Missing metrics in diabetes measurement by @DanaMLewis

“May I ask what your A1c is?”

This is a polite, and seemingly innocuous question. However, it’s one of my least favorite questions taken at face value. Why?

Well, this question is often a proxy for some of the following questions:

  • How well are *you* doing with DIY closed loop technology?
  • How well could *I* possibly do with DIY closed loop technology?
  • What’s possible to achieve in real-world life with type 1 diabetes?

But if I answered this question directly with “X.x%”, it leaves out so much crucial information. Such as:

  • What my BG targets are
    • Because with DIY closed loop tech like OpenAPS, you can choose and set your own target.
    • (That’s also one of the reasons why the 2018 OpenAPS Outcomes Study is fascinating to me, because people usually set high, conservative targets to start and then gradually lower them as they get comfortable. However, we didn’t have a way to retrospectively sleuth out targets, so those are results are even with the amalgamation of people’s targets being at any point they wanted at any time.)
  • What type of lifestyle I live
    • I don’t consider myself to eat particularly “high” or “low” carb. (And don’t start at me about why you choose to eat X amount of carbs – you do you! and YDMV) Someone who *is* eating a lot higher or lower carb diet compared to mine, though, may have a different experience than me.
    • Someone who is not doing exercise or activity may also have a different experience then me with variability in BGs. Sometimes I’m super active, climbing mountains (and falling off of them..more detail about that here) and running marathons and swimming or scuba diving, and sometimes I’m not. That activity is not so much about “being healthy”, but a point about how exercise and activity can actually make it a lot harder to manage BGs, both due to the volatility of the activity on insulin sensitivity etc.; but also because of the factor of going on/off of insulin for a period of time (because my pump is not waterproof).
  • What settings I have enabled in OpenAPS
    • I use most of the advanced settings, such as “superMicroBoluses” (aka SMB – read more about how it works here); with a higher than default “maxSMBBasalMinutes”; and I also use all of the advanced exercise settings so that targets also nudge sensitivity in addition to autosensitivity picking up any changes after exercise and other sensitivity-change-inducing activities or events. I also get Pushover alerts to tell me if I need any carbs (and how many), if I’m dropping faster and expected to go below my target, even with zero temping all the way down.
  • What my behavioral choices are
    • Timing of insulin matters. As I learned almost 5 years ago (wow), the impact of insulin timing compared to food *really* matters. Some people still are able to do and manage well with “pre-bolusing”. I don’t (as explained there in the previous link). But “eating soon” mode does help a lot for managing post-meal spikes (see here a quick and easy visual for how to do “eating soon”). However, I don’t do “eating soon” regularly like I used to. In part, because I’m now on a slightly-faster insulin that peaks in 45 minutes. I still get better outcomes when I do an eating-soon, sure, but behaviorally it’s less necessary.
    • The other reason is because I’ve also switched to not bolusing for meals.
      • (The exceptions being if I’m not looping for some reason, such as I’m in the middle of switching CGM sensors and don’t have CGM data to loop off of.)

These settings and choices are all crucial information to understanding the X.x% of A1c.

Diabetes isn’t just the average blood glucose value. It’s not just the standard deviation or coefficient of variation or % time in range or how much BG fluctuates.

Diabetes impacts so much of our daily life and requires so much cognitive burden for us, and our loved ones. That’s part of the reasons I appreciate so much Sulka & his family being candid about how their A1C didn’t change, but the amount of work required to achieve it did (way fewer manual corrections). And ditto for Jason & the Wittmer family for sharing about the change in the number of school nurse visits before/after using OpenAPS. (See both of their stories in this post)

For me, my quality of life metric has always been first about sleep: can I sleep safely and with peace of mind at night? Yes. Then – how long can I safely sleep? (The answer: a lot. Yay!)  But over time, my metrics have also evolved to consider how I can cut down (like Sulka) on the amount of work it takes to achieve my ideal outcomes, and find a happy balance there.

As I mentioned in this podcast recently, other than changing my pump site (here’s how I change mine) and soaking and swapping my CGM sensors (psst – soak your sensor!), I usually only take a few diabetes-related actions a day. They’re usually on my watch, pressing a button to either enable a temp target or entering carbs when I sit down to eat.

That’s a huge reduction in physical work, as well as amount of time spent thinking/planning/doing diabetes-related things. And when life happens – because I get the flu or the norovirus or I fall off a mountain and break my ankle – I don’t worry about diabetes any more.

So when I’m asked about A1c, my answer is not a simple “X.x%”. (And not just for the reason I’m annoyed by how much judging and shaming goes on around A1c, although that influences it, too.) I usually remind people that I first started with an “open loop” for a year, and that dropped my A1c by X%. And then I closed the loop, which reduced my A1c further. And we made OpenAPS even better over the last four years, which reduced it further. And then I completely stopped bolusing! And got less lows…and kept the same A1c.

And then I ask them what they’d really like to know. :) If it’s a fellow person with diabetes or a loved one, we talk about what problems they might be having or what areas they’d like to improve or what behaviors they’d like to change, if any. That’s usually way more effective than hearing “X.x%” of an A1c, and them wondering silently how to get there or what to do differently if someone wants to change things. (Or for clinicians who ask me, it turns into a discussion about choices and behaviors and tradeoffs that patients may choose to make.)

Remember, your diabetes may (and will) vary (aka, YDMV). Your lifestyle, the phase of life you’re in, your priorities, your body and health, and your choices will ALL be different than mine. That’s not bad in any way: that’s just the way it is. The behaviors I choose and the work I’m willing to do (or not do) to achieve *my* goals (and what my goals are), will be different than what you choose for yours.

And that’s therefore why A1c is not “enough” to me as a metric and something that we should compare people on, even though A1c is the “same” for everyone: because the work, time spent, behavioral tradeoffs, and goals related to it will all vary.

Missing_metrics_@DanaMLewis

Broken bones (trimalleolar ankle fracture), type 1 diabetes, and #OpenAPS

In January, Scott and I planned and went on a three day hiking trip in New Zealand. NZ is famous for “tramping” and “trekking”, and since we were in the country for a conference (you can see my talk at LinuxConfAU here!), we decided to give it a try. This was my first true “backpacking” type trip where you carry all your stuff on your back; and the first multi-day hiking experience. You could either rent a cot in a hut and carry all your food and cooking utensils and bedding on your back; or you could pay to hike with a company who has a lodge you can stay at (with hot showers and amazing food) and also has guides who hike with your pack. They had me at “gluten free food” and “hot showers”, so I convinced Scott that was the way we should do our Routeburn Track hike!

I planned ahead well for the hike; they gave us a packing list of recommended things to carry and bring. I learned from a friend in NZ, Martin, who had gone trekking a few weeks prior: his pack went over a cliff and was lost – yikes! Therefore, I planned one set of supplies in baggies and put them in both Scott & my pack just in case something happened to one of our packs, we’d still be completely covered.

Day 1 of the hike was awesome – it was overcast and felt like hiking in Seattle, but the scenery and wildlife were still great to experience. Since it was raining off and on, the waterfalls were spectacular.

Day 2 also started awesome – it was a breathtakingly clear morning with blue skies and sunshine as we hiked up above the tree line and over a mountain ridge, along the valley, and onward toward the lunch spot. I was feeling great and enjoying my hike – this was one of my all-time favorite places to hike in terms of the view of the valley and lake that we hiked from; and the mountain views on the other side of the ridge once we topped the mountain and crossed over.

However, about 30 min from the lunch shelter (and about 300 feet of elevation to go), I noticed the lady hiking in front of us decided to sit and slide down a particularly large and angled rock on the trail. I approached the rock planning to stop and assess my plan before continuing on. Before I even decided what to do, I somehow slipped and vaulted (for lack of a better word) left and off the trail…and down the slope. I flipped over multiple times and knew I had to grab something to stop my flight and be able to save myself from going all the way off the mountain slope. I amazingly only ended up about 10 feet off the trail, clinging to a giant bush/fern-like plant.

I had to be pulled back up to the trail by Scott and another hiker who came running after hearing my yell for help as I went down the mountain. (Scott came down off the trail few feet, and had to hold onto the hand of another hiker with one hand while pulling me up with the other, just like in the movies. It’s not a lot of fun to be at the end of the human chain, though!) At that point, I knew I had injured my right ankle and could only use my left foot/leg and right knee to try to climb back up to the trail while they pulled on my backpack. We got me back on to the trail and over to a rock to rest. We waited a few minutes for the back-of-the-pack guides who showed up and taped around my ankle and boot to see if I could walk on it – they thought it was sprained. I could flex, but couldn’t really put weight on it without excruciatingly sharp pain on the right side. I’d never sprained my foot before or broken any bones in my life, so I was frustrated by how painful the ‘sprain’ was. I had an overwhelming wave of nausea that I knew was in response to the pain, too, so at one point I had to sit there and lean back with my eyes closed while everyone else talked around me.

