Blog Entries With Tag: Australia


Blog: Anna's Blog

From: FatCatAnna

Insulin Pumping since 1978
Posted: Jan 24, 2012

Here I am, coming up to my 4 year anniversary of using an insulin pump (and wondering what to do after the pump warranty expires - that's a blog in the making - as I figure out my alternatives that Animas has been throwing at me - which seems to vary from one individual of the company to another for some strange reason).

My last blog post about infusion sites pulling out created some interesting comments on my Facebook page - The Roller Coaster Ride of Diabetes as well as my personal page there.  I heard from many insulin pump users saying of how many times they'd yanked there infusion sets out - and I honestly think I've been blessed with a horse shoe up my ass that it's only happened maybe a few times. 

One gal, Tori Davidson from Brisbane, Australia wrote to me and told me her story about the early years of insulin pumping back in 1978.  She was barely a teenager, having problems with control of her diabetes, and became one of 10 people (aka guinea pigs as Tori and I like to call ourselves with what we've used over the years) to partake in the use of an insulin pump (which we're not like what we use today - we've come a long way).

Below are Tori's words, which she has graciously allowed me to share with you.  I think it's amazing what she went through, and not sure if I could have gone through it.  Funny enough, I didn't know about insulin pumps back then, and neither my parents or medical team had ever mentioned insulin pumps.  In away, I wonder if they were with holding that info from me - who knows?  Read on - you won't be disappointed by Tori's story ....

" I was thinking at some ungodly hour some years ago how much I love the current pumps, and how different they are from 34 yrs ago, and thought I'd actually specify what pumping in 1978 involved.

First off, there were no easy plastic cannulas you inserted at home. Initially, the cannulas were similar to IV drip cannulas, and yes, they hurt. Mine were inserted into my butt... but not just put in and left, no no. The whole procedure was done at the hospital and involved betadine swabbing, a local anaesthetic, at least two medical staff, the whole shebang/catastrophe. After the site was swabbed thoroughly and the local given (why do locals sting so much??), the doctor (usually an endocrinological registrar; if you were unlucky, a resident) would thread the cannula in, using a rather large introducing needle (21g I think), then back OUT, and in again. I have no idea why this was necessary, but at the time it was deemed to be so. If these sites had problems - infections - they exploded along the whole line. I had one infection so severe that 25years later I still have a small crater on my right buttock from it being excised and drained (but thankfully can no longer remember the intense pain associated with the three direct penicillin injections straight into the site that were administered). Sites were usually replaced every 5 days, and I dreaded those days. The whole procedure took about 3hours.

As a back up, we had "butterflies" (winged infusion sets). If a cannula came out, a butterfly could be used as a stopgap until a new cannula could be inserted. Butterflies brought their own horrors, of course. While they had a much finer gauge (as small as 25G at one stage, more commonly 23G) and were far shorter, positioning them was very difficult because they were inflexible metal needles. Regardless, the trauma of the cannula insertions led me after 3mths to request the use of butterflies on a permanent basis (at the ripe old age of 13!).

Now, one problem with the butterflies was that the tubing actually absorbed insulin, so priming them was a time consuming business. First, insulin for the "day strength" syringe (presuming it was day time) had to be prepared (I generally prepared 6 days' worth of day and night syringes in advance, and labelled them so I could tell them apart, storing them in the fridge). Preparing a syringe was fiddly/fussy, but not difficult. It meant getting a 2ml syringe (or more, depending how many were being prepared), using an insulin syringe to withdraw the correct amount of insulin for the particular syringe, injecting it from the drawing up (insulin) syringe to the "pump" (2ml) syringe, then using a second 2ml syringe to add normal saline to the pump syringe to dilute the insulin adequately. The fully prepared syringe - with insulin and saline in proper proportions - could then be capped with a sterile needle and stored in the fridge. Day and night strength syringes were quite different, and varied over time. To actually prepare the butterfly meant taking the pre-prepared syringe, and rinsing the tubing of the butterfly out TWICE, before gearing it up for insertion (we also did that with the 2ml syringes, adding a small amount of insulin and flushing it through the syringe twice).

