Never would I ever think that the term “bionic pancreas” would evoke the “old school” feeling of having diabetes. I don’t remember the last time I used alcohol swabs or a cotton balls to wipe the blood from a finger prick or god forbid use a meter the size of a brick.
I remember so clearly my life in the hospital when I was diagnosed in 1989. People coming in and out of the room while I was in a near coma, connected to multiple IVs, and dragging a giant machine to the bathroom. It was terrifying for my family and I, especially as a 6 year old. Even now as I type this sentence there is a nurse over my shoulder reminding me it’s time to do a “Hemocue” check. As part of the protocol I am reminded still that this is a trial and I am a patient. My boyfriend didn’t (and I didn’t) realize how “hospital stay like” this experience would be. My hotel room is stocked with sharps containers, glove boxes and needles; certainly not wine and chocolates.
Last night I had an a-ha moment. I was out to dinner and ate 2 bread sticks, a chicken entrée with sweet potatoes, 2 glasses of white wine, and a shared dessert with dozens of grams of carbohydrates. I didn’t do anything. I could see on the graph that I had been pretty flat over the last few hours, trending at about 80, then a burst of red on the graph meant I received some glucagon and the bionic pancreas caught my trend going down before I felt any symptoms. I only rose to about 140 four hours after the heavy, caloric meal was consumed. I saw the blue lines this time burst to cover the meal.
In some ways its nice having a personal camp counselor following me around everywhere I go with a backpack, including to work and out to restaurants since the research protocol requires a nurse to be with me at all times. However, the chore of using alcohol swabs and a new lancet device each and every time is a constant re-reminder of the fact that diabetes is a disease and I am a subject. The overnight IV is attached to a sensor, running a line of saline and tiny amount of diluted sugar water. It is connected to a Gluco-scout machine that reads my BG automatically every 30 minutes and beeps. At night I feel like I’m back in the hospital like I was over 24 years ago when I was first diagnosed.
Ultimately, what bothers me the most is someone else being in charge of my control. I don’t have the opportunity to “not deal with diabetes”, snooze a high or low alert on a CGM while I’m sleeping or not check a BG exactly 2 hours after I eat. This experience brings back the idea of precision, of “what you’re supposed to do”, to ensure that your diabetes management is as close to perfect as possible, which we all know, is our number one goal.
At the end of the day, I am still so excited. It’s the little things always make you think a little harder and realize the reason I’m at a hotel hospital this time is for the most exciting reason I could ever imagine.