Tips and tricks for real life and living with an ankle fracture

As I wrote in a previous post with much more detail (see here), I fell off a mountain and broke my ankle in three places, then managed to break a bone in my 5th toe on the other foot. This meant that my right ankle was in a hard cast for 6 weeks and I was 100% non-weight bearing…but this was challenging because the foot meant to be my stable base for crutching or knee scootering was often pretty wobbly and in a lot of pain.

This post is a follow up with more detailed tips and lessons learned of things that were helpful in living with a leg cast, as well as what the return to weight bearing was really like. I couldn’t find a lot of good information about the transition to weight bearing was really like, so this is my take on information I was looking for and would have appreciated before and during the weight bearing progression process. (And if you’re looking for diabetes-specific stuff, it’s in the last section!)
Tips_weight_bearing_DanaMLewis
Dealing with lack of energy and fatigue

First, it’s worth noting something major about a fractured bone, and *especially* true if it’s a big bone fracture like some of mine were: it takes a lot of healing, which means a lot of energy going to the healing and not much energy left for every day living. I was constantly exhausted – and surprised by this fatigue – pretty much throughout this process. It made sense in the early days (say weeks 1-2 after fracture), but was frustrating to me how little I had energy to do even in the 4-6 weeks after my fracture.

But, then it got worse. Returning to weight bearing took *even more* energy. For example, on the first day of partial weight bearing, I was tasked with putting 25 lbs of weight on my foot in the walking boot. First by placing my foot on the scale and getting reliable with being able to put the right amount of weight on the boot; then by standing and repeating with the scale; then taking a few steps (with the crutches taking the rest of my weight) and re-calibrating with the scale until I was confident in that weight. With weight bearing progression, you’re supposed to spend up to an hour a day working on this.

I took to heart what my ortho said about not progressing fast if you only do 5-10 minute chunks, so after the first day, I tried to always do 10-15 minute chunks at a minimum, with a longer chunk wherever possible as permitted by pain and my energy levels.

But the first few days were really, really tough. It was hard to switch to a new weight every two days – because this meant readjusting how I was stepping/walking, and how much weight and where I placed my crutches. I started with a blister on my right palm, which turned into a squished nerve that made my right hand go numb, and ultimately damaged some tendons in my right wrist, too. This made it painful to use the crutches or even drive my knee scooter when I wasn’t focusing on weight bearing. So I had a lot of pain and suffering in the WB progression process that probably contributed to how fatigued I was overall.

So one of my biggest pieces of advice for anyone with broken bones is to expect your energy to take a(nother) dip for the first few weeks after you start returning to weight-bearing (or return to normal activity outside your cast). It’s a *lot* of work to regain strength in atrophied muscles while still also doing the internal healing on the broken bones!

Tips to deal with so much fatigue as you return to weight bearing:

Some of the tips and things I figured out for being non-weight bearing and sitting around with a hard cast came in handy for the weight-bearing progression fatigue, too.

  • I got a shower bench (this is the one I got) so that it was easy to sit down on and swing my legs over into the shower/bathtub. Once I was out of my hard cast, I still can’t weight bear without the boot, so I still need a sitting shower/bath solution while I return to weight bearing. I also removed the back after a while, so it was easier to sit in either direction depending on preference (washing hair/not) without having to ask Scott to remove the back and re-attach it on the other side.
  • Speaking of showers, I put a toothbrush and toothpaste in the shower so I can also brush my teeth there while seated.
  • I still keep most of my toiletries in the bedside table (or you could have a caddy by the bedside) so I can brush my hair, take my contacts out or put them in, wipe my face (facewipes instead of having to stand at the sink to wash my face), etc. from the bed.
  • I am taking ibuprofen 4x a day, and I get tired of opening the bottle. So I dumped a pile of ibuprofen on my bedside table to make it easy to reach and remember to take first thing in the morning or at night. (There are no kids or pets in my household; keep safety in mind if you have kids etc in your household – this solution may not work for you).
  • The one time I tended to forget to proactively take my medication was mid-day, so I added a recurring calendar event to my calendar saying “take ibuprofen if you haven’t 2x a day” around 2pm, which would be the latest I would take my second round, even if I woke up later in the day and my first dose was later in the morning. This has helped me remember multiple times, especially on weekends or times when I’m away from my desk or bed where I would have the meds visible as a reminder.
  • Pre-mix protein powder (this is what I chose) into the beverage of choice in advance, and keep it in individual containers so it’s easy to get and take (and if I’m really tired, round tupperware containers that have measurement lines make it easy to measure liquid into, put the lid on to shake it up, and drink out of without having to find another cup). I had Scott do this several days in advance when he went on a trip, and we kept doing it in advance even after he got home.
  • I kept using my portable desk for working, taking video calls propped up in the bed with pillows behind me, and also laying the surface flat to eat meals from when I was too tired to get out of the bed.

Other advice for the return to weight-bearing:

If you’re like me, you’ll switch back to weight-bearing accompanied by getting out of your hard cast and getting a walking boot of some sort. If you can, ask your ortho/doc in advance what kind of boot they’ll put you in. It’s often cheaper to get the boot yourself. Perfect example: my ortho didn’t tell me what kind of boot I would need, and I looked at various boots online and saw they ranged $50-100 on Amazon. At my appointment he asked if I brought a boot and since I didn’t, they’d provide one..and the paperwork I signed stated the price would be $427 (::choking::) if the insurance didn’t cover it. Insurance negotiated down to $152 for me to pay out of pocket for since I haven’t hit my deductible…which is still 2-3x more than retail cost. UGH. So, if you can, buy your walking boot via retail. (Same goes for purchasing a knee scooter (here’s the one I got) – it may be cheaper to buy it new through Amazon/elsewhere than getting a medical purchase that goes through insurance and/or trying to do a rental.)

