Monday, August 11, 2014

The coasters of life

To add to the list of things I thought I would NEVER do in my life, is riding roller coasters for fun. Once again, are heights my thing? NOPE. Are fast speeds and big drops on my to-do list? DOUBLE NOPE. And once again I found myself in the face if some of my biggest fears. Some people have natural born skills. Some have musical abilities. Some have abilities such as counting cards. My husband has the ability to win contests on the radio. (This may seem like it makes absolutely no sense in regards to this post, but hang tight, it will). In the past three months he has won tickets to 3 comedy shows including Tracy Morgan, tickets to see Haim, tickets to Jimmy Eat World, and tickets to see SoMo (even though we didn't know who SoMo was at the time, but since it is not our style we will be trying to donate those). In that time he also won a 4 pack of tickets from 94.7 Fresh FM to go to Kings Dominion with Fast Lane passes! Basically that means that Fresh FM hooked us up big time, and in addition to the fact that we had first class tickets, we were also given a chartered bus ride from the station which happens to be 10 mins from our house. WIN! But this meant to me that I would have to suck it up and face all of my fears (as if zip lining didn't do that already!) and conquer the roller coasters.

If you are a T1D or know anyone who is, you know that this is no easy task. I was terrified. Normal blood sugar control aside, I had the excitement of going to an amusement park (lowering my sugar) and the anxiety of going on the roller coasters (raising my sugar) PLUS the fact that park food is pretty much the most unhealthy thing you can eat ever. Diabetes aside, I tried my best to be prepared and brought a whole backpack full of insulin and syringes and all of the supplies that the trial requires, and in addition I brought 2 pouches of Mama Chia smoothies as snacks. Let's be real, if any normal human is faced with a pouch of "green magic" chia seeds, or a taco salad, taco salad wins. Sorry Mama Chia, you're great but taco salad is just so good. So you can imagine my diet that day...

My husband Zach and I chose to have his brother Skylar (the one with the zip line backpack) and his girlfriend Jacqueline (the one coaxing me along the zip line adventure) be our guests on the trip. And just as I stated in my last post, family is EVERYTHING, so we were so happy to have them along for the trip.  As soon as we got to the park I began to panic, as with all things new to me. But as usual I had my support system to get me through it all and the next thing I knew I had been on 5 roller coasters and was LOVING IT! (Jacqueline I can never thank you enough for holding my hand through the coasters!)

Unfortunately the stress and anxiety caused my sugar to go up, which I manually corrected. It was just such a huge reminder that one day soon I will be able to not spend the entire day stressing about what my sugar is doing because the DiAs will be taking that weight off my shoulders.

Every day is a new challenge, roller coasters or not. And to know that the technology to take a little bit of that challenge away is almost here is something that I get very emotional about every day. While I do not write a new blog daily, it does not mean that I am not thinking about the gravity of my disease every second. A single poor choice for me could result in a coma or a seizure, and multiple poor choices could result in a loss of limbs, sight, and organs. I don't mean for this to sound harsh and I am not looking for any sympathy. This is just the reality of how life is for me and all of the other type 1 diabetics out there. If you don't already know all of the terrible things that can result from poor control of diabetes, this is just the most basic preview. This is exactly why I am am so honored to be a part of the DiAs team in the outpatient clinical trials, so that we are able to create a temporary solution to the hardships of managing T1D until we are able to find a cure.

Please continue to follow me in my journey to create a better world for everyone effected by Type 1 Diabetes, together we can DIABEATTHIS!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adventure Time

