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

My Photo
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, January 12, 2006

What the hell is it about Home Depot?

Have you watched Forty dollars a day with Rachel Ray? Fun show. Of course our intrepid host doesn’t have to deal with a $40 sensor, that in this case lasted only one day. If I’d been with Rachel on this day it would have been no food for Wil. Here is my tale of woe.

It's been a bad week for me and sensors. You recall the tale of the bent / painful sensor, right? So with some trepidation I moved my sensor site back to a stomach set to replace it. It seems less likely that I'd bend one there. The transmitter-tape induced rash on my stomach has cleared up, but now the skin on my stomach is different colors. I have perfect light brown transmitter-shaped patches where the pigment of my skin seems to have changed color. There are several of them. I have no idea if it is permanent or not.

Now I'm a middle-aged married guy, so the only person who sees me naked is my wife, and she's long past being interested enough to look anyway. But if I were female, or a young man who liked to go shirtless in the summer, I'd bet this would be highly distressing.

My advice--use a IV3000 on the bottom.

So this was....hmmmm, must have been Friday morning. All day long the sensor didn't behave really well. Off. Mostly reading low. Then the damn thing alarmed, err, alerted every 45 minutes all night long. At each point I did the finger stick and found the sugar holding steady in the low hundreds. At one point the girl reported my BG at 54. The finger stick clocked me in at 117. Looking at the signals menu, I see that the signal strength is very low. I don't enter calibration sticks, hoping that the signal will recover. If it does, I don't want it to over-respond and run too high. For the rest of the night I just canceled the alarm and rolled back over to go to sleep each time. Every 45 minutes. All night long.

For the first part of the morning she was acting OK, but then began to drift lower and lower. We were headed home from Denver when we stopped at the Elephant Bar for lunch at Colorado Springs. At that point the difference was 52 points. (Printcrafter’s restaurant rating: four and a half stars for food, five stars for decor and atmosphere. Also nice that Rio's drink and desert are included in the price of the kid's meal.)

We stopped at Home Depot in Pueblo, retaliation for my buying a bike without first getting spousal approval. I don't remember the exact details of events, but I think I had a low alert, way off. I fed it a cal stick. That led to a cal error that lead to another finger stick that lead to an alarm that the sensor had failed and needed to be replaced. It had been in service about 26 hours. Bummer.

Now have you ever seen the men's room at a Home Depot? This is one place that I am no way going to use to stick a needle into my self.

I decide to go Guardian-free for a hour or so. I've got my eye on the handicapped restroom at Colorado City’s Cuerno Verde rest area. I used it once when the men's room was being cleaned. I recall that it is a cell-block sized room for one. It has a toilet, sink, towels, and a long countertop along one wall. I can lock my self in and do what needs to be done.

Deb takes Rio to play on the rocks and I dig though the trunk. Under the jackets, under the new bicycle wheels, under assorted bags at the very bottom (of course) are my pump and Guardian supplies. Lucky for me that I'm superstitious and brought a spare sensor in the ice chest.

I gather up all my stuff and head for the restroom. They've got a coffee bar set up in the lobby. The elderly hostess glares at me as I head into the handicapped restroom. Hey, there's all kinds of handicaps, lady.

First up, I gotta pull the dead sensor. I've left it in place since Pueblo, just killing the power for monitor. I strip off the IV3000 covering the sensor / transmitter joint, and uncouple the two by depressing the teeth on either side of the sensor. I give the transmitter a quick tug and it pops right off of the IV3000. I get a hold of a corner of the dressing and peel it up. It crumbles into nothing, like a spider web. I'm always amazed that such a large bandage can crumble up into such a little piece of nothingness. Next I have to take out the sensor. I'm yet to establish a protocol for this that I'm totally satisfied with.

With my infusion sets, I just whip them off. But the sensors are a bit more substantial than the canaulas. They've also got a much more aggressive tape. Most of that tape is on the IV 3000 under it, but some is on the skin around the hole in the dressing. After some twisting, pealing and a quick yank, I'm free of it.

Instead of the shiny gold they usually are, this one is dark red. It is coated with dried blood. I guess I just solved the mystery of why it didn't work right. There is a deep, black bruise on my skin where the sensor was injected. Looks like I hit a capillary. I hadn't seen any blood on the bandage, so this comes as a surprise.

I take my hole punch to a new IV3000, punching nine times to create a quarter-to-half inch square opening. I lay in on my skin to the left of the bloody bruise. Next to it I lay down another one for the transmitter. I smooth it into place and pull off the liner.

I slip the sensor into the Sen-serter, pinch up some skin, line everything up carefully, glace away, and push the trigger. I look down. Nice clean insertion. Some times they don't go in all the way and I gotta give them a push with my finger.

I attach the transmitter pad to the back of the transmitter, peel off the backing paper and push it onto the IV3000. Time to hook up. I turn the monitor back on, scroll to "Search" and press ACT twice. The eight minute countdown starts.

Holding the sensor with two fingers, I snap the transmitter cable into place. "Success" says the monitor, then something strange happens. I get an alarm. "C-60. Service." What the hell is that? Then the initialization countdown starts. Well, that's good, but what is this Service thing all about?

I gather up all my goodies and throw them back in the bag. I truck in my shirt, pulling my pump's infusion set tubing down into my pants. I put the monitor back on my belt. I grab the trash can and sweep multitude of paper envelopes, plastic bags, and slippery bandage backings into the trash. We diabetics are not good for land fills.

Back at the car, after another glare from the coffee lady, I make a call to Medtronic 24 hour help line. I get one of the customer service folks who's helped me in the past, and she remembers me. I tell her what's going on. Do you have a minute, she asks? Yeah, but not much longer, I'm roaming. You can hear that vacuum cleaner sound, money being sucked out of your checking account.

Turns out it can be two things: low battery on the transmitter ($400 please) or....

(you're holding your breath, aren't you?)

....or a "false positive" caused by the hook up being not too smooth. If the batteries have run low 11 months early I'll get another alarm at noon tomorrow, and another each day for a week.

(Note: I won't make you wait. All is fine with the batteries, there are no more alarms over the next few days).


Blogger Major Bedhead said...

It's $400 for a battery????! Good grief. I wonder if insurance will cover that (provided insurance ever covers these devices - I'm not holding my breath).

9:07 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Hey Wil. What did Medtronic say about this? "but now the skin on my stomach is different colors. I have perfect light brown transmitter-shaped patches where the pigment of my skin seems to have changed color. There are several of them. I have no idea if it is permanent or not." Do you think they are burns? Were these reported during trials?

BTW, did you insist they replace the battery?

11:49 AM  
Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...

I believe the reason it's so expensive is that when the battery runs out you have to replace the entire transmitter. It's a sealed unit to make it watertight.

But - we know it wasn't the battery, so we're all waiting on the edge of our seats to find out what was causing the problem...

1:15 PM  
Blogger Wil said...

Julia--400 clams for a transmitter. The batteries can't be changed, sealed so you don't get zapped in the shower. I'm guessing that the transmitters will be covered to some degree when the insurance companies come on board.

Ellen--I haven't asked Medtronic about it. They aren't burns, they are marks where I had the rash. The oldest one is beginning to fade, so I think that in a month or two they will all go away.

Scott--sorry I wasn't clear. The alarm WAS caused by my having shaking hands when I hooked up at the rest area. If you don't do a clean swift connect you get a "false alarm." No harm done when you know what's going on, and it did not interfere with the initaliztion in any way.

10:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home