I talk about diabetes. A lot. I talk about the gadgets I use, the ones I’ve tried, the blood glucose levels I’ve seen and the impact all of this has on my day-to-day life. Some people probably get sick of this, but it’s what I do.
Every now and then colleagues of mine who also have diabetes will come to me with the same kind of chatter. Not long ago, I was surprised when the person who came to talk with me about a diabetes device he was trying out was Larry Hausner himself. Larry doesn’t have diabetes, but he works with diabetes all the time. Why? He’s the CEO of the American Diabetes Association.
I went on a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) over a year ago and had shared a few of the ins and outs with Larry when I saw him in the office (told you I talk about this stuff a lot). This time it was Larry who was going on a CGM, so I decided to turn the tables and ask him a few questions about his experience that I could share with you:
In your own words, what is a CGM?
A device that is worn to help you easily monitor your blood glucose levels as they fluctuate throughout the day.
You don’t have diabetes – what made you want to do this?
Being the CEO of the American Diabetes Association, I thought I should have some idea of what it’s like to wear a CGM, to have a reminder 24 hours a day. I knew it wasn’t the same because I really didn’t think that I’d be that concerned about my glucose levels.
What were you most nervous about?
That I’d find out that I had diabetes.
What were you most curious about?
Would it hurt? What would others say when they saw me wearing the monitor and checking my blood glucose?
What were you most excited about?
That hopefully what I was doing would help me, at least a little bit, to better understand one aspect of a typical day was for someone with diabetes.
What stands out in your mind when you think about the process of putting the sensor in?
I was scared, I thought it would hurt when I put it on, I thought it would get in my way, I thought it would fall off.
None of these things ended up being true. It didn’t hurt. After the first night, I hardly knew I was wearing it. But the first night, I must have woken up 10 times when I rolled over onto the receiver. And each time I woke up, I went into another room and put a light on (to not wake up my wife) to check my blood glucose reading. And, of course, it didn’t fall off.
What stands out in your mind when you think about wearing it? Did it stick? Slip? Could you feel it?
I worried about it when I was out power walking and stretching, but it didn’t cause any problems
Any thoughts on accuracy? What did you do if/when it showed abnormal levels?
I only had one abnormal reading and it occurred in the middle of the night. I was awakened by the receiver beeping and my reading was quite low. I panicked. Then I checked my blood glucose using a meter and it was fine. But I couldn’t fall back to sleep because I wasn’t sure which reading was the correct one. I knew by this point in the week that I didn’t have diabetes, but it was still made me nervous. It made me appreciate, at least a little bit, what individuals with diabetes go through on a regular basis as their blood glucose levels change.
You had to test your blood glucose (with finger pricks and a meter) on a regular basis in order to calibrate the CGM. How’d that go?
This was new to me and it was something that I had never done before. At first it hurt a lot, and after awhile it hurt a little, but it never got to a point, in the two weeks that I wore the monitor, that it ever didn’t hurt at least a little.
I tested in public once and I was amazed by the stares I got from others. I did this on purpose to see if others would notice and I’d say that almost everyone who saw me noticed and gave me a quizzical look.
What’d you learn from this experience?
That taking care of yourself as a person with diabetes is a fulltime job. I felt like there was always something I was supposed to do. I had thought that I had a pretty good idea of what someone with diabetes went through on a daily basis to control their disease, but I don’t think I understood the emotional toll.
Being on a CGM for a few weeks gave me a glimpse into the life of someone with diabetes, but only a glimpse. The experience made me realize how little I or anyone without diabetes could ever fully understand. Waking up once worried about my blood sugar is certainly not the same as worrying about it every day of your life.
If you could tell the world one thing about diabetes, what would it be?
That diabetes is a disease that most people just don’t understand – it is one of our responsibilities at the American Diabetes Association to help people better understand the seriousness that diabetes can have over time.
Note: The CGM that Mr. Hausner used was lent to him by its manufacturer. No funds from the American Diabetes Association went toward this trial.