  • You’ll also probably end up with a boot with lots of velcro straps. When you undo your boot, fold back the strap on itself so it doesn’t stick to the boot, another strap, your clothes, etc.
Other equipment that has come in handy:
  • Get multiple ankle braces. I had a slightly structured ankle brace with hard sides that made me feel safer the first few nights sleeping out of the cast, and it was often easier to go from the bed to the bathroom on my knee scooter or crutches with the ankle brace(s) instead of re-putting on my walking boot and taking it off again for a shower. (I transitioned to sleeping in a lighter ankle brace after a week or so, but still used the structured brace inside the waterproof cast bag for swimming laps to help protect my ankle.)
  • An ice pack with a strap to put around your ankle/broken joint. I had gotten this ice pack for my knee last fall, and strap it and another ice pack to my ankle to get full joint coverage.
  • Wide leg athletic pants…ideally ones that you can put on/off without having to take your boot off. (Women should note I found better athletic pants for this purpose in the men’s athletic section at Target..but be aware a lot of the modern men’s style have tapered legs so make sure to watch out for those and have enough width to get over your boot). Taking off the boot is exhausting with so many velcro straps, so any time I can get dressed or undressed without having to remove the boot if I am not otherwise removing the boot is a win.
  • Look online for your state’s rules for a temporary handicap parking pass, and take the paperwork to your first ortho appointment to get filled out. Also, make sure to note where the places are that you can drop off the paperwork in person (in Seattle it was not the same as the DMV offices!), or otherwise be aware of the time frame for mailing those in and receiving the pass. The handicap parking placard has been helpful for encouraging me to get out of the house more to go to the store or go to a restaurant when otherwise I’m too exhausted to do anything.
  • A new shiny notebook for writing down your daily activities and what you did. If you’re not a notebook type person, use an app or note on your phone. But despite being mostly digital, I liked having a small notebook by the bed to list my daily activities and check the box on them to emphasize the activities I was doing and the progress I was making. At the beginning, it was helpful for keeping track of all the new things I needed to do; in the middle, it was useful for emphasizing the progress I was making; and at the end it felt really good to see the light of the end of the tunnel of a few pages/days left toward being fully weight bearing.
Weightbearing_notebook_DanaMLewis

Other tips for getting used to a walking boot and transitioning to weight bearing:

  • Don’t be surprised if you have pain in new areas when you move from a hard cast to a walking boot. (Remember you’ll be moving your leg or limbs in different ways than they’ve been accustomed to).
  • My ortho told me the goal of weight bearing progression is to understand the difference between discomfort (lasts a few minutes) and pain (lasts a few hours). You’re likely going to be in discomfort when doing weight bearing progression – that’s normal. Pain (i.e. sharp pain) is not normal, and you should take a break or back down to a previous weight (follow your protocol) if you have it. I was lucky – the only few times I had pain was from trying to press down forcefully on the scale when seated, rather than standing on the scale and naturally letting my weight on my leg. I didn’t end up plateauing at any weight, and was able to follow my protocol of 25lb weight bearing added every 2 days and get to full weight bearing with no delays.
  • If you have a watch with a stopwatch feature, use it. It’s hard to keep track of actual time spent walking (especially at first when 90 seconds feels like 6 minutes) with just a normal watch/clock. You could also use your smartphone’s timer feature. But tracking the time and pausing when you pause or take a break helps make sure you’re accurately tracking toward your hour of walking.
  • The process wasn’t without discomfort – physical and emotional. Putting weight on my leg was scary, and every new weight day was hard as I dealt with the fear and processing of the discomfort, as well as learning how to step and walk and do my crutches in a new way yet again.
  • But what I learned is that the first 5 minutes of every new weight day ALWAYS sucked. Once I recognized this, I set the goal to always tough out a 15 minute session after I calibrated on the scale by walking slowly around my apartment. (I put my headphones in to listen to music while I did it). As long as there was only discomfort and not pain, I didn’t stop until after 15 minutes of slow walking with that weight and also re-calibrated on the scale during and after to make sure I was in the right ballpark.
  • I had to spend the first half hour or so working on my weight bearing by myself. I couldn’t talk on the phone or talk with Scott while I did it; it required a lot of concentration. (The only thing I could do is listen to music, because I’m used to running with music). So distractions did not help when I got started, but toward the end of the hour I could handle and appreciate distractions. Same for day 2 of a weight – having distractions or a task to do (e.g. walk from A to B, or walking while my nephew was on his scooter) helped pass the time and get me to complete my hour or more of weight-bearing work.
  • Be careful with your hands and wrists. Blisters are common, and I managed to both squish a nerve (which caused me to have a numb side of my hand and be unable to type for several days) and also pull or damage tendons on both sides of my wrists. I was torn between choosing to delay my weight bearing progression work, but also recognizing that the sooner I got to full weight bearing the sooner I could completely ditch my crutches and be done hurting my hands. So I chose to continue, but in some cases shortened my chunks of WB walking down to 15 minutes wherever possible to reduce the pain and pressure on my hands.
You’ll likely also be doing range of motion exercises. At first, it’s scary how jerky your motions may be and how little your muscles and tendons respond to your brain’s commands. One thing I did was take a video on day 1 showing me pointing and stretching my ankle, and doing my ABC’s with my foot. Then every week or so when I was feeling down and frustrated about how my ankle wasn’t fully mobile yet, I’d take another video and watch the old one to compare. I was able to see progress every few days in terms of being able to point my foot more, and wider motions for doing the ABC’s with my foot.
Also remember, once you’re weight bearing and working toward getting rid of your crutches, you can use things like strollers or grocery carts to help you balance (and also kill some of your weight bearing time!) without crutches. The practice will make it easier for re-learning your posture and gaining confidence in walking without crutches.

