Off the Dial

JDRF Walk for a Cure

Benny at bedtime: “Today was so much fun. I’m SO glad my friends from school came.”

For the first time, we invited Benny’s classmates to the Charlotte JDRF walk.  When I spoke to Benny’s class about diabetes in September, he wore our team t-shirt. All the kids wanted to learn about it and come with us (although one girl was very worried she’d have to walk all the way to the event, about 30 miles away!).

With busy schedules, predicted rain and a 7:30am meet time, we were excited that some of his friends really did come join us. Benny’s Brigade was bigger this year, and more meaningful. These are the friends who see Benny check his blood sugar every day during class. Who look out for him when he’s low and who don’t think there’s anything weird about diabetes. It’s just something their friend has.

Benny's Brigade 2013

Benny’s Brigade 2013


More pics on my Facebook page.

As always, it was a huge walk. The rain held off and about 7000 people raised close to a million dollars. Here’s the write up from our local newspaper.

Wanted to also post this video I made at the Rowan-Cabarrus-Iredell Counties JDRF Walk. A smaller event, but no less important or emotional. I MC’d this year and met a little girl about the same age as Benny when he was diagnosed:



Interview: Artificial Pancreas

I try not to get too excited about diabetes “breakthroughs” or technology announcements.  Years ago, before I even had  a personal connection to type 1, I covered the Glucowatch and inhaled insulin as a TV health reporter. Never heard of them? Yeah, they didn’t work out so well.

So when Benny was diagnosed in 2006, I was a bit skeptical of the new technology our doctor talked about.  Called the artificial pancreas, he described it as an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and a computer.  They’d work together to control blood sugar automatically, just like a working pancreas.  It sounded great, but I was wary of getting my hopes up.

Six and a half years later, I think I’m ready to let them start to fly.

I recently got to check in with Tom Brobson. He’s JDRF’s National Director, Research Investment Opportuities and he’s also been testing the artificial pancreas for years. That’s the computer part he’s holding.

Tom Brobson

Tom spoke with me while he was in Charlotte for our JDRF walk kick off.  If you’re not familiar with the artificial pancreas, you may want to skip down to the video (which shows more of his experience) and then listen to the interview.

My interview with Tom Brobson:

I’m embarrassed to admit this after years of being in the diabetes world, but I always thought a CGM had some sort of tubing. Newsflash: it does not.  This became clear in my questions to Tom and he was pretty surprised at my misunderstanding.   He almost ripped off his shirt (ok, he rolled up his sleeve) to show me the CGM. No tubing, sits almost flat on the skin. Here’s a good site, if you’d like to see it or learn more.

I’ve heard from some people who’ve seen the video that they think the setup is pretty cumbersome for the people in the study.  They’re wearing the smartphone strapped to their arms? Keep in mind, the first artificial pancreas setup included a computer. No real mobility. Then they moved on to a backpack. Now it’s handheld. I’m not worried about that part.

Just keep moving forward. As Tom says, we’ll get where we’re going.

Are we there yet? (sorry! couldn’t resist)

Party Like a Doctor

Recently, we celebrated at a family friend’s Bat Mitzvah. Along with the religious ceremony marking a 13 year old becoming a responsible part of the Jewish community, there is often a big celebration. This was to be a night time party with food, dancing, the works. Our diabetes plan for an evening like this is very permissible as long as we know what’s going on.

I walked Benny over to the kids’ table, which was covered in little boxes of candy. We agreed he could have two. We checked out the kids’ buffet and decided how many carbs were probably in the pizza and chicken fingers. Math done, it was time to have some fun.  Benny likes to hit the dance floor and stay there for as long as he can. He can go a bit high with all the party food, but dancing can make him low. As always, it’s a difficult balance.

An hour or so later Benny wasn’t feeling well.  A quick check showed BG was 400. What happened? We went through what he ate and bolused for.  Turns out, he’d had a Sprite. Aha! That was something we’d agreed to but he’d forgotten to let us know or bolus himself.  There’s a lot going on at these parties, especially for an eight year old, so I wasn’t too surprised about a rogue soda.

We corrected, but he wasn’t bouncing back easily and I could tell he was sad to miss out on some fun.  I looked up and spotted our host’s brother, Andrew, across the room. He has type 1! My friend had talked about him before and I’d met him earlier that day, but had completely forgotten until that moment.  I told Benny, “See that guy over there? Go show him your pump.” Benny looked at me funny for a second, but then he got it and ran right over.

What a great reaction!  Andrew, who is also a pediatrician, took his pump out of his pocket and high-fived Benny.  They even had the same Animas pump.  I could see them talking excitedly to each other, then they ran upstairs to the party photo booth and took crazy pictures like this.



Thank you, Dr. Andrew Lubell, from the bottom of my heart.

It’s hard to express how much something like this means to me and my family.  You took my son from being sad at a celebration, to being happy and right back to having fun. You gave him something joyful to consider about diabetes.

And you rock that neon mohawk.