Continuous Glucose Monitoring:  The Joys and Pains

Rachel Garlinghouse

| Jul 1, 2011

"Good news," my diabetes nurse educator says to me. "Your new insurance covers continuous glucose monitoring supplies!" I give her a half-smile as my brain screams at me, "CGM?  Really?  Something else to deal with on top of this damn disease, an insulin pump, exercise, and nutrition?"  But I comply, and a CGM is added to the rest of my paraphernalia.

A few nights later, I hear, BEEP, BEEP, BEEEEEP!  The sound of failure alarms me at 2:00 a.m.  My blood sugar is high.  Again.  I get up, test, inject, guzzle a glass of water, and flop back into bed.  Thirty minutes later, my CGM alarms me again.  And it continues every half-hour until my blood sugar returns to a normal range.   I wake up for the day already exhausted.

Right after breakfast and before I head to the gym, my CGM beeps again, this time alerting me to a low blood sugar.  I look at my pump and it displays a threatening number, 82, alongside two double arrows indicating that my sugar is dropping quickly.  I sigh, test, roll my eyes, and gulp down half a glass of grape juice.  And then, every ten minutes for thirty more minutes, my CGM yells at me, daring me to attempt to work out.   

CGM technology can be wonderful.  I have avoided nights of extreme highs (sleeping in a comatose state of sugar-induced bliss) and driving my car during dangerous lows.  I have been able to better control my diabetes.   My A1Cs are usually better when I've been using my CGM.  But, in all honesty, sometimes I just don't want to know.  I want to live in oblivion.   

The CGM also has what I consider to be a high rate of error.  While my pump may report my blood sugar is 130, it could very well be 80 and dropping.  Sometimes my blood sugar is normal when the CGM says I'm low.   I might be in the middle of an enjoyable moment, such as dinner with friends, when the BEEP, BEEP, BEEP interrupts the conversation to alert me that again, I might not have great control.   Stop.  Test.  Sigh.  Correct (or not).  Try to be happy again.  Try to be normal.

Syringes, a pump, a CGM---while these are all important to diabetes management, they are not a cure.  Not even close.  I dare say that sometimes, life is harder rather than easier with greater technology.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  Of course, good diabetes management is important, and technology helps one obtain better management, but there is always a cost:  a "BEEP" during a special moment, a bad pump set that prevents you from enjoying your own birthday cake, or the occasional sting of a syringe that reminds you that you are not, in fact, anywhere close to normal.  You have diabetes.  Your life is different---forever and always.  

I will only have peace when there is a cure---a cure that works and that doesn't compromise my ethics.  I hope and pray for a cure, but meanwhile, I try to live my best life possible by doing what I know I'm supposed to:  eating well, exercising, pumping, and listening and responding to the insistent beeps of my CGM.



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Categories: A1C, Blood Glucose, Blood Sugar, Continuous Glucose Monitor, Diabetes, Diabetes, Diabetes Nurse Educator/CDE, Exercise, Insulin Pumps, Low Blood Sugar, Nutrition Research, Syringes

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