Using butterflies was "interesting". When I first started putting them in, an insertion, including swab padding and taping took me about 15 minutes. After some years I had it down to 2.5 minutes (yes, I timed it, I was a busy girl!!). Using both cannulas and butterflies meant you could only sleep on 3 of your possible 4 sides (front, back, left and right), as you invariably had a sore spot or a potentially sore spot on the fourth. If you bumped a butterfly it was wont to dislodge, which was not only extremely painful but meant, of course, that your insulin delivery was disturbed or possibly discontinued. I look back on all of this and wonder how I endured 17years of it really - but endure it I did, and gladly. Finally I was able to eat what I wanted when I wanted and I was no longer left out of more "normal" activities that had previously been denied me because of my diabetes.

Placing a butterfly involved having the following things on hand: butterfly, syringe, pump, gauze pads, tape, and alcohol swab. First, the site had to be swabbed (in later years I left this part out, as well as the priming of the tubing). The butterfly was "fed" with insulin (no checking for air bubbles back then). Then, the needle would be inserted, at anywhere from 40-70degrees. Gauze placed under the wings of the butterfly helped to prevent it pressing down and thus the actual needle pushing up through the subcutaneous tissue (ouchy!), meaning it stayed relatively stable; a piece of gauze over the wings meant that the entire dressing could be replaced at any time without (theoretically) displacing the needle. Lastly, tape would be applied liberally to strap it all down, and the syringe and pump would be reconnected.

The first pump, of course, was somewhat of an encumbrance. It was a Millhill infuser, and it was all metal. Hence, every time I flew to Sydney (my family and I were living in Canberra) it would set off the metal detector. Canberra airport in the mid to late 70s was a quiet place, however, and they came to expect me every 3mths, jetting off to Sydney for my 48hour line to be put in, where blood was taken every 30minutes night and day to try and get a profile of what my blood sugars were doing. It was all very false of course, but all they could get, since I refused to do even rudimentary tests at home (when they became available). The Millhill was about 20cm (8") long, 10cm (4") wide and 5cm (1.5") deep. It was LARGE. It was later replaced by the Graseby Infuser, which was slimmer, but still large. Both were kept (by me) in a specailly made pouch that was worn on my thigh, with straps that went up around my neck (sans boobs) and my waist (apres boobs), with an additional - optional - strap around my thigh to ensure it didn't bounce around.

The pumps did not have variable basal rates. You had a set rate and that was it - but at least it meant you were getting a steady stream of insulin 24hrs/day (all being well). The number of times I disconnected and then lost my needle, dressing and all, in the surf is uncountable. I hate to think what the finders thought of their strange flotsam and jetsam. Bolusing was also an interesting event. In theory, you could program the pump to push through X mm (yes, millimetres, on a scale, which had to be converted depending on the size of the syringe - 2ml was my standard but these pumps could take 5 and 10ml syringes as well - to ml, which then had to take account of how much insulin - diluted, remember - was in each ml) at a particular time. It was very difficult, so much so that I took to just going "OK, here's my syringe, I know it has about 0.7units per .1ml, so I need half a little mark" and manually pushing that through. If you didn't know how to carb count, you were completely lost - and even some of us who knew how to do that - in "portions" - were still lost.

It's funny, I've just written all this and it sounds archaic and nightmarish now .. but at the time it was cutting edge and it saved my life. I still have my old pump and pouch. I wonder if I'll ever discard them? Somehow, I doubt it. "

Tori Davidson - pumping since 1978
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Blog: Anna's Blog

From: FatCatAnna

2nd Annual Diabetes Art Day - September 1st
Posted: Aug 31, 2011

Well, it's not too late to participate folks.  I'd posted about last years event that Lee Ann Thill who blogs at The Butter Compartment had started.  I don't think I'd done any artzy fartzy stuff since I was working in Daycare - so this was a fun experience to be part of - especially with other diabetics participating and putting their message out for diabetes awareness.

