An Evolution of Hope / My Father, the Gadget Geek

Father’s Day is next week, so I asked my dad to write something about being the father of someone with diabetes. Like many dads I know, his method was to talk about the technology and different devices I’ve used to help manage my diabetes, and by doing that, show his perspective of being a diabetes dad.

Dayle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during her junior year of college. It was a rough time, as this was something our family had never experienced before. I remember reading as much as I could to try to understand the disease. I saw her within a week of her diagnosis and was impressed that she had already mastered giving herself injections. I felt confident she would not have to do this very long due to some of the advances in technology and research I’d read about.

I predicted that in 10 years, having to take insulin would no longer be necessary.  In the meantime, I wanted to know more about the technology that would allow her to avoid all those injections. Within a year of her diagnosis, Dayle went on an insulin pump. I was excited because it reduced her need to inject insulin from four or more times a day down to inserting a tiny cannula under her skin once every three days. What a great world, I thought.

It didn’t take us long to figure out that insulin pumping wasn’t a cure, but it was an improvement. We soon realized that this pump required the insulin to come in special prepackaged reservoirs and did not use standard batteries – neither of these necessary supplies was easy for us to obtain. It was an improvement, but it was still a hassle. Dayle then moved to Japan and the supplies for that pump were not available there, so she used a pump that her Japanese endocrinologist loaned her for the two years she was there. Although this pump wasn’t the latest technology, it worked. Meanwhile, I did my best to learn about emerging research and technology that would put an end to her insulin injections.

When Dayle returned to the U.S., she started on a different insulin pump – her third one. This one held the promise of communicating with a glucose meter, making calculations and suggesting bolus amounts, while also fine-tuning the basal rates. There were still some issues (no machine is perfect), but she stayed on it for over five years.

As time went by, I heard about trial after trial – from various islet cell treatments to inhalable insulin to implantable devices – that just didn’t work out. I am not a medical researcher, but I respect their determination to keep trying new things until a sustainable breakthrough is made.

It was while she was on her fourth pump that Dayle decided to go back to multiple daily injections. I wasn’t sure it was the best idea, but by this point we all knew that Dayle had acquired a tool that helped her more than any of the previous pumps: she had started using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Using a CGM, Dayle was better able to understand her daily blood glucose patterns and adjust her insulin regimen accordingly wither by via pump or multiple daily injections.

Since she went on a CGM, Dayle’s A1C levels have been in a good range consistently. Because she is alerted when her blood glucose levels climb too high or dip too low, she can take action immediately to stay within her target range. Most of all, the CGM allows her to independently go about her daily life while managing her diabetes – and the long-term effects of being able to keep her blood glucose levels within range means less worry about complications developing down the road.

It’s been over ten years since Dayle was diagnosed. I still have hope that one day research and technology will advance to the point of no longer needing injections or infusions or sensors. For the time being, however, I have realized that the most important thing is Dayle’s quality of life. Her preferred approach for now is to take injections and monitor with the help of her CGM. Diabetes affects not just those who have it but their entire circle of family and friends and while we may all have opinions about how our loved ones should manage their diabetes, it is, ultimately, their decision. I support Dayle in her decision, but I also support the research that will, one day, make decisions about diabetes treatment a distant memory.

Thanks Dad, for keeping up with the technology and research, and also for knowing when my own decisions are right for me. Happy Father’s Day!

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