Day 5: The Bionic Break Up

billseals

Take a guess whether or not my blood sugar was in range when I woke up the morning of day 5. Go on, guess! If you have been following any of the previous articles about my Bionic Pancreas experience this is an easy question to answer. Every, and I mean every, day I have worn the Bionic Pancreas I have woken up with blood glucose values that were well within my own personal BG goals.

Here are approximations of my values at 6:30am based on the pictures I took during the study.

  • Day 1 – 102mg/dl
  • Day 2 – 95mg/dl
  • Day 3 – 132mg/dl
  • Day 4 – 112mg/dl
  • Day 5 – 98mg/dl

Would I take these BGs over what I am currently experiencing in my own personal diabetes management?  YES.

Did I go to bed with BGs over 200mg/dl and still woke up in range?  YES.

Did I eat pizza and cupcakes at night and have confidence my BGs would be in range the following morning? YES.

Was I ever worried about going low in the middle of the night?  No.

On day 5, I ate breakfast with Mick, the other participant in the Beacon Hill Study. Mick and I met for the first time 5 years ago at the first in-person diabetes meet up I ever attended. I hadn’t seen him since then. When I found out he was going to be the other study subject conquering diabetes with me, I was really excited. It’s funny how the diabetes world is so small. You meet great people once, only to find yourself sharing breakfast at a hotel in Boston years later. This time the conversation was around drinking orange juice for the first time, for the sake of the taste, and not to treat a low. I took this picture before we ate breakfast that day. Take a look on how nice Mick’s trends are on the left.

dual bg

After a breakfast filled with better conversation than food, I left my friend Mick for a day in the city with my family. I knew we would meet up again that night when we would be giving the final salute to our Bionic Pancreas’ as part of the disconnect process.

II took my family to the New England Aquarium in Boston. It was a great day on many fronts. The weather was pleasant, my kids enjoyed all the seals, penguins, and fish galore. Here’s an especially magical picture of my daughter, Kendall, looking into the eyes of a seal.

seal

Want to know what the best part of the trip was? It wasn’t the fried dough with powdered sugar I ate after. It was the fact I enjoyed this trip with my family and didn’t go low. I didn’t even think about going low. It wasn’t even on my mind. I got to experience the aquarium, and my family, as the main focus for the entire time we were there.

My diabetes took a back seat for a change.

I don’t know about you, but when I go on trips to places I don’t know very well I have my diabetes radar on high alert. I make sure to have back up low supplies, extra testing supplies, and scope out the best places to test my BG before I even have to test. It was a welcome relief not to have to worry about my diabetes and just enjoy life a little more. That was the biggest take away, for me, being involved in the study; that on the Bionic Pancreas I was able to enjoy life more. That’s the part I’m going to miss the most.

I’m sure when this study is discussed with researchers, the FDA, and other intuitions the focus will be on the control of blood sugars. One of the challenges in so many diabetes studies is how to capture and quantify the improvements in quality of life. What is the value? How do you capture the fact that I was able to enjoy a day with my family at a level I hadn’t experienced before?

I didn’t realize how much background worry and mental planning I do on a daily basis until I didn’t have to. I’ve become a well-conditioned person with diabetes over these 25 years. It’s second nature. So how can you mark improvement in this area when the burden is callused over by time?

By the way, blood sugar levels that whole day were great, peaking to about 178mg/dl after a large breakfast.

in range

After an amazing day with my family, I had to make a difficult choice. What would I eat for my final meal on the Bionic Pancreas? I have tortured this device with everything under the sun, except for one bolus bonking cuisine… Chinese food. Below is a picture of this whopping meal I consumed. I am proud say I finished almost the whole thing, sick and joyous all at the same time. My guess for the carbs on this meal would well exceed 120. I have eaten and enjoyed massive meals like this one during this week. I felt a food freedom that can only be equated to when I first started on an insulin pump and ate cake for the first time 14 years because I felt the confidence to do so.

chinese

This week I can say I put the Bionic Pancreas to the test and I am happy with the direction I chose. I know I did not make the healthiest food choices, as many commented on social media when I posted my food photos. However, I feel I contributed valuable data for this study because of the fact that I ate so many carb and fat filled meals. We have asked on Glu in the past, “What would be the first thing you would eat if your diabetes was cured?” The majority didn’t say a salad, I can tell you that! Though the Bionic Pancreas is not a cure, it is the best advancement in technology my diabetes has ever seen by a large margin. I can only imagine how well my glucose numbers would have been if I had eaten lower carbs meals.

Now comes the sad part. I had to break up with my Bionic Pancreas. I had been warned I wouldn’t want to give it back, so I had been prepping myself for the sad moment the entire week. I didn’t feel the direct strike to the heart, as some did, because of the wise advice I received.

sad face

Here is the final picture… the last time I saw the Bionic Pancreas. I ended with a 156mg/dl after eating the massive, carb filled, Chinese food. It was an impressive accomplishment to end our time together with something I would have said was impossible before being involved with this study. But I can’t say that anymore, it is possible. So many things are possible.

156 end

I have never felt that there were things I couldn’t do because of my diabetes. I just felt I was at a disadvantage and if I worked hard I could overcome those disadvantages. There is a saying; “Hard work beats talent every time.” This is a motto I believe in. I used to say, “You can’t out hussle me”, when I played sports. Hussle, to me, was effort and hard work; something you choose to do. This Bionic Pancreas is very talented, my friends. I can only imagine when my hussle is combined with this talented device what outcomes might achieve.

Thank you all for following my story. Please log in to Glu and ask me any questions you may have.

Thank you to all the MGH staff and nurses who were so kind to my family during our 5 day stay in Boston. My kids can be a handful and your wiliness to go above and beyond your job duties to lend a helping hand to my daughter when she needed help crossing the street is something we will always remember.

Thanks to all the wonderful professionals that helped making this device, especially Dr. Ed Damiano, Dr. Steven Russell, and Dr. Firas El-Khatib. Your passion and vision are an amazing combination; almost as amazing as the combination of delivering insulin and Glucagon at the same time!

Thank you to Anna, Scott, Maria, Mick, Kelly, and Tina for your advice, company, and encouragement while I was in the trial. Thanks to all the members of Glu and the diabetes online community that followed my story. Your questions and excitement made my study a once in a lifetime event for me.

I also want to extend a special thank you to my wife Chrissi who, if it wasn’t for her, I would not have been able to partake in this trial. Thank you taking such good care of our kids in a hectic, Boston, hotel room. I love you very much and you are the best supporter in my diabetes care.

And finally to the pigs! There are several pigs that never got the spotlight they deserved until now.  Thank you Jo Jo, Casper, HP Pigs, Fred, Barney, Gus, Dick, Harvey, Rutherford, Stanley, Chip, Sullivan, and the 20 other pigs that paved the way in creating this Bionic Pancreas in a lab setting.

By Bill Woods – Glu Bill

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