These days I have medical devices attached to my body 24/7 because of my diabetes. I like to think of it as being bionic.
I first started using the term bionic when my husband got his pacemaker. “Needing a machine to stay alive” left him feeling frail and unhappy. I told him, “Hey, this just means you’re now my bionic man!” He liked that. It was a more positive way to think about the medical device. And if I waggle my eyebrows when I say “meet my husband, he’s bionic,” he likes it even more (and it usually gets a chuckle). I have friends with artificial knees, shoulders, and hips. Others have artifical heart valves or spinal disks. So many of us boomers are going bionic these days.
Now I’m bionic too–sort of. While his bionics are surgically implanted, mine are removable–but I think they should still count.
First I got a Continuous Glucous Monitor (CGM). This wireless device checks my blood sugar every 5 seconds and displays a graph on a remote display unit about the size of a cell phone. The part actually on my body is the size of a pack of gum cut in half (crosswise). It has a needle that is angled under my skin, and a patch of adhesive tape that holds it on. I have to replace it and change the location every seven days. Of course I still have to do a finger stick when it’s time to take insulin. But the CGM also displays a trend arrow that lets me know if my blood sugar is climbing, dropping, or level. It also indicates how fast the level is changing. Very useful information. In the mornings I can look at the readings for the previous 12 hours to see if I had any peaks or valleys while I was sleeping.
The newest addition to my personal technology is an insulin pump. Before the pump I had to inject myself with insulin four or more times a day. The injections had to be given in my abdomen (and the locations rotated to prevent scarring). I had to avoid the area around my navel and my appendicitis scar. Sometimes the shot would nick a capillary and I’d end up with a lovely blue and green bruise. The pump is a device that looks remarkably like a cell phone. It’s attached by tiny clear tubing to an injection set on my abdomen. The injection set has a plastic canula inserted under my skin instead of a needle. The set is the size of a quarter. The tubing plugs in to the set and can be unplugged temporarily, like for a shower. Guys clip their pumps on their belt, or tuck it in a pocket. I find it more convenient to clip it to the middle front of my bra.
The pump comes with a remote control that also functions as a Blood Glucose meter (for finger sticks). So now I can sit in a meeting and give myself a dose of insulin, and as far as anyone else can tell, I’m just texting. The injection set is only good for two or three days, so I have to change it every other day (moving it to a new site). The pump only holds 200 units of insulin, so every couple of days I have to refill it. That involves special cartidges and insulin vials–more complicated than the pens I used before, but with the advantage of not requiring a poke in my belly for each dose. The pump also gives a background dose (“basal dose”) throughout the day, which mimics the way the pancreas works (at least the way it works for non-diabetics).
I’m getting better at filling the cartridges right (without creating air bubbles) the first time, and at holding the injection set dispenser at just the right angle so the canula goes under my skin instead of skidding across the surface. Of course now I have to be “wanded” at security gateways. Anything with magnetic fields might muck with the programming of the pump–which would not be a good thing. If I should need to get a CAT scan or MRI, I’d have to just temporarily remove the pump and CGM and adjust my doses afterwards.
So “I sing the body electric” for real now.