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The Demagnification of Doom
Do you own a compass or have you used one before? Have you used the compass for a learning activity or did your life literally depend upon the instrument being correct?
What I am about to share next will be very basic since I do not profess to be much of a “wizard” or “guru” to say the least when it comes to science. Here’s what I did learn years ago when I was receiving novice training in the use of the compass when hiking. The teacher advised us that storing a compass near a strong magnetic field could make the compass useless. Some of the information that we learn along the way, we retain thankfully. I have never personally needed a compass since I stick to well trodden paths when walking.
If we have insulin dependent diabetes, we do have a compass that we need to be 100% accurate & our lives literally depend upon this. The compass that I am referring to is our glucose meters. My glucose meters don’t tend to be used beyond a year or two so they are usually pretty recent. You may find too that there are updated meters being released often & that the pharmacist or other medical team member provides these newer gadgets to us frequently. That is great in my mind because I love having a meter that can offer more options, accuracy & speed. Frankly, I also like the ones that offer a light on them because let’s face it, at night it is a bonus when we check in the middle of the night & don’t have to necessarily turn on an overhead light to get a glucose reading. As an aside, it is funny to hear the number of fellow “pumpers” out there that do something that I do too at night for glucose tests & that is to use our insulin pump light as a light to see our glucose test result when the glucose meter does not have a light on it! We are kind of a group of folks who could be pictured in a Cat in the Hat story balancing successfully many gadgets at once.
Glucose testing may be an art or a science or both. If you have had diabetes for a while now too, you may find that you have become pretty proficient at testing. I do 10-12 glucose tests a day so in humble truth, I got pretty good at testing pretty fast. I am not sharing that information to brag about my testing abilities but rather as a basis for what I am about to share with you next.
What if somehow our compass or something within our compass fails or becomes metaphorically demagnetized when we have type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes? Would you agree that to a very large degree our health & even our lives are tied to this hand held device called the glucose meter & that it is our compass for diabetes care? What if the readings or results being provided by the meter were inaccurate? These results after all are the basis of our decision making when it comes to insulin. When our meters tell us that we are above our target range, we do an insulin correction & when our numbers are in an area of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), we eat the appropriate amount of fast acting & slow acting sugar. What if the reading on the glucose meter is incorrect though? Here’s an instance of what we don’t know having a detrimental effect. For 2 ½ months, I have felt like I have been riding a wild roller coaster ride almost every single day. That is strange. There are times when each of us certainly ride that involuntary roller coaster when it comes to blood sugars & the parallel physical & emotional feelings that entails. When I go through unstable blood sugars for an extended period of time (a few days or more), I do what most folks with diabetes do & that is ask myself questions. The questions are in an effort to figure out what is causing the blood sugar fluctuations so that I can attempt to put a stop to that. Unfortunately, it took me a very long time to figure it out however I finally after over 2 months was able to identify the problem. The problem was not exactly with my “compass” or glucose meter. It was however attached to the meter! At the end of March, I purchased 10 boxes of glucose testing cartridges to be all set for the following 3 months of glucose testing. That is usually pretty much a non-event. I did notice that my testing cartridges were behaving erratically. I was getting an error message from all 4 of my glucose meters 3 out of 4 tests. Then finally on each 4th test I received a glucose result. I trusted the result when I finally got one. It was frustrating & I kept thinking that the next box would be better. Strips or cartridges go through a rigorous quality control process no doubt. Still though, sometimes, things can slip through the cracks perhaps.
After 5-6 boxes of receiving the same problematic process of testing, I finally called the test strip company. They likely have a list of generic questions that they ask people in these situations because one of the very first questions they asked me was about my testing proficiency. I explained that I have been doing glucose tests 10 times a day for 5 ½ years without difficulty. Not surprising, when the service representative asked me to check the lot numbers, all of the boxes had the same lot numbers on them. I explained the situation & suggested to the representative after we had gone through the series of usual questions that the lot is defective. The representative was cautious not to state at any time that the cartridges could be defective but rather replaced the boxes that I had used that had provided difficulty. A few days prior to the call, I had begun the process of double testing my glucose results. I had 1 glucose tester that used different strips that I had on hand vs the cartridges. Sure enough, the results that the back-up meter gave me were significantly lower test results then what I believe were defective cartridge tester results. That convinced me that not only was there a strong likelihood that the test cartridges from the 10 boxes were defective, but also that pointed me in the answer finally as to why I had been feeling so incredibly unwell for 2 ½ months! It was scary to think that a 3.6 result on the possibly defective cartridges could have been in the 2 range instead! The point is that we make our decisions based upon the results that we receive from our glucose meters. We rely on accuracy. Our lives can depend literally upon the accuracy. There is a real blessing in how Mother Nature works even when it comes to diabetes. We often get signals like the shakes, sweats, dizziness, slurring of speech, numb tongue, unbelievable hunger & others that guide us in determining whether we are in low blood sugar. I had those signals thankfully even when my cartridge results were telling me that I was at 5.0 at times. I trusted that I needed to take a fast acting sugar kind of like a gut feeling or perhaps a prompt from my guardian angel. Thank goodness for that. Having a back up meter & different cartridges or strips from another lot number may seem excessive yet in my case, I was profoundly thankful that I had gone to that degree of caution. Technology is amazing. We are still the “brains” behind our diabetes though. If something does not seem quite right, questioning the situation can make a huge difference.
My heart’s hope for you is that you never experience a problem with either your “compass”/glucose meter or anything attached to it yet if you feel that something is not quite right, please listen to your gut belief & double check. There is only 1 original you out there after all!
Smiles, Saundie :)
Hope you have a "steady as she goes" kind of week & Friday's sharing is "Bermuda Triangles & Black Holes "D" Style" :)