Friday 19 January 2018

Adieu, Animas

We knew it was coming, in all honesty.  When Animas Corp announced in October that their US operations were to close up shop and exit the insulin pump market, the elephant in the room no-one wanted to look directly in the eye was that the UK market operations would most likely follow. There were rumours, there were assumptions, and there was a shed load of speculation. Although insulin pump sales have been strong in the UK a global company like Johnson and Johnson has to look at the bigger picture.  And globally the Vibe pump market wasn't holding up.  As of this week, Animas have confirmed that they are to follow their US counterparts, and cease trading.  

My personal relationship with Animas has been a wonderful one.  I became involved with them by inadvertently inviting myself on their second sports weekend as the official blogger, before I had officially been asked.  They took it well and quietly confirmed I could go, but wen I arrived I was the only person who was noticeably overweight.  Horrified and convinced of the mistake I'd made, I toyed with the idea of slipping out early or feigning illness to avoid the mortifying embarrassment of being surrounded by an alien population of marathon-runners and semi-professional cyclists, but realised I had to do the job I was there to do.  After all, I'd invited myself - I could hardly back out now.  By the end of that weekend I had for the first time as an adult truly understood the power of being shoulder-to-shoulder with my diabetes brethren.

The next year I was invited back (officially, this time) and had used the tools from that weekend to lose almost 3 stone.  I was given the opportunity to share that journey with the attendees in a talk; my way of sharing with any other people there, worried about their weight or about being the odd-one-out, that they were not alone.  We are never truly alone, but somehow the sports weekend really hits that home.  Having a chance to share my struggles with my weight was a milestone moment for me, and it was Animas who gave me the space and platform to do that.

I decided to start using the Vibe when it was released, because as much as I liked my Medtronic and found their customer service superb, I was all kinds of done with kinky (not the fun kind) cannulas, and I wanted to get back in the water.  The Vibe was my partner in crime when I got back in the Cornish waves, and for the first time I realised the value of a waterproof pump.

I started running out of ways to say 'more awesome than awesome' as I was given the chance to return to the sports weekends year after year, so started to compile videos of Sports Weekend posts, because every year they exceed every expectation I could hold.

My Vibe travelled with me down under, and helped me traverse pregnancy, helping my daughter arrive safely in this world, a perfect little soul completely untouched by the constant change and mammoth challenge of a diabetic pregnancy.  Once again, Animas allowed me to share that by giving me the space to do so, because they seemed to 'get' what a scary time pregnancy can be, and that other uneasy wannabe mothers might just need to hear that it will be OK. It will be, by the way.

I'm going to miss them.  I'm going to miss them big.

Any time a medical tech company - particularly a giant like Animas - leaves the market it is a serious loss.  Losing any method of diabetes management (except for that lancing device which had the needle on the OUTSIDE! Because which idiot thought that would help us test more?!), means that people with diabetes have less options, and less options is a step backwards, no matter your taste in pump.

Oh, hell no.

I have enjoyed everything about my time with Animas, from meeting inspirational Heroes, to making lifelong friends at the sports events, to having a place to share my small but nonetheless shareable experiences. 

And I now have a mammoth task on my hands, because while I wasn't watching my pump warranty expired.  It expired a couple of weeks before Animas stopped taking new customers on.  It stopped a month before their formal letter notifying the world they were to stop trading.

I don't have a clue which pump I will try.  I don't even want to think about it right now.  I don't want to accept that my beloved Vibe has days which are numbered. It fucking sucks, if I'm honest.

Saturday 7 October 2017

The deal with Animas (UK)

I have not blogged since January this year.  In all honesty, I hadn't known whether my blogging would continue given that juggling household shift patterns around childcare, an abandoned allotment and a forgotten sewing hobby had all left me feeling as though I simply no longer had the words.  When I did log on to social media the arguments, snarky comments and age-old conversations seemed to be coming up.  It felt as though there was precious little 'new' to even deal with, and the 'old' left me feeling as though I'd already spoken about that and simply didn't want to keep repeating myself with so much else amiss in my world.  The DOC felt to me as though I was no longer a member. 