On the list of things that I will do in my life, zip-lining with artificial pancreas parts was never in the plan.  But after I was given the chance to go zip-lining with my husband and his family, how could I say no. Was I super enthused? Heck no. Am I terrified of heights? Heck yes. Did I do it anyway?? LIKE A BOSS. After spending the whole morning proclaiming how much I regretted agreeing to this, and trying to come up with a legitimate excuse to get out of it, I found myself in a harness and helmet. At that point there was no going back. Having never been skiing or snow boarding the first and most challenging part of the whole adventure was the chair lift up to the mountain. White knuckled and silent, I gripped the safety bar like my life depended on it. Thank the universe that I had family in front of me making jokes (or maybe serious statements) about farting on the lift while I was  downwind so I survived. Now I am not one to admit when I am wrong, but after I was secured to the first tree before my first zip line, I began to relax. I guess it wasn't that bad. Before I knew it I was strapped in and had zipped twice and it was GLORIOUS! Then the bridge challenges began...and I knew I was in for it. If you have been following my blog from my previous trials then you know that I do not do athletics.  So when I was presented with a single 20 + ft rope and was asked to walk across it I almost barfed. Long story short I made it across and proceeded to actually cry and hunch over thinking I was going to barf. Well, no barfs, no more tears, and 2 hrs later, I decided that I actually kind of like zip lining. I don't mind the heights. I don't mind the moving at high speeds through trees and brush. I, Lesley Hurwitz, actually enjoy zip lining! There I said it. Doing all of this was only even possible because of my family.

I've always said that it takes a village, and that rings true even more so now. My brother in law Skylar volunteered to carry his hiking pack through all of this so that I could have my cgm, meter, Omnipod pdm, insulin, syringes, and glucose. He traded off with my husband Zach halfway through and the dedication and love that I felt that day is unmeasurable in words. If it wasn't for them, I would have had to sit that out.

The rest of the weekend was spent with family. And it reminded me of what I already knew, that family is the the most important thing on this planet.

If my family can make zip lining with the DiAs work, then my family can make anything work. I love you all.

This was the last time I could travel in my trials so I made the best of it, and now the real fun begins. I've sent in my first round of cgm data and I have about 2.5 weeks more before the next step where I get the insulin pump for the DiAs. I am excited beyond belief to start the next portion of my trial, even though it means going back to a corded pump. This round I will be sporting an accuchek aviva pump and although it is a major difference from my usual Omnipod, it is very much so worth it. Maybe I won't be able to wear as many sun dresses, but in return it will be able to finally get a break from all of the daily calculations and judgements and choices that come with being t1d. An even trade, absolutely not. I would give my right arm (literally) and much more to experience the freedom that I know I will have with the DiAs. The reality of the future is so positive and it is so close that I can't contain my excitement, I cry every time I post because it's finally so real. And with each day, I know we are closer to a cure. Let's diabeat this!!! Photos to follow!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

It begins again

It has been a long time since I have written, and it has been my experience life gets either more complex or more simple as we age. For me, it has come in waves. Just as I think things could not get more hectic, life settles into a soothing flow. And once I've enjoyed that for a while something happens that throws me for a loop, whether good or bad, and the cycle continues. But that's what makes life so beautiful and why we can appreciate all of the good in it. That being said, today I have begun a new journey in my life that will help to positively impact not only my life but the lives of millions. (Yes this sounds incredibly pompous but bear with me)

I once again have the extreme honor of working with the Center for Diabetes Technology at UVA to participate in a phase 3 outpatient clinical study of the artificial pancreas, which is now called the Diabetes Assistant (DiAs), in which I get to take the DiAs home with me!!! If you have been following the press regarding diabetes technology or have been following my blog, you know that this is a HUGE step forward towards improving the lives of type 1 diabetics and towards finding a cure.

The progression of this trial is going to come in waves before I actually get to use the DiAs for 24 hrs a day, and today marks the official beginning, as with the other trials I have participated in.

I went for my health screening with a physical examination and bloodwork, and also signed my paperwork to be allowed to be a part of this trial. I got my dexcom CGM for the trial, and had a ton of safety protocol training to make sure that I stay healthy during the trials.  So I will be wearing the trial CGM for 3 weeks to gear up for the next phase which will have me using a new insulin pump in preparation for using the DiAs at home (!!!!!!).