Don’t you usually talk about diabetes stuff on this blog? 😉

(If anyone finds this post in the future mainly for ankle fracture and weight bearing transition/progression tips, you can ignore this part!)

Diabetes-wise, I’ve had a pretty consistent experience as to what I articulated in the last post about actually breaking bones.

  • It was common for my first few days of progressive weight bearing to have a small pain/stress rise in my BGs. It wasn’t much, but 20-30 points was an obvious stress response as I did the first few 15 minutes of weight bearing practice. The following days didn’t see this, so my body was obviously getting used to the stress of weight bearing again.
  • However, on the flip side, the first week of weight bearing progression also caused several lows. The hour of walking was the equivalent of any new activity where I usually have several hours later delayed sensitivity to insulin out of nowhere, and my blood sugars “go whoosh” – dropping far more than they normally would. I had two nights in a row in the first week where I woke up 2-3 hours after I went to sleep and needed to eat some carbs. This normally happens maybe once every few months (if that) now as an OpenAPS user, so it was obviously associated with this new surge of physical activity and hard work that I was doing for the weight bearing.
  • Overall, while I was 100% non-weight bearing, I was eating slightly (but not much) lower carb and slightly less processed food than I usually do. But not always. One day I ended up having 205+ grams of carbs for me (quite a bit more than my average). However, thanks to #OpenAPS, I still managed to have a 100% in range day (80-150 mg/dL). Similarly on a travel day soon after, I ate a lot less (<50g carb) and also had a great day where OpenAPS took care of any surges and dips automatically – and more importantly, without any extra work and energy on my part. Having OpenAPS during the broken bone recovery has been a HUGE benefit, not only for keeping my BGs in range so much of the time for optimal healing, but also for significantly reducing the amount of work and cognitive burden it takes to stay alive with type 1 diabetes in general. I barely had energy to eat and do my hour of weight bearing each day, let alone anything else. Thankfully good BGs didn’t fall by the wayside, but without this tech it certainly would have.

And finally the pep talk I gave myself every day during weight bearing progression work:

This is short-term and necessary discomfort and suffering on the way to weight bearing. It sucks, but you can and will do it. You have to do it. If you need to take a break, take a break. If you need to do something else to get yourself pumped up and motivated to do your weight bearing, it’s ok to do that. But you’ll get there. Slowly, but surely. You’ve got this!

Proof that I did get there:

Best of luck and lots of support and encouragement to anyone who’s working their way to weight bearing after an injury, and many thanks to everyone who’s supported me and cheered me on virtually along the way!

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.

Scuba diving with a flash glucose monitor (Libre)

Scuba_Flash_Glucose_Monitoring_DanaMLewisI just went scuba diving in Australia* at the Great Barrier Reef, and I took a flash glucose monitor (Libre) with me under the water.

WHAT! Yes, really. Scuba diving with a Libre. (Your mileage may vary, of course! The Libre receiver is not waterproof in of itself, and obviously not rated/tested for depth. I did some of that testing for myself. See below 😉 )

Historically (and you can read more in this post for more detail on what else I do regarding pump, CGM, and everything else for scuba diving with diabetes and other diabetes devices),  I only had a CGM that did not work underwater, and did not work for around an hour after I went diving since it would get waterlogged.

A few months ago when Libre was FDA approved in the US, I paid cash out of pocket (for a receiver + 3 sensors) to try it to see how it did compared to my CGM.  For most purposes, a CGM still makes sense for me, because I rely on it for closed looping, and on its low and high glucose alarms.  But I know from previous dives and other water activities that my CGM doesn’t work well after a long time in (deep) salt water: I often get false-positive highs for an hour (or more) afterward.  So for this trip, I was thinking I would wear a Libre sensor for the dive trip, and just scan when I got out of the water, so I didn’t have to do a fingerstick test after every dive.

In the weeks leading up to our trip, I also saw a picture and heard rumblings of people going scuba diving and taking their Libre receiver under the water. I couldn’t find any details about it, though: What case? What depth? etc. ARGH.

So we decided to pick out a waterproof phone case and just give it a try during our trip. Worst case, we’d just ruin the receiver. Scott found this waterproof phone case/bag (<–Amazon affiliate link) and ordered it, and I packed it for the trip. Probably other similar phone cases would work, too – brand likely doesn’t matter, but you obviously would want a case that’s not going to leak, and should perform a leak test on it before you leave home.

We did a “liveaboard” for 3 days and 2 nights (really, ~48 hours on the boat). There’s a transfer boat that takes you out to the “liveaboard”, which is essentially a floating hotel. When you get there, you’re allowed to do a snorkel session before lunch; the first dive briefing is after lunch, and you can then dive during the sessions (max 3 day dives total and 1 night dive) after that during your stay. All this detail to explain that we popped the Libre receiver in the waterproof bag and took it into the water with us when we went snorkeling. And it worked great! So that gave me the courage I needed to take it down during our first dive.

The waterproof case had a strap where you could wear it around your neck, which is what I did. That ended up being annoying occasionally (because the bag would float above you during the die, and sometimes got caught on my snorkel), but it worked. (For future trips I’d probably find a stretchy cord to attach it to my BCD where it was accessible but didn’t have to float or be hung around my neck.)