So, again, I managed to do a last minute project after not knowing if we could make it back to Montreal from washed out New York state (thank you tropical storm Irene - glad we weren't out sailing).  I just posted my piece of "art" at this
link.  You can too - it's not to late - and if participation is as good as it was last year - it'll be held again in 2012.  Many thanks Lee Ann for making this happen!!!

Here's my entry below - as usual - I used all sorts of different mediums that I had on hand from my days of working with kids at school.


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Blog: Anna's Blog

From: FatCatAnna

The Antidote
Posted: Jul 28, 2011

Well, I just got back from a whirl wind tour of Vermont. Yes, I went in my little Smart CDI and …. it did not break down on me – Whoo! Whoo! My little French fry machine as I like to call it – as it’s built in France / engine is from France – is my way of making myself not feel so bad about the woes it’s had over the past 6 months with a mechanic buggering up the car. Smartie is now all better.

So, back to the topic on hand here.

I’m at the American border and the guard asks:

“What is your purpose for coming in the USA” In his mind he is going – where the F is the ass of this car????

I, the friendly Canadian say - “I’m going to visit some friends in Burlington and also attend an art show which I’m going to be acting in”. Oops as usual too much information – I’m so friggin’ honest!!!  Should I have mentioned to him I was also doing some table top dancing????

“Are you going to be paid for this and how much?” says the Border dude – thinking to himself – she is a spy – come to destroy our country with this disguise of a story!!!  Hmmm, wonder how fast that little French fry machine with no ass can go???

“No sir – it’s all volunteer – just out to have some fun with diabetic friends” says little FatCatAnna thinking in her head …. but I will make TONNES of money once the video of this event I’m attending goes viral / my pictures go into Vogue and I receive my Oscar next year and I will thank you … the friendly American Border dude for making me feel like an evil person at your border crossing when you should have welcomed me without any questions like John Candy.

Anyway, the jist of the whole thing since I guess I look like a threat to your country – but it’s okay – I’m over it now is that I just came to the good ol' USA to have abit of fun. I laughed / ate / petted Blue the doggie / farted & belched / had fun with Ginger Vieira along with a dinner table of 20 people and 10 guests. We all participated in this great art show entitled
The Antidote that Dana Heffern also a Type 1 diabetic was awarded with a scholarship to fund as she attains her MFA (Master of Fine Arts) at Goddard College in Plainsfield, Vermont. Dana wanted to show what Type 1 diabetes is all about since there is sometimes a misunderstanding about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.


Ginger and moi (sans my black skin suit I usually wear - you know - the one with the little cape?)

I was asked at the last minute the same day of the event to be one of the 20 “actors” at the dinner table – where we were served up delicacies that we weren’t quite sure what they were. Alongside of us were nondiabetics who had brand new BG meters to use (yes they had to do blood tests) – along with needles (short needles – lucky buggers) – pretend insulin (saline). We “experienced” diabetics helped them out with determining what the carb amounts were that we were eating, and what we all thought appropriate amount of insulin to cover what we were gorging out on. We had to guesstimate for most of it; because the food was sometimes not recognisible (we only got the actual menu mid-way – which helped abit). All I can say, I was a stuffed pig after this episode of 3 fabulous courses (no wine – darn – the chef drank the bottle I’d viewed in the cooler earlier). Through the majority of it – I sadly was having a hypo (went as low as 2.9 mmol/l or 52 mg/dl) – but I was well taken care of by Alissa (my Mummy) for shoving a lollipop in my mouth (we had candies in fancy containers at the dinner table).

To top it all off – the audience was allowed to sit at the table with us and “observe” – though a few wanted to talk and got frustrated they we weren't sure if we should respond as we were told not to notice them (I did alot of winking to them - I'm so naughty). Through the whole 2 hour production – we were being photographed and video tapped (the reason for my upcoming Oscar nomination of the woman wearing crotchless underwear – this will be another blog discussion at a later date).

