Scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming with diabetes (and #OpenAPS)

tl;dr – yes, you can scuba dive with diabetes, snorkel with diabetes, and swim with diabetes! Here’s what you need to know.

I meant to write this post before I left for a two-week Hawaii trip, and since I answered about a question a day on various platforms as I posted pictures from the trip, I really wish I had done it ahead of time. Oh well. :) I especially wish someone had written this post for me 2 years ago, before my first scuba dive, because I couldn’t find a lot of good information on the practicalities of good approaches for dealing with all the details of scuba diving with diabetes and an insulin pump and CGM and now closed loops. Scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming with diabetes are actually pretty common, so here are a few things to keep in mind/tips from me, before diving (pun intended) into some explanations of what I think about for each activity diabetes-wise.

scuba_diving_with_diabetes_tips_water_activities_by_Dana_M_Lewis

General tips for water activities when living with diabetes:

  1. Most important: be aware of your netIOB going into the activity. Positive netIOB plus activity of any kind = expedited low BG. This is the biggest thing I do to avoid lows while scuba diving or snorkeling – trying to time breakfast or the previous meal to be a few hours prior so I don’t have insulin peaking and accelerated by the activity when I’m out in the water and untethered from my usual devices.
  2. Second most important: CGM sensor and transmitter on your body can get wet (shower, pools, hot tubs, oceans, etc.), but keep in mind it can’t read underwater. And sometimes it gets waterlogged from short or long exposure to the water, so it may take a while to read even after you get it above water or dry off. And, historically I’ve had sensors come back and the CGM will sometimes read falsely high (100-200 points higher than actual BG), so exercise extreme caution and I highly recommend fingerstick testing before dosing insulin after prolonged water exposure.
  3. Know which of your devices are waterproof, watertight, etc. Tip: most pumps are not waterproof. Some are watertight*. The * is because with usual wear and tear and banging into things, small surface cracks start showing up and make your pump no longer even watertight, so even a light splash can kill it. Be aware of the state of your pump and protect it accordingly, especially if you have a limited edition super special super rare DIY-loopable pump. I generally take a baggie full of different sized baggies to put pump/CGM/OpenAPS rig into, and I also have a supposedly waterproof bag that seals that I sometimes put my bagged devices into. (More on that below).
    1. And in general, it’s always wise to have a backup pump (even if it’s non-loopable) on long/tropical/far away trips, and many of the pump companies have a loaner program for overseas/cruise/tropical travel.
  4. Apply sunscreen around your sites/sensors because sunburn and applying or removing them hurts. However, as I learned on this trip, don’t do TOO much/any sunscreen directly on top of the adhesive, as it may loosen the adhesive (just surrounding the edges is fine). I usually use a rub sunscreen around the edges of my pump site and CGM sensor, and do the rest of my body with a spray sunscreen. And pack extra sites and sensors on top of your extras.

Why extras on top of your extras? Because you don’t want to have a vacation like I did where I managed to go through 5 pump site catastrophes in 72 hours and run out of pump sites and worry about that instead of enjoying your vacation. Here’s what happened on my last vacation pump-site wise:

  • Planned to change my site the next morning instead of at night, because then I would properly use up all the insulin in my reservoir. So I woke up, put in a new pump site (B) on my back hip, and promptly went off to walk to brunch with Scott.
  • Sitting down and waiting for food, I noticed my BG was rocketing high. I first guessed that I forgot to exit the prime screen on the pump, which means it wasn’t delivering any insulin (even basal). Wrong. As I pulled my pump off my waist band, I could finally hear the “loud siren escalating alarm” that is “supposed” to be really audible to anyone…but wasn’t audible to me outside on a busy street. Scott didn’t hear it, either. That nice “siren” alarm was “no delivery”, which meant there was something wrong with the pump site and I hadn’t been getting any insulin for the last hour and a half. Luckily, I have gotten into the habit of keeping the “old” pump site (A) on in case of problems like this, so I swapped the tubing to connect to the “old” site A and an hour or so later as insulin started peaking, felt better. I pulled site B out, and it was bent (that’s why it was no delivery-ing). I waited until that afternoon to put in the next pump site (C) into my leg. It was working well into dinner, so I removed site A.
  • However, that night when I changed clothes after dinner, site C ripped out. ARGHHHH. And I had removed site A, so I  had to put on another site (D). Bah, humbug. Throw in someone bumping a mostly-full insulin vial off the counter and it shattering, and I was in one of my least-pleased-because-of-diabetes moods, ever. It was a good reminder of how much a closed loop is not a cure, because we still have to deal with bonked sites and sites in general and all this hoopla.
  • Site D lasted the next day, while we went hiking at Haleakala (a 12.2 mile hike, which was amazing that neither my site or my sensor acted up!). However, on the third day in this adventure, I put on sunscreen to go to the beach with the whole family. When we came back from the beach, I went to remove my cover up to shower off sand before getting into the pool. As my shirt came over my head, I saw something white fly by – which turned out to be 4th pump site, flying around on the end of the pump tube, rather than being connected to my body. There went Site D. In went my fifth site (E), which I tackled down onto my body with extra flexifix tape that I usually use for CGM sensors because I. Was. Fed. Up. With. Pump. Sites!
  • Thankfully, site E lasted a normal life and lasted til I got home and did my next normal site change, and all is back to normal.

Lessons learned about pump sites: I repeat, don’t sunscreen too much on the adhesive, just sunscreen AROUND the adhesive. And pack extras, because I went through ~2 weeks of pump sites in 3 days, which I did not expect – luckily I had plenty of extra and extras behind those!

Now on to the fun stuff.