I dont think that the reality of how immense what I am doing had set in fully until this afternoon.  I've been wide eyed since I got the email this past Tuesday asking if I was able to be a part of this trial,  and I slept maybe a total of 2 hours last night. If you know me, you know that I dont sleep before anything exciting happens in my life. Even at almost 30 years old I can barely sleep on Christmas eve, it's just what I do. So while I knew that this was exciting enough to warrant a sleepless night, I think that I finally realized the magnitude of this trial when I walked into a room filled with what can best be described as Christmas morning for diabetics. CGMs, glucose meters, tabs, a blood keytone meter, an insulin pump, I mean the display was intense and somehow I've managed to keep myself together but I know the tears are coming. If I make it through to tomorrow without an episode of uncontrolled happy sobbing it will be a small miracle. But I've worked hard to stay healthy for the past 20 years since my diagnosis and not only me but all the people who have helped me get here  have earned this bit of freedom.

Once again I don't have words to clearly express how immensely excited and grateful I am to UVA, Stacey, and the rest of the team at the Center for Diabetes Technology to be doing this, and I know that the future is going to be so incredible. Not just because I have the chance to use the DiAs but because this all means that the DiAs is on the horizon for all type 1 diabetics. The hope that I see for the future is mind blowing and I can only wish that others are able to feel that hope too. The future is here and it's coming faster than anyone could have ever wished for. Get ready world, we are about to diabeat this!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy 18th to my T1D!

Two days ago, my type one diabetes officially became an adult. 18 years ago I was diagnosed September 7, 1994. Nine days before my 10th birthday. It's probably one of the few days of my childhood that I can remember so clearly and vividly, and that both of my parents remember exactly the same way. I was at my pediatrician for my yearly physical, and we had gone a few days early because my parents didn't want me to miss any of my first week of 5th grade. I remember that I was thirsty ALL the time, drinking anything I could get my hands on, and I remember that I had to pee every 5 minutes, but I don't ever remember feeling as sick as I must have been.

When we got to the doctors office they did the usual tests like a urine culture, and when that showed a high glucose level they checked my blood sugar. All I know is that it was somewhere over 800. I can't give an exact number because the equipment in the office wasn't able to read anything over 800, and if you know diabetes then you know that's bad news. At almost 10 years old I weighed only 42 lbs and was severely malnourished. My parents knew something was wrong, but couldn't pinpoint what and finally knowing what the problem was meant that there could be a solution and that my downward health spiral could cease. I remember sitting in the office of my pediatrician, and I remember my mom ripping the lollipop out of my mouth when he said the words "your daughter has diabetes". From that moment until when we got home is cloudy. We had an appointment with an endocrinologist the next morning and I was given a list of foods I could and couldn't eat that night. Honestly I can't remember what was on the list, but I know that I was able to eat all the broccoli with melted cheddar that I wanted. Cheese has and always will be one of my favorite foods so at that point I was just happy to be eating all the cheese I wanted, blissfully unaware of what happens next when someone is diagnosed with Type 1.

The next few days are a blur, I remember asking my endo when I would have to start getting shots, thinking it would be in a week or so, and I remember him saying "right now" which was a pretty big shock. But my parents stepped up and learned to do the injections on me right then and there. Mom, Dad, I won't ever forget what you both did for me starting that day.

Some people experience a traumatic event in their lives and it gets blacked out or it becomes a blur. For me the most traumatic event was also the most vivid and the most inspiring. My doctors have told me that had I waited the nine days until my birthday to have my physical that I wouldn't be alive, and to this day I still can't believe how incredibly lucky I am that I survived. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and I know that I was given Type 1 Diabetes because not only am I strong enough to handle it, but I'm strong enough to fight for a cure.

18 years after my diagnosis I am the healthiest I have ever been. I'm not going to pretend that it's easy, and I'm not going to pretend that I'm perfect. I have the occasional 300+ blood sugar as well as the 50- but that comes with the territory and while I do the best I can, I'm only human.

If it wasn't for the dedication, support, and love from my family and friends all these years I wouldn't have made it to where I am. So thank you to all of you, I don't know if I can ever have words to express what you all mean to me, but I am forever grateful for everything you have done and continue to do.