All I can say – WOW – another great experience in my life as a diabetic that I’ve been blessed with since starting to blog and mentor about diabetes a few years ago. Sharing how we take care of our diabetes – learning new things (
mini-dose glucagon) with others.

Even better? Getting to feel up Ginger’s muscles in her forearm – whooza – she is one strong Mama – should have had an arm wrestle with her at the dinner table …. but that will be another story for another blog one day (better start pumping iron and grunting like a pig!!!).

To check out more pictures from Dana's event – go to this link at my Flickr account!  UPDATE - HERE'S a SHORT VIDEO FROM THE EVENT THAT I POSTED HERE AT DIABETES1.ORG IN 2012!

Can’t wait for the next diabetic meet up which is …. TOMORROW …. at the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life 2011 conference and expo in Toronto. I’ll be taking the train as the little Smartie will be staying behind on this one – while I have a semi relaxing trip by train – and then get to work with D-teens over the next few days!!! Sleep???? Ahhh – I’ll wait until I’m older for catching up with sleep.

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Blog: Anna's Blog

From: FatCatAnna

How Many Carbs Do You Consume A Day?
Posted: Jul 19, 2011

Yesterday on Facebook -  Diabetes Daily had a poll going about the amount of carbs we consume a day.  Going back to it today – the one that seems to be winning out is 50-100 grams of carbs a day – which I personally think I cannot do.  I then decided to go over my past few days (this is after I’d put down my choice of 100-150 grams per day) – and was amazed to see that the last 3 days my average amount of carbs is actually on 90 grams.   I may have to go back to the poll and change my answer.  One of the other higher totals (same as the 50-100 totals) was “I don’t count carbs”.  Either they were folks like myself that just eat based on what they think is alright for them and semi-shoot in the dark for the amount of insulin to cover the carbs I used to be that way and managed to stay in an A1C of 7% - but my blood sugars did yo-yo a lot back then on multiple dosage injections (MDI) – which probably led to the lower number for my A1C. – The other thing is that those that answered perhaps were not on meds at all – but just diet and exercise.  All I know is that when preparing to go onto an insulin pump, I started to look at food labels more closely, not just for the carb count, but for other things like fat/sodium count that I felt was important for me to monitor as well.  I guess I reeducated myself after 40 years of being a diabetic – and just following the guidelines I was brought up on by my Mum and CDA with eye balling the amount of rice I had on my plate, etc.  It did work, but I just wasn’t being as precise with carb counting as I am now.

That’s one thing that I noticed the other day when going grocery shopping with a friend.  I picked up a bag of Bing cherries that are affordable at this time of the year.  They told me that they had bought a bag the other day (about 2 kg) and had consumed it practically in one go.  On top of that she was buying another bag as I picked out the darkest cherries I could find to share with my DH over the week!!  The first thing that went through my head was the amount of carbs they had consumed in that one bag of cherries –it boggled my mind.  Next we stopped by the bread area.  I swear those places pipe out smells of fresh baked bread just to draw you in – resistance is futile to most – but in my case – the constant walking wanna-be-dietician - I resisted the urge to a loaf of cheese bread my friend was buying.  As they teased me with the comment of, “There is one loaf left – buy it!!!”  They then told me … that they would be consuming this WHOLE loaf probably that afternoon.  I just had these flashes of potential diabetes or not being able to fit thru’ the bathroom door in the making.  On top of that they are already have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia – yikes!   All I could say was – “In my next life I come back with a pancreas that doesn’t pack in on me” – and almost added – “and a bank account that can pay for all the clothing / medical bills I may get from becoming overweight”. 

For some of you who are newly diagnosed with diabetes – carb counting is a chore – along with watching the quantity/quality of food you consume.  Trust me, it gets better over the time, and in the end you’ll be doing the calculations without even thinking about it.  For long term diabetics like myself, it’s just something I’ve always done; looking at food with a critical eye and pondering what it’s after effects will be to my health.  I really rarely think about what I doing except when faced with a food that I can’t really access properly – then I just wing it the best I can!

