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TW: Needles, injections

November is National Diabetes Month, it’s a time where we can learn, bring awareness and attention to a life-threatening disease that man is affected by. Diabetes takes many forms: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational.  I have been living with Type 1 diabetes for 20 years and counting.  My pancreas is an organ that sits there and takes up space, it has no purpose or function like others do to create insulin and keep your blood sugar regulated. I started this journey in 2001, which seems like a lifetime ago. It is 2021 and the dramatic change that I’ve gone through to manage my diabetes has been a positive advancement, but it was not always the easiest. 

At the start, individual injections, insulin shots, were my regular day-to-day routine. I had to take anywhere from 3-5 insulin injections a day. On top of that, checking your blood sugar, which is more needle sticks but to your fingers, would happen about 6-10 times a day if not more.  The number of needle sticks my arms, fingers, stomach and legs were getting was adding up through the years and I had the wear and tear to show from it. Bruises if I hit a blood vessel or pocket and calluses on my fingertips from favoriting certain fingers for blood sugar checks, it got noticeable and for me embarrassing especially being in elementary school. 

When I reached middle school, insulin pumps were becoming the new form of insulin-delivering technology for diabetics. Gone were the days of individual injections and now we were hooked up to what everyone said looked like a pager. This device was able to give you insulin through a small IV line that you would change out every three days.  As for taking your blood sugar, that was still something that had to be done a lot. This did though, make my life a lot easier. Having the ability to press a button to give me insulin and make the appropriate changes to help my blood sugar throughout the day. 

In summer 2019, I was lucky enough to get approved through my insurance to get a breakthrough new insulin pump called the Tandem Tslim.  The Tslim is a pump that is changing the game in the insulin pump industry. It’s a lot smaller, less bulky and overall is less visible on the body. The cool thing about this insulin pump is that it has another device it connects with called the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This device is meant to be worn on your skin, just like the insulin pump, where it is hooked up via a small IV. The device calibrates for around two hours then monitors your blood sugar for ten days. It works with your insulin pump and has a setting called control IQ. This setting will automatically make changes to your blood sugar if it is going too high or too low and give warnings. It’s an interesting piece of technology because it all comes together, and you don’t have to do much work. This honestly all together gave me peace of mind. I was constantly worrying about my blood sugar suddenly running too low and now I can always know what my blood sugar is at just by looking at my pump screen. 

The technology in the diabetes world is changing even more now, insulin pumps have the capability of working from an app on your smartphone. Most of the newer insulin pumps like the Tslim can be pulled up on your app and make adjustments like you would if you had the insulin pump in your hand. Now you don’t have to mess with pulling it off your side, it is just a push of the app on your smartphone. They are now going as far as creating smaller insulin pumps that won’t have screens but just run off your smartphone to make it easier. 

Advancements in diabetes are happening every day and they are making it so there is more ease in our routines. We are always hoping one day there will be a cure, but for now, the technological advancements that have continued through the years make the world for a diabetic seem a little more normal. 

My name is Katelyn Richardson. I am 27 years old. I am currently attending Central Washington University studying my bachelors degree in food and sciences to become a nutritionist and later a diabetes educator for kids. I've been personally battling type 1 diabetes since I was six years old. I love being outside, vintage shopping, watching movies, and going to stock car races!
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