Scuba Diving with diabetes:

  • 2 years ago was my “Discovery” dive, where you aren’t certified but they teach you the basics and do all the equipment for you so you just do some safety tutorials and go down with a guide who keeps you safe. For that dive, I couldn’t find a lot of good info about scuba diving with diabetes, other than logical advice about the CGM sensor not transmitting under water, the receiver not being waterproof, and the pump not being waterproof. I decided to try to target my BG in advance to be around 180 mg/dl to avoid lows during the dive, and for extra safety eat some skittles before I went down – plus I suspended and removed my pump. Heh. That worked too well, and I was high in the mid-200s in between my two dives, so I found myself struggling to peel my wetsuit off in between dives to connect my pump and give a small bolus. The resulting high feeling after the second dive when my BG hadn’t re-normalized yet plus the really choppy waves made me sea-sick. Not fun. But actually diving was awesome and I didn’t have any lows.
    • Pro tip #1 for scuba diving with diabetes: If you can, have your pump site on your abdomen, arm, or other as-easy-as-possible location to reconnect your pump for between-dive boluses so you don’t have to try to get your arm down the leg of your wetsuit to re- and disconnect.
  • I decided I wanted to get PADI certified to scuba dive. I decided to do the lessons (video watching and test taking) and pool certification and 2/4 of my open water dives while on a cruise trip last February. Before getting in the pool, I didn’t do anything special other than avoid having too much (for me that’s >.5u) of netIOB. For the open water dives at cruise ports, I did the same thing. However, due to the excitement/exertion of the first long dive, along with having to do some open water safety training after the first dive but before getting out (and doing my swim test in choppy open water), I got out of the water after that to find that I was low. I had to take a little bit longer (although maybe only 10 extra minutes) than the instructor wanted to finish waiting for my BG to come up before we headed out to the second dive. I was fine during and after the second dive, other than being exhausted.
    • Pro tip #2 for scuba diving with diabetes: Some instructors or guides get freaked out about the idea of having someone diving with diabetes. Get your medical questionnaire signed by a doctor in advance, and photocopy a bunch so you can take one on every trip to hand to people so they can cover themselves legally. Mostly, it helps for you to be confident and explain the safety precautions you have in place to take care of yourself. It also helps if you are diving with a buddy/loved one who understands diabetes and is square on your safety plan (what do you do if you feel low? how will you signal that? how will they help you if you need help in the water vs. on the boat, etc.?). For my training dives, because Scott was not with me, I made sure my instructor knew what my plan was (I would point to my arm where my sensor was if I felt low and wanted to pause/stop/head to the surface, compared to the other usual safety signals).
  • This past trip in Hawaii I was finishing off a cold at the beginning, so at the end of the trip I started with a shore dive so I could go slow and make sure it was safe for me to descend. I was worried about going low on this one, since we had to lug our gear a hundred feet or so down to the beach and then into the water (and I’ve never done a shore dive prior to this). I did my usual prep: temp basal to 0 on my pump for a few hours (so it can track IOB properly) and suspend; place it and CGM and OpenAPS rigs in baggies in my backpack; and confirming that my BG was flat at a good place without IOB, I didn’t eat anything extra. We went out slowly, had a great dive (yay, turtles), and I was actually a little high coming back up after the dive rather than low. My CGM didn’t come back right away, so I tested with a fingerstick and hooked my pump back up right away and gave a bolus to make up for the missed insulin during the dive. I did that before we headed off the beach and up to clean off our gear.
    • Pro tip #3 for scuba diving with diabetes: Don’t forget that insulin takes 60-90 minutes to peak, so if you’ve been off your pump and diving for a while, even if you are low or fine in that moment, that missing basal will impact you later on. Often if I am doing two dives, even with normal BG levels I will do a small bolus in between to be active by the time I am done with my second dive, rather than going 3+ hours with absolutely no insulin. You need some baseline insulin even if you are very active.
  • While in Hawaii, we also got up before the crack of dawn to head out and do a boat dive at Molokini. It was almost worth the 5am wakeup (I’m not a morning person :)). As soon as I woke up at 5am, I did an “eating soon” and bolused fully for my breakfast, knowing that we’d be getting on the boat at 6:30amish (peak insulin time), but it’d take a while to get out to the dive site (closer to 7:30am), so it was better to get the breakfast bolus in and let it finish counteracting the carbs. I did, but still ran a little higher than I would have liked while heading out, so I did another small correction bolus about half an hour before I temped to zero, suspended, and disconnected and baggied/bagged/placed the bag up in the no-water-shelf on the boat. I then did the first dive, which was neat because Molokini is a cool location, and it was also my first “deep” dive where we went down to about ~75 feet. (My previous dives have all been no deeper than about ~45 feet.) Coming back onto the boat, I did my usual of getting the gear off, then finding a towel to dry my hands and do a fingerstick BG test to see what I was. In this case, 133 mg/dl. Perfect! It would take us almost an hour for everyone to get back on the boat and then move to dive spot #2, so I peeled down my wetsuit and reconnected my pump to get normal basal during this time and also do a small bolus for the bites of pineapple I was eating. (Given the uncertainties of accuracy of CGM coming out of prolonged water exposure, since they sometimes run 100+ points high for me, I chose not to have the loop running during this dive and just manually adjust as needed). We got to spot #2 and went down for the dive, where we saw sharks, eels, and some neat purple-tailed fish. By the end of the dive, I started to feel tired, and also felt hungry. Those are the two signs I feel underwater that probably translate to being low, so I was the first from our group to come up when we got back from the boat. I got on the boat, removed gear, dried hands, tested, and…yep. 73 mg/dl. Not a bad low, but I’m glad I stopped when I did, because it’s always better to be sure and safe than not know. I had a few skittles while reconnecting my pump, and otherwise was fine and enjoyed the rest of the experience including some epic dolphin and whale watching on the return boat ride back to the harbor!
    • Pro tip #4 for scuba diving with diabetes: You may or may not be able to feel lows underwater; but listening to your body and using your brain to pay attention to changes, about low or not, is always a really good idea when scuba diving. I haven’t dived enough  (7 dives total now?) or had enough lows while diving to know for sure what my underwater low symptoms are, but fatigue + hunger are very obvious to me underwater. Again, you may want to dive with a buddy and have a signal (like pointing to the part of your body that has the CGM) if you want to go up and check things out. Some things I read years ago talked about consuming glucose under water, but that seems above my skill level so I don’t think I’ll be the type of diver who does that – I’d rather come to the surface and have someone hand me from the boat something to eat, or shorten the dive and get back on the boat/on shore to take care of things.