But then something changed which threw me back into the DOC at full force.

Two days ago, a friend posted on Facebook about Animas in the US and Canada 'closing down and leaving the insulin pump market'.  The article, seemingly from a reputable source and using all the correct language and knowledge of diabetes insulin pump supply, claimed this was happening with almost immediate effect in the US and Canada, and the rest of the world would follow.

What.  The.  Actual.

As a member of the Animas Heroes, and (devoted) Animas customer, I was shocked and so, so saddened to read this, but had also initially missed the bit about the rest of the world.  What do you mean, you are exiting the pump market, with my product?!

I emailed one of the marketing guys at Animas and asked what impact this would have on the UK.  Within an hour, a conference call was scheduled, and the cold facts were dawning on me. 

As I listened on the call to the horrible news, I realised just how much the world will miss Animas. How much I will miss Animas.  For me, they were the leaders in patient engagement, and where other companies only seemed to want to engage with the DOC when they have a product they want advertised, Animas seemed to want more.  They wanted to truly converse with their customers; they wanted to make a difference.

Animas made it clear that as far as the UK goes, it is business as usual; they will be in place for the foreseeable, due to the way in which businesses have to be closed in Europe.  There is no immediate commute over to a competitor, and new customers are still being taken on, but with an honest disclosure about what the future looks like.  While business has been successful in the UK, the picture worldwide has not been so, and in an incredibly competitive market, it simply came to an end.  Which sucks.  It really, really sucks.  The Sports Weekend is, of course, to still go ahead.  And as a J&J weekend as opposed to an Animas one, we hope there will be more.

I was always a little of an odd one out amongst the Heroes.  Some are champions in their sport, some have run unimagineable marathons, and some are insanely Grumpy (in all the best kind of ways).  I was the one who'd struggled with weight and through my journey using sports and exercise to try and tackle those issues, had also discovered deep-rooted issues with food and dieting.  But rather than end my contract there when things got complicated, Animas - and my family in the heroes - carried on just accepting that my daily challenge was just a different kind of challenge to the others. When the end comes, and end it shall, I will leave knowing I was on the team with a group of people, a company, even, who had all their priorities in the right place. 

Any time a treatment option is taken off the table it is a sad day.  But for it to be a company as well-established and market-leading as Animas, is simply devastating.

I will miss those people sorely.

It's sad that words came back to me because something so dear was being taken away.  And yet the last two days the DOC, for me, has been a different place.  It has been a place were people are asking for advice, answers, and support. What a shame that Animas had to be the catalyst for my DOC of old to return.

How do you feel about the news that Animas will eventually close up shop?

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Kaleidoscope - what are YOUR priorities?