The guides wanted to see if we could get to a nearby river to ice my leg in. I used my poles as pseudo-crutches in front of me, with my arms bent at 90 degree angles, and with Scott behind me to check my balance, would crutch and hop on one leg. It wasn’t like regular crutching, though, where you can press your weight down on your arms and hands. It was really an act of placing the poles slightly forward for balance and then hopping up and forward, pressing off my left leg. My left leg was quickly exhausted and cramping from the effort of hopping forward with my entire body weight. It was also complicated by the rain making things more slippery; and of course; this is a mountain trail with rocks and boulders of different sizes. What I didn’t even notice walking normally on two feet became incredibly frustrating for figuring out when and how to jump up onto a small rock; or around to the side; etc.

“Lucky” for me (eye roll), we happened to be in an ascending section of the trail with quite a few large rocky sections, and there was no way I could hop up the uneven rocks on foot. So instead, I chose to crawl up and over those sections on my hands and knees. Then I would get up at the top and hop again through the “flatter” gravel and rock sections, then crawl again. It was slow and exhausting, and painful when I would get up one one leg again and start hopping again. I was in the most physical pain I’d ever been in my life.

After about a very slow and painful quarter of a mile, and as rain was dripping down more steadily, the guides decided I wouldn’t make it the remaining 300ft of elevation/30 minute (normal) hike to the lunch spot. They radioed for a medevac helicopter to come pick me up. I was incredibly upset and disappointed that I had ruined our hike… but also knew I absolutely wouldn’t even make it to the lunch shelter. I remember saying “I feel so stupid!” to Scott.

The helicopter came in a surprisingly quick amount of time, and they let out one of the EMT’s nearby and then flew over to a hill across from the trail. The EMT saw that I was decently clothed and covered (I had 3/4 length running pants on; a rain jacket and hood; and had a second rain jacket to cover my legs against the rain and wind) and did a verbal status check to confirm I was decent enough for them to lift me off the mountain. They weren’t able to land safely anywhere nearby on the trail because it was so steep and narrow; so they put me in a “sack” that went around my back and looped over my arms and between my legs, and was hooked on to the EMT’s harness. Scott and the guide stood back, while the helicopter came back and lowered the winch. I was winched up from there. However, the EMT had told me once we got up to the helicopter that the team inside would pull me straight back. And that didn’t happen, which was slightly more terrifying because we started flying away from the mountain while still *outside* the helicopter. It turns out the helicopter had unloaded a stretcher and supplies on the nearby hill, and so we were lowered down – with me and the EMT still perched outside the skids – to the hillside there, so the team could then gather the supplies & then load me in so I could sit on the stretcher.

The other terrifying factor about being evacuated off the mountain was that due to the weather that was blowing in hours ahead of schedule, and the “we have to winch you off the mountain” aspect: they couldn’t take Scott with us. So I had to start making plans & preparing myself for going to the hospital by myself in a foreign country. I was terrified about my BGs & diabetes & how I know hospitals don’t always know what to do with people with T1D, let alone someone on a (DIY) closed loop. I tried to tamp down on my worries & make some plans while we waited for the helicopter, so Scott would know I was okay-ish and worry slightly less about me. But at that point, we knew he would have to finish the day’s hike (another 3-4 hours); spend the night; and hike down the next day as planned in order to meet up with me at the hospital.

As we lifted off in the helicopter, I handed the EMT my phone, where I had made a note with my name, age, medical information (T1D & celiac), and the situation about my ankle. He loved it, because he could just write down my information on the accident forms without yelling over the headset. Once he gave me my phone back, a few minutes later we passed back into an area with signal, and I was able to send text messages for the first time in 2 days.

I sent one to my mom, as carefully worded as I could possibly do:

“Slipped off the trail. Hurt ankle. BGs ok. In a helicopter to the hospital in Queenstown. Just got signal in helicopter. Don’t freak out. Will text or call later. Love you”

It had all the key information – something happened; here’s where I’m heading; BGs are fine; pleeeeeeeease don’t freak out.

I also sent a text to Scott’s dad, Howard, who’s an ER doc, with a tad different description:

“Slipped and flipped off the trail. Possible ankle fracture or serious sprain. Being medevac’d off in a helicopter. BGs are fine. But please stand by for any calls in case I need medical advice. Just got signal in the chopper. Scott is still on the trail until tomorrow so I am solo.”

I was quite nervous when we arrived at the hospital. I haven’t been in an ER since high school (when I was dehydrated from a virus). I’ve heard horror stories about T1D & hospitals. However, most of my fears related to T1D were completely unfounded. When I arrived, the EMT did some more paperwork, I talked briefly to a nurse, and then was left alone for quite a while (maybe an hour). Other than mentioning T1D (and that my BGs were fine) and celiac to the nurse, no one ever asked about my BGs throughout the rest of the time in the ER. Which was fine with me. What my BGs had actually done was rise steadily from about 120 up to 160, then stayed there flat. That’s a bit high, but given I was trying to manage pain and sort out my situation, I was comfortable being slightly elevated in case I crashed/dropped later when the adrenaline came down. I just let OpenAPS keep plugging away.

The first thing that was done in the ER about an hour after I arrived was wheeling me to go get an x-ray. It was quick and not too painful. I remember vividly that the radiologist came back out and and said “yes, your ankle is definitely broken. In two places.” I started at her and thought an expletive or two. But for some reason, that made me feel a lot better: my pain and the experience I had on the mountain was not totally disproportionate to the injury. I relaxed a lot then, and could feel a lot of the stress ebbing away. My BGs started a slow sloping drop down almost immediately, and ended up going from 160 down to 90 where I leveled out nicely and stayed for the next few hours.

After I was wheeled back to my area of the ER, the ER doc showed up. He started asking, “So I heard you hopped and climbed off the mountain?” and then followed up by saying yes, my ankle was broken…in three places.

Me: “WHAT? Did you say ::three::?”

The ER doc said he had already consulted ortho who confirmed I would need surgery. However, it didn’t have to be that night (halleluljah), and they usually waited ’til swelling went down to operate, so I had a choice of doing it in NZ or going home and doing it there. He asked when I was planning to leave: this was Sunday evening now; and we planned to fly out Wednesday morning. I asked if there were any downsides to waiting to do surgery at home; any risk to my long-term health? He said no, because they usually wait ~10 days for the swelling to go down to operate. So I could wait in NZ (me: uhhh, no) or fly home and see someone locally. I was absolutely thrilled I wouldn’t need to operate then and there, and without Scott. I asked for more details so I could get my FIL’s opinion (he concurred, coming home was reasonable), and then confirmed that I liked the plan to cast me; send me on my way; and let me get surgery at home.

It took them another 2 hours to get me to the procedure room and start my cast. This was a small, 6-bed ER. When they finally started my cast, the ER doc had his hands on my ankle holding it up…and another nurse rushed in warning that a critical patient was in route, 5 minutes out. The ER doc and the other nurse looked at each other, said “we can do this by then”, and literally casted me in 2 minutes and were wheeling me out in the third minute! It was a tad amusing. I was taken back to x-ray where they confirmed that the cast was done with my ankle in a good position. After that, I just needed my cast to be split so I could accommodate swelling for the long plane rides home; get my prescriptions for pain med; get crutches; and go home.

All that sounds fast, but due to the critical patient that had come in, it took another two hours. They finally came and split my cast (which is done by using the cast cutter to cut a line, then another line, then pull out the strip in between), sold me my crutches, and wrote my prescriptions. The ER doc handed me my script, and I asked if the first rx had acetaminophen (because it would mess up my G4). He said it did, so he scribbled that out and prescribed ibuprofen instead. The nurse then got & apologized for “having to sell me” crutches. New Zealand has a public health policy where they cover everything in an accident for foreigners: I didn’t have to pay for the medevac (!!), the ER visit (!!), the x-rays (!!), the cast …nothing. Just the crutches (which they normally lend for free to NZ but obviously I was taking these home). Then I was on my way.

Thankfully, the company we hiked with had of course radioed into Queenstown, and the operations manager had called the ER and left a message to give to me with his phone number. A few hours prior, when I found out I’d be casted & released that night, I had been texting my mom & had her call the hotel Scott & I were staying at the next (Monday) night to see if they had a room that (Sunday) night that I could check into. The hiking company guy offered to drive me wherever, so he came to pick me up. I had texted him to keep him posted on my progress/timeline of release (nice and vague and unhelpful for the most part). But I also asked as soon as we got in contact if he could radio a message to the lodge & tell Scott that: a) my ankle was broken; b) I was ok; c) I’d be at the hotel when he got in the next day and not to rush, I was ok. The guy said he could do me one better: when he came to pick me up, he’d bring the phone so I could ::call: and talk to Scott directly. (I almost cried with relief, there, at the idea of getting to talk to Scott so he wouldn’t be beside himself worrying for 22 hours). I did get to talk to Scott for about a minute and tell him everything directly, and convince him not to hike out himself in the morning, but stick with the group and the normal transport method back to Queenstown, and just come meet me at the hotel when he got back around 4pm the next day. He agreed.

