Tuesday 10 August 2010

Remote controlled semi-robot

I had a post ready to publish today all about a very serious issue. It is an issue which a few months ago I would probably have shrugged my shoulders at. An issue which I never really considered and never really thought too deeply about. Perhaps I have developed a bee in the bonnet because I now talk to other diabetics on a regular basis and have been given something to think about. Perhaps it is because I too have become frustrated about recently. The issue I was all ready to post about - and subsequently no doubt deal with the backlash from - was the issue of people using the blanket term 'diabetes' when talking about the disease. In doing so often attributing incorrect assumptions to one type of diabetes. Like talking about weight being a contributing risk factor for 'diabetes'. In fact weight is totally unrelated to type 1 and the frustrations which come with that and the confusing messages and poor education which then reach the public is something I have become more and more concerned with.

The problem, something happened today which took precedent over the education thing, and that is:


I know, cool right???

As much as I love having a good rant and expressing (I hope) an intelligent opinion about more serious and important aspects of diabetes, I also love the lighter side of it. The side when I can write about how girls have it better because we can hide out pumps in our over-the-shoulder boulder holders, or how I get a little kick out of putting a new skin on the pump and in doing so jazz it up a little. These little anecdotes may not change the world, and they may not educate anyone about anything, there has to be a lighter side to diabetes - whichever type. There has to be some silver lining somewhere and if you achieve a little chuckle while you are at it, then you are already winning the battle.

I usually store my pump in my bra - mainly because it means I can hide it without anyone have a clue where it is - a grasp at 'normality' I suppose. But there is one drawback: When I am sitting next to my boss at work or in the middle of a meeting, grappling around at my chest and pulling wires and pumps out of my bra is perhaps not the most professional behaviour I could be displaying. It doesn't give the best impression of me and certainly draws some stares. Many people know that I am diabetic but unless they ask, I don't tend to share the fact I am on a pump and very few are privy to the fact I store it between my knockers. As such when I do start fiddling with my bra, it looks pretty odd.

I told my DSN about this and she mentioned to me that Medtronic have a remote control ( I know - could have told me sooner!) that can be use with Medtronic pumps! You can't use the Bolus Wizard with it - which is the function when you can put in your blood sugar levels and the pump will make a dose suggestion in order to bring you back to your ideal level - but it does mean that I can give myself a bolus without even having to fondle inappropriately with my bra anymore! Whoop!

I contacted Medtronic and asked them how I could buy one. They advised a very pleased me that in fact they offer them free of charge. Thrilled at the thought of a new piece of kit to try out and the notion that there would be no more uncomfortable moments at work, I was avidly waiting its arrival. And there it was this evening, new and shiny and ready to be played with today.

It is a very simple device really, with just three buttons to mention. It has a 'B' button (Bolus) which allows you to draw up how much insulin you want, an 'S' button (Suspend) with which you can suspend the pump and an 'ACT' button, which all those who are familiar with Medtronic pumps will recognise as the button you have to press when asking the pump to perform any kind of function.

The first thing to do before you can use it is to enter the code on the back of the remote into the pump. The reason you do this is to make sure that only your remote controls only your pump. I mean, can you picture the havoc caused if every remote talked to every pump! Granted, I am the only person in my office on an insulin pump, but what if I went to lunch with my pump buddies? Or worse still - went to a pump convention?! I can just see it now, diabetics dropping like flies left right and centre because we all ate lunch together. I can just see the headlines:

"450 diabetics commit mass suicide by dosing 4500 units of insulin during pump convention!"

It may sound entertaining but in reality, it is VITAL that only your remote controls your pump. That is the purpose of the ID number on the back of the remote.

Once this is done, your remote is up and running and ready to go. All you have to do when you want to bolus any amount is hold the 'ACT' button down until it flashes and the pump 'beeps'. This means the pump is 'awake' and ready to go. All you do now is press the 'B' button for however many units you wish to deliver.

Now as a default, the 'easy bolus' function on the pump is set to 0.1 units at a time. The problem with that is that if you want say, 7 units, you would have to press the button - which in turn causes a 'beep' - 70 times!! Slightly annoying if you are mid-meeting. But luckily the easy bolus function can be adapted, meaning you can set it to increase at a rate of whatever you like. I have now adjusted mine to scroll at a rate of 0.5 units at a time. So when I press my 'B' button, it will rise at a rate of 0.5 to 1.0, 1.5 to 2.0 and so on. This means I can still have reasonably precise doses (still vastly more precise that injections) but only have to press it twice per unit of insulin I want. Once you have selected the number of units you want, you click 'ACT' again. The beeps are then replayed (just to make sure you have the right amount), and if you hit 'ACT' again, it begins to bolus. It is as easy as that.

It also comes in the form of a key-ring, so I can keep it on my set of keys (probably the one place I won't lose it) meaning I have easy access and am likely to have it wherever I go.

Well let me tell you - it's been great so far. I'm sure I will get bored of using it at some point and will just use it when I am in public, but with a new 'toy' to play with I am one happy cat. It will take a little while to get confident with it, seeing as I can't actually see what I am dosing, but provided I am concentrating there should be no hiccups. That is one of the reasons I have chosen to set the scroll rate 0.5. As long as I don't decide to fiddle with it, there should be some sort of limit to what I can ask it to deliver!

Anyway, any day now I will post my 'serious' post, but for the meantime I wanted to share something a little more light hearted. And for all those Medtronic users, give 'em a call, there's a remote control waiting for you to play with!

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