Friday, March 16, 2012

The end is just the beginning

Yesterday was a marathon. Usually when I wake up for the day before 6am I end up taking at least one nap during the day, but that just wasn't on the books for the day. When I was admitted just before 7am for my final inpatient trial for the artificial pancreas, things were a little more calm than they were the first time. I don't know if it was because I knew what to expect in regards to the procedure when I got there, or if it was because I had already gotten to experience how much weight the artificial pancreas system lifted off my shoulders and couldn't wait to experience it again, but I felt so much more comfortable right from the start. Once the IVs were in, the sensors and pods were activated, and I had my tethered fanny pack on my waist we were ready to go again! Most of the day was really similar to the first admission where my meals were extremely regulated, blood was drawn every 15 or 30 minutes, and I needed a technician to come with me and drag the rolling table with the computer that I was tethered to. Now most of the time when I was followed by the tech and the table, it was only a few feet to use the restroom, brush my teeth, or just little things like that. But yesterday afternoon was the exception. The artificial pancreas was being tested to see if it could catch a hypoglycemic episode (low blood sugar) and alert me so it could be treated before my sugar was actually low. They figured out that the best way to do this was to put me on an exercise bike for four 15 minute sessions with a five minute break between each session. This particular study is a worldwide multicenter study and is extremely regulated, and what this means in regards to me is that since the exercise bike was on a different floor of the hospital, I needed to be transported in a wheelchair. Would you believe that it took a collaborative effort from 7 people to transport me and all of the equipment around the corner and down one floor?! My dad keeps saying "It takes a village" and he really couldn't be more right.

The truth is that I am really not fond of going to the gym. Being a full time student in Washington DC I generally get a decent amount of exercise from walking on a daily basis, and making time to get to the gym just isn't a priority right now. That being said, I was not exactly happy to be doing all of this exercise with an entourage of 7 people watching me, but it was part of the trial and I knew that getting into it, and if anything helps push the progress of the artificial pancreas forward then I am all for it. If you don't already know, exercise generally drives the blood sugar down, some people at a quicker rate than others and the objective was for the artificial pancreas to recognize that was happening, adjust insulin accordingly, and provide a warning prior to low blood sugar with enough advance for the person to treat it to prevent a dangerously low number. Now for me I don't usually go low during the exercise, it's usually soon after and this time was no exception. About 30 minutes after I stopped exercising, I told the nurse that I felt like my sugar was starting to drop, and instinctively before I could stop him my dad was out of the room telling the doctor that I needed glucose. I've always been really blessed with the ability to feel when my sugar is moving in one direction or another and dad knows that, so when I say I feel low I'm almost always right. The doctor told my dad that they needed for the yellow warning light on the artificial pancreas to turn red before they were allowed to treat and immediately after she said that, the light turned red! I wasn't actually low yet, I was still in the 80s but the system had detected that I was dropping at a fast enough rate to treat the low before it became problematic. Essentially what that means is that the computer, the medical team, and myself were all in agreement at the exact same time as to what needed to happen to help keep my sugar in a healthy and safe range. How awesome is that ?? Until it actually happened I didn't realize what a big deal it was, but that showed me firsthand that this technology REALLY works. It was truly incredible to watch and I started crying because it was at that exact moment that I realized precisely how great the artificial pancreas is. I already knew that it was amazing but to see it do exactly what it is supposed to do to my own body was just simply incredible.

I slept really well last night knowing that the computer had my back. And it did. I was told that I stayed roughly between 100 and 115 all night, and as a result I woke up feeling really great (except from the sore legs from the bicycle!). Exercise, IVs, and regulated food intake aside, when I was discharged this morning I was feeling a combination of emotions. I felt a sense of pressure knowing that I would have to go back to managing my own diabetes immediately, and go back to dealing with the daily obstacles that this disease comes with. But more importantly I was feeling hopeful for the future. Going into this trial I didn't really know what to expect. I had built it up in my mind as this almighty life changing experience, and it turned out to be everything that I had imagined. I now know with complete certainty that one day in my lifetime the burden of Type 1 Diabetes will be lightened by this technology, and that it already exists, and most importantly that it ACTUALLY WORKS. The hope that this gives me for not only my future but for the future of everyone effected by this disease is overwhelming. To every mother, father, sibling, relative or friend of someone with Type 1, my only words of advice are to never ever give up hope because a better tomorrow is right around the corner. I've seen it, I've experienced it, and I know it can only get better! LET'S DIA-BEAT THIS!!!


  1. Hello Lesley, I enjoyed your blog on the artificial pancreas participation trial. I have a Facebook friend who participated in a trial in Boston. I think that was late last year. She kept having lows and the mechanism for giving her glucose did not give her enough, so they discontinued the trial several hours before completion.

    My name is Richard Vaughn, and I was diagnosed in 1945, when I was 6. After 66 years with type 1, I am very healthy, except for some minor nerve damage.

    I am going to follow your blogsite. I started my own blogsite here on but have not posted a blog for many months. I plan to continue blogging here in a few days. My blog is called "Richard's Rambling Review". Give it a look if you have time.


  2. Heard about your blog from a listserv for parents of teens with T1D. My son is 17, diagnosed at 12, and though he manages quite well with a pump, the articificial pancreas will obviously be a leap forward. Thank you for doing the trial and for writing about it so candidly.

  3. Great to get a glimpse into AP trials - thanks for posting! Very exciting that out-patient trials have just been approved. Fingers crossed that this will be available sooner rather than later - thanks to people like you participating in the trials. :)