Posted by on Thursday 31 January 2013

The Einstein Principle

Pick your cliché...

"I had it coming"... "Pride comes before a fall"... "Sod's Law"... "I brought it on myself"...

So hands up who thinks they know what has happened just as I posted something about how well things have been going recently. Right. So that's pretty everyone with diabetes reading this, every parent of a child with D, or anyone who lives with someone 'pancreatically challenged' then. Thought so. OK you can put your hands down now. Don't want your arms getting tired.

Yup. As you would all expect, immediately after I allowed myself a little glimmer of diabetic self-satisfaction the other day, things have well and truly gone 'off the rails'. In no small part self inflicted (a family birthday celebration with not quite enough self-control on my part). Partly stupidity - I forgot to press the final 'confirm' to administer a lunchtime bolus, cue stratospheric BG mid afternoon. A suspected big fat tubing bubble overnight (I know!). And also partly a little basal-tweaking needed as my half marathon training has started to kick in. What was looking to be a pretty decent set of figures for the month are suddenly looking decidedly ropey.

It's like that moment when [insert the name of your favourite sports star or team here] has put in all the hard work throughout the [season/game] and looks on course for glorious victory only to throw it all away with an errant putt on the 18th green, a missed double 16, by spinning out on the corner, conceding a sloppy goal in the 89th minute, or double-faulting the set away with a catastrophic loss of concentration.

It hasn't helped that I had a letter today from the fine folks at the mobile eye screening service today to say that they had spotted some 'background changes' in my eyes again. They said that once before a few years back, but I have to confess I far prefer the letters since then where they had been saying, "Nope, nothing to see here matey". No treatment needed, just another 12 month check. But not ideal news in a week where on-target readings have been a bit thin on the ground.

And of course (crassly stupid mistakes aside) those days when the wind is behind me and my pancreas-impersonating-guesses all come together with effortless perfection rarely 'feel' that different to the days when every reading seems determined to skip over that ever-so narrow target range that we all try to aim for. Days when meter and pump are constantly warbling warnings of imminent doom for being too high or too low. This is particularly the case when, like now, my basal profile needs a little tweaking. Tried and tested approaches, ratios and meal choices lose all reliability. Corrections and doses either seem to disappear entirely or hit home like a sledgehammer. And all the time I'm trying to just do the 'normal' things that I know work.

Albert Einstein is often quoted as having said that:

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Well I don't know about insanity, but that's a pretty darned good description of living with type 1 diabetes.

Posted by on Saturday 26 January 2013

Bubble, bubble, tubing trouble

Looking at my stats it seems Artoo has been having a bit of a run of form recently. Not without a wobble here and there obviously (let's not be silly) but certainly a decent punt at things on the whole, and far fewer eye watering levels in the 20s than in any of the months since I started on an insulin pump (which were never really part of my MDI experience). According to the funky monthly reports on my current BG logging app of choice (the excellent mySugr - 'making diabetes suck slightly less') my purple patch seems to date back to October. I even seemed to manage Christmas with fewer Quality Street induced gaffes than I would normally expect. Generally average BG in the high 6's low 7's (108-126), with an SD around the mid 2's (36). This makes me happy.

Aside from me taking a *very* long time to get used to the whole pumping business (Artoo was very patient with me) I believe there are a couple of changes which have helped me, so I'm posting this insufferably smug blog entry just in case there are any frustrated insulin pumpers who stumble upon it that are putting in all the effort but not seeing the results they are hoping for.

Firstly, September was the time that I switched infusion sets. I'd been having a fair few failures for some months, but only in amongst a majority of set changes that worked perfectly. At the time it was less obvious, but looking back, a readings/recoveries from mid 20s almost every month were messing things up for me. If you are getting set failures/site issues more than a couple of times a year it could well be worth asking your clinic/DSN/endo what alternative lengths and types of infusion sets are available to you. I've not had *one* site failure in the past four months - and aside from the lack of eye-frying levels, it also makes me feel a lot better about the whole business of diabetes day to day (as hard as I try not to part of me always takes these out of range disasters as a sort of personal failure).