(What I didn’t find out until later is that Scott had considered doing the rest of the hike completely that night. Two things ended up dissuading him: one was the fact that a guide would have had to go with him and then hike all the way back to the lodge that night. The other was the fact that he talked to me and I would be out of the hospital by the time he arrived; so since I said I was fine alone at the hotel, he’d wait until the next day.)

So, I was taken to the hotel and got help getting up to the hotel room and had ice delivered along with extra pillows to prop up, and our bags brought in. Thankfully, on the mountain, the EMT had agreed to winch my backpack up with me. This was huge, because I noted earlier, I had a full set of supplies in my backpack, and all we had to do on the mountain was grab an extra international adapter and my charger cords out of Scott’s bag and toss it into mine. That made it easy to just pull what I needed that night (my rig; charger cords & adapter; a snack) out of the top of my bag from my perch on the bed. I plugged in my rig; made sure I was looping, took my pain meds, and went to sleep.

Broken_bones_type_1_diabetes_trimalleolar_fracture_OpenAPS_DanaMLewisAmazingly, although you’re probably not any more surprised than I am at this point, my BGs stayed perfectly in range all night. Seriously: after that lowering from 160 once I relaxed and let some of the stress go? No lows. No highs. Perfectly in range. The pain/inflammation and my lack of eating didn’t throw me out of range at all. The day of the fall, all I ate was breakfast (8am); didn’t eat lunch and didn’t bother doing anything until 11pm when I had a beef jerky stick for some protein and half a granola bar (10g carbs). For the next two and a half weeks now, I’ve had no lows, and very few highs.

The one other high BG I really had was on Sunday after we got home (we got back on Wednesday). It happened after my crutch hit the door coming back to my bedroom from the bathroom, and I did such a good job hopping on my left foot and protecting my casted right foot, that I managed to break the smallest toe on my left foot. I pretty immediately knew that it was broken based on the pain; then my BG slowly rose from 110 up to 160; and then I started to have the same “shadow” bruising spread around my foot from the base of the toe. Scott wasn’t sure; when I had fallen off the trail I had yelled “help!” and “I think I broke my foot!”. I didn’t say it out loud this time; just thought it. Again, after some ibuprofen and icing and resting, within an hour my BG started coming back down slowly to below 100 mg/dL.

On Tuesday, I went to the orthopedic surgeon and confirmed: my left toe is definitely broken. My right ankle is definitely broken: the trimalleolar fracture diagnosis from NZ was confirmed. However, given that none of the ligaments were damaged, and the ankle was in a decent position, the ortho said there’s a good chance I can avoid surgery and heal in place inside a cast. The plan was to take off my split, plaster-based cast they did in NZ and give me a proper cast. We’d follow up in 10 days and confirm via x-ray that everything was going well. I asked how likely surgery would still be with this plan; and he said 20%. Well, given that I was assuming 100% before, that was huge progress! He also told me I shouldn’t travel within 4 weeks of the injury, which unfortunately means I had to cancel my trip to Berlin for ATTD later in February. It may or may not mean I have to cancel another trip; I’ll have to wait and see after the next follow up appointment, depending on whether or not I need surgery.

Up until this point, I had been fairly quiet (for me) on social media. I hadn’t posted the pictures of our hike; I didn’t talk about my fall or the trip home. One friend had texted and said “I wondered if you fell off the face of the earth!” to which I responded “uhhh…well…about that…I ::only:: fell off a mountain! Not earth!” Ha. Part of the reason was not knowing whether or not I would be able to travel as planned, and wanting to be courteous to informing the conferences who invited me to speak about the situation & what it meant for me being able to attend/not. Once I had done that, I was able to start posting & sharing with everyone what had happened.

To be perfectly honest, it’s one thing to have a broken limb and a cast and have to use crutches. It’s an entirely other ball of wax to have a broken toe on the foot that’s supposed to be your source of strength & balance. The ortho gave me a post-op surgical shoe to wear on my left foot to try to help, but it hurt so bad that I can’t use my knee scooter to move easily without my left foot burning from the pain. Thankfully, Scott’s parents’ neighbor also had a motorized sit-scooter that we borrowed. However, due to the snowpocalypse that hit Seattle, I’ve not been able to leave the house since Thursday. We haven’t been able to drive anywhere, or walk/scooter anywhere, in days. I’m not quite stir crazy yet; but; I’ll be really looking forward to the sidewalks being snow-free and hopefully lake-free (from all the melting snow) later in the week so I can get out again. I also picked up a cold somewhere, so I for the most part have been stationary in bed for the last week, propping up my feet and using endless boxes of Kleenex.

OpenAPS, as you can see, has done an excellent job responding to the changes in my insulin needs from being 100% sedentary. (Really – think trips to the bathroom and that’s it.)  In addition to the increased resistance from my cold and being sedentary, there’s one other new factor I’ve been dealing with. I asked my ortho about nutrition, and he wants me to get 1g of protein per kg of body weight, plus 1000mg/day of calcium. He suggested getting the extra protein via a powder, instead of calories (e.g. eating extra food). I found a zero-carb, gluten free powder that’s 25g of protein per scoop, and have been trying it with chocolate milk (which is 13g of carb and 10g of protein).

I’ve been drinking that 2x a day. Interestingly, previous to my injury, unless I was eating a 100% no carb meal (such as eggs and bacon for breakfast), I didn’t need to bolus/account for protein. However, even though I’m entering carbs for chocolate milk (15), I was seeing a spike up to 150 mg/dL after drinking it. I tried entering 30g for the next time (13g of milk; plus about 50% for the 25+10g worth of protein), and that worked better and only resulted in a 10 mg/dL rise in response to it. But even a handful of nuts’ worth of protein, especially on days where I’m hardly eating anything, have a much stronger effect on my BGs. This could be because my body is adjusting to me eating a lot less (I don’t have much appetite); adjusting to the much-higher-protein diet overall; and/or responding to the 100% sedentary pattern of my body now.

Thankfully, it’s not been a big deal, and OpenAPS does such a good job tamping down on the other noise-based factors: it’s nice that my biggest problems are brief rises to 160 or 170 mg/dL (that then come back down on their own). My 7-day and 30-day BG averages have stayed the same; and my % time in range for 80-160 has stayed the same, even with what feels like a few extra protein-related blips, and even when some days I eat hardly anything and some days I manage 2-3 meals.

So to summarize a ridiculously long post:

  • When I break bones, my BGs rise up (due to inflammation and/or the stress/other hormonal reaction) up to 160 mg/dL until I relax, when they’ll come back down. Otherwise, broken bones don’t really phase OpenAPS.
  • Ditto for lack of movement and changes in activity patterns not phasing OpenAPS.
  • The biggest “challenge” has been adjusting to the 3x amount of protein I’m getting as a dietary change.
  • I have a trimalleolar fracture; and that’s about 7% of ankle fractures. I read a lot of blog posts about people needing surgery & the recovery from it taking a long time. I’m not sure I won’t need surgery; but I’m hoping I won’t need it. If so, here’s one data point for a trimalleolar fracture being non-surgical  – I’ll update more later with full recovery timelines & details. Also, here is a Twitter thread where I’m tracking some of the most helpful things for life with crutches.
  • Don’t break your littlest toe – it can hurt more than larger fractures if you have to walk on it!

A huge thank you goes to my parents and Scott’s parents; our siblings on both sides for being incredibly supportive and helpful as well; and Scott himself who has been waiting on me (literally hand and foot) and taking most excellent care of me.

And thank you as well to anyone who read this & for everyone who’s been sending positive thoughts and love and support. Thank you!

4 years DIY closed looping with #OpenAPS – what changed and what hasn’t

It’s hard to express the magnitude of how much closed looping can improve a person with diabetes’ life, especially to someone who doesn’t have diabetes or live closely with someone that does. There are so many benefits – and so many way beyond the typically studied “A1c improvement” and “increased time in range”. Sure, those happen (and in case you haven’t seen it, see some of the outcomes from various international studies looking at DIY closed loop outcomes). But everything else…it’s hard to explain all of the magic that happens in real life, that’s made so much richer by having technology that for the most part keeps diabetes out of the way, and more importantly: off the top of your mind.

Personally, my first and most obvious benefit, and the whole reason I started DIYing in the first place, was to have the peace of mind to sleep safely at night. Objective achieved, immediately. Then over time, I got the improvements in A1c and time in range, plus reduction in time spent doing diabetes ‘stuff’ and time spent thinking about my own diabetes. The artificial pancreas ‘rigs’ got smaller. We improved the algorithm, to the point where it can handle the chaos that is everything from menstrual cycle to having the flu or norovirus.

