The Diabetic Addiction

I’ve had Type-1 Diabetes for about 38 years at this point (yes, you read that right). And for the most part, everything I need to do is routine and pretty much happens on auto pilot. Need to test blood sugar? No problem. Calibrate the ol’ CGM? Done deal. I can even change up my insulin pump’s infusion set in the middle of the night while still half asleep, if I had to. I generally try to keep that from happening by checking my insulin remainder BEFORE I go to bed for the night and calibrating my CGM right before I go to sleep.

These are reasonable steps, and ones that I KNOW I need to take and SHOULD be taking. But despite having Diabetes for almost four decades, I’m only human. This means that sometimes I still forget things. And as anyone who has had Diabetes for any number of years will tell you, it doesn’t take long to become physically and emotionally exhausted from all the testing, needle pokes and medical appointments that one needs in order to maintain proper health and blood sugar levels. Which unfortunately means that I also occasionally IGNORE things.

Just before the Christmas holiday, I did what I usually do before any holiday or long weekend; I went through all my supplies prescriptions and ensured I would have enough to make it beyond everyone’s amended schedules. Now, I’m not much of a holiday guy and since I’ve spent the majority of my adult life working through most holidays including Christmas, I’m usually miffed at my routine being messed up because certain locations are closed on Christmas. That’s my “bah, humbug” attitude coming out. But I digress…

As I called into my pharmacy with my refill request, they pointed out that I wasn’t due to renew my Guardian sensors (CGM) for at least another week. Now, being the responsible T1D that I am, I explained that I had one sensor installed on my arm and only one extra in the box. Should I suffer a failure, I’d run out pretty damn quickly with no recourse during the holidays. The pharmacy employee on the phone was quick to point out that in the event of an emergency, I could always go to the hospital. Right. Because I want to sit in a waiting room over the holidays for six hours to get one sensor, which the hospital likely doesn’t carry in stock and I’d need a pharmacy, regardless.

The big problem is that everything is on computer, nowadays. Wow, I just made myself sound SUPER old, but it’s true. So the technician I was speaking to was basically telling me she couldn’t renew my sensors because I was calling a week early. Everything else was fine, but it was too early for the sensors. But this system is meant to be used as a guideline to when prescriptions were filled, not as a limiting tool against patients. And since sensors are not a drug or narcotic, there really shouldn’t be a problem. But I picked my battles and calculated that since I was on Day 1 of my current sensor and had one more in the box, I technically had two weeks’ worth of sensor and told the technician I would simply call back in after the Christmas holiday.

Because life rarely cares about one’s plans and because it’s me, this is what ended up happening after Christmas. I reached the end of the first sensor’s lifespan and installed the second one. Within 24 hours, the second sensor (last one of the box) failed and my pump instructed me to replace it. Once that happens, there’s no getting the freshly installed sensor to work. You basically have no choice but to waste it and move on to the next one. It was late evening, too late to make it to the pharmacy. I would have to wait until the next morning.

In the meantime, I installed a spare Freestyle Libre sensor that I still had. But it wasn’t quite the same. The CGM sensor interacts with my pump and makes minor basal corrections throughout the night. This means that if my blood sugars begin to rise, so will my insulin levels and vice versa. It keeps a reasonably tight control, and I’d be lying if I said that I’ve woken up with bad readings on any given morning in quite a long time. The Freestyle Libre however, allows me to continuously test my blood sugar through my phone but does NOT interact with my pump and makes no adjustment to blood sugar.

The result is that I awoke with blood sugar levels in the high teens, which hasn’t happened in quite a long time. I’m not afraid to admit that I felt like shit. I had to skip breakfast because I didn’t want to introduce more carbohydrates into my system before I brought my levels down a bit. So I spent the morning without food, but made my way to the pharmacy to get my sensors. I had a bit of a discussion with the actual pharmacist about the issue, to which he invited me to speak with him directly the next time I was in a similar situation.

It got me to thinking… I’m addicted to my Diabetic equipment. I lived for decades with CGM and an insulin pump but now, one day without a sensor and my house of cards comes crashing down. It’s surprising how spoiled we become when faced with the use of technology. Compared to the imminent death that Diabetics faced prior to the 1920’s, “spoiled” is a pretty appropriate term, all things considered. It’s made me realize that there’s no turning back for me. I’ve settled into a certain standard of care with the technology I use for my Diabetes treatment, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to return to pen injections and testing my blood only once a day. Here’s to hoping I’ll never have to… ☯

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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