Friday, November 14, 2014

World Diabetes Day 2014

I seem to be in a very different place each year when November 14th rolls around. Last year I talked about what brought me into the Diabetes Online Community, the year before that I wrote about "in sickness and in health", and in 2011 it was all about how Diabetes is such a big "thing" but you can't punch it in the face.

This year I'm here. I'm physically in Houston in the midst of my Flight Controller training to pilot the International Space Station. I worked hard Diabetes-wise and achieved my best A1C since being diagnosed 16 years ago. I worked through some insurance issues, and finally feel that I have a plan to keep organized with supplies and appointments. It may not be perfect, but I have legitimately exercised far more this year than I ever have before. I've never been afraid to talk about Diabetes, but this year I made a more conscious effort to insert myself when casual conversations about Diabetes were stirring up misinformation.

I'm not proud of this disease...but I am proud of the person I have become in spite of it.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pumps on Pumps on Pumps

Diabetes is constant, incessant, and, at this moment, permanent. But the devices we rely on to make it easier, to give us some semblance of "normal" are not. As Diabetics we are kings and queens of the "backup plan" - always having some way to transfer the elixir of life (insulin) from vial to body.

Chris convinced me to up my original backup plan and order a vacation "loaner" pump just in case something happened while we were in Grenada. After a little prodding I obliged, grumble grumble. My entire Diabetes defense looked something like this:

Plan A: Original insulin pump
Plan B: Vacation loaner pump
Plan C: Fast-acting Insulin pen delivery
Plan D: Syringe delivery

If you count the plethora of extra insulin vials, batteries, infusion sets and reservoirs, and multiple "pens"...you could argue I had many more than just 4 backup plans.

Everything was going well at first. This type of pump is water proof to a certain depth, so while we lounged in the pool I clipped it to my bathing suit near my shoulder to avoid complete submersion. However, about halfway through the vacation (of course at 3:30 am), the pump began rebooting itself periodically as if I was putting in a brand new battery. After about 30 minutes of troubleshooting I determined this pump was a lost cause, and praised my husband for his nagging to get the loaner pump. But its not as easy as slapping on a new pump.

I had to use Plan C for a few hours until I could call in the morning via our friends voice over internet capabilities. I was upset when the nurse told me I could have broke out the loaner pump on my own without calling, even though their paperwork describes a $3,600 fine for doing so. At any rate, I programmed the backup pump, said a prayer of thanksgiving, and finished out the wonderful vacation!

Pumps on pumps on pumps. From left to right: new pump, loaner pump, crapped-out pump. 
After returning to the states I called the pump company to figure what I had to do now that I activated the loaner pump. They said they would send me another new one because their standard pump and loaner pump inventories are not cataloged the same. So there I was with three total pumps, 2 shipping boxes (hopefully I got them in the right ones), and a realization - the double edged sword of Diabetes management tools...we rely on these mindless little boxes of electronics an awful lot and we trust them with our lives.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Adventures in Grenada

Chris and I have an unwritten rule that each year we switch off who gets to pick the "big vacation". It started with our honeymoon when Chris picked Jamaica. The next year we went to Washington DC (my choice) and this year Chris choose Grenada (actually he coordinated with our Huntsville friends, so I guess it wasn't entirely his decision). When he mentioned "Grenada" I had to hurry over to Google Earth and figure out where in the heck that was. Turns out its a small island near South America.

St. George's Harbor, such a picturesque ocean town. 
This is our whole group during dinner at our resort. All engineers or engineers in progress, all SCUBA certified, and all friends!!
Concord Falls. 
Chris jumped right in!!
Nutmeg factory. Grenada is known as the "spice" island. 
Oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean. 
Gorgeous view of the ocean from the rain forest. 
Fresh water lake in the crater of the volcano. 

Diverbetes held steady. Everything was A-OK! I saw my first turtle in the wild, and we visited the underwater sculpture park!

Check back tomorrow for a special post about how my Diabetes and Diabetes-related equipment behaved (or not) abroad!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Forever and a Day

Oh blog, it's been too long. And I'm really not sure where to start.

I've been on nerdy adventures, reading some great books, learning more about piloting the space station, and generally neglecting to tell you about it. Shame on me.

Since I can't possibly dump all of the last month or so in one post, I will just entice you with this: it's Diabetes Awareness Month, which I'm thrilled about. Yes, actually thrilled this year. There has been some exciting news on the Diabetes front in the past few months and I can honestly say I am more hopeful than ever about a cure. But in the mean time, we are dealing day in and day out with this stressful, frustrating disease...no days off. It goes everywhere with us...including the cockpit.


I can't wait to tell you about all of my recent adventures!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Diabetes Chicken and Egg(s)

Lately I've been in a groove with Diabetes. I do my things, he does his (not sure why I associate Diabetes as a male personality, but anyway), and we meet back together for blood checks and insulin dosing. In general, our groove has been working out fairly well - we are never too far apart from each other, yet he's been giving me space to live life a bit more free willed (for which I am eternally grateful). I've explored the topic before, but I think its worth revisiting, namely the idea of Diabetes and stress and how they work in relationship with one another. NPR has been doing a series on stress lately and some of their conclusions fit perfectly with the way I approach Diabetes and the consequences or contributing factors which determine how we both get along.

In one part of their series, NPR explored stress caused by major life events vs. "everyday stress". It's funny, because Diabetes fits in both categories: (1) a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis is, in every sense of the phrase, a "major life event" and (2) the constant struggle and day-to-day operations to maintain tight control contribute to every diabetic's "everyday stress" levels. It's a one-two-punch of disease related stress that includes short term worries (I only have 10 units left in my pump, where did that 208 come from?), and long term ones (will my leg be amputated? or can I have a healthy pregnancy?). And when all these questions pop up at once it can be completely overwhelming. 