I wore two wetsuits (I get cold easily!), and even with two layers of wetsuit; the waterproof case; and you know, the water – I was still able to easily press the button on the Libre receiver through the bag, swipe it over my arm, and pick up a BG reading! It was super cool for it to work. The hardest part: finding the Libre sensor under 2 layers of wetsuit on my arm.

The first few dives were somewhat shallow – 9-12 meters of depth, but over the course of all my dives, I ended up testing it down to 16 meters. I also tested it on 9 total sessions – 1 snorkel, 2 morning sunrise dives, 2 night dives (whoa), and 4 daytime dives. The bag did fine throughout each submersion and never leaked.

I was also expecting the sensor to peel up, so I did four strips of flexifix tape (like I do to my CGM sensor) around the outside edges of the sensor. The tape itself didn’t end up peeling up, and the sensor stayed on just fine! (It probably helped that I wasn’t sunscreening the edges of the tape, since I was pretty much in 2 layers of wetsuit every time I was out in the water and in the sun.) If the sensor ripped out, that would have been a pain as the one I have is the original one approved in the US that requires a 12 hour warmup (ugh) – thankfully, that didn’t happen, and also thankfully, the day we got off the boat we heard that the Libre is now approved in the US for 14 day wear (instead of 10) and now only ONE hour warmup (yay!). That’ll make it nice and easy (if I get the updated sensors) for future dive trips if a sensor rips off.

In terms of accuracy and sensor performance:

My first Libre sensor that I had tried at home a few months ago when we got it ran low pretty consistently, and ran REALLY low when my BG was normal. That drove me nuts and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t want to rely on it the way some people do. So I was planning to not be able to rely on the numbers, and just use it for trends when diving. However, this second sensor (that I did all my scuba diving with) was spot on, even when high and low. I cross checked with finger sticks before and after the first dive, but quickly tailed off fingersticks (other than calibrating my CGM) for the most part, and was able to rely on Libre to double-check my CGM. (As expected, because of the waterlogging, the CGM ran falsely high, sometimes 100 mg/dL off, for about an hour after the dive.)

I left the Libre on even beyond the dive boat part of our trip, and it’s been spot on alongside my CGM (which is also spot on) compared to fingersticks.

So to summarize my experience: Libre is great for scuba diving. I tested it down to 16 meters and was happy with how it worked underwater! I loved being able to check mid-dive and see my trends. I never had a low during my 8 dives in 48 hours, and I never worried about going low since I wasn’t diving “blind” to my BGs. I definitely plan to use this for future scuba diving trips, and would also consider using it for any beach/water-based activities. The convenience is worth (for me) paying out of pocket cash for a few sensors to be able to access my BGs easily during these activities.

* One final note: Australia has some of the strictest diving laws in the world regarding your health. If you have type 1 diabetes, you have to have a very particular Australian dive medical form filled out before any company will let you dive. Now, many companies will tell you to just show up in Cairns and use the dive medical centers for a cheap and easy dive medical. HOWEVER: we called three of them in advance. One said “NOPE” out of hand to approving a (perfectly healthy) person with type 1, solely because that person (me) has type 1. The second wasn’t sure and asked us to email a full medical history to give us an opinion. They never responded to the email. The third didn’t answer phone or email. Ugh. So: my advice is, get the form, and go talk **in person** to your physician of choice about this and the necessary information needed to have a physician fill out this form. I stressed a lot about this; but once I handed in the special form along with the standard medical form everyone has to fill out – they didn’t say a word to me, ask me about diabetes, or prevent me from diving. So my advice is to go prepared with your form!

Presentations and poster content from @DanaMLewis at #2018ADA

DanaMLewis_ADA2018As I mentioned, I am honored to have two presentations and a co-authored poster being presented at #2018ADA. As per my usual, I plan to post all content and make it fully available online as the embargo lifts. There will be three sets of content:

  • Poster 79-LB in Category 12-A Detecting Insulin Sensitivity Changes for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes using “Autosensitivity” from OpenAPS’ poster, co-authored by Dana Lewis, Tim Street, Scott Leibrand, and Sayali Phatak.
  • Content from my presentation Saturday, The Data behind DIY Diabetes—Opportunities for Collaboration and Ongoing Research’, which is part of the “The Diabetes Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Revolution” Symposium!
  • Content from my presentation Monday, Improvements in A1c and Time-in-Range in DIY Closed-Loop (OpenAPS) Users’, co-authored by Dana Lewis, Scott Swain, and Tom Donner.

First up: the autosensitivity poster!

Dana_Scott_ADA2018_autosens_posterYou can find the full write up and content of the autosensitivity poster in a post over on OpenAPS.org. There’s also a twitter thread if you’d like to share this poster with others on Twitter or elsewhere.

Summary: we ran autosensitivity retrospectively on the command line to assess patterns of sensitivity changes for 16 individuals who had donated data in the OpenAPS Data Commons. Many had normal distributions of sensitivity, but we found a few people who trended sensitive or resistant, indicating underlying pump settings could likely benefit from a change.
2018 ADA poster on Autosensitivity from OpenAPS by DanaMLewis

 

Presentation:
The Data behind DIY Diabetes—Opportunities for Collaboration and Ongoing Research’

This presentation was a big deal to me, as it was flanked by 3 other excellent presentations on the topic of DIY and diabetes. Jason Wittmer gave a great overview and context setting of DIY diabetes, ranging from DIY remote monitoring and CGM tools all the way to DIY closed loops like OpenAPS. Jason is a dad who created OpenAPS rigs for his son with T1D. Lorenzo Sandini spoke about the clinician’s perspective for when patients come into the office with DIY tools. He knows it from both sides – he’s using OpenAPS rigs, and also has patients who use OpenAPS. And after my presentation, Joyce Lee also spoke about the overarching landscape of diabetes and the role DIY plays in this emerging technology space.

