He asked me to pull up my shirt and find the area on my stomach with the most flesh (that part wasn’t hard.) Then he pulled out a device with a big needle at the end and said, “on three, two…” and before I knew it, a colleague of mine injected a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM) sensor into my skin, snapped on the transmitter, and gave me the receiver so I could spend the next week automatically taking my blood glucose level every 5 minutes.
“Injections like these are common place for someone with diabetes- 29M people in the US, 387M around the world. In fact, if someone with diabetes needs insulin, they are likely experiencing either multiple injections a day, or one every three or so days when also injecting their insulin pump into their bodies, all this – just to stay alive.”
I am the VP of Marketing and Customer Success at Glooko, the first unified platform for diabetes management. And while I am lucky enough to talk to Glooko users (people with diabetes) everyday, I wanted to wear a CGM to understand how it felt to track my blood glucose levels all of the time, a small slice of what someone with diabetes who uses a CGM has no choice but to experience every moment of everyday.
In addition to using the CGM, I also sync’ed my blood glucose monitor, filled with readings that I had to manually take (via a finger prink) several times a day, with Glooko and added contextual data to the Glooko digital logbook including: auto grabbing data from my fitness app (I use Moves) and adding in my diet information using Glooko’s food database.
Because I don’t have diabetes, I didn’t have to take any medications and didn’t have to work almost every moment to manage my blood sugar levels through medications and insulin. My pancreas does that for me. I know I don’t have diabetes and will never fully understand what it is like (I got to stop having to check my blood sugar at the end of the week), but I did get a small view of what it was like to be constantly aware of everything my body does, something standard for people with diabetes.
My primary learning – managing diabetes is hard. Here’s why:
Injecting the CGM was like the dreaded vaccines we all hated as children. If I had to follow that up with multiple times daily insulin injections or pump site insertions, it would hurt even more. The CGM itched my skin and was sore almost the whole week. Since it was affixed to my body, every time I rolled over, I rolled right onto it. Lots of ouch.
It requires a lot of math
To figure out how much insulin to take, you need to calculate your insulin to carb ratio. That means you need to count the carbs in every thing you eat (luckily Glooko did this part for me) and then, using some rules and an algebraic formula calculate how much insulin to take. Ratios? Algebra? Everyday, many times a day, oye vey. Some pumps will do this calculation for you, but often times people with diabetes will make adjustments based on the amount of fats and proteins (which drastically slow down digestion) they also eat, their personal knowledge of how their metabolism works and how much exercise they plan to do that day- more math!
After a long day, I finally got into that deep cozy sleep around midnight, when suddenly my CGM started to buzz. I was going hypo, really? My blood glucose level was below range and I needed to find out what was going on. I got out of bed, checked by blood glucose level using a finger stick and it showed I was low, but still in range. I calibrated my CGM and went back to sleep. For three nights in a row the CGM woke me up due to low readings, I was low, but manual checks showed that I was not dangerously low. I didn’t have to drink juice or take a glucose tablet before going back to sleep or even worse, experience a seizure or become unconscious like some people with diabetes may do when they go low. I just got to be exhausted from the CGM repeatedly buzzing on my nightstand.
Since starting at Glooko at the beginning of this year I have developed a deep respect and amazement of the people who live with diabetes. After this experience, I am more glad than ever to be a part of a company whose mission is to make diabetes management easier.