All things considered, scuba diving with diabetes is just like anything else with diabetes – it mostly just takes planning ahead, extra snacks (and extra baggies) to have on hand, and you can do it just like anyone else. (The real pain and suffering of scuba diving in my opinion comes not from high or low BGs; but rather pulling hair out of your mask when you take it off after a dive! Every time = ouch.)

Snorkeling with diabetes:

  • Most of my snorkeling experiences/tips sound very similar to the scuba diving ones, so read the above if you haven’t. Remember:
    • Don’t go into a snorkel with tons of positive IOB.
    • Have easy-access glucose supplies in the outer pockets of your bag – you don’t want to have to be digging into the bottom of your beach bag to get skittles out when you’re low!
    • Sunscreen your back well 😉 but don’t over-sunscreen the adhesive on sites and sensors!
    • Make sure your pump doesn’t get too hot while you’re out snorkeling if you leave it on the beach (cover it with something).
    • You could possibly do baggies inside a waterproof bag and take your pump/cgm/phone out into the water with you. I did that two years ago when I didn’t trust leaving my pump/receiver/phone on shore, but even with a certified waterproof bag I spent more time worrying about that than I did enjoying the snorkel. Stash your pump/gear in a backpack and cover it with a towel, or stick it in the trunk/glove compartment of your car, etc.
    • Remember CGMs may not read right away, or may read falsely high, so fingerstick before correcting for any highs or otherwise dosing if needed.

Swimming with diabetes:

  • Same deal as the above described activities, but with less equipment/worries. Biggest things to think about are keeping your gear protected from splashes which seem more common poolside than oceanside…and remember to take your pump off, phone or receiver out of your pocket, etc. before getting in the water!

Wait, all of this has been about pump/CGM. What about closed looping? Can you #OpenAPS in the water?

    • If you don’t have your pump on (in the water), and you don’t have CGM data (in the water, because it can’t transmit there), you can’t loop. So for the most part, you don’t closed loop DURING these activities, but it can be incredibly helpful (especially afterward to make up for the missing basal insulin) to have once you get your pump back on.

However, if your CGM is reading falsely high because it’s waterlogged, you may want to set a high temporary target or turn your rig off during that time until it normalizes. And follow all the same precautions about baggies/waterproofing your rig, because unlike the pump, it’s not designed for even getting the lightest of splashes on it, so treat it like you treat your laptop. For my Hawaii trip, I often had my #OpenAPS rig in a baggie inside of my bag, so that when my pump was on and un-suspended and I had CGM data, it would loop – however, I kept a closer eye on my BGs in general, including how the loop was behaving, in the hour following water activities since I know CGM is questionable during this time.

I’m really glad I didn’t let diabetes stop me from trying scuba diving, and I hope blog posts like this help you figure out how you need to plan ahead for trying new water activites. I’m thankful for technology of pumps and CGMs and tools like #OpenAPS that make it even easier for us to go climb mountains and scuba dive while living with diabetes (although not in the same day ;)).

OpenAPS feature development in 2016

It’s been two years since my first DIY closed loop and almost two years since OpenAPS (the vision and resulting ecosystem to help make artificial pancreas technology, DIY or otherwise, more quickly available to more people living with diabetes) was created.  I’ve spent time here (on DIYPS.org) talking about a variety of things that are applicable to people who are DIY closed looping, but also focusing on things (like how to “soak” a CGM sensorr and how to do “eating soon” mode) that may be (in my opinion) universally applicable.

OpenAPS feature development in 2016

However, I think it’s worth recapping some of the amazing work that’s been done in the OpenAPS ecosystem over the past year, sometimes behind the scenes, because there are some key features and tools that have been added in that seem small, but are really impactful for people living with DIY closed loops.