I've been out of the loop in the last year when it comes to new projects on the diabetes horizon - mainly because there is a socially acceptable level of housework which has to be met in order for your home to be considered habitable; a level which has long been the stuff of legend in our home since the whirlwind arrived.  But last week I had the opportunity to take part in a focus group about a new way or working with Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) when it comes to verbalising what is important to us in managing our diabetes at any given time, whenever we visit the clinic.  That new way of working is called Kaleidoscope.
Kaleidoscope is the brainchild of Chartered Health Psychologist Dr Kath Barnard, who recognises that at any one time there can be a multitude of factors affecting how well we are managing our diabetes on any given day.  Those factors (for example, the level of support we have at home, our access to the appropriate technologies, our knowledge of diabetes, or how burnt our we are), are fluid.  They change constantly and our needs change based on how well each aspect of our lives is working with all the others.  And just like a kaleidoscope, if you stopped your life in the middle of the daily whir, the resulting patterns would look wildly different and complex each andevery time.  But trying to communicate what is most important to us in the 15 minutes we have to meet with our diabetes team can be difficult.  And if, like me, visits sometimes happen when I am in the depths of burnout and barely even registering my diabetes, those clinic visits can sometimes involve a very satisfying - but not overly productive - 15 minute rant about diabetes and the general bastard that it can be.
The idea behind Kaleidoscope is that a short online (mobile friendly) questionnaire (six minutes to complete in my case) can help identify the top 3 priorities for you at that time.  The questions broadly cover a number of key areas such as environmental, physical and psychological factors and how you are feeling about various aspects of your care/management. The end result is your top three priorities listed for your next clinic visit. This gives a voice to those struggling to find their own, or to those who find it difficult to steer a conversation - or even recognise - what is most important to them.
I had the opportunity during the focus group to try the model, and completed it true to what is flipping around my brain about diabetes right now. I imagined that my clinic visit was tomorrow, and that this would be what I aim to cover.
"Great," I thought.  "But I know what my priorities are. I don't think I need to know them before I go in. This is probably more for people who struggle to communicate their own needs.  Mine will obviously all be about burnout."
Oh, the arrogance.
After six short minutes, there they were.  My top three priorities, of which only one related to the psychological aspects of living with diabetes.  It took me a while to work out where the others - knowledge of managing diabetes and another I can't now recall - came into play.  But as I sat and mulled it over, it all made sense.  Since my diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease, my feelings towards managing such frustrating conditions have been all over the show.  I have spent hours Googling Graves' Disease, energy levels and diets for thyroid function, feeling helpless, hopeless and hapless at best.  I have tried diets, pills and supplements which have all played a role in changing various aspects of my usual diabetes management - something which played second fiddle to my (stupid) new condition. The ups and downs of trying to solve one problem have left me feeling clueless about the one I thought I had a handle on.
Kaleidoscope helped me unmash the muddled-up soup of thoughts in my head and replace it with three places to start a conversation; one which may help me refocus my thoughts and efforts on the most important thing - my health.
It turns out that even after 30 years, there is still something you can learn.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Diabetes Soup: Thirty Years at the helm of Type 1

When I first started this blog, almost seven years ago I wrote, "My name is Anna and I am many things. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a fiance, a full time worker, a wannabe surfer, an animal lover and a girl. I am also a Type 1 diabetic (insulin dependant, juvenile onset, the beast has many names)... I have been through every stage of adjustment with the condition. I was the child who didn't quite understand it, the teenager who resented and fought it, the adult who started taking it seriously and now I am the girl determined to make it my own."

Thirty years ago on Christmas Eve, my parents brought me home from the hospital in Germany, newly diagnosed and with a challenge beyond anything they could imagine.  The magnitude of their challenge could not yet have been known to them, because only those who have lived through a chronic condition like diabetes could know how every aspect of life could be turned upside down by something as innocuous and seemingly toothless as a pancreas with no ambition.

Thirty years on, with almost a quarter of that time spent writing a blog and regularly exploring the sometimes inexplicable world of my own thoughts, I now know that I was na├»ve to think I was only one thing at a time. My ongoing states of diabetes  - the child who doesn't understand it, the teenager who fights against it, and the adult who has come to accept it - aren't mutually exclusive.  Sometimes I am a big bowl of diabetes soup (35g carbs, pre-bloused).

This year was the hardest of my thirty years.  With a child of my own now just three years younger than I was when I was diagnosed, I have had little time to focus on myself, but in the most wonderful of ways.  It is hard to care about the highs and lows, the carbs and counts or routines and basal reductions when my daughter's needs seem more urgent and important than my own.  For much of this year I was the mother who ignored it, because my girl was always one notch higher on the to-do list.

