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!).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

R.I.P. sensor number 7

I've been mad all day. Pissed off. Can't trust the bitch! She's been lying to me for two days. I bet she's been checking some other diabetic's BG on the side....Grumble, grumble, grumble...

The day is such a tangle from lack of sleep I don't know for sure that I can get the details right. A few days ago, as part of a discussion at TalkFest I posted the following:

I only sleep with the sensor and transmitter...not much worse than an infusion set. The box "sleeps" on my night stand. Actually, she doesn't sleep. I sleep like a baby and she stays up all night keeping watch over me!

How true that turned out to be. We all know how babies sleep. They wake up crying every two hours all night long.

Did the Guardian work at all right today? Hmmm....not for long. I can't remember for sure. I think the day started off OK, but not great. She was off little but not tons. What was truly terrifying to me however, is that she was running high. I like it better when she runs low.
Hypos are my worst nightmare. If my Guardian Angel is running high that means I'm lower than she thinks. That means I could be sleeping with the fishes when the hypo alarm goes off. OK that was overly dramatic and will probably keep my Mother awake with worry for three days. But the point is valid--if she is gonna error, she needs to error low.

The day was OK for a while. I remember being tickled two hours post lunch. I did a finger stick (this time and ever more). The Cozmo clocked me in at 137. I flip open the Guardian's cover and Click. 137. Now that's more like it!

But as the day wore on things got funky. Well funky is the wrong word. We need something stronger. Sucky. Stronger still...oh wait this is a family blog. This is the internet after all. It starting with some simple shopping....

We stopped by Wal-mart to pick up lettuce. This kind of errand often turns into a three hour odyssey in our town. Ten feet into the store I run into one of my mother-in-law's old friends. Twenty minutes later, after getting another ten feet into the store I run into the mother of one of the girls who used to work for me. Twenty minutes later, after getting another ten feet into the store I run into one of our local photographers. Long time friend and customer. Thirty minutes later and now thirty feet into the big box, I can't remember why I've come in the first place.

My stomach starts to bother me, then my head starts to ache. Guardian shows me low and Cozmo shows me high. I've taken two correction boluses in the last two hours. They and the walking kick in. But as the BG actually drops, the Guardian goes the other way. It is showing me rising. I'm tired, I don't feel well, and I'm totally disgusted. Maybe being on the cutting edge of technology wasn't such a great idea after all.

I get temporally separated from my spouse. In a Wal-mart that can be fatal. I've heard that thousands of people have died searching for lost loved ones in these stores. ;-) I head to the back up rendezvous site--the bench by the exit doors. There I very nearly fall asleep.

Once reunited we gather up the lettuce and the kid and head across and down Seventh Street to Dairy Queen to get him a promised treat. Did you know it is the 20th Anniversary of the Blizzard? I had one of the first ones; wow...20 years ago. They used to serve them upside down. The kids running the store this night are all younger than the venerable Blizzard.

We bump into my photographer friend again. She has a new car. A Land Rover Discovery? I am seething with jealousy on one hand, and happy for her on the other. We have two Hondas, both used. With the cost of my health care I don't ever expect to be driving a Land Rover. I stick my nose in and nearly drool on her leather seats. It is a thing of beauty. How's the gas mileage?

I get 35 miles per gallon in my Honda Accord with it's manual crank windows. She gets only 14. I'm feeling better. My treat at DQ.

Inside DQ my sugar is very borderline low. Time to do something. Well, I could be in a worse place for that, huh? Guardian shows me high. I bolus for a small Blizzard...80 carbs if you are curious, and yes, of course I got the Oreo Cookie variety. The pump gives me a very modest shot of insulin, adjusted way down for the low BG. Ten minutes later, sugar surging, Guardian gives me a low alarm.

I grumble all the way home. I sit down at my lap top to check on the rest of the Diabetic OC when I get another Calibration alarm. Will this never end? I want to rip the sensor from my body and start over with a new one. I call my Mother. Why don't you rip the sensor out of your body and start over with a new one, she asks?

Well, if I let it run it's course we (being yours truly and Medtronic) will learn more; maybe figure out what went wrong prevent it in the....a new alarm interrupts me.


Halleluiah! The girl has finally realized what I’ve known for over 24 hours. This senor is broke and can’t be fixed. What haunts me now, is how often will this happen? The sensor was in play about 36 hours--about one-half it’s expected life span; and it gave an exceptionally crappy performance during that time.

I’m going to put a new one it but I call the 24 hour help line at Medtronic first. I want them to help me run through a “plug test.” The Guardian comes with a little device to help trouble-shoot the system. I want to make sure that it is just the sensor that is out of whack.

Like the two other times I’ve called, I’m quickly talking to a real person; and once again, a nice one. She talks me step-by-step through the procedure. The test makes sure the transmitter is sending well and the monitor is receiving properly. Thumbs up. All is well.

She urges me again to send the data on the bad sensor to their tech folks, which I assure her I will do. She also encourages me to call for anything, no matter how small. “There aren’t many of you Guardian folks, we value your feedback.”

As I’m pulling off the dead and reviled seventh sensor I make a discovery, that I pray is the answer to the mystery. As you know I’ve been having a skin reaction to the tape. The last two sets I’ve had a bottom layer of IV 3000. Works great by the way. Skin is recovering. Not so much super-sticky stuff on my body that won’t come off, and the transmitter holds on just fine.
But as I’m pulling out the sensor, I notice it is right at the very cusp of the hole I punched into the bandage for the sensor needle to pass through. Is it possible that I missed? Is it possible that the sensor caught a piece of the tape on the way into my body? If it did, it would most certainly cause trouble.

I would much, much, much rather this sensor’s failure was the result of my stupidity. Why? Because if it is a case of user error, then the sensors are more reliable. I can live with that. I’d rather live with that, because I don’t want to face the possibility that sensors are sometimes bad. Even if one in 100 are bad that is too much. Too dangerous. That’s like living in a brothel and knowing that one in 100 condoms are bad. Too risky. Too high a price to pay.

I punch a very large hole in the new IV 3000. Slip sensor number eight into the Sen-serter (which I’ve come to love), line it up most carefully and fire the white trigger on the top. Shunnnk! A new sensor slides into my body. Excalibur in reverse, and hope for a new day. Hope for a return to dead-on readings with the benefit of several lessons learned.

The price of peace is eternal vigilance, they used to say in the old days. Diabetes is a bitch. Regardless of our gear, we must remain eternally vigilant.

Tomorrow: more trouble? Or paranoia? The quest for answers!


Anonymous Emily said...

I'm not sure if you have answered this but earlier you had said that you had to get a new transmitter every year, which costs $400, because of the short battery life. If one was to say use the guardian and transmitter say two weeks out of the month, would that extend the life of the transmitter? Thanks

10:22 PM  
Blogger Wil said...

Emily--no, I don't think so. There is no way to actually turn the transmitter off; it is a totally sealed unit. It will last a full year used 24-7 however. Hmmm...although without the monitor prompting it I suppose it may not work as hard. I'll ask the Medtronic wizzards next time I call them.

Why would you want to wear one only two weeks per month?

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Emily said...

as i understood it the mm rep mentioned something that some people now using the guardian may not wear it all the time and just use it every so often, to adjust/check basals, or when they know that they are going to be doing a lot of activities out of the ordinary

9:59 AM  
Blogger Wil said...

Well I guess that makes sense for people who don't have the hypo unawareness problem that I have...

10:41 AM  

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