Why did I present as part of this group today? One of the roles I’ve taken on in the last few years in the OpenAPS community (among others) is a collaborator and facilitator of research with and about the community. I put together the first outcomes study (see here in JDST or here in a blog post form on OpenAPS.org) in 2016. We presented a poster on Autotune last year at ADA (see here in a blog post form on OpenAPS.org). I’ve also worked to create and manage the OpenAPS Data Commons, as well as build tools for researchers to use this data, so individuals can easily and anonymously donate their DIY closed loop data for other research projects, lowering the friction and barriers for both patients and researchers. And, I’ve co-led or led several research projects with the community’s data as a result.

My presentation was therefore about setting the stage with background on OpenAPS & how we ended up creating the OpenAPS Data Commons; presenting a selection of research projects that have utilized data from the community; highlighting other research projects working with the OpenAPS community; announcing a new international collaboration (OPEN – more coming on that in the future!) for research with the DIY community; and hopefully encouraging other diabetes researchers to think about sharing their work, data, methods, tools, and insights as openly possible to help us all move forward with improving the lives of people with diabetes.

That is, of course, quite an abbreviated summary! I’ve shared a thread on Twitter that goes into detail on each of the key points as part of the presentation, or there’s a version of this Twitter/presentation content also written below.

If you’re someone who wants to do research with retrospective data from the OpenAPS Data Commons, you can find out more about it here (including instructions on how to request data). And if you’re interested in prospective research, please do reach out as well!

Full content for those who don’t want to read Twitter:

Patients are often seen as passive recipients of care, but many of us PWDs have discovered that problems are opportunities to change things. My journey to DIY began after I was frustrated by my inability to hear CGM alarms at night. 4 years ago, there was no way for me to access my own device data in real time OR retrospectively. Thanks to John Costik for sharing his code, I was able to get my CGM data & send it to the cloud and down to my phone, creating a louder alarm. Scott and I created an algorithm to push notifications to me to take action. This was an ‘open loop’ system we called #DIYPS. With Ben West’s help, we realized could combine our algorithm with small, off-the-shelf hardware & a radio stick to automate insulin delivery. #OpenAPS was thus created, open sourcing all components of DIY closed loop system so others could close the loop, too. An #OpenAPS rig consists of a small computer, radio chip, & battery. The hardware is constantly evolving. Many of us also use Nightscout to visualize our closed loop data, and share with loved ones.

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I closed the loop in December of 2015. As people learned about it, I got pushback: “It works for you, but how do you know it’s going to work for others?” I didn’t, and I said so. But that didn’t mean I shouldn’t share what was working for me.

Once we had dozens of users of #OpenAPS, we presented a research study at #2016ADA, with 18 individuals sharing outcomes data on A1c, TIR, and QOL improvements. (See that publication here: https://twitter.com/danamlewis/status/763782789070192640 ). I was often asked to share my data for people to analyze, but I’m not representative of entire #OpenAPS community. Plus, the community has kept growing: we estimate there are more than (n=1)*710+ (as of June 2018) people worldwide using different kinds of DIY APs. (Note: if you’d like to keep track of the growing #OpenAPS community, the count of loopers worldwide is updated periodically at  https://openaps.org/outcomes ).  I began to work with Open Humans to build the #OpenAPS Data Commons, enabling individuals to anonymously upload their data and consent to share it with the Data Commons.

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Criteria for using the #OpenAPS Data Commons:

  • 1) share insights back with the community, especially if you find something about an individual’s data set where we should notify them
  • 2) publish in an accessible (and preferably open) manner

I’ve learned that not many are prepared to take advantage of the rich (and complex) data available from #OpenAPS users; and many researchers have varying background and skillsets.  To aid researchers, I created a series of open source tools (described here: http://bit.ly/2l5ypxq, and tools available at https://github.com/danamlewis/OpenHumansDataTools ) to help researchers & patients working with data.

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We have a variety of research projects that have leveraged the anonymously donated, DIY closed loop data from the #OpenAPS Data Commons.

  • 2018ADA_Slide 112018ADA_Slide 12One research project, in collaboration with a Stanford team, evaluated published machine learning model predictions & #OpenAPS predictions. Some models (particularly linear regression) = accurate predictions in short term, but less so longer term when insulin peaks. This study is pending publication, but I’d like to note the challenge of more traditional research keeping pace with DIY innovation: the code (and data) studied was from January 2017. #OpenAPS prediction code has been updated 2x since then.
  • In response to the feedback from the #2016ADA #OpenAPS Outcomes study we presented, a follow up study on #OpenAPS outcomes was created in partnership with a team at Johns Hopkins. That study will be presented on Monday, 6-6:15pm (352-OR).
  • 2018ADA_Slide 13Many people share publicly online their outcomes with DIY closed loops. Sulka Haro has shared his script to evaluate the reduction in daily manual diabetes interventions after they began using #OpenAPS. Before: 4.5/day manual corrections; now they treat <1/day.
  • #OpenAPS features such as autosensitivity automatically detect sensitivity changes and insulin needs, improving outcomes. (See above at the top of this post for the full poster content).
  • If you missed it at #2017ADA (see here: http://bit.ly/2rMBFmn) , Autotune is a tool for assessing changes to basal rates, ISF, and carb ratio. Developed for #OpenAPS users but can also be used by traditional pumpers (and some MDI users also utilize it).