More recently, in the past ~17 months, I’ve achieved an ultimate level of not doing much diabetes work that I never thought was possible: with the help of faster insulin and things like SMB’s (improved algorithm enhancements in OpenAPS), I’ve been able do a simple meal announcement by pressing a button on my watch or phone..and not having to bolus. Not worrying about precise carb counts. Not worrying about specific timing of insulin activity. Not worrying about post-meal lows. Not worrying about lots of exercise. And the results are pretty incredible to me:

But I remember early on when we had announced that we had figured out how to close the loop. We got a lot of push back saying, well, that’s good for you – but will it work for anyone else? And I remember thinking about how if it helped one other person sleep safely at night..it would be worth the amount of work it would take to open source it. Even if we didn’t know how well it would work for other people, we had a feeling it might work for some people. And that for even a few people who it might work for, it was worth doing. Would DIY end up working for everyone, or being something that everyone would want to do? Maybe not, and definitely not. We wouldn’t necessarily change the world for everyone by open sourcing an APS, but that could help change the world for someone else, and we thought that was (and still is) worth doing. After all, the ripple effect may help ultimately change the world for everyone else in ways we couldn’t predict or expect.

Ripple_effect_DanaMLewisThis has become true in more ways than one.

That ‘one other person’ turned into a few..then dozen..hundreds..and now probably thousand(s) around the world using various DIY closed loop systems.

And in addition to more people being able to choose to access different DIY systems with more pumps of choice, CGMs of choice, and algorithm of choice, we’ve also seen the ripple effect in the way the world works, too. There is now, thankfully, at least one company who is evaluating open source code; running simulations with it; and where it is out-performing their original algorithm or code components, utilizing that knowledge to improve their system. They’re also giving back to the open source diabetes community, too. Hopefully more companies will take this approach & bring better products more quickly to the market. When they are ready to submit said products, we know at least U.S. regulators at the FDA are ready to quickly review and work with companies to get better tools on the market. That’s a huge change from years ago, when there was a lot of finger pointing and what felt like a lot of delay preventing newer technology from reaching the market. The other change I’m seeing is in diabetes research, where researchers are increasingly working directly with patients from the start and designing better studies around the things that actually matter to people with diabetes, including analyzing the impact and outcomes of open source technology.

After five years of open source diabetes work, and specifically four years of DIY closed looping, it finally feels like the ripples are ultimately helping achieve the vision we had at the start of OpenAPS, articulated in the conclusion of the OpenAPS Reference Design:

OpenAPS_Reference_Design_conclusionIs there still more work to do? Absolutely.

Even as more commercial APS roll out, it takes too long for these to reach many countries. And in most parts of the world, it’s still insanely hard and/or expensive to get insulin (which is one of the reasons Scott and I support Life For A Child to help get insulin, supplies, and education to as many children as possible in countries where otherwise they wouldn’t be able to access it – more on that here.). And even when APS are “approved” commercially, that doesn’t mean they’ll be affordable or accessible, even with health insurance. So I expect our work to continue, not only to support ongoing improvements with DIY systems directly; but also with encouraging and running studies to generalize knowledge from DIY systems; hopefully seeing DIY systems approved to work with existing interoperable devices; helping any company that will listen to improve their systems, both in terms of algorithms but also in terms of usability; helping regulators to see both what’s possible as well as what’s needed to successfully using these types of system in the real world. I don’t see this work ending for years to come – not until the day where every person with diabetes in every country has access to basic diabetes supplies, and the ability to choose to use – or not – the best technology that we know is possible.

But even so, after four years of DIY closed looping, I’m incredibly thankful for the quality of life that has been made possible by OpenAPS and the community around it. And I’m thankful for the community for sharing their stories of what they’ve accomplished or done while using DIY closed loop systems. It’s incredible to see people sharing stories of how they are achieving their best outcomes after 45 years of diabetes; or people posting from Antartica; or after running marathons; or after a successful and healthy pregnancy where they used their DIY closed loop throughout; or after they’ve seen the swelling in their eyes go done; etc.

The stories of the real-life impacts of this type of technology are some of the best ripple effects that I never want to forget.

Running and fueling for runs with type 1 diabetes

This blog post is not for you. (Well that sounds mean, doesn’t it? It’s not meant to be mean. But this post is written for a very small subset of people like me who are stumbling around on page 16 of Google trying to find someone sharing experiences and specific details around methods (both successful and less so) for fueling for longer endurance events such as full marathons or ultramarathons with type 1 diabetes. So – please don’t be offended, but also don’t be surprised if you don’t find this post very useful!)

I’ve started running again, and more, this year, and am now to the point where I’m considering running another full marathon sometime next year. As I adventure into running longer distances, and more miles, I’m reflecting on what I did in my first full marathon that worked related to diabetes, and what I want to try to do differently. This post is logging some of my experiences and notes to date, in honor of fellow page-16-of-Google-seekers, rather than waiting til after I run another full (if I do) and there continuing to be not much info out there.

Some background on my running:

I’m not a runner. And not a good runner. I never liked running. But, I walked the Seattle half marathon in December 2012 and thought it might be fun to then walk the full marathon in December 2013. However, I also tried snowboarding for the first time in January 2013 and majorly damaged my knee. I could barely walk the few blocks to work every day, let alone do my normal activities. It took several months, and several PT sessions, to get back to normal. But part of my frustration and pain manifested into the idea that I should recover enough to still walk that full marathon in December. And in order to be off the course by the time it closed, I would need to run a little bit. And I could barely walk, and never ran, so I would need to do some training to be able to run a mile or two out of the 26.2 I planned to otherwise walk. So I set off to teach myself how to run with the idea of walk/running the full, which evolved into a plan to run/walk it, and mostly eventually run it. And that’s what I did.

Now – this marathon was December 2013. This was right when we created DIYPS, and a year before we closed the loop, so I was in full, old-school traditional manual diabetes mode. And it sucked quite a bit. But now, almost 5 years later, with the benefit of everything I’ve learned from DIYPS and OpenAPS about insulin and food timing etc., here’s what I realized was happening – and why – in some of my training runs.

What I worried about was going low during the runs. So, I generally would set a low temporary basal rate to reduce insulin during the run, and try to run before dinner instead of after (to reduce the likelihood of running with a lot of active insulin in my body). I would also eat some kind of snack – I think for energy as well as making sure I didn’t go low. I would also carry a bottle of Gatorade to drink along the way.

With the benefit of 5 years of lots of learning/thinking about all the mechanics of diabetes, here’s what was happening:

Per the visualization, the carbs would hit in about 15 minutes. If I reduced insulin at the time of the run, it would drive my blood sugar up as well, over a longer time frame (after around 45+ minutes as the lack of insulin really started to kick in and previous basal impact tailed off). The combination of these usually meant that I would rise toward the middle or end of my short and medium runs, and end up high. In longer runs, I would go higher, then low – and sip gatorade, and have some roller coaster after that.

Now, this was frustrating in training runs, but I did ok for my long runs and my marathon had pretty decent BGs with no lows. However, knowing everything I know now, and commencing a new burst of running, I want to try to do better.

Here’s what I’ve been doing this year in 2018:

My original interest in running was to set a mileage goal for the year, because I didn’t run very much last year (around 50 miles, mostly throughout summer), and I wanted to try to run more regularly throughout the year to get a more regular dose of physical activity. (I am very prone to looking at Seattle weather in October-December and January-March and wanting to stay inside!) That mileage goal was ambitious for me since I didn’t plan to race/train for any distance. To help me stick to it, I divided it by 12 to give myself monthly sub-goals that I would try to hit as a way to stay on top of making regular progress to the goal.

(Ps – pro tip – it doesn’t matter how small or big your goal is. If you track % progress toward whatever your mileage goal is, it’s really nice! And it allows you to compete/compare progress, even if your friends have a much bigger mileage goal than you. That way everyone can celebrate progress, and you don’t have to tell people exactly what your mileage goal might be. What’s tiny for you is big for others; and what’s big for you may be small to others – and that doesn’t matter at all!)

This has worked really well. The first few months I scraped by in keeping up with my monthly goal. Except for February, when I had three weeks of flu and bronchitis, so I surged in March to finish February’s miles and March’s miles. I then settled back into a regular amount, meeting my monthly goals…and then surged again in August, so I was able to finish my yearly mileage in the middle of September! Wahoo! I didn’t plan to stop there, though, so I planned to keep running, and that’s where the idea of running the Seattle half (always the Sunday after Thanksgiving) popped up again, and maybe a full next year. I started adding some longer runs (two 7.5 miles; a 9.35 miler, and now a 13 miler) over the past month, and have felt really good about those, which has enabled me to start thinking more carefully about what I did last time BG-wise and why this time is so much easier.

