It’s the last morning of my “diabetes vacation”. I went to bed on a Sunday night dreading the return to my regular routine. The last day of the Bionic Pancreas Study reminds me of the last day at camp … only worse. I’ve been anticipating and getting excited for the familiar surroundings of home, but I know I’ll miss the comfort the bionic pancreas gives me. It’s like craving the feeling of comfort and sense of ease that camp gives you. I’m going to have the “bionic blues” when this is over.
As a child, I was lucky enough to attend diabetes camp. It became my second home summer after summer. It always took a few days to warm up to the counselors and get to know my cabin mates but, by the last day, I always cried and cried, and cried some more. How could I leave the friends I learned to trust and rely on 24/7? I looked up to my counselors and counted on my “buddies” to be there if I needed them. They would come to the infirmary with me, sit at the dining hall table, or sit out a soccer game because I was nursing a low blood sugar. I didn’t have to explain to my new “besties” about my diabetes, it was just there and that was powerful. There was always one major problem. I couldn’t fit 14 new soul mates in my dirty trunk and take them home with me.
The first day walking in to the hotel before the study began I was nervous, just like I always was on the drive up to camp. It’s the feeling you get when you can’t wait to get there but you’re so anxious at the same time that you might have to pee as soon as you slam the car door. That is how I felt.
By the last day I was afraid to say goodbye to my bionic bliss. It definitely took about 24 hours to trust it and for it to get used to me. The study coordinator had me insert the Dexcom 24 hours prior to the start of the closed loop so it could warm up to my body. The bionic pancreas needed that time as well. On the first day I was a bit higher and I used those first few meals to “announce” to the bionic pancreas whether I was eating a “typical amount”, more, or less. This was the way it could “get to know me”, my eating patterns, and how to adjust insulin dosing more accurately.
By day 2 we were best friends and I knew I was never going to want let it go. I learned to trust it while working out at the gym, walking the mile to work in the morning, and drinking a beer with a friend. The bionic pancreas was just there and I didn’t have to worry about it. That was the best part!
After meeting up with some amazing long-time camp friends for brunch, it started to hit me that it was my last day with my new best bud. I stared at it every 5 minutes, analyzing each and every blue or red line of insulin and glucagon. I returned to the hotel mid-afternoon and started packing up my things after my 5-night stay. Although I was excited about sleeping in my own bed, without a beeping monitor, I knew that meant there was a high probability my personal Dexcom would replace those noises. How could I ever go back to “normal life?”
At 6:05pm, on the dot, I disconnected both insulin and glucagon pumps, ripped out the Dexcom and nearly broke out in tears as I inserted my pump … back in play after a brief hiatus.
My sister was gracious enough to pick me up and take me back home. It felt weird. Where was my nurse? Why can’t I see my blood sugar on a graph anymore? What did I do with my regular home meter? (I had left it at work knowing I wouldn’t need it over the weekend).
Luckily, the big red brick came home with me because I’m moving on to the “open-loop” phase of the study. However, during this phase I’m using a blinded Dexcom and I’m on my own to dose and calibrate the Dexcom using the Hemocue. An hour in, I checked my BG and waited for the dreaded number to show up … 160. Not bad. 3 hours later was the real test. 326! This is exactly why I don’t normally eat pizza.
Certainly, I’m missing my bionic pancreas but I take comfort in knowing that another 2 lucky hotel guests get to experience the 5-night vacation I will never, ever, forget.
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