  1. Advanced meal assist (aka AMA)
    1. This is an “advanced feature” that can be turned on by OpenAPS users, and, with reliable entry of carb information, will help the closed loop assist sooner with a post-meal BG rise where there is mis-timed or insufficient insulin coverage for the meal. It’s easy to use, because the PWD only has to put carbs and a bolus in – then AMA acts based on the observed absorption. This means that if absorption is delayed because you walk home from dinner, have gastroparesis, etc., it backs off and wait until the carbs actually start taking effect (even if it is later than the human would expect).
    2. We also now have the purple line predictions back in Nightscout to visualize some of these predictions. This is a hallmark of the original iob-cob branch in Nightscout that Scott and I originally created, that took my COB calculated by DIYPS and visualized the resulting BG graph. With AMA, there are actually 3 purple lines displayed when there is carb activity. As described here in the OpenAPS docs, the top purple line assumes 10 mg/dL/5m carb (0.6 mmol/L/5m) absorption and is most accurate right after eating before carb absorption ramps up. The line that is usually in the middle is based on current carb absorption trends and is generally the most accurate once carb absorption begins; and the bottom line assumes no carb absorption and reflects insulin only. Having the 3 lines is helpful for when you do something out of the ordinary following a meal (taking a walk; taking a shower; etc.) and helps a human decide if they need to do anything or if the loop will be able to handle the resulting impact of those decisions.
  2. The approach with a “preferences” file
    1. This is the file where people can adjust default safety and other parameters, like maxIOB which defaults to 0 during a standard setup, ultimately creating a low-glucose-suspend-mode closed loop when people are first setting up their closed loops. People have to intentionally change this setting to allow the system to high temp above a netIOB = 0 amount, which is an intended safety-first approach.
    2. One particular feature (“override_high_target_with_low”) makes it easier for secondary caregivers (like school nurses) to do conservative boluses at lunch/snack time, and allow the closed loop to pick up from there. The secondary caregiver can use the bolus wizard, which will correct down to the high end of the target; and setting this value in preferences to “true” allows the closed loop to target the low end of the target. Based on anecdotal reports from those using it, this feature sounds like it’s prevented a lot of (unintentional, diabetes is hard) overreacting by secondary caregivers when the closed loop can more easily deal with BG fluctuations. The same for “carbratio_adjustmentratio”, if parents would prefer for secondary caregivers to bolus with a more conservative carb ratio, this can be set so the closed loop ultimately uses the correct carb amount for any needed additional calculations.
  3. Autosensitivity
    1. I’ve written about autosensitivity before and how impressive it has been in the face of a norovirus and not eating to have the closed loop detect excessive sensitivity and be able to deal with it – resulting in 0 lows. It’s also helpful during other minor instances of sensitivity after a few active days; or resistance due to hormone cycles and/or an aging pump site.
    2. Autosens is a feature that has to be turned on specifically (like AMA) in order for people to utilize it, because it’s making adjustments to ISF and targets and looping accordingly from those values. It also have safety caps that are set and automatically included to limit the amount of adjustment in either direction that autosens can make to any of the parameters.
  4. Tiny rigs
    1. Thanks to Intel, we were introduced to a board designer who collaborated with the OpenAPS community and inspired the creation of the “Explorer Board”. It’s a multipurpose board that can be used for home automation and all kinds of things, and it’s another tool in the toolbox of off-the-shelf and commercial hardware that can be used in an OpenAPS setup. It’s enabled us, due to the built in radio stick, to be able to drastically reduce the size of an OpenAPS setup to about the size of two Chapsticks.
  5. Setup scripts
    1. As soon as we were working on the Explorer Board, I envisioned that it would be a game changer for increasing access for those who thought a Pi was too big/too burdensome for regular use with a DIY closed loop system. I knew we had a lot of work to do to continue to improve the setup process to cut down on the friction of the setup process – but balancing that with the fact that the DIY part of setting up a closed loop system was and still is incredibly important. We then worked to create the oref0-setup script to streamline the setup process. For anyone building a loop, you still have to set up your hardware and build a system, expressing intention in many places of what you want to do and how…but it’s cut down on a lot of friction and increased the amount of energy people have left, which can instead be focused on reading the code and understanding the underlying algorithm(s) and features that they are considering using.
  6. Streamlined documentation
    1. The OpenAPS “docs” are an incredible labor of love and a testament to dozens and dozens of people who have contributed by sharing their knowledge about hardware, software, and the process it takes to weave all of these tools together. It has gotten to be very long, but given the advent of the Explorer Board hardware and the setup scripts, we were able to drastically streamline the docs and make it a lot easier to go from phase 0 (get and setup hardware, depending on the kind of gear you have); to phase 1 (monitoring and visualizing tools, like Nightscout); to phase 2 (actually setup openaps tools and build your system); to phase 3 (starting with a low glucose suspend only system and how to tune targets and settings safely); to phase 4 (iterating and improving on your system with advanced features, if one so desires). The “old” documentation and manual tool descriptions are still in the docs, but 95% of people don’t need them.
  7. IFTTT and other tool integrations
    1. It’s definitely worth calling out the integration with IFTTT that allows people to use things like Alexa, Siri, Pebble watches, Google Assistant (and just about anything else you can think of), to easily enter carbs or “modes” for OpenAPS to use, or to easily get information about the status of the system. (My personal favorite piece of this is my recent “hack” to automatically have OpenAPS trigger a “waking up” mode to combat hormone-driven BG increases that happen when I start moving around in the morning – but without having to remember to set the mode manually!)

..and that was all just things the community has done in 2016! :) There are some other exciting things that are in development and being tested right now by the community, and I look forward to sharing more as this advanced algorithm development continues.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Autosensitivity (automatically adjusting insulin sensitivity factor for insulin dosing with #OpenAPS)

There’s a secret behind why #OpenAPS was able to deal so well with my BGs during norovirus. Namely, “autosensitivity”.

Autosensitivity (or “autosens”, for short hand) is an advanced feature that can optionally be enabled in OpenAPS.

We know how hard it is for a PWD (person with diabetes) to pay attention to all the numbers and all the things and realize when something is “off”. This could be a bad pump site, a pump site going bad, hormones from growth, hormones from menstrual cycles, sensitivity from exercise the day before, etc. So at the beginning of the year, Scott and I started brainstorming with the community about automatically detecting when the PWD is more or less sensitive to insulin than normal, and adjusting accordingly. Building on the success we’d had in DIYPS with fixed “sensitivity” and “resistance” modes, we built the feature to assess how sensitive or resistant the body is (compared to normal), rather than just a binary mode that sets a predefined response.

How OpenAPS calculates autosensitivity/how it works

It looks at each BG data point for the last 24 hours and calculates the delta (actual observed change) over the last 5 minutes. It then compares it to “BGI” (blood glucose impact, which is how much BG *should* be dropping from insulin alone), and assesses the “deviations” (differences between the delta and BGI).

When sensitivity is normal and basals are well tuned, we expect somewhere between 45-50% of non-meal deviations to be negative, and the remaining 50-55% of deviations should be positive. (To exclude meal-related deviations, we exclude overly large deviations from the sample.) So if you’re outside of that range, you are probably running sensitive or resistant, and we want to adjust accordingly. The output of the detect-sensitivity code is a single ratio number, which is then used to adjust both the baseline basal rate as well as the insulin sensitivity factor (and, optionally, BG targets).