I’m also thrilled to share a new tool we’ve created: an #OpenAPS simulator to allow us to more easily back-test and compare settings changes & feature changes in #OpenAPS code.
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  • Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 4.48.06 PM2018ADA_Slide 16  We pulled a recent week of data for n=1 adult PWD who does no-bolus, rough carb entry meal announcements, and ran the simulator to predict what the outcomes would be for no-bolus and no meal-announcement.

 

  • 2018ADA_Slide 172018ADA_Slide 18 We also ran the simulator on n=1 teen PWD who does no-bolus and no-meal-announcement in real life. The simulator tracked closely to his actual outcomes (validated this week with a lab-A1c of 6.1)

 

 

 

The new #OpenAPS simulator will allow us to better test future algorithm changes and features across a diverse data set donated by DIY closed loop users.

There are many other studies & collaborations ongoing with the DIY community.

  • Michelle Litchman, Perry Gee, Lesly Kelly, and myself have a paper pending review analyzing social-media-reported outcomes & themes from DIY community.
  • 2018ADA_Slide 19There are also multiple other posters about DIY outcomes here at #2018ADA:
  • 2018ADA_Slide 20 There are many topics of interest in DIY community we’d like to see studies on, and have data for. These include: “eating soon” (optimal insulin dosing for lesser post-prandial spikes); and variability in sensitivity for various ages, pregnancy, and menstrual cycle.
  • 2018ADA_Slide 21I’m also thrilled to announce funding will be awarded to OPEN (a new collaboration on Outcomes of Patients’ Evidence, with Novel, DIY-AP tech), a 36-month international collaboration assessing outcomes, QOL, further development, access of real-world AP tech, etc. (More to come on this soon!)

In summary: we don’t have a choice in living with diabetes. We *do* have a choice to DIY, and also to research to learn more and improve knowledge and availability of tools for us PWDs, more quickly. We would love to partner and collaborate with anyone interested in working with the DIY community, whether that is utilizing the #OpenAPS Data Commons for retrospective studies or designing prospective studies. If you take away one thing today: let it be the request for us to all openly share our tools, data, and insights so we can all make life with type 1 diabetes better, faster.

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A huge thank you as always to the community: those who have donated and shared data; those who have helped develop, test, troubleshoot, and otherwise help power the #OpenAPS and other DIY diabetes communities.

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Presentation:
Improvements in A1c and Time-in-Range in DIY Closed-Loop (OpenAPS) Users

(full tweet thread available here; or a description of this presentation below)

#OpenAPS is an open and transparent effort to make safe and effective Artificial Pancreas System (APS) technology widely available to reduce the burden of Type 1 diabetes. #OpenAPS evolved from my first DIY closed loop system and our desire to openly share what we’ve learned living with DIY closed loops. It takes a small, off-the-shelf computer; a radio; and a battery to communicate with existing insulin pumps and CGMs. As a PWD, I care a lot about safety: the safety reference design is the first thing in #OpenAPS that was shared, in order to help set expectations around what a DIY closed loop can (and cannot) do.

ADA2018_Slide 23ADA2018_Slide 24As I shared about my own DIY experience, people questioned whether it would work for others, or just me. At #2016ADA, we presented an outcomes study with data from 18 of the first 40 DIY closed loop users. Feedback on that study included requests to evaluate CGM data, given concerns around accuracy of self-reported outcomes.

This 2018 #OpenAPS outcomes study was the result. We performed a retrospective cross-over analysis of continuous BG readings recorded during 2-week segments 4-6 weeks before and after initiation of OpenAPS.

ADA2018_Slide 26For this study, n=20 based on the availability of data that met the stringent protocol requirements (and the limited number of people who had both recorded that data and donated it to the #OpenAPS Data Commons in early 2017).  Demographics show that, like the 2016 study, the people choosing to #OpenAPS typically have lower A1C than the average T1D population; have had diabetes for over a decade; and are long-time pump and CGM users. Like the 2016 study, this 2018 study found mean BG and TIR improved across all time categories (overall, day, and nighttime).

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Overall, mean BG (mg/dl) improved (135.7 to 128.3); mean estimated HbA1c improved (6.4 to 6.1%). TIR (70-180) increased from 75.8 to 82.2%. Overall, time spent high and low were all reduced, in addition to eAG and A1c reduction. Overnight (11pm-7am) had smaller improvement in all categories compared to daytime improvements in these categories.

Notably: although this study primarily focused on a 4-6 week time frame pre-looping vs. 4-6 weeks post-looping, the improvements in all categories are sustained over time by #OpenAPS users.

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ADA2018_Slide 35Conclusion: Even with tight initial control, persons with T1D saw meaningful improvements in estimated A1c, TIR, and a reduction in time spent high and low, during the day and at night, after initiating #OpenAPS. Although this study focused on BG data from CGM, do not overlook additional QOL benefits when analyzing benefits of hybrid closed loop therapy or designing future studies! See these examples shared from Sulka Haro and Jason Wittmer as example of quality of life impacts of #OpenAPS.

A huge thank you to the community: those who have donated and shared data; those who have helped develop, test, troubleshoot, and otherwise help power the #OpenAPS and other DIY diabetes communities.

And, special thank you to my co-authors, Scott Swain & Tom Donner, for the collaboration on this study. Lewis_Donner_Swain_ADA2018

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?