As my thyroid packed up shop and the sensor got lost en route to the outside of my leg, I was the adult who resented and once again didn't understand it.  I had a whole new language to learn about thyroid, iodine, overactivity and antibodies, and all those years of acceptance and embrace melted away in the face of the seemingly unmanageable tasks. Every day I worried about the what ifs and could-it-bes of my daughter also being diagnosed one day.  I can't think about that for too long, I have to let those thoughts drift away before the imagining the worst becomes my obsession that day. I found the DOC an overwhelming place to be and carried out a mass exodus of almost all of the diabetes groups I belonged to, sneaking out in the night like a shamed fraudster.  I didn't want to be in the DOC I once loved so much.  I was tired.  I still am tired.
But, as the tasks of motherhood became easier to manage and somehow my HbA1c kept steady at 7% (somethingorother in 'new money' mmol), I began to remember what I so loved about blogging. And as I was voted a respectable 62 on the Feedspot Top 100 diabetes blogs worldwide, the recognition flooded back that this is my safe place to say all the garbled junk I have to say, and that being a big bowl of diabetes soup with a million emotions spilling out of me - sometimes all at once - is OK. It's OK to be a diabetes soup sometimes.

I hope that in another 30 years I will be here still, living the life I have been blessed to live, and that diabetes will be a thing of the past.  But if not, I hope I will still have the thoughts to share, the words to write, and the voice to speak about my big old mixed bag of diabetes experience.
Happy diaversary to me, and Merry Christmas to all of you. 

Tuesday 8 November 2016

ASW2K16 video!

I've posted over and over about the value of knowledge and peer support the Animas Sports Weekend brings and this year was no exception.  As I drove home from the meet in October, the sky blackening as the early autumn nights I so love creeping in, I wondered if the other drivers on the M whateveritwas had enjoyed a weekend as wonderful as mine.
Just take a look for yourselves...
And don't forget to check out what Sir Steven Redgrave shared when I asked him about the value of Dr Ian Gallen's work.