Autosens is designed to detect to food-free downward drift, due to basal rates being too high for the current state of the body, and will adjust basals downward to compensate. The other meal-assist related portion of the algorithms do a pretty good job of dealing with larger than expected post-meal spikes due to resistance: auto-sensitivity mostly comes into play for resistance when you’re sick or otherwise riding high even without food.

Does this calculate basals?

No. Similar to everything else in OpenAPS, this works from your established basals – meaning the baseline basal rates in your pump are what the sensitivity calculations are adjusting from. If you run a marathon and your sensitivity is normally 40, it might adjust your sensitivity to 60 (meaning 1u of insulin would drop your BG an expected 60mg/dl instead of 40 mg/dl) and temporarily adjust your baseline basal rate of 1u to .6u/hour, for example.

This algorithm is simply saying “there’s something going on, let’s adjust proportionately to deal with the lower-than-usual or higher-than-usual sensitivity, regardless of cause”. It easily detects “your basals are too high and/or your ISF is too low” or “your basals are too low and/or your ISF is too high”, but actually differentiating between the effect of basal and ISF is a bit more difficult to do with a simple algorithm like this, so we’re working on a number of new algorithms and tools (see “oref0 issue 99” for our brainstorming on basal tuning and the subsequent issues linked from there) to tackle this in the future.

#OpenAPS’s autosensitivity adjustments during norovirus

After I got over the worst of the norovirus, I started looking at what OpenAPS was calculating for my sensitivity during this time. I was especially curious what would happen during the 2-3 days when I was eating very little.

My normal ISF is 40, but OpenAPS gradually calculated the shift in my sensitivity all the way to 50. That’s really sensitive, and in fact I don’t remember ever seeing a sensitivity adjustment that dramatic – but makes sense given that I usually don’t go so long without eating. (Usually when I notice I’m a little sensitive, I’ll check and see that autosens has been adjusting based on an estimated 43 or so sensitivity.)

And in later days, as expected when sick, I shifted to being more resistant. So autosens continued to assess the data and began adjusting to an estimated sensitivity of 38 as my body continued fighting the virus.

It is so nice to have the tools to automatically make these assessments and adjustments, rather than having to manually deal with them on top of being sick!

 

Sick days solved with a DIY closed loop #OpenAPS

Ask me about the time I got a norovirus over Thanksgiving.

As expected, it was TERRIBLE. Even though the source of the norovirus was cute, the symptoms aren’t. (You can read about the symptoms from the CDC if you’ve never heard of it before.)

But, unexpectedly, it was only terrible on the norovirus symptoms front. My BGs were astoundingly perfect. So much so that I didn’t think about diabetes for 3 days.

Let me explain.

Since I use an OpenAPS DIY closed loop “artificial pancreas”, I have a small computer rig that automatically reads my CGM and pump and automatically adjusts the insulin dosing on my pump.

OpenAPS temp basal adjustments during day 2 norovirus November 2016
Showing the net basal adjustments made on day 2 of my norovirus – the dotted line is what my basals usually are, so anything higher than that dotted line is a “high” temp and anything lower is a “low” temp of various sorts.
  • When I first started throwing up over the first 8 hours, as is pretty normal for norovirus, I first worried about going low, because obviously my stomach was empty.

Nope. I never went lower than about 85 mg/dl. Even when I didn’t eat at all for > 24 hours and very little over the course of 5 days.

  • After that, I worried about going high as my body was fighting off the virus.

Nope. I never went much higher than a few minutes in the 160s. Even when I sipped Gatorade or gasp, ate two full crackers at the end of day two and didn’t bolus for the carbs.

  • The closed loop (as designed – read the OpenAPS reference design for more details) observed the rising or dropping BGs and adjusted insulin delivery (using temporary basal rates) up or down as needed. I sometimes would slowly rise to 150s and then slowly head back down to the 100s. I only once started dropping slowly toward the 80s, but leveled off and then slowly rose back up to the 110s.

None of this (\/\/\/\/\) crazy spiking and dropping fast that causes me to overreact.

No fear for having to force myself to drink sugar while in the midst of the worst of the norovirus.

No worries, diabetes-wise, at all. In fact, it didn’t even OCCUR to me to test or think about ketones (I’m actually super sensitive and can usually feel them well before they’ll register otherwise on a blood test) until someone asked on Twitter.

Why this matters

I was talking with my father-in-law (an ER doc) and listening to him explain how anti-nausea medications (like Zofran) has reduced ER visits. And I think closed loop technology will similarly dramatically reduce ER visits for people with diabetes when sick with things like norovirus and flu and that sort of thing. Because instead of the first instance of vomiting causing a serious spiral and roller coaster of BGs, the closed loop can respond to the BG fluctuations in a safe way and prevent human overreaction in either direction.

This isn’t what you hear about when you look at various reports and articles (like hey, OpenAPS mentioned in The Lancet this week!) about this type of technology – it’s either general outcome reports or traditional clinical trial results. But we need to show the full power of these systems, which is what I experienced over the past week.

I’m reassured now for the future that norovirus, flu, or anything else I may get will likely be not as hard to deal with as it was for the first 12 years of living with diabetes when getting sick. That’s more peace of mind (in addition to what I get just being able to safely sleep every night) that I never expected to have, and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

(I’m also thankful for the numerous wonderful people who share their stories about how this technology impacts their lives – check out this wonderful video featuring the Mazaheri family to see what a difference this is making in other people’s lives. I’m so happy that the benefits I see from using DIY technology are available to so many other people, too. At latest count, there are (n=1)*174 other people worldwide using DIY closed loop technology, and we collectively have over half a million real-world hours using closed loop technology.)

#OpenAPS rigs are shrinking in size

My newest #OpenAPS rig is roughly the size of two sticks of Chapstick.

