CGM: Constant Glucose Monitoring is a secondary device that can be worn along with a pump is a huge innovation for diabetes care. It works by constantly measuring blood glucose in the “interstitial fluid” in fat. Therefore, it does not not measure exact glucose on a second to second basis, but it cant measure glucose trends over a period of days to help a diabetic see how times of day or habits affect sugar. Additionally, an alarm goes off when the glucose level is raising or lowering very rapidly.
So enough of the background stuff. I thought I’d try it out. Wearing an insulin pump with another larger device at the same time sounded awful, but I wanted to know what my glucose levels did when I was sleeping so that I could prevent lows. I figured I could wear it for a few days and then only use it if I was really sick or ever decided to have a kid. I signed up for a training session and prepared myself for the uncomfortable days ahead. When I got to my training, my Medtronic representative told me that the patient before me had showed up but never checked in at the front desk, so no one even knew that she was there. Then my rep. asked me if I would be comfortable sharing my training with her to which I responded, “Oh yeah! I totally don’t mind, please bring her in! Us diabetics have to stick together!” And I meant that…even though I did have a minutely selfish pretense. (I am writing my honor’s thesis for my undergraduate degree on how the insulin pump affects female self-esteem and body image and I needed to recruit interview participants…but that’s another story, however if you have a pump and happen to be reading this leave me a comment cuz I’d love to interview you.) So the woman came in, and she was a reasonably friendly, older Type 2 diabetic. We made small talk and were mostly laughing until we pulled out the insertion device for the sensor which stays on your stomach to do CGM. It was huge. Probably 4 times wider and longer than the infusion sets I wear with my pump. I was immediately intimidated. The lady in my training, on the other hand, seemed ready to go. So I asked her to go first. She injected it with the scariest insertion device of all the ones I have ever seen, on an angle, with a huge needle. The sensor had to be taped in place because it was so large that with out the tape, it pulled on her skin and wouldn’t stay in place. However, she informed me that it hadn’t hurt at all.
After about 15 minutes of hesitation, I psyched myself up enough to let the Medtronic lady insert the CGM for me. It didn’t really hurt…it felt, well similar to putting in the pump. But I could feel the plastic cannula bulging under my skin. Imagine running plastic tubing in your stomach right below your epidermis, and when you place your hand over it the tubing pushes back against your fingers. Well, it grossed me out. And then I look over at the nice Type 2 lady and her stomach is gushing blood. So I had a panic attack. I felt woozy at first. So I sat down. I didn’t want them to take it out because I had worked hard enough to let them put it in in the first place. I tried to focus on that thought, but ultimately ended up on the floor of the bathroom at the doctors office puking my brains out. I remember yelling and begging them to rip the CGM out of me, but that’s about it. Next thing I know, its out and I’m sipping orange juice across from the other woman who is still messing with her bleeding sensor and complaining about all the complications she has from her diabetes. She says sometimes she can’t feel her feet for months. She tells me when she puts her pump on she will bleed profusely and that sometimes she can see clotted up blood in the tubing that leads from her cite to her pump. She tells me that she has weird pains for no reason all the time.
…And yea, I know…she’s Type 2 and I’m Type 1. I take really strict care of my diabetes, and she may or may not have managed it for any number of years. She was packing a lot more weight and health problems than I was. But still, this freaked me out. A lot. Diabetes is just something I live with every day of my life, but when I complain about it, I usually say things like “I can’t figure out how to wear my pump with this outfit,” or “I am hungry but my sugar is so high,” or “When I put my pump back on it hurt really bad and now I can’t stop scratching it.” Never so I complain about how one day I’ll be a high-risk pregnancy candidate, or maybe have really terrible vision problems. And to hear this lady complain about all the things her diabetes causes was a reality check that I wasn’t ready for. Not only was I completely nauseated by the whole experience, but I was also scared…scared that’s what was going to happen to me. In a way it inspired me to take even better care of myself, even though I have not attempted to try CGM again. But also, because of that experience, I really don’t know if I will. The Medtronic rep. really tried to get me to reschedule my appointment, and initially I was sure I would. But with my consistently stable sugar levels, I know that right now, I’m doing pretty well with diabetes with out it. And focusing on right now has a whole new meaning of importance for me.