05 August 2010

Sensor Dating

A TYPICAL LOVE STORY
I have had the great fortune of trying out a new continuous glucose monitor recently. I currently am using the one my insurance says they prefer, but, a friend of mine happens to work for another company out there producing the CGMS’s.  

So, I thought I would give it a try. Being a scientist by training, I decided to run both sensors at the same time to see first hand which is more accurate and which I like more. 

As I did, I was began to get the distinct impression that wearing two sensors at the same time is a lot like dating two guys at the same time (not that I speak from experience, I have rarely been lucky enough to find one guy to date, let alone two at once). 

GIRL MEETS BOY
I realized that Johnny, my first CGMS, had developed a sort of relationship over the last year and a half. The first couple of numbers he spits out with any new site, I tended not to trust fully until I had confirmed them with my regular blood sugar meter.  

Once a day or two has gone by and he was consistently telling the truth, I began to trust what he was telling me. I slept a little easier knowing he was on guard to wake me up if my blood sugars got a little too low or way too high at night. 

I could have a conversation with him (really a series of pushed buttons) to decide on a range of acceptable numbers where he wouldn’t have to alert me. And the more I worked with him the more time I spent in that range, that range that would extend my life by at least a few months if I could stay there permanently. 
    
Working with Johnny changed my diabetic world. I could finally sleep at night without great fear, I always had an extra set of eyes to search out wayward sugars. He was my first CGMS and I will never forget what he taught me and how he changed my life.  

GIRL MEETS OTHER BOY
But then Michelle, my friend with an inside track to new technology, introduced me to Nick.  And Nick was different. Instead of just dumping Johnny, I decided to try having a relationship with both at the same time. 

And that’s where the trouble began.

THE SCHEME
I set up both sensors to start at the same time so neither one would have the advantage.
         
Just like a first date where both people are a little bit nervous and not quite themselves, sometimes with a CGMS the first few numbers can be a bit off. Then, when everyone is relaxed and comfortable in their new surroundings, we can really get into the groove of things. 

So, I let both boys chill out for a day and then the testing began. With every new gadget comes new enthusiasm and the race between Nick and Johnny was no different. 

I tested on my regular meter almost hourly. I wanted to see who was more accurate, who would follow my trends up and down quicker. In effect, who was the better partner.  

The problem was that I couldn’t develop any sort of trust with either one. I would be 148 on my hand-held meter. Nick would say I was 120, Johnny 180. They were both off and Johnny was high. 

An hour later I would be 250. Nick says 276, Johnny 221. They’re both off again but Johnny’s low now.  

WHO WINS OUT??
I did find that Nick was clearly better on one thing, catching my lows. I felt a little low and tested to find out I was 56. I pulled out both guys and set them in front of my face waiting to see who would figure it out first and how long it would take. 

Nick was up just 2 minutes later with a 56. Spot on. I downed some sugar to get back into the normal range and waited. 

Five minutes later Johnny came back with a 85. Still not low enough to set off the alarm. Five more minutes and a 78, low enough to set off an alarm but not accurate enough to convince me on a normal day to go running for the sugar.  

Johnny was a full 12 minutes late and 22 points off.  

GIRL CHOOSES BOY #2
Since one of the most important reasons I got a CGMS and that I continue to deal with all the hassles and pain that come along with the technology is to catch lows I was no longer feeling, Nick clearly wins in this category. Huge points in his favor.
    
I decided that to give Nick a real chance I really needed to start that relationship with just him and so got rid of Johnny for a time.  

One of the things I realized in this time is that Nick listened more. When you use CGMS, two to three times a day you test on a regular meter and feed that data to the CGMS.  

With Johnny reading 158, if I tell him I am really 120, he just says, “That’s great. I accept that you say you are 128. But I still say 158.” There would be no change in his data.  

Nick would listen immediately.  I tell him I am 128 and he replies sweetly, “I had 158, but if you tell me 128 let’s meet in the middle. How about we go with 143?”
    
AND THEN BOY LEAVES GIRL...
Shortly after I started my relationship with Nick, I was moving and after bumping into a lot of furniture realized that we had separated. I mourned the loss, but busied myself with all that moving demands.  

It wasn’t until about a week later when my life slowed down and I had time to go back to Johnny (my supply of Nick's sensors had run out) that I realized what had happened.  

I had charged Johnny’s transmitter, stuck a new sensor in the gun that I use to inject the sensor under my skin to give it access to my blood stream, swiped my hip with alcohol and got ready for the pain to come.  

I sat for a moment while I tried to convince myself to pull the trigger, a process that sometimes can take minutes, my self-preservation struggling with having to purposely hurting myself, and I thought back to when I started with Nick.  

It was surprisingly painless. I kept waiting for the pain to set in and it never did. The sensor is by far way thinner and round, a seemingly petty detail but when you are injecting a long, metal thread into your tissue, the shape can make a huge difference in the way it rips through your flesh.  

The sensor Johnny uses is rectangular. As far as piercing skin goes, rectangular tends to tear much more and cause considerably more pain. 

And it wasn’t just the pain. I realized I missed Nick’s accuracy and how he could yell loud enough for me to hear him while I slept. 

And how he doesn’t have to hurt me as often.  The sensor he uses goes for 12-14 days (off label, of course). Johnny hurts me every 5-6 days. 

And because of that I tend to take more time between when I remove one sensor and start the next. Time I need to have data and reminders. Time that, with sugars swinging more wildly, could add up to more complications and complications that strike when I am younger, really taking days or months or years off my life.  

I don’t have that kind of time to waste. I need all of my days. I have stuff to do.

GIRL GETS BOY BACK 
And so I have gone back to my friend Michelle like a now addicted druggie, begging for any way that I can get my next hit. I have started the paperwork to once again fight with my insurance so that they wil cover a better product even though they usually like to play with their own pre-picked companies that put out an inferior product. 
Lucky for me, the people who make Nick are exceptional people. Not good customer service, although it is, but good people.  

Everyone I have met who works for Nick's company are genuinely interested in helping Diabetics get good technology. They have seen how it can change a person's life and will work above and beyond to help you get what you need.  

And it is never a call to some company somewhere in the world who is working just to get a paycheck.  They are real people with real email addresses and real cell phone numbers who will come over to your house to let you borrow a system and show you how to use it and actually care how you are doing with it.  So battle I will.  

My last insurance battle took 6 months and countless letters and research and follow-up, but at least this time I know I will fight alongside some great people to get an amazing technology. 

Nick, baby, I am coming to get you and I won't stop until you are back in my life.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Erin. I am in the middle of making the decision on which way to go, with a new pump and CGMS. Your thoughts seem to be in line with what I have been hearing from others.
    I have just about decided to go with Dexter rather than Milton.
    (Should I be naming my CGMS with girls' names?)

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  2. I went the same way. i turned in my paperwork yesterday. And i needed it last night. woke up at 1 am at 29! Sure could have used Nick to help me out a little bit. And, yes, get some girl names! how abut dixie and minnie. a little 50's type name,s but they may work

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