Exploring other sensors that could be used with #OpenAPS and for diabetes in general

Nobody appeared to notice the other day when I tweeted about going through airport security with 13 pieces of adhesive on my body. Which is amusing to me, because normally I sport two: my insulin pump site, and my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensor. That particular day, I added another diabetes-related piece of adhesive (I was giving the Freestyle Libre, a flash aka not quite continuous glucose monitor, a try), and 10 pieces of adhesive not directly related to diabetes. Or maybe, it will be in the future – and that’s what I’m trying to figure out!

Last fall, my program officer from RWJF (for my role as PI on this RWJF-funded grant – read more about it here if you don’t know about my research work) made an introduction to a series of people who may know other people that I should speak to about our project’s work. One of these introductions was to a researcher at UCSD, Todd Coleman. I happened to be in San Diego for a meeting, so my co-PI Eric Hekler and I stopped by to meet Todd. He shared about his lab’s work to develop an ambulatory GI sensor to measure gastric (stomach) activity and my brain immediately started drooling over the idea of having a sensor to better help assess our methods in the DIY closed looping community for articulating dynamic carb absorption, aka how slow or fast carbs are absorbing and therefore impacting blood glucose levels. I took over part of the white board in his office, and started drawing him examples of the different data elements that we have #OpenAPS (my DIY hybrid closed loop “artificial pancreas”) calculate every 5 minutes, and how it would be fantastic to wear the GI sensor and graph the gastric activity data alongside this detailed level of diabetes data.

I immediately was envisioning a number of things:

  • Assessing basic digestion patterns and figuring out if the dynamic carb absorption models in OpenAPS were reasonable. (Right now, we’re going off of observations and tweaking the model based on BG data and manual carb entry data from humans. Finding ways to validate these models would be awesome.)
  • Seeing if we can quantify, or use the data to better predict, how post-meal activity like walking home after dinner impacts carb absorption. (I notice a lot of slowed digestion when walking home from dinner, which obviously impacts how insulin can and should be dosed if I know I’ll be walking home from dinner or not. But this is something I’ve learned from a lot of observation and trial and error, and I would love to have a more scientific assessment of this impact).
  • Seeing if this could be used as a tool to help people with T1D and gastroparesis, since slowed digestion impacts insulin dosing, and can be unpredictable and frustrating. (I knew gastroparesis was “common”, but have since learned that 40-50% of PWDs may experience gastroparesis or slowed digestion, and it’s flabbergasting how little is talked about in the diabetes community and how few resources are focused on coming up with new strategies and methods to help!)
  • Learning exactly what happens to digestion when you have celiac disease and get glutened.
  • Etc.

Fast forward a few months, where Todd and his post-doctoral fellow Armen Gharibans, got on a video call to discuss potentially letting me use one of their GI sensors. I still don’t know what I said to convince them to say yes, but I’m thrilled they did! Armen shipped me one of the devices, some electrodes, and a set of lipo batteries.

Here’s what the device looks like – it’s a 3D printed gray box that holds an open source circuit board with connectors to wearable electrodes. (With American chapstick and unicorn for scale, of course.)

DanaMLewis EGG for scale

And here’s what it looked like on me:

DanaMLewis wearing an ambulatory EGG

The device stores data on an SD card, so I had many flash backs to my first OpenAPS rig and how I managed to bork the SD cards pretty easily. Turns out, that’s not just a Pi thing, because I managed to bork one of my first EGG SD cards, too. Go figure!

And this device is why I went through airport security the other day with 10 electrodes on. (I disconnected the device, put it in my bag alongside my OpenAPS rigs, and they all went through the x-ray just fine, as always.)

Just like OpenAPS, this device is obviously not waterproof, and neither are the electrodes, so there are limitations to when I can wear it. Generally, I’ve been showering at night as usual, then applying a fresh set of electrodes and wearing the device after that, until the next evening when I take a shower. Right now, hard core activity (e.g. running or situps) generates too much noise in the stomach for the data to be usable during those times, so I’ve been wearing it on days when I’ve not been running and when I’ve not been traveling so Scott can help me apply and connect the right electrodes in the right places.

This device is straight from a lab, too, so like with #OpenAPS I’ve been an interesting guinea pig for the research team, and have found even low-level activity like bending over to put shoes on can trigger the device’s reset button. That means I’ve had to pay attention to “is the light still on and blinking” (which is hard since it’s on my abdomen under my shirt), so thankfully Armen just shipped me another version of the board with the reset button removed to see if that makes it less likely to reset. (Resetting is a problem because then it stops recording data, unless I notice it and hit the “start recording” button again, which drives me bonkers to have to keep looking at it periodically to see if it’s recording.) I just got the new board in the mail, so I’m excited to wear it and see if that resolves the reset problem!

Data-wise, it’s been fascinating to get a peek into my stomach activity and compare it to the data I have from OpenAPS around net insulin activity levels, dynamic carb absorption activity, expectations on what my BG *should* be doing, and what actually ended up happening BG-wise. I wore it one night after a 4 mile run followed by a big dinner, and I had ongoing digestion throughout the night, paired with increased sensitivity from the run so I needed less insulin overall despite still having plenty of digestion happening (and picture-perfect BGs that night, which I wasn’t expecting). I only have a few days worth of data, but I’m excited to wear it more and see if there are differences based on daily activity patterns, the influences of running, and the impact of different types of meals (size, makeup of meal, etc).

A huge thanks to Todd, Armen (who’s been phenomenal about getting me the translated GI data back in super fast turnaround time), and the rest of the group that developed the sensor. They just put out a press release about a publication with data from one of their GI studies, and this press release is a great read if you’re curious to learn more about the GI sensor, or this news piece. I’m excited to see what I can learn from it, and how we can potentially apply some of these learnings and maybe other non-diabetes sensors to help us potentially  improve daily diabetes management!

