May 28, 2008

Catching up with Technology

After being on my new Continuous Glucose Monitor for a bit now, I have to report that I've got some mixed feelings about it. Overall, I'm happy and it's oh so very cool to be able to look at a mini graph of my blood sugar whenever the heck I want to without having to bleed.

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I'm going to go through the things that are frustrating me.

  • In all the pictures online, the transmitter looks very sleek, which it is! But you don't actually wear it that way. In order to protect it from getting caught on something and ripped off your skin, you have to put this silly sticker over the entire thing. The only way I can think of to describe this sticker is to say that you're essentially shrink-wrapping the transmitter and sensor to your skin. It's odd looking and you leave it on for the whole time that you're wearing it (days).
  • They say that the transmitter's results can vary up to 20% off of your actual blood sugar. This is because it's testing interstitial fluid instead of blood. For the most part, I've found it's pretty accurate, maybe 20 points higher or lower than my real blood sugar. But I've had instances where it says I'm 100, but I'm really 300, and just this morning it said I was 57 when I was really 190.
  • The woman who trained me on the transmitter had me set up a number of alarms so I would know when my blood sugar was high or low. But in the first 48 hours, the damn thing was just constantly going off, even when my sugar was great. So I turned them all off.
  • The act of checking your blood sugar is still absolutely necessary. You have to calibrate the thing at least twice a day, but sometimes the transmitter's readings are so far off that I'm testing like I used to - 8-10 times a day - and calibrating it more than twice. I'm hoping the transmitter will figure things out soon so I don't have to keep doing this.

The great thing is that it lies pretty flat under my clothes. It also doesn't leave much of a mark on my skin. And even though you're "not supposed to," I've been leaving it on for more than 3 days at a time.

I'm holding my horses until I've been on it for a month. Then I'm going to start downloading all my readings and look at them in graph format on my computer. I'm really hoping for some clues as to why my A1C is higher than I want it to be, and what I can do to fix it. We'll see!

May 23, 2008

A New Warranty On Life

Now that I'm back in the real world of going to work and cleaning the house, I can focus on something really exciting. I've officially received my new continuous glucose monitor!

It was definitely a process getting approved for this. Once I discovered that my insurance may cover it, I had to work closely with Medtronic Minimed and my doc to push the order through.

The tricky thing was that in order to use the new transmitter, I had to upgrade to a new pump. My pump only had 1 year left on it's 4-year warranty, and just doing an upgrade would transfer that 1 year to my new pump. So my doctor wrote me a special letter to get United Healthcare to cover me for a new pump without doing the upgrade (My fabulous rep at Minimed handled everything!). It was a touch more expensive for me to do this, but now I have a full 4-year warranty on my new pump.

For most things I buy, I rarely ever need to use a warranty. But I've found that over 3 years of pumping, this warranty is crucial. During that 3 years, I've gone through 4 pumps. I know what you're thinking, "Geez, does she drop the thing on cement all the time?"

As a matter of fact I do not. Each time I've needed a replacement pump it was because a button on my pump simply stopped working. I have no idea why. Fortunately, the lovely folks at Minimed have saved the day each time by overnighting me a new pump. So you see, the importance of that 4-year warranty is non-negotiable to me. And there's nothing better than having a warranty on your health.

May 22, 2008

To Amsterdam & Back

I'm back from a relaxing vacation with my husband in the land of wooden shoes and tulips. And pancakes and cheese and beer and other tasty things.

Status Check
  • Percentage of my luggage taken up by diabetes supplies & equipment: 25%
  • Items confiscated by London Security: 1 bottle of contact lense solution
  • # of times I was questioned by security about my insulin, pump, syringes or other equipment: ZERO
  • # of days I exercised on vacation: Walked & biked a million miles each day!
  • # of times I checked my blood sugar a day: 10
  • Instances of low blood sugar: 2
  • Amount of yummy food we ate: Enough to feed a football team for a month.
  • # of pounds gained: -1 (thanks to the exercise!)
  • # of people who tried to pick pocket us: At least 3
  • Souvenirs: Flat, brown, knee-high leather boots (They're all the rage. On any given day, about 40% of Amsterdam's women wore them with skinny jeans.)
  • Percentage of Dutch people we met who were friendly: 100%
  • Hours spent on the flight home throwing up from bad Chinese food: 3
  • Hours spent not eating after getting sick: 7
  • What my blood sugar did because of it: Skyrocketed to 300
  • Items confiscated at US Customs: 1 bag of tulip bulbs (blue)

All in all it was a fabulous trip, except for the flight home. I felt very prepared to handle any diabetes-related situation that might arise, and had virtually no problems. I arrived home just as healthy as when I left.