Think about that, especially in context of my earliest rig of a Raspberry Pi, Carelink stick, battery with enough power to last a full 12 hour day (or more), and the bulk that it added to my bag. I was happy to carry it, but once Oskar started working on a smaller rig with better range, for many people it was a game changer!

Components of an #OpenAPS implementation: pump; CGM; Raspberry Pi with battery and a radio communication device

And now we have another option with a new open source hardware board called the “915MHz Edison Explorer Board“. It’s a board designed to hold an Intel Edison (the ‘mini computer’), and it also has a 900MHz antenna on it – which means we can use it to talk to the insulin pump. This eliminates the need for a separate ‘radio stick’ – like the Carelink or a TI or similar. This is a huge improvement!

What carrying the new rig looks like:

This is what a full rig setup looks like:

  1. Insulin pump
  2. CGM
  3. Explorer Board rig

…and that’s all that’s strictly required. You can use openxshareble to read BG data from the receiver directly, but that’s currently the flakiest part of my setup, so I still recommending hotspotting your phone to pull BG data down from the cloud – and more importantly, so you can use Nightscout or similar to visualize what the loop is doing.

So, today’s post is about the new, shiny, smaller rig, and I know everyone wants to know how to get the parts to build their own!

**Update** – You can order an Explorer Board here. . Keep in mind Edison and battery are not included, so if you don’t already have an Edison, you’ll want to order one of those, too.

Improved #OpenAPS docs in the works, too!

Also, stay tuned – we have a new setup script and guide being developed and tested to streamline the setup of an OpenAPS implementation using this board or any of the previous hardware. These new docs will streamline the installation and configuration of the components required for anyone to build a new OpenAPS implementation for themselves, so they can more easily focus on testing the algorithm and decision making process that’s a critical part of DIY looping.

 

Old news alert: FDA is monitoring the DIY community

There was a news article today that got a lot of people to react strongly. In that sense, the article did it’s job, to get people talking. But that doesn’t mean it got all the details right, as an insider to the DIY community would know.

What am I talking about?

There was an article posted today in “Clinical Endocrinology News” with the titillating headline of “FDA Official: We’re monitoring DIY artificial pancreas boom”.

Guess what, though? This is NOT news. We’ve been talking to the FDA, and they’ve in fact been “monitoring” us (especially if monitoring includes reading this blog, DIYPS.org ;)) since the summer of 2014, before we even turned our eyes toward closing the loop. Definitely since we, while they were in the room at a D-Data in 2015, announced we would close the loop. And even more so after we closed the loop and then decided to go the #OpenAPS route and find a way to make closed loop technology open source. And others from the community, like Ben West, have been talking with the FDA for even longer than we have.

What the article got right:

Recently at AADE, Courtney Lias from FDA (who gave a similar presentation at D-Data a month ago) gave a presentation talking about AP technology. She addressed both how the FDA is looking at the DIY community (they believe that they have enforcement discretion, even though no one in the DIY community is distributing a medical device, which is legally where FDA has it’s jurisdiction) and how it’s looking at the commercial vendors with products in the pipeline.

Courtney highlighted questions for CDE’s to ask patients of theirs who may be bringing up (or bringing in) DIY closed loops. They are good questions – they’re questions we also recommend people ask themselves and are a critical part of the safety-first approach the DIY community advocates every day.

(It was not mentioned in this article, but Aaron Kowalski’s presentation at AADE also highlighted some critical truths that I think are key about setting and managing expectations regarding closed looping. I often talk about these in addition to pointing out that it should be a personal, informed choice in choosing to closed loop. I hope these points about setting expectations and our points about the stages of switching from standard diabetes tool to closed looping becomes a bigger part of the conversation about closed loop safety and usability in the future.)

Where the article linked together some sentences that caused friction today:

The end of the article had a statement along the lines of an FDA concern about what happens if an AP breaks and you have a newly diagnosed person who doesn’t have old school, manual diabetes methods to fall back on. The implication appeared to be that these concerns were solely about the DIY looping “boom”. However, we know from previous presentations that Courtney/FDA usually brings this up as a concern for commercial/all AP technology – this isn’t a “concern” unique to DIY loops.

And that’s the catch – all of the concerns and questions FDA has, the DIY community has, too!

In fact, we want FDA to ask the same questions of commercial vendors, and we are going to be reaching out to the FDA to ask how they will ensure that we, as patients, can ask and get answers to these questions as end users when the FDA is approving this technology.

Because that’s the missing piece.
Right now, with the current technology on the market, we don’t get answers or insight into how these systems and devices work. This is even MORE critical when we’re talking about devices that automate insulin delivery, as the #OpenAPS community has learned from our experiences with looping. Getting the right level of data access and visibility is key to successful looping, and we expect the same from the commercial products that will be coming to market – so the FDA has a role to play here.

What we can do as a result
And we have a role, too. We’ll play our part by communicating our concerns and questions directly to the FDA, which is the only way they can officially respond or react or adjust what they’re doing. They unfortunately can’t respond to tweets. So I’m drafting an email to send to FDA, which will include a compilation of many of the questions and concerns the community has voiced today (and previously) on this topic.

Moving forward, I hope to see others do the same when concerns and questions come up. You don’t need to work for a commercial manufacturer, or be a part of a formal initiative, in order to talk to the FDA. Anyone can communicate with them! You can do that by sending an email, submitting a pre-submission, responding to draft guidances, and more. And we can all, in our informal or formal interactions, ask for clarity and push for transparency and set expectations about the features and products we want to see coming from commercial manufacturers.

OpenAPS poster cited in Nature!

I was thrilled to read a commentary by John Wilbanks and Eric Topol, out in Nature today, titled “Stop the privatization of health data“. (Click here to read a PDF version of the article.)

