After learning about the fakebetes challenge, Jennifer Cruze eagerly contacted me to participate. During the fakebetes challenge a health care provider is paired with an individual who lives diabetes, this allows the health care provider to better understand the day-to-day challenges someone with diabetes faces. You can learn more about the fakebetes challenge from Kim Vlasnik, who was paired with a new nurse, or Sarah Knotts, who was paired with a dietitian/CDE. Jennifer was paired with a Heather Francis, a registered nurse and CDE in Layton, Utah. This is Jennifer’s guest post describing her experience throughout this 1-week fakebetes challenge.
I first read about the Fakebetes challenge online in July, in which a Type 1 Diabetic (like myself) is paired up with a non-diabetic person who’s in the medical field, to help give them an inside view of living with diabetes. I thought this would be an awesome chance for me to contribute to the diabetes world.
I was paired up with Heather, an RN and CDE at an endocrinology clinic in Utah, and for a week we communicated back and forth via text, with me sending her blood sugars and scenarios and the daily chores of living with diabetes, and she had to test her own blood glucose and take the her insulin (saline solution). I wear a Medtronic Revel insulin pump and a Dexcom CGM, and take Symlin with meals. Heather was able to wear a t:slim pump for the week. She used the Contour Next Link blood glucose meter, the same meter that I happen to use. Heather was pretty knowledgeable about the situations I gave her and had great ideas, a lot of it was talking about how MY body reacts to certain things.
Many events happened over the week, including the typical things like eating, counting carbs, bolusing, and correction factors. Then there were times where I ended up doing unexpected activity (like moving the furniture to get the carpets cleaned) that I hadn’t planned for. Or the time that the neighbor brought over some peach cobbler for dessert – I wasn’t going to say no to a yummy dessert!!! But then to guess how many carbs were in it… And on the weekend I went stand up paddle boarding for the first time, and just had to guess as to how it might affect my BGs. Heather also saw how my blood sugar would spike up into the upper 200s following an hour and 15 minutes of intense swimming (on a Masters team), but then fall around 6 hours later. She was also “with” me when I went to the pharmacy to get more insulin, my medications for hypothyroidism, antidepressant, and some new ketostix, and came out $130 poorer. And that’s with good insurance coverage! Heather was also there when my BG crashed to a 39. I talked with her about my low BG plan that I have in case I am unable to recover from a low like that. And she got to see how extremely annoying devices can be…i.e. when they wake you up in the middle of the night with inaccurate readings! (Note: Dexcom rarely has inaccurate readings like this, it was really a first for me! It resolved when I restarted it.)
I had also been preparing to go to the endocrinologist at the end of our week long Fakebetes Challenge, and thus the topic of fasting labs came up, which really stresses me out, as I’m sure it does for other T1Ds as well. Thank god I didn’t need to be fasting for these ones!
Heather also got the privilege of seeing how anal I am, in that I over prepare for everything, not leaving the house without my glucometer, tons of sugar, snacks, charging cords, batteries, etc. And how I have back up supplies everywhere – in my house, purse, swim bag, car, desk, file cabinet at work… She had a great analogy comparing diabetes with having a baby.
I think I was even able to share some tips and tricks with her, including writing the date/time of sensor insertion on my Dexcom package, so I remember how many weeks I’ve had it in. And using baby oil to get the skin tac off my skin after the sensor was stuck on for 20+ days. And silly things like labeling the carbs on my popsicle boxes so I can just grab and go, instead of digging out the package and finding the nutrition label.
Lastly, Heather was there for the blissful 13 minutes 24.94 seconds that I was completely unattached from anything (in between both pump and sensor changes at the same time)! Rare occurrence when you wear both of those devices.
What I Learned About HCP
During the week I learned that Heather really knows her stuff! It was clear to me that she is in the profession because she truly wants to help people manage their chronic illness, as I’m sure many HCPs do. Heather doesn’t even have relatives or friends with diabetes, but still cares about the population and wants to help. She also has the desire to try out the different technologies herself so that, in her words, she can “help people troubleshoot the real life stuff”. She had done a trial with the Medtronic Enlite sensors earlier this summer, and was looking forward to using the t:slim for the challenge to get to know it better. Heather was encouraging to me in various situations, which I hadn’t expected since I was supposed to be sending her all this information. She also added some humor to our conversations, especially about my visit to the pharmacy. Heather’s patients are lucky to work with her!
What Was Challenging During the Week and What I Learned About Myself
I was diagnosed with T1D in college 14 years ago, so my parents weren’t super involved in my care at the time. I have pretty much been responsible for my diabetes on my own ever since I was diagnosed and don’t rely on others much. That being said, I don’t talk a lot about diabetes or verbalize all the things that I go through and think about everyday. Having this experience was a good chance for me put into words the thoughts rolling around in my head. It was also taxing! Within 4 hours of starting the challenge, I texted my mom saying how exhausted I was with narrating all the stuff I do regarding diabetes every day. There are so many things that I do subconsciously that are just part of my “normal life” until I stop and think about it.
I also realized that even though I have become more “relaxed” about my diabetes over the years, that I am still hard on myself and expect myself to “control” my diabetes better. It didn’t help that I was having a rough BG week the first chunk of the challenge. It’s good to keep the big picture in mind and remember the things I am doing well (which Heather helped do), rather than focusing on the little occasional “less than desirable” blood sugar episodes and basing my worth off of them.
The last day of the challenge was my visit with my wonderful endocrinologist. I was bummed to learn that she is leaving the clinic that I go to and moving to an office that doesn’t accept my insurance. We’ll have to figure out what to do about that.
But as you can see, there was also some good news, Heather was cured from her diabetes! Now to learn that move…
-Jennifer Cruze, @jenniferct1d