May 11, 2008

International Travel for Diabetics: Part V

Item #7 on my Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist:

Airline Policies

The final item on my checklist is to be up to date with the airline industry's policies regarding what you can and can't bring with you onto a plane. The best way to find out is to review the TSA's website (Transportation Security Information). For specific info on traveling with diabetes or any other medical condition, check out this page on the TSA website.

I hope my Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist helps you next time you travel abroad. Just because you're taking a vacation from the rest of your life doesn't mean you should take a vacation from your health. Happy travels!

May 9, 2008

International Travel For Diabetics: Part IV

Item #6 on my personal diabetes travel checklist:

Speak Diabetes

One of the worst things I can think of when traveling to a foreign country would be to not be able to communicate if I had a problem. While you may have learned the basic phrases to get by (like "Thank You," "Please," and "Where is the restroom?"), you should also add some phrases about diabetes to your list.

Every time I leave the US, I always look up the following words and phrases and bring them with me. Use a website like Babel Fish to translate them into the language you need.

  • No sugar please
  • Diet soda please
  • I'm diabetic
  • I have diabetes
  • I need candy/sugar/juice
  • I need emergency help
  • I need a doctor
  • She's diabetic
  • She has diabetes

For even more security, you can order diabetes emergency cards in 29 different languages at Select Wisely. Here's pic of the card in English.

Keep your list handy (perhaps slip it into a pocket in your passport cover with your doctor's note!). And make sure every person you're traveling with has a copy. You never know when you'll need to say these phrases, but it's best to be prepared!

May 7, 2008

International Travel For Diabetics: Part III

Item #4 on my personal diabetes travel checklist:


In addition to having enough medication and supplies for your trip (Item #1 on my checklist), you'll need to be sure to have paperwork or packaging that includes your prescriptions. This written documentation proves that your meds belong to you.

It's best to keep your medication in its packaging, especially when going through airports, any type of security, and customs. That way proof is right there with each medication and you should have no problem.

Item #5 on My Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist:

World Diseases & Vaccinations

Contracting a contagious disease is the last thing anyone needs, but if you have diabetes it can be especially dangerous. Many countries outside of the US have a number of diseases going around that are rare to get here at home. And odds are, there are some that you may not have been vaccinated for.

The best way to prevent contracting a contagious disease is to find out about the dangers before you leave. Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website to find out what you could catch in the area of the world you're headed to. If you can, do this about 2 months before leaving so that you have time to get vaccinated if needed (and some vaccinations take a few weeks to kick in).

I know, just what insulin users need, another shot, but it's well worth saving your life.

To check out the rest of this series, read Part I & Part II. Stay tuned for more to come!

May 6, 2008

International Travel For Diabetics: Part II

To start from the beginning of this series, check out Part I.

Item #2 on My Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist:

The Doctor's Note

Heading out of the country, it's important to have a note from your doctor that states that you are required to carry all diabetes medications, syringes, glucometer, test strips, batteries, insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor, and any other diabetes supplies in order to sustain life.

Put in a request for this note at your endocrinologist's office 1 month before you leave. This gives plenty of time for your doc to write it, and for you to pick it up. Two key things to note...1-Be sure it's on "official paper,' such as your doctor's letterhead or a prescription notepad with his/her name printed on it, and 2-Be sure it's legible.

Item #3 on My Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist:

The Passport Cover

I know, I know. Spending money on a passport cover seems like lipstick on a pig (unnecessary and silly, unless it's Miss Piggy), especially if you rarely use your passport. However, when traveling overseas, you naturally safeguard your passport and know where it is at all times. Which is exactly what you should be doing with Item #2 - The Doctor's Note, so why not keep them together?

Imagine you're on the trip of a lifetime, but authorities won't let you cross from France into Germany with your diabetes meds and supplies...all because you lost your Doctor's Note.

Pick out a passport cover that has a pocket on it and place your Doctor's Note securely inside. There's a passport cover out there for everyone, from under $10 to Louis Vuitton. Just Google "passport cover" and you'll find the one for you. My thoughtful sister gave me a lovely white leather cover with silver flowers on it for my birthday. Perfect timing for Amsterdam!