Through my involvement with the clinical trials of the Artificial Pancreas Project, I have every bit of confidence in the world that what I have to do on a daily basis to manage my blood sugars will soon be a thing of the past. In the meantime, I am just as full of hope as ever.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There is no place like home

I know that it's been a while since my last blog post, and I do apologize for that, but I have a very good explanation. A couple of days after I completed the incredible, inspiring, and just plain awesome outpatient Artificial Pancreas Project clinical trial at UVA I headed out on my first airplane trip ever to vacation with my fiancé Zach. Now the truth is, the reason the trip was even a possibility was because Zach was presenting at an important neuroscience conference in Palm Springs, and we have a lot of family on the west coast that we love dearly and very rarely get to see so we took a couple of extra days to spend some time with our loved ones. I've said it before and I'll say it again, family comes first. And boy am I grateful for the family that I have.

Before I get into that, I want to talk a little bit about traveling with diabetes, specifically an omnipod wireless insulin pump. I've been hearing horror stories left and right about how TSA has been ruining pumps, giving ridiculously invasive pat downs, and just generally being rude to people with Type 1 Diabetes and insulin pumps. But I can say with 100% confidence that traveling with diabetes doesn't have to be difficult as long as you keep a smile on your face and realize that the airports only do what they do in the interest of the safety of all their passengers. All of my equipment and supplies ran through the carry on X-ray with no problems. I traveled through a few different airports, from the major ones such as Dulles International and LAX to the tiny ones such as Palm Springs and Tucson. And with the exception of Tucson which seemed to only have metal detectors, I went through the full body scanner every time and upon telling them I had a wireless insulin pump, all I had to do was touch the omnipod with both hands, have my hands swabbed with a dry circle of paper, that swab was then sent through a computer and after about 30 seconds total I was cleared and on my way to my flight. I suppose my point is, of you're diabetic and wear an insulin pump, just remember that you are in fact a little bit different from the person next to you (but really who isn't?) and if you just smile, stay honest, and try to relax traveling can be easy for someone with T1D!

That being said, vacation clearly agrees with me. I had my basal rate practically shut off at least half of the time I was on the west coast, and if I did the full recommended amount of insulin for the carbs I was eating, I ended up sucking down glucose tabs like it was my job. As if the benefits of the Artificial Pancreas weren't clear enough already this made it painfully obvious to not only myself but to the family around me that doesn't normally get to see my day to day battle with T1D. One night at dinner we were all discussing my recent opportunity to participate in the Artificial Pancreas outpatient trials, and I had said that I can't remember a time that all of this day to day managing of diabetes wasn't just how life was, and my amazing grandmother who is bravely battling breast cancer said something that was so simply insightful that it will stick with me forever. She said "It's a new normal." And she was completely right. Something so unexpected and so life changing can come into your world and in the blink of an eye and suddenly it's just how your life is. I have no family history of Type 1, and to make a long story short, I had a blood virus that triggered an autoimmune reaction that caused my diabetes. Or at least that's the best explanation my doctors have been able to find. So was it bad luck or good luck? I would never wish what I go through on a daily basis on anyone, but I do firmly believe that it is what has made me who I am. The strong, prepared (if not overly so), dedicated, appreciative and grateful for every moment on this planet girl that I am today wouldn't exist if I wasn't presented with this challenge in life.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

