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!).

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Mad Science 1: Alien Autopsy

The body had been dead for a few days, but luckily for me, it hadn’t started to decompose yet. I had all the tools I needed for the postmortem assembled and laid out carefully on the sterile field: Pliers, various sizes of screw drivers, a razor knife, and a Dremel tool—just in case things got dicey. Actually, that inventory sounds more like the tools used in a Banana Republic torture chamber than the surgeon’s tools of the trade used in a proper autopsy.

Oh well. And there’s one other difference between this procedure and a proper postmortem: I’ve no interest in the cause of death. We know why the Snap body died. It reached the normal end of its natural life. What I’m really out to discover is not the cause of death, but the cause of life. I’m out to figure out just how the disposable Snap body works in the first place.

Donning a white lab coat, surgical mask, and protective goggles, I centered the bright exam light over the corpse, and got started. First I disconnected the prism-hub tubing connector. Then I pried out the glass Humalog penfill, by some miracle not breaking it in the process. Next, I used a flat wide-bladed screw driver to try to pry apart the sealed seams of the body from the inside of the insulin chamber. To my delight, the seams effortlessly split asunder. The body opened up like a clam shell.

Nurse, put away the Dremel tool, I ordered in my best terse-surgeon voice.

“But Daddy, I’m not a nurse,” objected Rio.

Kids today. No fucking imagination. That’s the whole problem with society.


After accomplishing the hardest part of the autopsy without incident, I proceeded to drop the fucking thing on the floor while moving it to better light to photograph it. Shit! I’ll be pulling small screws and springs out of the bottom of my bare feet for weeks.

Anyway, here’s what most of the pieces, once I put it back together as best as I could, look like:

The first thing I noticed was that it’s powered by an Energizer Bunny battery. Who knew that hyper rabbit had diabetes? I tell you, we are everywhere!

Looking closer, we can see taht the body of the Snap has not one heart, but four: Power, motor, gears, and something new and wonderful. Let’s start with that last one first. Look at this picture:

Across the bottom-left two thirds you can see the plunger driver. Well, what’s left of it after my unfortunate dropping-the-dead incident. To the right and wrapping around the chamber is a strange goo. These are one and the same. The penfill plunger is forced upwards, delivering insulin, by a flexible tube of waxy plastic which in this body is nearly used up, as I drank every drop of insulin it had to offer. I saw these white tube-like structures at their factory, but didn’t realize what they were. They just looked like little lengths of rope to me at the time.

If you look at the housing, you can see that the plunger curls up in a U-shape, like a lazy snake, before beginning its journey upwards. And like a mutant viper, it only has one fang. A single spear-like needle rises out of the tip and skewers the rubber bottom of the penfill to better anchor the system.

What drives this journey? You’ll never believe it. The smallest, cutest little electric motor you’ve even seen:

 Even Stuart Little would find this pint-sized wonder small.

Wait a sec. Isn’t this all a little…umm… primitive for an insulin pump? Where are the brains, for crying out loud? Ah hah! There’s the circuit board and computer stuff, on a thin ribbon, hiding behind the AAA bunny battery:

 The gears I don’t have totally figured out yet, but here they are: A couple of clock-work pieces and something that looks a hell of a lot like an Archimedes screw. Wow, can you get any older-school than the ancient Greeks?

 The circuit board controls the motor, which drives the gears, which turn the Archimedes screw, which moves the snake, which pushes the plunger, which delivers the insulin. Crazy shit! How can this simple and yet elegant system really work without killing me?

Next time: Active insulin and urine. Nothing to get pissed off about.


Blogger George said...

So cool.

4:23 PM  

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