Is there such a thing as pancreas envy? I’m going to say yes and I’ve got a bad case of it!
A few weeks ago, Justin wore a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring Sensor. His lines were incredible! It was amazing to see him eat and his sugar only increase slightly. He was in the 90s pretty much all the time. A few times he made it into the 100s, but the highest he ever went was 117!
This made me realize two things: 1) I am incredibly jealous of my husband’s pancreas; and 2) the human body is absolutely amazing! See, when Jackson or I or any of the other awesome people in the type 1 diabetes club eat, we take our best guess at how many carbohydrates we’re eating and deliver insulin through an insulin pump or injection to counteract those carbs. The amount given is based on an insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio determined by the type 1 diabetics and their doctors.
Even when it works and I stay in my target blood glucose area after eating, I still tend to go up quite a bit. This was not the case with Justin. A Dexcom cgm is one of the only medical devices that you actually want to see a flat line on. This means that the food that you just ate didn’t make your blood sugar take a crazy jump (or fall if you over-estimated the carbs and took too much insulin) from where it was prior to eating. Justin’s line was nearly always flat. It didn’t matter what he did! He worked out – flat line, he ate – flat line, he slept – flat line. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty lenient in my definition of flat. There were some small peaks and valleys, but nothing like the Ms and Ws that are usually found on our graph.
Speaking of flat lines, I recently attended the Afternoon of Hope put on by JDRF. Lauren Sivewright wore the artificial pancreas during an at home study and spoke at the Afternoon of Hope. She was able to exercise and get a flat line, eat – flat line, sleep – flat line. Sound familiar? Yeah, I just said all of this about Justin. See the artificial pancreas will function so much more like a human pancreas! And the best part – it will require little effort from us!
The artificial pancreas (AP) consists of an insulin pump connected to a Dexcom CGM, and a handheld device (in this case a converted phone). You never touch the pump except to change sites. When you eat you tell the AP handheld device that you’re eating and you tell it the estimated carbs. However, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE EXACT! If you couldn’t tell, I’m a little excited by this! For example, she told the device that she was eating 60 carbs for one piece of Alfredo pizza. She ended up eating the entire medium pizza and never told it she was eating more than what she previously said and she never went high – like not even close!
For me, the joy would come with chips! I cannot wait to be able to sit down with a bag of chips while watching a favorite show and just be able to eat without counting the flippin’ chips! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna turn into a constant overeater! I just want to be able to be able to not think as I dig my hand into the bag for once in my life!
Also, I can’t even begin to describe how nice it would be to not have to be exact with carb counting! The fact that you could make your child (or yourself) feel like crap just because you were off on estimating carbs is an awful feeling. Talk about pressure! Those few minutes prior to a meal can get intense as my mind transforms into a carb-counting calculator (You can tell this is happening by the look on my face, lol). Can’t wait for the day when this eases up!
And she slept uninterrupted for 10 hours! She was in the low 100s before bed. She normally would not go to bed in the low 100s because she would drop low during the night. She promised that she would trust the system though so she fought the urge to treat it and just went to bed. Her line stayed straight and she woke up to a perfect number!
The AP is supposed to be out in 2017. I pray that this really is true and that the Dexcom that comes with it is accurate enough to make this work! Fingers (and toes) crossed.
Jennifer Runyon is a freelance writer who shares her life stories living with type 1 diabetes for 28 years and whose young son also has been diagnosed with the disease. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.