Earlier in the year, even on my short runs (one mile or so), I quickly realized that because of the shorter peak of Fiasp, I was less likely to have previous insulin activity drive me low during the run. Within the first handful of runs, I stopped eating a snack or some carbs before the run. I also stopped setting a super high target an hour before my run. I gradually moved into just avoiding >1.5u of insulin on board before short runs; and for longer runs, setting a target of ~110 about 30 minutes before I walked out the door, mostly to avoid any of that insulin activity dosed that would kick in right after I started running. (Keep in mind when I talk about setting targets: I’m using OpenAPS, my DIY closed loop system that does automatic insulin dosing; and for fellow DIY closed loop users, I’m also using exercise mode settings so I can set lower targets like 110 and the targets also automatically adjust my sensitivity and recalculate IOB accordingly. So without those settings, I’d probably set the target to 130 or so.)

And this has worked quite well for me.

Is it perfect? No, I do still go low sometimes..but probably <10% of my runs instead of 50% of them, which is a huge improvement. Additionally, because of having OpenAPS running to pick up the rebound, there’s not usually much of a rebound and resulting roller coaster like I would have in 2013. Additionally, because autosensitivity is running, it picks up within a few hours of any additional sensitivity to insulin, and I don’t have any overnight lows after running. Yay!

However, that all assumes I’m running at a normal-for-my-body or slower speed.

There’s a nice (annoying) phenomenon that if you sprint/run faster than your body can really handle, your liver is going to dump and your BG will spike as a result:

I didn’t ever notice this in 2013, but I’ve now run enough and at varying paces to really understand what my fitness level is, and see very obvious spikes due to surges like this when I’m sprinting too fast. Some days, if I run too fast (even for a mile), I’ll have a surge up to 180 or 200 mg/dL, and that’ll be higher than my BG is for the rest of that 24 hour period. Which is annoying. Funny, but annoying. Not a big deal, because after my run OpenAPS can take care of bringing my down safely.

But other than the running-too-fast-spikes, my BGs have been incredible during and following my runs. As I thought about contributing factors to what’s working well, this is what’s likely been contributing:

  • with a mix of Fiasp & another short-acting insulin, I’m less likely to have the ‘whoosh’ effect of any IOB
  • but I’m also not starting with much IOB, because I tend to run first thing, or several hours after a meal
  • and of course, I have a DIY closed loop that takes care of any post-run sensitivity and insulin adjustments automatically

As I thought more about how much I’ve been running first thing in the morning/day, and usually not eating breakfast, that made me start reading about fasted long runs, or glycogen depleted runs, or low carb runs. People call them all these things, and I’m putting them in the post for my fellow page-16-of-Google-seekers. I call it “don’t eat breakfast before you run” long runs.

Now, some caveats before I go further into detail about what’s been working for me:

  • Your Diabetes May Vary (YDMV). in fact, it will. and so will your fitness level. what works for you may not be this. what works for you will probably not work for me. So, use this as input as one more blog post that you’ve read about a potential method, and then tweak and try what works for you. And you do you.
  • I’m not doing low carb. (And different people have different definitions of low carb, but I don’t think I’m meeting any of the definitions). What I’m talking about is not eating breakfast, a snack, or a meal before my runs in the morning. When I return from runs, I eat lunch, or a snack/meal, and the rest of my day is the usual amount/type of food that I would eat. (And since I have celiac, often times my gluten free food can be higher carb than a typical diet may be. It depends on whether I’m eating at home or eating out.) So, don’t take away anything related to overall carb consumption, because I’m not touching that! That’s a different topic. (And YDMV there, too.)
  • What I’m doing doesn’t seem to match anything I’ve read for non-T1D runners and what they do (or at least, the ones who are blogging about it).

Most of the recommendations I’ve read for glycogen depletion runs is to only do it for a few of your long runs in a marathon training cycle; that you should still eat breakfast before a full marathon; and you should only do fasted/glycogen depletion for slow, easy long runs.

I’m not sure yet (again, not in a full marathon cycle training), but I actually think based on my runs to date that I will do ok (or better) if I start without breakfast, and take applesauce/gatorade every once in a while as I feel I need it for energy, and otherwise managing my BG line. If I start a downtick, I’d sip some carbs. If I started dropping majorly, I’d definitely eat more. But so far, managing BG rather than trying to prescriptively plan carbs (for breakfast, or the concept of 30-60 per hour), works a lot better for me.

Part of the no-breakfast-works-better-for-me might be because the longevity of insulin in your body is actually like 6 hours (or more). Most non-T1D runners talk about a meal 3 hours before the start of your race. And they’re right that the peak and the bulk of insulin would be gone by then, but you’d still have a fair bit of residual insulin active for the first several hours of your race, and the body’s increased sensitivity to that insulin during exercise is likely what contributes to a lot of low BGs in us T1 runners. There’s also a lot of talk about how fasting during training runs teaches your body to better burn fat; and how running your race (such as a marathon) where you do carb during the race (whether that’s to manage BGs or more proactively) will make your body feel better since it has more fuel than you’re used to. That’s probably true; but given the lower insulin action during a run (because you’ve been fasted, and you may be on a lower temp basal rate to start), you’re likely to have a larger spike from a smaller amount of carbs, so the carb-ing you do before or during these long runs or a marathon race may need to be lower than what a non-T1D might do.

tl;dr – running is going better for me and BG management has been easier; I’m going to keep experimenting with some fasted runs as I build up to longer mileage; and YDMV. Hope some of this was helpful, and if you’ve done no-breakfast-long-runs-or-races, I’d love to hear how it worked for you and what during-race fueling strategy you chose as a result!

Another kids book by @DanaMLewis – this time about celiac disease

When I wrote my first book for kids about diabetes devices, I had an idea that I might write more kids books for my nieces and nephews. While my first book was inspired by a verbatim conversation with my niece, my next book is inspired instead by a cute story of my nephews, combined with a burst of frustration about living with celiac.

This new book, “Parker’s Peanut Butter”, wrote itself in my head while I was on a trip in Germany. The hotel I was staying at, despite many early communications about needing safe, gluten-free food, did not get gluten free at all. Being told “this dish is ‘usually’ gluten free” was incredibly frustrating. That night, I began drafting this story to help explain celiac – and cross-contamination – to kids.

The next day, with the book top of mind, I was at a meeting where artists had been hired to help document and crystallize some of what was happening at the meeting. I had seen some live illustrators before document various sessions at conferences, but these two artists were in a class of their own. They did such an amazing job capturing the key themes, quotes, and their illustrations were simple yet effective – and incredibly quick on the spot. I was in awe. I had an idea that wow, if someone like them would illustrate my next book, it would probably be fairly simple for them to do two dozen illustrations. (And yes – I know it is their incredible skill and artistry that makes it possible for them to do “quick” and “simple” yet incredibly powerful illustrations!) But, this is a zero-budget project: for every two books purchased, that yields enough for me to purchase an author-priced copy to donate to hospitals, libraries, school libraries, etc. I knew there was a really slim chance that other artists would be interested in contributing art to my book. (My amazing aunt was gracious enough to illustrate my first one! <3) However, you never get a yes if you don’t ask. So I crossed my fingers and approached the artists, explaining the project and showing them my first book. They seemed at least open to the possibility, so I promised to email and follow up after I got home. I emailed when I got back, and Beatrice said yes to illustrating! I was thrilled. And so “Parker’s Peanut Butter” came to fruition.
Parkers_Peanut_Butter_by_DanaMLewis

Parkers_Peanut_Butter_by_DanaMLewis_AmazonButton
As of today, the book is done and available on Amazon here! (Note: that’s an affiliate link, as are the other links to my books from DIYPS.org)

Like my other book, there is no ‘profit’ – I’ve priced it so that every two purchases on Amazon will fund an author-priced copy that I will donate to libraries, etc. (And if you’d like to coordinate directing a donation of 10 or more books in a batch somewhere, let me know!)

The story about the peanut butter and the hot tub is true (which I think is/was hilarious). I combined it, though, with a conversation I had with Parker about celiac from one time when he wanted to know why I wasn’t eating the other pizza on the table.

Like the diabetes devices book, I used simple tools (Microsoft Powerpoint!) to lay out the book and CreateSpace to publish it. (You can read here about the exact process I took to create & publish the book). I hope this inspires others to consider writing & creating more books with characters living with chronic conditions like diabetes, celiac, food allergies, and more to have diverse representation of the challenges we all live with.

PS – if you’re an artist & interested in helping illustrate a future book, please let me know! I’d also love to hear what stories & perspectives you’d love to see in future kids books, if I write more.