Tucked on the bottom of the second page of the (PDF version of the) article:

“For instance, in 2014, a woman with type 1 diabetes wired together a tiny processor, an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor to automate the regulation of her blood sugar levels. For a small community of patients, the collective use of such ‘home-made’ systems has resulted in improvements that are well ahead of those provided by devices and interventions emerging from conventional markets.1”

(The citation is to the poster that we presented on behalf of the #OpenAPS community at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions meeting last month, with self-reported outcomes from 18 of the first 40 users and builders of DIY artificial pancreas systems)

OpenAPS (n=1)*98 as of July 19, 2016It’s worth noting that there are now (n=1)*98 users of #OpenAPS, so this “small community” is growing fast: doubling approximately every three months.

Wilbanks and Topol highlight some critical truths in their commentary, and call out another (frustrating) diabetes example to illustrate:

“Although patients can monitor their glucose levels at any instant, their aggregate records are not made accessible to them. And there is no mechanism by which patients or researchers outside the company can gain access to Medtronic’s tens of thousands of measurements.”

I’ve written about this specific example before, in fact: new ‘partnerships’ mean my personal health data is likely shared with IBM for Watson’s usage…but I don’t have access to this data or insights, and am in fact missing critical information and data visualization on my FDA-approved medical device that’s been on the market for years.

The call to action for device manufacturers, regulators, and the medical industry is simple: Give me, the patient, my data that I need so I can safely take care of myself and better manage my diabetes.

Wilbanks and Topol emphasize that this won’t happen “…unless each of us takes responsibility for our own health and disease, and for the information that we can generate about ourselves. When it comes to control over our own data, health data must be where we draw the line.”

This needs to happen everywhere, not just in diabetes. Will you join us in drawing the line?

Feedback on proposed FDA guidance on interoperable medical devices

Our friend Anna McCollister-Slipp first alerted us to the proposed draft guidance recently released from the FDA, covering medical device interoperability. (You can read the draft guidance linked here.) We were subsequently among those asked by Amy Tenderich, and others, to share our initial thoughts and comments in response to the draft guidance. We wanted to publicly share our initial thoughts as a draft comment in response to the proposed guidelines (which we plan to officially submit as well), in hopes of encouraging subsequent discussion and additional commentary submitted in response to the draft guidance. We’d love to hear your thoughts after you read the linked guidance, as well as our comment below, and also encourage you to consider submitting a comment to the FDA regarding the guidance.

Draft comment response by Scott Leibrand & Dana Lewis:

The proposed FDA guidance on medical device interoperability is a gesture in the right direction, and is clearly intended to encourage medical devices to be designed with interoperability in mind. However, in the current draft form, the proposed guidance focuses too much on *discouraging* manufacturers from including the kinds of capabilities necessary to allow for continued innovation (particularly patient-led innovation as seen from the patient-driven #WeAreNotWaiting community).  Instead, much of the guidance assumes that manufacturers should only provide the bare minimum level of interoperability required for the intended use, and even goes so far as to suggest they “prevent access by other users” to any “interface only meant to be used by the manufacturer’s technicians for software updates or diagnostics”.  There is also much note of “authorized users”, which is language that is often currently leaned upon in the real world to exclude patients from accessing data on their own medical devices – so it would be worthwhile to further augment the guidance and/or more specifically review the implications of the guidance with an eye toward patients/users of medical devices.  The focus on including information on electronic data interfaces in product labeling is a good inclusion in the guidance, but it would be far more powerful (and less likely to be interpreted as a suggestion to cripple future products’ interoperability capabilities) if manufacturers were encouraged to properly include interface details for *all* their interfaces, not just those for which the manufacturer has already identified an intended use case.

Specific suggestions for improving the proposed guidance on medical device interoperability:
  • The guidance needs to more explicitly encourage manufacturers to design their products for *maximum* interoperability, including the ability for the device to safely interoperate with devices and for use cases that are not covered by the manufacturer’s intended uses.
  • Rather than designing device interoperability characteristics solely for intended uses, and withholding information related to non-intended uses, manufacturers should detail in product labeling the boundaries of the intended and tested use cases, and also provide information on all electronic data interfaces, even those with no manufacturer-intended use.  Labeling should be very clear on the interfaces’ design specifications, and should detail the boundaries of the uses the manufacturer intended, designed for, and tested.
  • The guidance should explicitly state that the FDA supports allowing third parties to access medical devices’ electronic data interfaces, according to the specifications published by the manufacturers, for uses other than those originally intended by the manufacturer.  They should make it clear that any off-label use by patients and health care professionals must be performed in a way that interoperates safely with the medical device per the manufacturer’s specifications, and it is the responsibility of the third party performing the off-label use, not the manufacturer, to ensure that they are making safe use of the medical device and its electronic data interface.  The guidance should make clear that the manufacturer is only responsible for ensuring that the medical device performs as specified, and that those specifications are complete and accurate.
With these kinds of changes, this guidance could be a powerful force for improving the pace of innovation in medical devices, allowing us to move beyond “proprietary” and “partnership” based solutions to solutions that harness the full power of third-party innovation by patients, health care professionals, clinical researchers and other investigators, and startup technology companies.  The FDA needs to set both clear rules that require manufacturers to document their devices capabilities as well as guidance that encourages manufacturers to provide electronic data interfaces that third parties can use to create new and innovative solutions (without introducing any new liability to the original manufacturer for having done so).  If the FDA does so, this will set the stage to allow innovation in medical devices to parallel the ever-increasing pace of technological innovation, while preserving and expanding patients rights to access their own data and control their own treatment.

The second year of #DIYPS (and my first full year with a closed loop)

As we developed #DIYPS from a louder alarm system to a proactive alert system (details here about the original #DIYPS system before we closed the loop) to a closed loop that would auto-adjust my insulin pump basal rates as-needed overnight, I have been tracking the outcomes.