Off to munch on some cherries (not the WHOLE bag!!!!).

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Blog: Anna's Blog

From: FatCatAnna

Smooth sailing with CATSCA / TSA
Posted: Dec 22, 2010

Last week I got back from a few weeks of holidays with my family - it's a little tradition that we do every December - usually just myself and hubby - but this year we brought along my ILS - since they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  All went well, we weren't sure at first since my FIL has dementia, but he's been on an experimental drug since the summer time and he had no problems at all while on the NCL Sun with us.  He knew that once he reached the whirl pool at the back of the ship (engine props churning away, to turn around LOL).  He's got as great an attitude to his condition as I do to my having diabetes - so we make a great pair.

My biggest worry with the latest changes from TSA back in October was how would it be going through each of our countries security check points.  I'd read various blogs / news reports - all from the USA mind you - that left me scratchng my head as to whether or not I'd be experiencing the same thing as my friends south of the border.

The good news is - I found no difference in previous travel with wearing an insulin pump, or carrying all my various medical bits and bobs.  The only thing that changed for myself this time was the fact that Animas now has made it very clear that our insulin pumps should NOT go through either the x-ray machine (I used to put my loaner pump through that with my carry on luggage - this time I held it in my hand through the metal detector / pat down) OR to go through the full body scanner (which I had done earlier this year at Miami International Airport).  These devices can cause malfunctions in the insulin cartridge mechanism, which could lead to insulin over delivery.  Something I do not want to have happen.  Luckily, Animas Canada sent me a few wallet sized cards before I left which I never had to show, even when I told CATSCA and TSA agents that my pump(s) could not go through some of their devices for security.  They took my word for it.

Yes, as usual I set off the metal detector - for some reason Animas is known for this - perhaps due to the clip on the pump which is metal (I have experimented in past with removing clip, placing pump in back pocket, metal detector still goes off)?  Maybe I'm just a highly metallic person, from wearing too much fancy glitter eyeshadow  in the past?  Who knows - but I set the metal detector off.

The TSA agent wasn't aware the harm that could be done to the insulin pump - I was abit shocked by that as the Canadian side when I'd left were fully aware.  I think it depends on what training the agents have had, though you'd think at the major airports that I go through, they would be more up to date.  Maybe we insulin pumpers are a rarity?  All I know is that at least I educated the TSA agent on the damage that could be done to the pump, and I had what I consider a routine pat down like I've had in the past.  None of the more invasive methods that I've read about with genitals being touched/swabbed.

I keep on wondering if people who approach what CATSCA or TSA are doing to us as an invasion of their privacy - and that they have no right to do this - then perhaps their attitude makes them get more aggressive with what is being done to them.  I have absolutely no problem with what is done everytime I fly.  I always get pulled over, it's no sweat and with my latest trip, it was all done within 5 minutes and handled very professionally in my humble opinion.

I had asked the CATSA agent at the Pierre Trudeau International Airport in Montreal about the full body scanner and you get "picked" for that at random (e.g. every 10th person).  I found that abit odd as I thought it would be based on what the agent felt should be done.  I just hope as usual, that with the increased security, especially around the holiday periiod, that they maybe not only use these machines prudently, but also go based on visual inspection of the person.  If warning signals go off, pull them over!  Better to be safe then sorry is my feeling.

Safe flying everyone over the holidays!

NB:  If you don't have the time to check out the CATSA link above - please note - that Canadians who are diabetic are permitted juice and gel on their carry on luggage.  This is something that American travellers are not permitted to bring onboard flights.  I searched TSA and could come up with nothing except Americans are allowed "glucagon emergency kit".  I also tried to see what the British Airport Security had to say about diabetics with insulin pumps, and medications - and found nothing.  It seems that airlines leaving from UK to American destinations have to refer to the TSA guidelines. 

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