.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Twinbridge said...

Thanks, Sandra.

My daughter is 6 year old with type I diabetes. I would love for her to start using it as early as possible.

11:34 AM  

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