Saturday, April 9, 2016

Helpful Things

I have a lot of things that help me. This is just a few of them.

I wear an insulin pump because I have diabetes. My pump is purple. I wear it all the time - only take it off to shower or change infusion sets. It is connected to my body with a really thin plastic tube, and a tiny needle holds it just under my skin. Once it is inserted, I do not feel the needle, unless I have gone longer without changing it than I should. And 99 percent of the time, I don't feel it when it is inserted. Once in a while I will hit a painful spot, but I just take it out and reposition it.

The pump acts similar to a pancreas. It gives me tiny doses of insulin around the clock automatically, and when I eat, I use it to take insulin to cover the food. Insulin is a hormone that your body needs to convert food into energy. Your body turns food into glucose, but without insulin, the glucose just builds up until the person gets very sick. Without insulin, a person will die. There is no way around that. You either have to make your own, or take it from shots or a pump.

There are insulin pump infusion sets that only use a needle to start the catheter under your skin, then it is removed. I tried those at first, but the kind I use now works much better for me. Everyone has a preference for which kind of set they use, and everyone uses a different amount of insulin.

Insulin pumps from Medtronic are about the size of an old fashioned pager. There are other companies, but I have never used them.

I test my blood sugar with a small device that wirelessly sends the result to my pump. It uses test strips, which are crazy expensive, and a lancing device (also lovingly called a "pricker.") It hurts once in a while, but there are depth settings on the pricker.

You are supposed to change the lancet each time you test. This could be up to 10 times a day. Honestly though I don't know anyone who actually does that. I change mine when they start to hurt, which could be after months of use. I am trying to be better, and at least change it when I open a new box of test strips.

This is what it looks like. You can also see the blue pricker and a whole pile of used test strips. Everyone has a different system but used test strips seem to multiply like rabbits. They get everywhere. People with diabetes joke that we could never commit a crime because there would always be DNA evidence around, in the form of used test strips! So i just put the used ones back into the pink pouch I carry them in, and throw them all away when there gets to be a lot accumulated. I also keep a tube of glucose chewables in there (for emergency low blood sugars) and some lip balm.

I also use a machine at night because I stop breathing when I sleep. It is called a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It essentially blows air at a certain pressure to keep your Airway open so you keep breathing. I use a mask that covers both my nose and mouth, but a lot of people just use the nasal one. There are many brands and styles of masks.

So I look like a fighter pilot when I sleep and sound like Darth Vader, but I can actually get good sleep. Before CPAP, I stopped breathing all night long, and would jerk myself awake. I never got good, REM, sleep.

When I am at home, just going from one room to another, I can walk OK. But if I am out of the house, I use a walker or a wheelchair. The walker is good for times I can walk a little, then sit and rest my back every few minutes. My walker is red and it has a seat. It had a basket at one time but that has long been lost. I have spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease, so I get extreme pain in my back when I walk. At big stores like Walmart, I use a scooter if they have any available. If they are all being used, I have to wait.

I don't have an actual picture of my walker or wheelchair because they are in the car. But this walker is almost identical to mine (sans basket), and my wheelchair is just a basic light weight transfer wheelchair.

And then lastly, here is a picture of my cat, Rajah, sleeping. No reason for this picture except I think it is funny. I can't imagine how this position could possibly be comfortable.

So that is that. There are more things I use to help myself, but this is it for now. Technology is good.


  1. I think you're amazing. Maybe even bionic.

    Thanks for the tutorial on diabetes. As someone recently diagnosed diabetic, I found what you had to say helpful.

    I think the cat is included because it is useful to you getting through the day.

  2. Thanks Joellen! I think you and my mom are the only people who read my blog, but that is OK. My advice to all new diabetics is:

    1- get an endocrinologist. Primary care docs think they can handle a patient, but by the time they make the referral to endocrinology, damage has been done.

    2- know that diabetes is a progressive disease. Type 2 can be slowed down with diet and exercise, but it will progress in most people. You have not failed if you need meds or insulin. It is just the disease.

    3- it is known that diabetes can be caused by many medications, including oral and inhaled steroids. All those allergy nose sprays, asthma control inhalers, and Prednisone cause diabetes. Not in everyone, but they do. This is why my mom and I both have diabetes when nobody else in the family history does. Years of asthma meds caused it. Don't let anyone give you the BS that diabetes is caused by being fat and lazy and eating too much. That is a factor, but just ONE factor. It is also genetic.

    4- do not resist insulin if it is suggested. The longer your sugars are high, the more damage is being done. I have diabetic kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy from high blood sugars. I think doctors are starting insulin earlier now, which is good. Waiting until every other drug stops working (what is commonly done) causes so many long term issues.

    5- make sure your doctor is monitoring your kidneys. Diabetes itself is dangerous on the kidneys, but some of the drugs they use are also nephrotoxic. Metformin can be a good drug but it must be monitored. The new class of diabetes drugs (invokana and that class) say they help excess glucose pass through the urine, and they do. But they can also cause a condition called DKA, which is very dangerous. People die from DKA.

    6- read everything you can and be informed. It is your body, not your doctor's body. If something doesn't make sense, or you have questions, ask them.

    Holy Cow I am sorry for the lecture!

    Wait - one more. Check your blood sugar. Ask your doctor to write for enough test strips to test several times a day. Demand it if you have to. Insurance companies have decided that we only need to test once a day. Nope. To get right control you need to test throughout the day so you know what is happening. I have to get prior authorization to get enough test strips, and I use insulin!

    Please let me know if I can help. I am an old pro at this diabetes thing.

    Again, apologies for length. This is a disease I take seriously and I want everyone to educate themselves so they stay healthy!

    You are kind, and a good friend. I wish I had known you better in high school!

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