New diabetes technology provides safety, security

Genesis patient anxious to use new pump system

Pam Davis has Type 1 diabetes and knows all too well what can happen when her blood sugar suddenly dips too low. She has wrecked her car twice. Her husband has had to give her middle-of-the-night injections of Glucagon to bring her out of an insulin reaction.

Although an insulin pump has helped her maintain better control of her blood sugar over the past four years, she still doesn’t always wake up or hear when her pump sounds an alert that her blood sugar is dangerously low. She wears hearing aids.

Now, a new insulin pump and sensor system recently approved by the FDA is about to change her life and protect her from the potentially deadly consequences of low blood sugar. The technology is so groundbreaking, the FDA has created a new category for it -- artificial pancreas device system.

Pam Davis

Pam Davis of Davenport, who has Type 1 diabetes,
will soon learn how to use the new Medtronic MiniMed 530G
with Enlite – new breakthrough technology to protect her
from the potentially deadly consequences of low blood sugar.
The system will automatically shut off insulin delivery when
its sensor detects blood sugar levels that are too low and
the patient doesn’t respond to its alarm. She is a patient
of the Genesis Diabetes Care Center.

Davis of Davenport is among 40 patients of the Genesis Diabetes Care Center who have received and soon will be trained to use the new Medtronic MiniMed 530G with Enlite -- the first U.S. system of its kind to automatically shut off insulin delivery when its sensor detects blood sugar levels that are too low and the patient doesn’t respond to its alarm.

The device, for people with diabetes age 16 and older who require insulin, is considered an important step toward the creation of an artificial pancreas. Such a “pancreas” would be fully automated and -- in the future -- mimic the insulin delivery of a healthy pancreas.

“Not only is this system going to improve quality of life, but it’s going to be life-saving for some people with diabetes,” says Marsha Menke, Manager of the Genesis Diabetes Care Center.

“A lot of times, people with severe nocturnal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are deep sleepers and may not wake up with some of the early symptoms or they may have hypoglycemia unawareness. By the time they do wake up, they may not be capable of treating themselves. If their blood sugar gets too low, they can have a seizure, become unconscious or even die.”

A life-saving device

For years, Menke has been on-call at night to help those patients who have received a new insulin pump. For the first week on the pump, they are given certain blood sugar level parameters and instructed to check every few hours, including at midnight and 3 a.m. If their levels are over or under, they are urged to give her a call at home.

She occasionally sacrifices sleep because she knows it’s so important to make sure their blood sugar levels remain at a safe level over night.

The new Medtronic pump and sensor system is about to make her night’s sleep a whole lot better.  “With this new system, I don’t think I’ll be getting many calls,” Menke says. “This will provide patients with a real sense of security.”

A large percentage of low blood sugars occur overnight, and many people sleep through those lows. They can wake up soaked in sweat or their partner or spouse can find them seizing or unconscious.

The Medtronic system brings peace of mind because it has a threshold alarm and an automatic shut-off mechanism. The pump will stop delivering insulin if those levels reach the low threshold set on the device by their medical provider.

More security

Pam Davis, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 30 years ago, first learned about the new Medtronic MiniMed 530G with Enlite while watching a diabetes web program last December. She wanted one so badly, she gave the company a call.

Almost a year later, and with the system’s approval by the FDA in September, Davis recently received her new pump system in the mail.  She will undergo training to use it next week with the help of the Genesis Diabetes Care Center.

“I liked that the new pump system has a louder siren, so if I’m not wearing my hearing aids I can hopefully hear it,” Davis says. “It also gives warnings if your blood sugar is getting too low, and if you don’t do anything to correct it, it automatically shuts off the insulin delivery.”

Previous systems did not have the automatic shutoff mechanism. Also, the new Enlite sensor has a 31 percent improvement in overall accuracy from the previous generation. It provides better glucose control compared to multiple daily injections, is more comfortable and is easier to insert with a hidden introducer needle and a one-button insertion process.

Throughout her years with diabetes, Davis has been plagued with blood sugars that suddenly dip without warning. Often, she is unaware when this is occurring.

“Before I was on an insulin pump, I wrecked my car twice because of low blood sugars -- one of those times I ended up in a culvert and totally wrecked my car,” Davis says. Each time, she was on her way home to Davenport, bypassed her house, and ended up in Walcott without any recollection of how she got there.

Several times in the middle of the night, her husband has given her injections of Glucagon, a potentially life-saving treatment for insulin coma or insulin reaction caused by severe low blood sugar. “You’re in severe trouble if you have dangerously low blood sugar in the middle of the night and you don’t wake up,” Davis says.

To this day, her husband worries if she is out shopping and stays away later than expected; it crosses his mind that she may have collapsed from low blood sugar. She’s ecstatic for the new pump system for the peace of mind it will bring her and her husband.

“When I was first diagnosed 30 years ago, I thought ‘There will never be anything in my lifetime to help.’ I’m so glad to be wrong,” Davis concludes.

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