There were the first few nights of “wow! this works! I wake up at night when I’m high/low”. Then there were the first 100 nights that involved more iteration, testing, and improvements as we built it out more. And then suddenly it had been a year of using #DIYPS, and it was awesome to see how my average BG and a1c were down – and stayed down – while equally as important, my % time in range was up and stayed up. Not to mention, the quality of life improvements of having better nights of sleep were significant.

Year two has been along the same lines – more improvements on A1c/average BGs, time in range, and sleep – but heavily augmented by the fact that I now have a closed loop. If you follow me on Twitter or have checked out the hashtag, you might be tired of seeing me post CGM graphs. At this point, they all look very similar:

(It’s worth noting that I still use #DIYPS, especially during the day to trigger “eating-soon” mode or basically get a snapshot glance at what my BGs are predicted to be, especially if I plan to go out without my loop in tow.)

In this past year, we also went from closing the loop with the #DIYPS algorithms (which required internet connectivity so I could tell the system when I was having carbs), to deciding we wanted to find a way to make it possible for more people to safely DIY a closed loop. (And, we feel very strongly that the DIY part of closing the loop is very important and deciding to do so is a very personal question.)

Thus, #OpenAPS was born in February 2015. Ben West spent a lot of time in 2015 building out the openaps toolkit to enable communication with diabetes devices to make things like closed loops possible. And so the first few months of #OpenAPS seemed slow, while we were busy working on the toolkit and finding ways to take what we learned with the #DIYPS closed loop and model a closed loop that didn’t require knowledge of carbs and could work without internet connectivity (see more about the #OpenAPS reference design here).

In July, we saw a tipping point – multiple other people began to close the loop, despite the fact that we didn’t have very much documented or available to guide them beyond the reference design. (These first couple of folks are incredible! Watch the #OpenAPS hashtag on Twitter to see them share some of their experiences.) With their help, the documentation has grown by leaps and bounds, as has the number of people who were subsequently able to close the loop.

As of 12/31/15 as I write this post, there are 22 people who have told me that they have a closed loop running that’s based on the OpenAPS reference design. I make a big deal about marking the date when I make a statement about the number of people running #OpenAPS (i.e. (n=1)*22), because every time I turn around, someone else seems to have done it!

It’s so exciting to see what’s happened in 2015, and what this type of #WeAreNotWaiting spirit has enabled. For Scott & me this year: we’ve climbed mountains around the world (from Machu Picchu to Switzerland), gotten married, changed jobs, and explored Europe together. Diabetes was there, but it wasn’t the focus.

There are dozens of other amazing stories like this in the #WeAreNotWaiting community. As we look to the new year, and I start to wonder about what might be next, I realize the speed of technology and the spirit of ingenuity in this community makes it impossible to predict exactly what we’ll see in 2016.

What I do know is this: we’ll see more people closing the loop, and we’ll see more ways to close the loop, using devices other than the Raspberry Pi, Carelink stick and Medtronic pump.  We’ll see more new ways to communicate with old & new diabetes devices and more ways to make the diabetes parts of our lives easier – all because #WeAreNotWaiting.

Building diabetes technology is like building a mountain bike

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some fantastic people through our work with #DIYPS and #OpenAPS, one of whom is Eric Von Hippel, an MIT professor and researcher who work on user innovation. He shared a great example of user innovation that I was previously unfamiliar with, but is an awesome parallel for what we in the diabetes community are doing.

History: bike manufacturers used to make bikes for riding on flat surfaces. Some people wanted to ride their bikes down mountains, but existing bikes weren’t too comfortable (they didn’t have spring-based seats – ouch!). So, bikers started customizing and modifying the bikes they had. Eventually, bike manufacturers saw the demand and started building mountain bikes with the same features that the original mountain bikers had used. (And if you don’t like my paraphrased version of this story, Wikipedia is always your friend!)

The parallels:

We in the diabetes community have seen a series of needs that are not being met with our existing, FDA approved medical devices that are out on the market. From not-loud-enough alarms to not enabling us to track critical information like temporary basal rate history on the pump itself, these are the needs that drove me (and Scott) to first build #DIYPS and then to close the loop. At the same time, the need for remote data access is what drove John Costik and then the other Nightscout founders and developers to build an amazing, community-based open source tool to enable real-time remote data sharing.

Are there commercial products coming to market or are in the market that meet some of these needs now? Sure. But remember, I’ve had diabetes since 2002. In 2013, when Scott and I first started working to solve my need for louder alarms, there was NO commercial solution available for either remote data access or alarm customization. Thus the need for #DIYPS, which we built in 2013, and Nightscout, which blossomed in early 2014. And even though tools like Dexcom SHARE and MiniMed Connect have come to market (and in some cases, more quickly with help from the community communicating to the FDA about the critical importance of these tools), they came in 2015, which is a long time to wait for new tools when you’re dealing with diabetes 24/7/365. And when we managed to close the loop, again with help from the amazing #wearenotwaiting community, in December of 2014? Well, it’s now nearing the end of a year (and with amazing continued results from #OpenAPS not just for me, but for 13 additional people and potentially more to come soon), and we are AT LEAST a year and a half, if not more, away from any commercial device to reach the market. Not to mention: I’m not sure that the first generation of closed loops commercially available will be good enough for me.

The commercial entities are getting there. And, I always want to give them credit – I have a closed loop, but I can’t have one without a solidly working insulin pump and an excellent CGM system. They are, for the most part (with the exception of some missing features), making good, solid safe products for me to use.

The manufacturers are also starting to be open to more conversations. Not just “listening”, which they’ve sort-of/maybe done in drips over the past, but actual two-way conversations where we can share the needs that we know of in the community, and discuss what can be incorporated into their commercial product pipeline more quickly. This is progress starting to be made, and I’m excited to see more of it. It seems like there is a refreshed mindset and energy in the industry, as well as an understanding that we all care deeply about safety and that we’re all in this together to make life with diabetes less of a burden – like riding downhill on a mountain bike rather than a road bike.