Secondly, and my initial reason for writing this post, I think I have cracked the 'bubbles in the tubing' problem. Maybe not 100%, but pretty darned close. I'm not sure how common this is, but throughout my first year on a pump I was occasionally victim of a 'phantom bubble of doom'™. I'd fill the reservoir with room-temperature insulin as advised, having first moved the plunger up and down to lubricate the inside of the reservoir. I'd flick and jiggle for all I was worth until I was absolutely sure that there were no bubbles in the insulin. Fit the reservoir to the pump, and prime with the pump vertical, tapping all the while to ensure that any rogue bubble-ettes got expelled in the priming, and then connect everything up happy in the knowledge that I had achieved the perfect bubble-free set change. BUT. The next day, look at the reservoir and BAM, there it was a big, fat, lurking, bubble of doom. Ready and waiting to find its way into the tubing at some inconvenient moment and then effectively deprive me of basal for an hour or two. Or mess up a meal bolus. Or both. I do try to check my tubing a few times a day but these suckers are hard to spot. And just as frustrating as the high BGs they caused - was not knowing where they were coming from! I was as sure as I can be that they were not there when I changed the set. They just seemed to be emerging out of nowhere with an evil glint in their eye overnight.

I did discover a suggestion on You Tube, which I won't link here as it was a complete disaster for me. The technique (described as something like 'degassing the reservoir') involved creating a fairly strong vacuum in the insulin vial by repeatedly drawing air out of it until you could do no more. Do not try this! My experience is that reservoirs are just not designed to operate under that kind of pressure. On more than one occasion (and I only tried it about 3 times!) the o-rings failed and insulin began to leak 'behind' the plunger while the reservoir was in use. Complete BG chaos. But it did get me thinking...

If you too suffer from occasional 'phantom bubbles of doom' - here's what seems to be working for me. When you draw up the insulin into the reservoir it is usual to first inject air into the vial, equivalent to the insulin you are about to withdraw, to equalise the pressure. Instead of this only inject half of the air into the vial. Additionally you should make sure that you inject the air with the vial downward, then invert the whole caboodle to draw up the full insulin amount. Then flick and jiggle any bubbles that have crept in as normal. Disconnect the reservoir first, to allow the air pressure in the vial to normalise again. It seems that the very slight vacuum created is not enough to worry the o-rings, but is sufficient to make the insulin less 'aerated' in the reservoir. Or something. Anyhow, it seems to be working!

Obviously... Disclaimer, disclaimer. Not medical advice. Consult a qualified person. Don't try this at home. Read the documentation supplied with your pump. Simply reading this blog post may void your warranty etc etc.

If you have any top tips that you have discovered for yourself - please share them below :)

Posted by on Monday 7 January 2013

New year. New challenges.

Happy New Year all of you. Trust you had a suitable treat-filled festive break and hope that your levels played nicely if you are also one of those people who 'enjoys' a little pancreas-impersonation on the side.

In an unexpected (and possibly quite unwise) move I have decided to take on a little new year challenge and will be running the Bath Half Marathon on Sunday 3rd March 2013. I blame the decision on a good natured after-dinner family conversation fuelled by the dangerous combination of optimism and red wine.

I've always quite liked Marathons. Particularly pre-diagnosis. Which is lucky really, because by the time I got diagnosed they had made that fateful name-change decision, which completely ruins this gag.

On the other hand I've never run any kind of real distance. Ever. I've been going to the gym semi-regularly for a few years, so at least I'm not starting from absolute potato, but I am still quite daunted by the prospect. Fortunately a keen distance-running forum friend has been on hand to offer tips, advice and even a detailed eight week training programme.

Day 1 was today. Thankfully the instruction was to run '30 minutes at easy pace'. The rest of the week looks a little more challenging. I'm not even going to look at next week - I suspect it mentions hills.

I am very grateful to Diabetes UK for the offer of a place at the 'Bath Half', and have committed to raising a minimum of £250 for their worthy cause.

If anyone would like to support my endeavours you can make a donation safely and instantly online via JustGiving here: And the great news is that all your money will go to the charity and that DUK can reclaim tax to make your money go further.

If you live near Bath feel free to pop down and laugh at me on the Sunday. I'll be the sweaty one at the back, breathing hard and clutching fruit pastilles.