Hormones, CGM preferences, DIY, and why so many things are YDMV even when #WeAreNotWaiting

I posted one of my Nightscout graphs yesterday, showing a snapshot of my morning:

I hadn’t eaten, and my blood sugar still spiked up. I’ve noticed this happens in the mornings sometimes. When I have mentioned it over the years, people are quick to tell me my basal rates are wrong, and I should adjust them because dawn phenomenon. But actually, this isn’t dawn phenomenon. This happens after I physically get up and start moving for the day, whether that happens at 4am, or 6am, or 10am, or even waking up after noon. So, it’s not a basal thing, and modifying my basal rates doesn’t fix it. (And this is why I wanted to add wake-up mode to my suite of tools, to help address this.)

To me, this is a great example, (as I mentioned in my Twitter thread), of why diabetes is so hard: sooooo many things impact BG levels, and in many cases, we PWDs just have to roll with it and respond the best we can. In my case, #OpenAPS did a great job responding to the spike and bringing me back down within an hour or so.

One of the questions that popped up yesterday in response to that graph, though, was about the BG line: how did I have two BG lines?

The answer: I wear a G4 sensor, and usually have 2 receivers running off the same transmitter and sensor. One receiver is Share-d to my phone, and uploads to NS via the interwebz. The other receiver, although Share-capable, doesn’t (because the company only allows you to pair one receiver and upload via Share). I leave that CGM plugged into a rig to enable it to be a backup for offline looping. When online, this rig with the plugged in CGM uploads BGs from that receiver to NS.

Sometimes, because of different start/stop times and therefore differing calibration records, the receivers “drift” from each other, making it obvious on the graph when that happens.

Because if you give a mouse a cookie, other questions come up, someone had also asked me why I’m using G4, and why not G5. Someone else asked me in a different channel why I’m not using G5 and xDrip+ (a DIY option that doesn’t use Dexcom app or a Dexcom receiver for receiving the data or processing it), or another DIY tool to process my CGM data.

Now, as always, what I chose to use is my personal preference. It’s colored by my preference for what equipment I’m willing to carry; what phone I want to use; what data I want to have; my safety backup preferences; what my insurance covers and what I can afford; where I live; etc. So, just because I use this method, doesn’t mean I expect anyone else to want to do it. It’s just what I do. I don’t try to convince other people to use this method, and I also hope others can share info about what works for them without trying to hammer me over the head because what I’m doing is different. This is where YDMV (your diabetes may vary) comes in. It’s so true, and even within “people who DIY”, there’s a ton of variation – and that’s a good thing! I adore having options to find what works for me, and I want to have other people have options and choices to choose what works for them.

That being said, here’s the answer to how I run my CGMs and some of the things that have factored into my choice to not DIY CGM receivers/data processing most of the time:

  • With two G4 receivers, I can keep one in my pocket, paired to my phone and uploading via Share. When I’m out and about in the city or usually during the day, this is what I carry. When I run, I take the Share receiver.
  • But, I also like emergency back-ups. I like keeping a receiver plugged into an #OpenAPS rig so that if connectivity goes out/down, I can keep looping without a break in my stride. So, I could keep my Share receiver plugged into the rig, but that would involve me unplugging and replugging fairly frequently when I run errands or actually go for a short run, and meh. Hassle. So I keep “non-Share” receiver as the one that’s usually plugged into my ‘offline’ rig.
  • Having the G4 receiver plugged into the rig enables me to see raw data. Raw data is nice for a couple of things: assessing the health of my sensor (if it gets jumpy compared to the filtered data, I know the quality of the sensor is decreasing, and that helps me decide when to change it); giving me a clue to what’s going on when the filtered data goes to ??? or during the start up of a new sensor; and actually being able to run my rig and loop off some* of the raw data when I need to. (*With OpenAPS, you can choose to loop off of it within a certain range, and there’s an option to only set a certain amount of correction for a proportion of what otherwise would be proposed, with a higher level of raw data.)
  • With two receivers running, that also gives me more flexibility around sensor changes. Technically, the sensor is approved for 7 days. At the end of the 7 days, the receiver stops giving you data and forces you to “start” a new sensor session. That could be by inserting a new sensor; or it could be the same sensor on your body. But either way, theoretically it’s a 2 hour ‘warm up’ period from that session where you can’t see data. With 2 receivers, I can stagger the end and start of sensor sessions. I usually set a calendar alarm to restart one of the receivers on the night of the 6th day of the session, allowing me more flexibility on day 7 to choose when to restart or change my sensor.
  • This also means I can choose to “hot swap” when actually changing a sensor. I may choose to not hit ‘stop’ and ‘start’ on a sensor session on one of the receivers, but rather shut it off for about 30 minutes, and just do the stop/start on the other receiver (leaving it plugged into a rig to upload raw data to NS, and be able to see where the new sensor’s readings come in compared to the old one). When I power the non-restarted receiver back on about 30m after swapping the transmitter over to the new receiver (as soon as the raw readings have flattened out), it usually either goes to “no signal” for a few minutes, and then comes back with some data, an hour or more before the restarted sensor allows me to calibrate it and get data. There are downsides to this method: the data on the receiver that didn’t get restarted can be fairly inaccurate, as it’s still using the calibrations from the old sensor. So I don’t always do that, but when it’s more important to me to be able to see relative trend of where BG is (flat, or dropping or spiking), it’s nice to have that option. And since I often soak my new CGM sensors, the data from “day 1” of the sensor after a session “start” on the receiver is often better than if it was truly day 1 of the sensor being in my body.

Phew. Maybe that sounds like a lot of work, but the above setup works well for me for a variety of reasons, and also allows me the flexibility and choice for when I change sensors, when I am forced to be without data or potentially not loop, etc. Given that my schedule varies a lot, it helps since I’m not consistently in the same time zone and what works for starting or changing sensors one week in one part of the world doesn’t always align with convenience exactly 168 hours (7 days) later in another part of the world that I’m in, doing something differently.

Some of the reasons I haven’t switched to G5 include the fact that the transmitters only last for ~3 months instead of 6+ months; I’ve observed many people being frustrated by sensor not talking to the phone even when it’s right beside them; there’s no raw data on G5; you can’t have multiple receivers paired with your transmitter; etc.

Now, you might say, but that’s using Dexcom’s app, etc. With DIY solutions, those limitations don’t apply! And that’s true, to a degree – savvy folks in the community have figured out how to make it so you don’t *have* to use Dexcom’s app to display or process the data; you can replace the batteries on the transmitter; etc. But, just like my method above of using raw data isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone or might not be something someone else choose to do, the DIY options that go with G5 (or even G4 in some cases), aren’t something I believe is the right thing to do for me.

A lot of it comes down to safety. When we first started designing my DIY closed loop, we spent eons discussing how we could do this safely for me. And that evolved into further discussions about how other people could do this safely, too. A core of the OpenAPS Reference Design is that we are using already approved and vetted devices that exist on the market (e.g. existing pumps and CGMs). Those devices include approved and vetted methods for CGM data processing, too, which is even more important when the CGM data is being used to dose insulin as in OpenAPS. Now – this is not a requirement we can enforce: people can do what they want, and some people are even using non-CGMs (such as the Libre, a “Flash Glucose Monitoring” solution, plus a DIY NFC reader) as a CGM source for looping. But, whether it’s a DIY app or algorithm on CGM data, or a different glucose measuring device that’s not a CGM, that’s choice has some safety implications that I hope people are aware of.

First, the background for those who aren’t familiar: the CGM companies display a processed (“filtered”) version of the CGM data. That’s part of their proprietary stuff, but there’s reasons behind it: the raw data can be hectic and weird, and individual readings aren’t the point, anyway. The beauty of CGM is you can see the trends in addition to the estimated BG number.  In some scenarios, such as during sensor starts, during error messages that are displayed as ???, etc, the companies/FDA decided that the CGM should not show data, and instead show an error message/symbol, to help prevent anyone from making incorrect treatment decisions based off of confusing or misleading data.  That’s good enough most of the time.  As mentioned above, there are edge cases when seeing the raw is helpful, but most of the time, I’m happy with the filtered data.

But to me, there’s a difference between using raw or DIY-calibrated data for edge cases, vs. using them all the time. I’ve seen several cases in just the past few days with a newer “DIY CGM app”, which uses its own calibration algorithm for processing the unfiltered CGM readings.  These people have reported the app displaying normal BGs (say, 90 mg/dL), while they found themselves in the 40’s (rather low). It’s not clear whether that is due to the app’s calibration algorithm, something the user did in testing and calibrating, or if it’s just a bad sensor, and since most of them are not using the official receiver/app in parallel, that’s difficult to figure out.  But regardless, it’s happened enough times across numerous people for me to be concerned about a DIY CGM app being used as the primary source of CGM data. There are limitations to using company-built apps or physical devices for CGMs, but in the case where people can afford it, for safety I think it is important to at least use the approved and vetted receiver/app in parallel, to provide a backup and baseline level of alerting and alarming. The FDA & the companies have worked to create something that can be reliable for alarming when your BG is actually low (say <55 mg/dl) and alerting a human that something is going on. This is important regardless of whether people are looping or not, but it’s perhaps even more important when people are looping, since that data is driving insulin dosing decisions. Additionally, the company-created devices have been designed to deal with miscalibrations that aren’t in line with what the data from the receiver is showing, and have safety measures in place to “reject” calibrations and request new ones when necessary. Sure: there are times where that’s frustrating, but those features truly are “there for safety”, and are important for avoiding the rare but potentially serious outcomes that could be caused by incorrect CGM readings. Since safety is what we prioritize and design around in DIY closed looping, I hope people will consider that ,and prioritize safety first when choosing what to use as their primary data source.