It only gets better

For me to say that the Artificial Pancreas will be a massive game changer for Type 1 diabetics would not be giving it enough credit. Just to be clear, the multi-fanny pack belt system is not a planned part of the finished product, and most of the components of that were running as a backup so there could be a flawless transition if something went wrong. So the end goal is in fact for the user to just carry the cell phone, but when Zach asked me if I would still want the Artificial Pancreas even if it meant I would have to carry a pouch of equipment all the time, my answer was without a doubt YES. I would have tried my best but the AP did a better job of controlling my sugars and keeping them between 100 and 120, and I didn't have to worry if I was making the right decisions. The last night that I was in the hotel, my sugar started dropping before bed. I can usually feel it when it starts to drop quickly and I definitely felt it so both Zach and I were convinced that I was going to need a juice box, but we held out because I've seen what the AP is capable of and wanted to see it do it's thing again. So I went to sleep. I knew if it started to drop too low an alarm would sound, so I thought I might as well get some shut eye in the meantime. 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep later, I woke up and had to ask if I went low and just didn't remember, because it was just that incredible. The AP knew that my sugar was dropping, and started to cut off my basal rate soon enough that I only dipped a little below 100 and stayed in normal range all night! The AP delivers insulin a little differently than the standard insulin pump. To deliver the basal insulin it gives a very small bolus every 5 minutes, and it adjusts the size and frequency of that very small bolus based on what it senses your blood sugar to be and how it is trending. With such small basal boluses it's possible for the AP to regulate the blood sugar in a human body before it becomes problematic, and if you have T1D you know that there are a million different reasons and variables that could cause your blood sugar levels to be problematic.

I returned home from Charlottesville Friday afternoon and in the two nights that I've been home, my sugar has gone low each night (last night it was all the way down to 41) despite going to bed with sugar levels that had been very stable between 140 and 150. I already knew what a difference the Artificial Pancreas could make, I had the amazing opportunity to experience it first hand over the course of both the inpatient and outpatient trials. But to experience both extremes of the spectrum in back to back nights where my sugar was perfect one night and then horribly low the next really hit home with just how important the Artificial Pancreas is. I don't know if I will ever be able to properly express how grateful I am for everyone who has had a hand in the development of the Artificial Pancreas, and everyone who has made my trial experiences so incredible. I can only hope that the data my trials provide helps to move the AP to market, because the sooner this is available, the sooner lives will change. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I have more hope than ever knowing that I won't have to do this all forever, just a little bit longer.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

This. Is. Awesome.

And it begins! Yesterday I was hooked up for the first time to the Artificial Pancreas cell phone platform, but up until this morning it was being used the same way my regular omnipod insulin pump would have been. Most of yesterday was working out the technical aspects of the various components. The initial configuration involved 2 fanny packs, one camera bag and two receivers for the CGMs, and quite a bit of what I'll refer to as tinkering to get everything in place and communicating well with each of the other systems.  To tell the truth, I felt like Tim The Tool Man Taylor with my belt of fanny packs and it was kind of awesome. Despite going low at around midnight, my sugars stayed pretty stable throughout the night even though the sensors seemed a little sensitive and needed to be calibrated a couple of times. But hey, if all that happens overnight this time is a finger stick every few hours instead of an IV blood draw every 30 minutes, I'm not complaining one bit! 

This morning after taking what I would consider a world record short shower (just over 4 minutes!) to prevent losing my connections with the systems, we went into closed loop mode and let the Artificial Pancreas do its thing. We had a minor road bump with the breakfast bolus that set off a hypoglycemia alarm, but a quick system reset put everything back in check and the rest of the day so far has been smooth sailing. 

As a general rule I try not to bore anyone by listing the things I've done today, but I feel like this is probably an exception so here we go: I ate lunch around noon which was macaroni and cheese, and then I'd like to say I did something grand with my day in the hotel, but the reality is that I decided to take a nap. So for about an hour and a half I slept and I didn't have to worry about my blood sugars because the Artificial Pancreas was doing exactly what it was supposed to do.  My sugar went up a little, it increased my basal a little, and my sugar stabilized. My sugar began to drop a little and it decreased my basal a little, and it stabilized again. I've been up for a few hours now and still feeling great. To say that this is the most incredible thing I've ever seen is a very serious understatement. THIS IS AWESOME! And I didn't have to tell it to do a thing! I didn't have to decide what percentage to decrease my basal rate by or for how long, I didn't have to decide if a correction bolus was necessary and if so was the bolus going to be enough.  It made those decisions for me and did exactly what I would have tried my best to do. Today it's taken the weight of being diabetic off of my shoulders, and it's not even dinner time yet!