But lately I haven't been overwhelmed. Diabetes has given my stress levels a break - at least temporarily. And, as I think more and more about it, I can't figure out who's the chicken and who's the egg. Is stress the chicken that produces bad Diabetes "egg-speriences"? Or, is stress the egg born from the Diabetes chicken? Either way, it seems clear that spending exorbitant amounts of time stressing about Diabetes only works to decrease control, and decreased control leads to greater stress - a viscous circle. 


So, what can we do about all this stress, relentless worry, and constant disease management? Honestly, I don't have any magic cures for the constant disease management bit. But, NPR suggests exercise as the number one "prescription" for constant worriers...which is a novel idea, since I have recently added more exercise into my daily routine. So naturally, I now have more chickens and more eggs (exercise, diabetes, stress, etc.). The bottom line? The increased exercise makes me generally feel better and I'm not going to spend time worrying about chickens, eggs, or which came first ;-)

PS: for my D friends out there...why would we worry about chickens or eggs anyway? They're free foods right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An American Path to Space

I wrote this post yesterday, following my evaluated mini sim but didn't have the brain power to get it uploaded. Ignore the incorrect tenses...I didn't have the brain power today to change them ;-)

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Image credit: NASA

"The last time we launched an American manned spacecraft was July of 2011. There will be a planned LOS (loss of signal) at approximately 3pm to watch the press conference announcement and witness history."

He was right, the space shuttle last flew in July 2011, and we all knew from the e-mails that a press conference was expected this afternoon, but it wasn't until he mentioned halting the simulation and "witnessing history" that I realized the gravity of the announcement. For those who don't follow the NASA headlines, the announcement revealed which American company will transport US astronauts to the International Space Station. 

We learned that Boeing and SpaceX will take men and women from US soil to the International Space Station. This announcement and the work these companies have already put forward means we finally have a plan to replace the shuttle; it may sound like a small victory if your world doesn't revolve around NASA, but for us inside, it is a huge victory. Billions of dollars are promised to these contractors and Mission Control assets are already being prepared to support their teams. 

I feel like this experience could be one of those "war stories" days. "Yes, I remember when the commercial crew was announced. I was in the middle of my evaluated mini sim when the Flight director decided the announcement warranted pausing the simulation. We all looked up at the TVs and tuned our "loops" to the media coverage - the same loop system we use today to communicate with the vehicles and each other."

NASA's administrator, Charlie Bolden, said he was "giddy" with a giggle, and I was too. I was excited to finally be in the middle of some serious space action - new rockets and commercial crew vehicles were wrapped around me in a sort of symbolic embrace, right in the middle of heavy duty training to fly the International Space Station. The skills I'm learning now could prepare me to participate in these upcoming ventures, and this generation may finally get their hallowed "Apollo moment." In the spirit of complete disclosure, Chris has been working for the Boeing commercial crew team ever since our move to Houston, so this announcement was a milestone for NASA and a victory for Chris and the whole Boeing team. Lord knows I've been alone many Saturdays as he went to work and put in countless hours towards this goal.

America has a plan to get crews to ISS and beyond, three vehicles in total with at least a preliminary budget to support them. I hope these announcements move NASA past this "wallowing" stage where rockets come and rockets go, in sync with budgets and changing administrations. America deserves an American path to space, fingers crossed, we are on our way!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday: FTE Edition

It's Thursday, time for a throwback, also known as #tbt. Almost 4 years ago I was suiting up to fly in a special operations military helicopter for the very first time. I still remember everyone on board that day, and whether they know it or not, they have all left lasting impressions. Now that I am "slightly older Nerdy April" I'm so thankful for this little time capsule of those special days in Philadelphia. 

You can read the original posting here, it was October 2010. Also, apologies for the circa 2010 cell phone pics ;-)

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Dear Older Nerdy April,

Hopefully you are sitting in a comfortable chair, gazing out your floor-to-ceiling windows, pondering what you will make your family for dinner tonight, and taking note that you should get your Steinway tuned (haha!). I'm just here to remind you what it was like back in the day. You know, during that week of your life when you made your first helicopter flight and you thought you were literally on top of the world.



You thought life really couldn't get any better than stepping in your flight suit, lacing up your boots, and putting your helmet on in anticipation for something a lot of people only dream of...and there you were, little old (well, actually young) hotshot you, climbing on an MH-47G for your job!



You had a hard time placing those ear buds just right and an even harder time hooking your helmet up and getting comfortable, but you didn't care. You were excited to get the egress training and learn the workings of a Chinook in flight. You were grateful for SFC Boss in the back helping you strap into the harness and saving you from certain death while ramp-surfing.


Your abnormally cold self was pleasantly comfortable hanging out the window in search of nearby traffic and your little friend Diabetes, well he was rock solid at 160 throughout the flights. It seemed you had finally found your niche...a cozy spot, high above the terrain of the eastern US, among company that had seen more, done more and knew more than your little, naive brain could ever understand. Yup, you had made it. All those years of hard work were finally worth it, and the months-long battle with the FAA melted into the cool crisp air blowing in your face. No one could take these moments away from you now.

And when you landed, after a sky-view of the great Saturn V, you realized you have so much more to learn, so much more to contribute, so much more to experience. You were full of exuberance and excitement, a feeling of accomplishment, and a yearning to experience more. You were surprised how fulfilling it was to be a flight test engineer.

You are probably thinking, "Wow, I was so dramatic back then...I was that excited just to fly in a Chinook?" But you were, you really were. And maybe by now you have experienced even greater things, and I hope you have. Just remember, everyone starts somewhere, and a crisp afternoon aboard an MH-47G was not a bad place to start.

Sincerely, 23-year-old Nerdy April