The Bionic Pancreas (Continued)
So what was it like to have a machine making all these decisions for me? Well…
- I was never hypoglycemic
- I never felt hypoglycemic
- I was never worrying about hypoglycemia
- I was never recovering from hypoglycemia
That's already enough of a game changer for me. But there was more…
- If I started veering low, my bionic pancreas figured it out and gave me the perfect amount of glucagon to make sure that hypoglycemia didn't occur
- I always felt safe during the week — at no time did I feel threatened or scared
- My glucoses were being watched and stayed perfectly in range overnight, every night. Wow.
- I counted zero carbs
- I never "corrected"
- I never thought about insulin sensitivity and how I couldn't figure that out
- I never thought about insulin to carb ratios
- I never bolused
- I was a nicer and kinder person the entire week with the bionic pancreas
Because the system uses both insulin and glucagon, I got to see mini doses of glucagon in action for the first time. There's no question about it — glucagon is a cool hormone. It is ten times better than orange juice, glucose tabs, candy, gel, etc. It is SO precise and the power of having just the right amount was really cool. It was magic!
Don't get me wrong — the system still doesn't match how great a pancreas is in someone without diabetes. The bionic pancreas must still deal with the 60-90 minute delays in rapid-acting insulin absorption. That means that my blood sugar did exceed 200 mg/dl after big meals. (An analogy to think about this is steering a car — if it took the car 60-90 minutes to respond to movements of the steering wheel, you would inevitably run off the road sometimes.) What was very key was how the system brought me back down from these highs — super safely and far more quickly than I could regularly ever do. I went from a high over 200 mg/dl to a safe, soft landing right in range. Usually when I stare at a number over 200 mg/dl, I take too much insulin (a "rage bolus" as Kerri Sparling would say), go low, eat too much, go high, and ride a roller coaster of highs and low all day.
During the trial, I also had a striking epiphany about living with diabetes: "Oh my gosh, I waste so much time having diabetes!" Being distracted because of a low, doing all these things to make sure I'm staying in range, and the super big time-leech, hyperglycemia. Whew! I felt like my whole world changed when I was constantly in a state of normoglcyemia. And then I wondered how much I try to be "normal" and make it "seem" like diabetes is easy to manage — that mentality is also probably exhausting, even though I'm not even aware of it.
My bionic pancreas never failed me. I felt like the 17 year-old, completely carefree Kelly I used to know back before I was diagnosed. Getting rid of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia for a week was one of the most powerful things I've ever experienced. I already like myself but with the bionic pancreas, I felt even better in my own two shoes. And in turn — this experience gave me renewed hope for what I used to say might be possible and what I know today absolutely is possible.
James Joyce said that “mistakes are the portals of discovery.” I wonder if insulin levels have been our mistake. Could it be that this hellish week of blood sugars were somehow meant to be? Drastic times call for drastic measures, right? Maybe we were too afraid in the past to take the plunge into drastic measures. Maybe this is oddly what we needed. We had to be truly frightened in order to make bigger, bolder changes. ...