Sunday 30 October 2016

The Airport Security pat-down/throw-down/interrogation experience

I love to travel.  And although I find aeroplanes claustrophobic on account of my control-freak tendencies and there being 300 people on board, I find air travel exciting, terrifying and amazing in equal measure.  What I find less enjoyable is the veritable lottery of what kind of  frisk, detention, terror-threat suspect, 'experience' I will have at the passenger security check thanks to the diabetes paraphernalia I cart around in hand luggage.  Bizarrely enough when travelling with a pump six years ago, I rarely encountered problems.  I made it to Thailand and back to a friend's wedding on my first ever with-pump journey, without incident.  A usual 'show it, explain it, politely decline to have it x-rayed' mantra was enough to make it on board without an MI5 security team interview.  In recent years however, this has changed.
At Heathrow in July this year, a well-meaning-but-having-none-of-it security guard insisted repeatedly that, "Even pacemakers are fine in the full body scanner".  His persistent claims got louder and louder and more animated until it felt like there were exclamation points at the end of every sentence. It gets hard to be polite when someone wants to disappear with your pump after refusing to accept that it couldn't be scanned.  After losing sight of my pump he returned with it and confirmed, once again, that pacemakers can go through it.  I will of course bear this in mind - if I ever get a pacemaker. 
My journey home from Frankfurt involved three women taking me into a 'detailed check' (kit off, sans dignity) while they appeared confused, befuddled, horrified by my CGM sensor.  This was followed up by someone shouting 'random bag-check' as they carefully selected my bag from the conveyor belt, at 'random'.
The Dubai chapter of the book was inexplicable. Voices were raised, arms were waived and scowls were given.  None of the above perpetrated by myself.
Somehow I made it to America, post 9/11, with 42 hypodermic needles and enough insulin on board to hygienically murder and entire crew while my friend got stopped for a corkscrew, and yet an insulin pump and CGM sensor bemuses most security staff. And I know that one of these days as it is whisked away from my view (against my requests) it will be put through an x-ray machine.
I understand it, of course.  Only 7% of people with T1 diabetes use an insulin pump, and there are currently at least five separate types of pump on the market right now.  There are hundreds of other pieces of diabetes equipment alone and there are God knows how many for every other condition which get seen daily as the thousands of people come and go from the country - millions worldwide.  With terror technology modernising as fast as - if not faster - than medical technology, I can understand why a safety first approach is necessary.  And I'm glad they raise concerns, frankly, because I can feel safe in the knowledge that when someone comes through with a device which on closer inspection is suspicious, I know they won't be on my flight. 
But the question has to be asked, if medical technology of any kind does come through airport security on a daily basis, why is there not a single policy which is part of regular, standardised training?  And why is it not worldwide, in the same way that airport security is standardised worldwide? Yes, there are hundreds of medical devices out there, but when pump companies and hospitals produce letters about the handling of these items, why are their hosts under fire of multiple questions, in different ways, dependent on the day of the week it is, and who is on shift that day?
The issues are that the damage - or possible damage - done by the full body scanners to an insulin pump - which is effectively a small computer - is largely unknown.  I have watched a fellow blogger go into one wearing their pump without incident.  But the warnings are clear, and are agreed upon by all the major insulin pump companies (Omnipod is not affected).  Going through any surveillance procedure which uses this technology with a pump carries a risk.  But as it becomes more commonplace to use full body scanners as the go-to security measure in airports, this places people with diabetes using technologies which are growing in popularity in a difficult position: refuse and raise questions of your suitability to travel, or go through and risk your pump being exposed to potentially damaging x-rays. Just how global can your pump company deliver a replacement pump?
The good news is that change is afoot, with your help.  This topic was recently raised at the Animas Hero meeting a group I have the honour of being part of, as a number of people raised concerns over the mandatory introduction of full-body scanners at UK airports from December 2016.  The following conversations uncovered that Rachel Humphrey at the Universal Freight Organisation was working to raise the profile of this issue at an international level.  Rachel is in contact with the Head of Training at Airports Council International (ACI), who are in turn going to raise this issue in May 2017 at the ICAO (The UN agency for Aviation).  ACI have said:
“The information has been forwarded to ICAO (The UN Agency for Aviation) for their consideration and advice on the best way to raise the issue globally to screening authorities."
ACI will present the issue to the ICAO Aviation Security Panel in May, requesting that it is included in global guidance material. Additionally, ACI will continue to raise awareness with its members through its committees and circulars to airports."
Although many people travel daily without incident, many are also subjected to arguments, questioning and the process of having pumps removed and taken out of sight, due to the varying degrees of training as to how to approach the issue of unfamiliar (should be familiar) medical technology encountered at airports.  I have a 100% record for botched security procedures inn 2016, and as someone who can hold my own but gets deep uncomfortable at the through of being one of 'those' passengers, it's clear this isn't just a one-off situation. And for those using technology which is becoming more common place year-on-year, this has to change. 
If this issue is important to you or someone you love or care for, please visit the links below and look in particular at the petition linked in. And if in doubt, contact your pump/CGM maker for a copy of their letter explaining how their device should be handled.
The official position of Diabetes UK on airport travel with diabetes can be found here.
The petition for a standardised approach can be found here.
The current protocol for security when travelling from the UK can be found here.

Friday 14 October 2016

Freestyle Libre CASE Giveaway! (UK Only)

Recently the lovely folk at Cara Collection contacted me with the offer of three beautiful cases for a Freestyle Libre Case Giveaway (UK only)!

Cara Collection make absolutely beautiful bracelets and accessories, but better still they come from a place of knowing about type 1 and wanting to make a difference using their skills and reach.  

I have THREE of their beautiful cases for a flash (geddit) giveaway on your favourite all-things-diabetes blog! 

Check out the full video for details, but if you want to get your hands on one of these gorgeous cases ABSOLUTELY FREE, all you need to do is:

1.  Enter why you just LOVE your Libre in the comments and leave a clue as to who you are (no personal details please, there are weirdos out there!)

2.  Send me an email at so I can link up your  comment with who you are in case you are a winner

3.  If you are one of three lucky winners  - go ahead and enjoy your Libre in style!

Competition closes 16th October, 2016 at 6pm!

And don't forget to check out Cara's gorgeous webshop for stylish and gorgeous things you will love! They post to the UK and deliveries take just 5 days so enjoy the things you buy even quicker xxx