May 5, 2008

International Travel For Diabetics: Part I

My husband and I are jetting off to Amsterdam next week to celebrate 3 years of marital bliss. I'm feeling prepared even though I haven't packed yet. Traveling to other countries is easy...IF you're prepared. Having diabetes makes it a bit more complex but that's no reason to stress about it.

In preparation for this upcoming International travel, I'm going to post a series this week on how to prepare for a trip like this. Breaking the tasks up makes them feel more manageable, and it helps me take a chill pill!

Item #1 on My Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist:

Medications & Supplies

A month before leaving for the trip, I make sure I've got enough medication and other diabetes supplies to last 3 times the length of the trip. For this 8-day trip, I've got enough insulin, test strips, pump supplies, batteries, etc for 24 days. I know that 3 times the quantity you need sounds like a lot, but who wants to be stuck in a foreign country without supplies if war breaks out or some other horrible circumstance keeps you from getting home. Not me. Better to be safe than sorry.

The 1-month preparation window gives you enough time to talk to you doctor, pharmacist, and diabetes supply company to request and receive extra meds and supplies. It also gives you some wiggle room in case you have to beg them to get your insurance company to cover the additional supplies (I've had to do this before!)

Stay tuned this week for the rest of My Personal Diabetes Travel Checklist. You won't want to miss it!

May 4, 2008

Reflections At The SATs

5 times a year, I proctor the SAT Test at a local high school. It's pretty fun giving the test to a room full of nervous 17 year olds (although this morning I had a 7th grader in my class!) I've been doing it for 6 years now and it usually pays for all my Christmas shopping!

This morning was the first SAT Test of the year. As I was looking around the room, I started thinking about what it would have been like for me if I had diabetes in high school, or younger.

I was 18 when diagnosed and had just started college. It was a time of claiming my independence, which also meant learning how to be diabetic on my own. My parents and lifelong friends were hundresds of miles away.

High school is, for most kids, a time when being differenct is often not accepted by your peers. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with diabetes back then and I'm so curious how kids do it. Although I hope I never find out with my future children.

It seems to me that diabetes would be tough to understand as a kid. Of course, you'd have the help of your parents, siblings, and friends, but would that make it more difficult to be an independent adult diabeteic than if you are diagnosed as an adult?

I'm thankful I was able to retain my chilhood innocence by having a healthy childhood. I'm awed by the thousands of kids out there who are dealing with this very serious, grown up disease. I'm not sure I would have been strong enough.

May 1, 2008

Living On A Schedule

If you're like me, or most Americans, your schedule is overbooked. Between your work, your family, your kids, your pets, your friends, your hobbies, and your "free time", it's tough to find room to squeeze in your health. If you're one of the lucky ones, you've scheduled exercising as a regular activity. But what about the rest of your health?

As a diabetic, the "rest of your health" means managing three things: your blood sugar, your medication, and your food.

Managing blood sugar throughout the day can be tough. Your glucometer must always be with you, or at least close by. At work I leave my testie (check out my recent post to see why I call it that) in my purse under my desk. I pull it out regularly and whenever I have a chance between meetings. If there's a break during a meeting, I usually test it. I never want to be stuck in a meeting that you can't leave and find myself shaking and unable to concentrate.

Managing medication is a bit like your blood sugar. You've got to take it with you everywhere. Don't even consider it an option to leave it at home or in the car. I take my insulin when I eat, and when my blood sugar is high. And you never can tell when you'll encounter these two things, so it's safer just have have it with you.

I find managing food to be the toughest. First off, I'm extremely aware of where food is in my surroundings. If I walk into a building with a friend, I guarantee that my friend will first notice the color of the room, while I'm noticing the vending machine in the corner. Luckily my job has tons of food on hand, so I don't worry there, but at my last job I always kept one desk drawer stocked with snacks and sugar, just in case.

Food at home is another story. I was always paranoid that we'd be out of something I'd need or food wouldn't be regularly available. Recently, my husband and I decided to start meal planning (I know you're probably saying "Duh, Sarah"). Each Sunday we decide some meals to make during the week and create a shopping list. We're even picking out some new recipes out of cookbooks. Then I buy it all that day. So now, our fridge is always stocked and we have yummy food every night. Plus, we're saving a lot of $ by planning!

Suddenly the stress of managing food is gone, and it feels so good to cross this off my list each week. I'd love to hear how you manage your food!