Tl;dr – YDMV. I currently use G4 with two receivers, for the reasons described above. I think it’s important to prioritize safety over convenience most of the time, and understand the limitations of the solution that you choose (DIY or commercial). But everyone’s different, and their situation, preferences, etc. may drive different decision making. And did I mention YDMV?

Vitamin D and insulin sensitivity

tl;dr – for me, Vitamin D hugely influences insulin sensitivity.

After the flu, I continued to be sick. We did the usual song and dance many people do around “hey, do you have pneumonia?”. Which, luckily, I didn’t, but I was still pretty sick and my after visit summary sheet said bronchitis. Also, my average BGs were going up, which was weird. After all, when I had the flu, I had spectacular BGs throughout. So I was pretty concerned when my time in range started dropping and my average BG started rising.

In diabetes, there are a lot of things that influence BGs. It can be a bad pump site; a bad bottle of insulin; stress; sickness; etc etc. that causes out of range BGs. Most of these are helped by having a DIY closed loop like OpenAPS. So, when your BGs start to rise above (your) normal and stay there, it’s indicative of something else going on. And because I was sick, that’s what I thought it was. But as I continued to gradually heal, I noticed something else: not only were my BG averages continuing to rise (not normal), but I also was needing a lot more insulin. Like, 20-30u more per day than usual. And that wasn’t just one day, it was 4 days of that much insulin being required. Yikes. That’s not normal, either.

So, I was thinking that I was hitting the Fiasp plateau, which made me really sad. I’ve been using Fiasp for many months now with good results. (For those of you who haven’t been tuned into the diabetes community online, while many people like Fiasp because it’s slightly faster, many people also have experienced issues with it, ranging from pump sites dying much faster than on other insulins; having issues with prolonged high BGs where “insulin acts like water”, etc.) But, I was prepared mentally to accept the plateau as the likely cause. I debated with Scott whether I should switch back to my other insulin for 2-3 sites and reservoirs to give my body a break, and try again. But I was still sick – so maybe I should wait until I was not clearing gunk out of my lungs. Or I was also pretty convinced that it was correlated with my absolute ZERO level of activity. (I had some rising BG averages briefly over Christmas where I was fearing the plateau, but turns out it was related to my inactivity, and getting more than zero steps a day resolved that.) I knew I would be moving around more the next week as I gradually felt better, so it should hopefully self-resolve. But making changes in diabetes sometimes feels like chicken and egg, with really complicated chickens and eggs – there’s a lot of variables and it’s hard to pin down a single variable that’s causing the root of the problem.

One other topic came up in our discussion – vitamin D. Scott asked me, “when was the last time you saw the sun?”. Which, because I’d been sick for weeks, and traveled for a week before that, AND because we live in Seattle and it’s winter, meant I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen the sun directly on my skin. (That sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Sheesh.)

So, I decided I would not switch back to the previous insulin I was using, and I would give it some time before I tried that, and I would focus on taking my vitamin D (because I hadn’t been taking it) and also trying to get at least SOME activity every day. I took vitamin D that night, went to bed, and….

…woke up with perfect BGs. But I didn’t hold my breath, because I was having ok nights but rough days that required the extra 30 units of insulin. But by the end of the day, I still had picture-perfect BGs (my “normal”), and I was back to using my typical average amount of insulin. PHEW. Day 2 also yielded great BG levels (for me, regardless of sickness) and around average level of insulin needed for the day time. Double phew. Day 3 is also going as expected BG and total insulin usage wise.

You might find yourself thinking, “how can it be as simple as Vitamin D? There’s probably something else going on.” I would think that – except for I have enough data to know that, when I’m vitamin D deficient, getting some vitamin D (either via pill or via natural form from sunlight) can pack a punch for insulin sensitivity. In 2014, Scott and I went out in February even when it was cold to sit in a park and get some sunshine. After about an hour of sitting and doing nothing, with no extra insulin on board, WHOOOSH. I went mega-low. I’ve had several other experiences where after being likely vitamin D deficient, and then spending an hour or so in sunlight, WHOOSH. And same for when there was no sunlight, but I took my vitamin D supplements after a while of not taking them. And no, they’re not mixed with cinnamon 😉 (That’s a diabetes joke, cinnamon does not cure diabetes. Nothing cures type 1 diabetes.)

So tl;dr – my insulin sensitivity is influenced by vitamin D, and I’ll be trying to do a better job to take my vitamin D regularly in the winters from now on!

Making changes in diabetes is hard by DanaMLewis

Women in open source make a difference

I was incredibly honored to find out that I had been nominated for the 2018 Women in Open Source award (and even more blown away to learn that I am one of the finalists). I wasn’t familiar with the award, and when I looked it up to learn more about it, the finalist list for the last few years gives me some serious imposter syndrome! Aside from that, there were a few things that caught my eye – and one of them was a citation from a study that found that only 11% of people contributing in open source are women.

To me, this number both makes sense, and doesn’t.

Why it makes sense (to me): open source can be hard on women.

I’ve been doing things in open source since 2014, falling into it because of DIYPS and because of getting to know people like Ben who are passionate open source advocates. Because I was helped by open source work, it was a key driver for my own passion behind making our work with OpenAPS open source, and is why I’m currently working on developing a series of open source tools to help researchers working with diabetes data. I don’t know that I would have done anything open source had I not found the perfect series of projects that led me there.

While there are many great people in the diabetes open source community, in the middle of 2014 I wrote this blog post about being female and being discounted. It was a hard post to write. But I felt it was important, because one of things both Scott and I noticed is a lot of the attitudes behind this seemed to be subconscious: directing technical questions about our project to Scott only; refusing to direct any substantial questions to me even after Scott specifically would redirect questions to me, etc. The only way I saw to (begin to) deal with the problem was to address it head on.

And, for me, things have improved with time. But it hasn’t gone away, and it still requires active addressing about once a month or so. And yes – these are (relatively) minor problems compared to what some women experience in open source, or in tech. But it’s some of the most common, frustrating friction that can easily drive women away when they get tired of experiencing stuff like that. And when they go away, it’s a loss for everyone.

Why this number doesn’t make sense (to me): women contribute incredible value to open source, and are high-volume contributors, especially if you look beyond the narrow definition applied to open source coding.

Every where I turn, I see women participating in open source. I see Kate Farnsworth and Christine Deltrap, two incredible individuals who have made watchfaces used by thousands of families to remote monitor their children’s blood sugars. I see Katie DiSimone, who has written hundreds of lines of documentation, and answers hundreds of technical troubleshooting questions across several channels. I see Mad Price Ball, who leads the Open Humans Foundation with open source work (*and* is an amazing mentor to women like me, who have non-traditional development backgrounds). I see Karen Sandler, a fierce advocate for making software open source, who herself is a finalist for the WOS award, too!

I also see a lot of my own contributions in open source, especially in the early days when Scott was the one doing most of the committing to Github for the tools we were building. Those were part of why I was told I was discounted in 2014, because my work didn’t “count”. Today when someone goes and looks at Github, if they look at the wrong toolkit (or just one, for example), it gets said that “Dana didn’t do anything on OpenAPS”. (Heh).

So I know there are also other women out there whose work is being overlooked when counting who’s doing open source. However, this type of work is absolutely crucial to open source projects, and these contributors drive an incredible amount of value. I’m glad the Red Hat Women in Open Source Awards site acknowledged this, and made this list:

  • Code and programming.
  • Quality assurance and bug triage.
  • Involvement in open hardware.
  • System administration and infrastructure.
  • Design, artwork, user experience, and marketing.
  • Documentation, tutorials, and other communications.
  • Translation and internationalization.
  • Open content.
  • Community advocacy and community management.
  • Intellectual property advocacy and legal reform.
  • Open source methodology.

The list was partially to help encourage people to nominate women; and also to help women to recognize all of the activities they do that’s open source. And it was helpful to me, too. Because of that list, instead of a handful of key examples of open source activity by women, I can instead name dozens of women. I bet you can, too. There’s so much incredible open source activity and value that happens in places outside of commit history, and if we want to recognize and acknowledge the work of everyone in open source communities, we should do a better job of acknowledging *all* of these types of activities and not just recognizing individuals (male or female) who have a traditional code-based commit history.

So if you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re a supporter of women in open source communities. Thank you for that! But I’d like to ask you to do two specific things.