RIP, original looping pump

In 2014, a lightbulb went off. We could use Ben’s code to read and write to a particular version of an old pump. We had built an algorithm to take is input carb, BG, and insulin dosing data, and to output recommendations for action. If we hooked those together, we could close the loop. We could close the loop? Cool! We should try that. But wait – I didn’t have a compatible pump..

This is another place social media played a role in the story that is #OpenAPS. I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had one of these older model pumps sitting around unused, because we wanted to use it for research and try to close the loop. Would anyone dust off the dust bunnies on one and share? The answer turned out to be yes. A very kind person sent me the pump, we put it into play, and we closed the loop. I put the pump on, and the rest is history. Yay!

A year ago, I noticed a broken piece of blue plastic on the carpet of a hotel room. “Hey, that looks like my pump color…” “!!!! A piece of my pump broke off!”. Luckily, it was the upper edge of the reservoir; it did not impact usability of the pump; I taped it back on and continued to tape it over time. I thought eventually this, or other cracks or other physical broken pieces, would be what eventually would be the cause of failure of this beloved, well-used second-generation pump.

Some history for those who don’t know the backstory: we’re talking about using older generation pumps because it was discovered that someone (if in range, and with the right equipment) could remotely command the dosing of the pump. This was discovered by a security researcher, and the FDA had the manufacturer fix this in a future version. Thus, more modern pumps you couldn’t remotely set temp basals on, or remotely bolus. Turns out, that “hole” is what enabled us to close the loop: the ability to remotely set temporary basal rates. That is a risk. Some people don’t like that risk, and choose not to DIY closed loop because they don’t want to accept that risk. That’s fine. Other people decide that the reduction in the baseline risks of diabetes due to DIY closed looping outweigh any additional risk, and with appropriate safety guards like backup alarms, hardware and software dosing limits, etc. decide to use these pumps regardless. “YDMV” (your diabetes may vary) applies to what devices and systems you choose to help you with your diabetes, too. I personally choose to use these devices to close the loop, but acknowledge not everyone wants to – and that it shouldn’t have to be this choice that drives (for some people) whether or not to DIY loop. That is why I’ve had active conversations with every pump manufacturer for going on 4 years now about the need to have secure but documented communication protocols: I would love for people (including myself) to be able to have a secure, safe in-warranty pump with which to close the loop. Now: I’m only one person. I haven’t been able to move the needle on this myself. I’ve asked and encouraged (see this visual in the OpenAPS docs) members of the community to also take up and advocate for this. And people have. But I think it’s going to take the resources of something like the JDRF Open Protocol Initiative to really get companies to finally focus on this. And hopefully this will make the infrastructure changes needed to make it possible to achieve the vision of having a secure, in-warranty modern pump (and one that comes with the ability to choose your preferred CGM and preferred closed loop algorithm, too!).

I’ve continued to cut and apply sensor tape “pump bandaids” over the last year. But something changed about a month ago: suddenly, with normal AAA battery changes of the pump, the pump started losing the time settings with every battery change. (And battery changes happen more frequently with DIY closed looping because we communicate so frequently with the pump; mine go around ~6+ days). At first I thought I was just too slow in changing the battery. But even with a lightning quick battery change, the pump would lose the settings. No big deal…except that every time it required me to reset the clock, rewind, and reprime. Which meant drops of lost insulin (ugh), and a hassle overall.

I lasted about a month before I decided to give up. Not only was the change and reset process a pain, but because the internal battery that maintains settings when you change the AAA is apparently dying, it also means that some of the history gets wiped from the pump. Again – not a big deal because I’m uploading everything from the pump to multiple places every 5 minutes, but it is still annoying. It makes it hard to skim back through the last month on the pump to analyze how much insulin I’m using on average, when every 6 days two days get blotted off the pump’s record.

@DanaMLewis switches pumpsAnd so, I threw in the towel (sadly) last night on this beautiful, long-lasting work horse of a pump that I’ve been using for 3.5+ years. I have such an emotional tie to it because it’s what enabled me to close the loop. It’s what led us to be able to share DIY closed looping with the world. And because of the reality of using (mostly*) second hand pumps for DIY closed looping, throwing the towel on a partially busted but still-kind-of-usable loopable pump feels wrong when there are lots of people who are desperately looking for pumps so they can close the loop for themselves.

* I say mostly, because there are in fact other kinds of DIY-compatible looping pumps – they’re just not approved or available in the U.S. where I live. The DANA*R or DANA*RS pumps (made by SOOIL, they have nothing to do with me!) have bluetooth capabilities built in, so they can communicate with an Android phone. They’re very popular and usable in places like Europe & Asia, where they’re in-warranty and on the market. They can be used with AndroidAPS (which uses OpenAPS’s oref0 algorithms for looping). Because of the bluetooth comms, no extra device is needed, and the phone with AndroidAPS can communicate to the pump directly. Additionally, the AndroidAPS dev team has also been working hard on evaluating other pumps, and the Roche Combo was recently established as another pump that would be compatible with AndroidAPS; again due to built-in bluetooth capabilities.

Sadly, the DANA*R(S) is not FDA approved in the US and thus not available; and the Combo pump is no longer being actively distributed by Roche in the US (even though it’s approved) – so there are fewer pump options in the U.S. right now. But again, I’m hopeful for more change and more options in the future as the pump companies begin to leverage resources from the Open Protocol Initiative.

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