1) Actively recognize the women working with you in open source. The internet can be a hard place to be, let alone work, when you are female. Help lift women up; recognize their work; and help them grow their skills.

2) Ok, this one is optional :) But if you’ve read all this way, you might consider clicking here and going to the Women in Open Source Awards site and voting for one the finalists in each category. It’s one vote per email address. Thanks!

Acknowledging all contributions in open source by DanaMLewis

Makers gonna make…a book about diabetes devices? Kids book written by @DanaMLewis

book inspirationLast year after Christmas, I was running around my parents’ backyard with my niece when she spotted my CGM sensor on my arm and asked what it was. I’m always struck when my niece and nephews have noticed my diabetes devices, and am interested to see what “new” humans think about and how they encounter things and what they mean. In this case, I explained the CGM and we went back to running around, but it stuck in my mind for a few days.

I also remember the excitement and attention any time a kids’ book has a character with diabetes in it, or a storyline of diabetes, because there’s just not much out there. I was diagnosed at 14, but I love seeing PWDs in the wild and like the idea of more diabetes inclusion in materials for all ages.

So, I wrote a kids book, with the goal of introducing the concept of diabetes devices and more broadly, how people are different in different ways. I talked my incredible artist aunt into illustrating this book. :)

This book is primarily for me and my niece and nephews, but I know there might be a few other people who like the idea, too (even as there may be a few people who sniff at the idea*). I investigated the publishing options and decided to go with self-publishing, which would allow for:

  • The cheapest copies for me as the author, to be able to give to my various family members who want them.
  • The ability to make it available to other people who want copies.
  • The ability to price said copies so it’s accessible and reasonable to order easily.
  • (It’s actually cheaper for you to order this on Amazon directly to your house, than it is for you to ask me for an author-priced copy and for me to go through the hoopla of getting it to ship.)
  • Every two copies purchased via Amazon yields an author-priced copy that I plan to donate to libraries, hospitals, etc. (If you’d like to sponsor 10+ books for a library system, feel free to ping me about the easiest way to do that.) I’m planning to use any “profits” from the book to pay for copies that I’m donating.

I’ve been working on it off and on for the past few months as my aunt illustrated it, and got to give a copy to my brother and niece as a total surprise to read when we were in Alabama this past weekend. So now that the cat is out of the bag, the book is available online! The book, “Carolyn’s Robot Relative” (that’s me!), is available on Amazon here (note that’s an Amazon affiliate link). (There’s also now a German-translated copy with the title, “Ist Carolyns Tante ein Roboter?” – see the German version on Amazon.de here!)

robot illustration @DanaMLewisI also *love* the robot illustration that my aunt made with the CGM as the main body of the robot.  I reached out to someone on Etsy who does custom “stuffies” – and it turns out, she has a diabetes connection, too! So, you can get a stuffed CGM robot if you or your kids like it, for $20. Here is the link to the listing on Etsy. (I don’t make any money from this; I paid $20 for my first one, but had worked with her on pricing so it would be reasonable for people to get if they liked it!)

CGM robot stuffy from Carolyn's Robot Relative by DanaMLewisCGM robot stuffy from Carolyn's Robot Relative by DanaMLewisThe stuffy with the book – it’s an awesome sized stuffy!

And because I have also been playing with code fabric on Spoonflower (see tweet thread here, or this blog post here) and know they do fabric as well as gift wrap…I uploaded the CGM robot there so I could turn it into wrapping paper, too. Here’s the link to see it on Spoonflower.

CGM robot giftwrap preview! available on Spoonflower as fabric, gift wrap/wrapping paper, or wallpaper

I learned a lot in the research process about self-publishing options and the route I took that I wanted to share here, especially for anyone who sniffs and goes troll on me about putting this out there.

*Tl;dr – self-publishing is easy, and if you don’t like my book, go make a better one yourself! :) The more books, the better!

Some background on the publishing process & how I made the book:

I chose self-publishing with CreateSpace on Amazon. They now have this new “Kindle Direct Publishing” (KDP) program that’s similar, but less tested than CreateSpace, and seems to be higher cost for author copies. I never figured out what the benefits are of that, and chose CS.

I generally Google’d a bunch of questions and ended up on the CS forums, too, and read up on different programs to use to create the book, etc.

My process:

  • I wrote the book test in Microsoft Word, then translated it into a Google spreadsheet so I could visualize the left/right layout of the flow of text, as well as start to identify where I had ideas about what images to use.
    Example_storyflow_spreadsheet_Dana_Lewis
  • My aunt began illustrating, and sending me pictures. Fun fact – all of the images in the book are put in via iPhone photos -> AirDrop -> my computer -> inserted! No fancy graphics. (Although I did open a few of the images in Preview and change the white balance, since each photo was taken in different lighting, in a weak attempt to balance the colors of the pictures side by side.)
  • I started dropping them into a Microsoft Word document. The one thing the CS forums warned about was making sure the images were high enough res. The images were…but later in the upload process, it complained about the DPI being low. I switched to Microsoft PowerPoint (doing the same thing I did in Word to create the custom page size to work with bleed, trim, etc.) and dropped the images in the same way, and PPT doesn’t compress the images and it was fine. Word was problematic. It didn’t take much time to switch back and forth, but if I did it again, I’d start with PPT because they generally seem to get that images need to be full sized.
  • (A workaround if you take screenshots and need to insert images – you can use Preview to go in and adjust the size and make it >300 DPI that CS prefers, before inserting the images into PPT).
  • I placed text boxes on top of the images.
  • Once done, I saved as a PDF, and then went to upload to CS. I uploaded and tweaked and viewed the Digital Proofreader tool about a dozen times the first day I did it, as I wanted to move text a tad up or down, and as I resolved the complaints about DPI not being great.
  • (You do the same process for the cover image, and CS is pretty good about telling you how to calculate your spine size for the number of pages in the book, and adding that in to the front/back cover size to calculate what you need. You can also get a sized template from them, and then use images and cover it up so it’s sized perfectly.)
  • Once you’re happy with what’s uploaded to the system, you submit to CS for review (takes 24 hours). You then get to review another digital proof, and a PDF version, and then get the chance to order a physical proof copy!

Tl;dr version 2 – it was actually super easy, even for someone who’s not a graphic designer, to do this. This was a great method to work with an illustrator with simple iPhone photos of awesome illustrations and turn them into a book. You could probably also scan and do all kinds of fancy stuff…but for a basic book, the basic process described above works great. It actually doesn’t take much time in terms of placing text or uploading and tweaking your file.

The hardest part was calculating the size of the pages and deciding on whether to do with bleed or without bleed.

The other hardest part was keeping the topic of the book a secret from my mom for 10 months, because I thought she’d get a bigger kick out of being surprised with the book’s topic and contents when she had a finished copy in her hands. Sorry, Mom! Hopefully you thought it’s worth it. :)

front and back of "Carolyn's Robot Relative" by @DanaMLewis

More open innovation coming soon?

This is a big deal: JDRF just announced funding for companies to open up their device protocols, with an explicit mention of projects including OpenAPS.

This is something we’ve been asking companies for over many years, but even the most forward-thinking diabetes device companies are still limiting patients to read-only retrospective access to the patient’s own data. That’s a start, but it isn’t enough.  We need all device makers to take the next step toward full and open interoperability: participating in open-protocol development of pumps and AP systems. If funding from a major organization like JDRF is what will be needed to prioritize this, great: we’re really excited to see them doing so.

Many of us in the diabetes community have chosen to accept the risk of a flawed device, because of the net risk reduction -and quality of life improvements – that come from being able to DIY closed loop. But that doesn’t mean we’re 100% happy with that.

  • We shouldn’t have to bandaid our pumps – literally – with tape.
  • We shouldn’t have to buy them second hand.
  • We should be able to use in-warranty devices that aren’t physically broken.

In order to use our medical devices in the safest and most effective way possible, we need the ability to remotely and safely control our devices – and understand them – as we see fit.  That means the makers of the medical devices we rely on need to openly document the communications protocols their devices use, so that any informed patient, or any company or organization operating on their behalf, can safely interact with the device.

It’s a big deal for JDRF to put resources into helping companies figure out how to do this, and ease liability and regulatory concerns. Thanks to everyone who’s been a vocal advocate in the DIY community; in organizations like JDRF; and individuals advocating at the medical device companies as well.  And props to the FDA, who last month released official guidance encouraging device makers to “design their devices with interoperability as an objective” and “clearly specify the relevant functional, performance, and interface characteristics to the user.”

We all have the same goals – to make life better, and safer, for those of us living with type 1 diabetes. I’m excited to see more efforts like this that further align all of our activities toward these goals.

To the diabetes device companies: we’ve long said we are happy to help if you want to figure out how to do this. Hopefully, you already have ideas about how to do this smartly and safely. But if you need help, let us know – we’re happy to help, because #WeAreNotWaiting and neither should you.