Off the Dial

Welcome to my home for my take on everything diabetes-related. Here is where I try to keep my son’s condition in perspective, and share hopeful and inspiring stories, opinions, and knowledge, as well as our common struggles. Join me to share your wisdom, too. We’re in this together.

Win Jerry the Bear!

Jerry the BearThis week on Diabetes Connections I’m talking to the inventors of Jerry the Bear, an amazing teaching toy that helps kids with type 1 diabetes or food allergies learn through play.  I’m excited to announce I’m giving away one Jerry the Bear!

Listen to the podcast to find out how Sproutel’s founders Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz continue to improve their award-winning and adorable product. They’ve even been honored by the White House. Then enter to win!

Click here to enter the contest. Just fill out the form!

Contest begins 11/24/2015 and closes 12/8/2015. Entries accepted via this form. Shipping outside the U.S. voids the repair warranty on Jerry the Bear (please be aware if you enter and do not live in the USA). Winner chosen at random from all entries and may choose either expansion pack (type 1 diabetes or food allergies).  Jerry will ship in the summer of 2016 (this is the earliest available shipping date). Click here & scroll down for FAQ about this latest version of Jerry the Bear featured in our contest.

The Diabetes-Free Day

animaspingLike most parents of kids with diabetes, I worry about burnout. That’s why we tried something I call The Diabetes-Free Day.

New column up over at Animas: 

My friends who’ve been through the teen years talk about burnout and warn me about expecting him to do too much at a young age. We help a lot at home with site changes and BG checks when he wants. At the same time, I think he’d be insulted if I told him he couldn’t or shouldn’t take care of himself at school or a when he’s away from home…

When Benny came home (from non-d sleep-away camp) this year, I had a funny idea. He’d done an amazing job and only had a couple of bad lows and highs; overall he’d kept his blood sugar in a really good range. But I knew it was a lot of work and a lot of brain power. So I made him an offer, “How about a diabetes-free day?” I asked.

(click here to keep reading)

Hey, local media!

I’m a little frustrated with how diabetes awareness month is being covered here in Charlotte. I know, I know. There’s a month for everything, no one has a full time health reporter anymore and I can just hear an EP saying, “We need to deliver real news that’s compelling to our audience.”

Lucky you, I’m here to help! I’ve worked in TV & radio in this town for more than 15 years and I know this audience. This town cares. Wants to help. Wants to learn. So, step it up, Charlotte media. Not sure how? Here you go:

Cover Reegan’s Rule. A first of its kind legislation in the nation. Passed in September and is now being considered by other states. This will affect every child born in North Carolina. Legit hard news out of the NC Leg. and you haven’t touched it. Now’s still a good time.

Profile the newly diagnosed 11-year-old, playing in her first soccer game since she left the hospital. Last week, she was worried about scoring. Now, she has to balance what she eats, how much insulin she takes and her activity. Her mom and dad cheer on the sideline, gripping insulin pens and glucose tabs, trying not to show her that they are scared out of their minds.

Talk to the young man who told his doctor that he wanted to be a pediatric endocrinologist when he grew up, “just like you.” His doctor said, “Sure, and if you do it, I’ll hire you.” They now work together, seeing the hundreds of kids in our area who need their help.

Learn about the man who lost his mother to diabetes last year and is now dedicated to raising money to send kids to life-changing diabetes camps. He’s got a great Panthers-themed fundraiser this weekend.

Introduce the teenager who is starting a mentoring program. He wants young kids with type 1 to see that it’s okay and even cool to wear the tech that keeps them healthy (like insulin pumps and CGMs) and he’s working to pair up high school students with younger kids.

Need more? Charlotte is full of amazing people with diabetes.

We have an Ironman triathlete, an woman with T1D who is a successful islet-cell transplant recipient (part of a clinical trial, she no longer needs to take insulin), an accomplished drummer and musician who says his T1D diagnosis saved his life as he is now a recovering alcoholic. There are ordinary kids like my son who just wants to play Minecraft and football but has pricked his finger more than 25-thousand times since he was diagnosed almost nine years ago. There are ordinary adults living with type 1 (that’s why they don’t call it “Juvenile” anymore).

Shine a warm light on the people here with type 2 diabetes, keeping silent this month because of the shame and blame. The jokes about #diabetes on social media and the accusations they brought it on themselves. Consider explaining what gestational diabetes is (and why we have to drink that gross orange soda while we’re pregnant).

Diabetes isn’t a rare illness. But it can be invisible. It can encourage isolation. We need to talk about it more. So c’mon, show us you’re truly On Your Side, The News Leader, & Looking Out For You

And if you can’t make a compelling story out of any of this, what are you doing in media?




That’s nice. What is a podcast?

DC_FinalLogo_GrayBkgrnd_PodcastI started the Diabetes Connections podcast this past June and I’m having a blast. Talking to interesting people, learning more about a topic I have great passion for and getting back behind the microphone. What’s not to like?

However, quite a few friends and even several guests have said to me, “Wow, you’ve started a podcast?! That’s so cool. What exactly is that??”

A podcast is basically a radio show that you listen to whenever you want on whatever device you want. They first got popular back when the iPod was introduced. People realized they could create their own shows on computers and other people could find them on the internet and upload them to this newfangled version of the Walkman. A lot has changed, they’re much easier to put onto your mobile device for one thing, but the name stuck. iPod. Podcast.

Most regular radio shows have a podcast version as well. Almost always, it’s what they’ve already aired, just available when you want it, on demand. The vast majority of podcasts, though, are created by people who don’t work for a radio station. Some have millions of listeners and are professional operations. Others get 10 downloads and sound like they’re produced in their mother’s basements.  (More cool info from Pew research here)

podcast app graphicIt’s pretty easy to listen. If you have an iPhone or iPad, the native podcast app looks like this.  Just tap it and enter “Diabetes Connections” in the search. You can also ask Siri to find it for you. (“Siri, find Diabetes Connections Podcast”) Once you find it, you can subscribe so you never miss an episode, or just pick whatever episode you find interesting at that moment. Or, just click here for my iTunes link.

stitcherAndroid users have lots of options, too. Pocket Casts is usually the top-rated app, but it’s not free. You can check out Stitcher Radio for Podcasts, which is. I’m an Apple person, so if you know of a great Android podcast app, please leave it in the comments! There really are dozens of podcast apps; my show should be listed just about everywhere. Here’s a link to my show on Stitcher.

Since most new cars now come equipped with Bluetooth, it’s easy to listen while you drive. Just play the show from the phone and use the Bluetooth to connect with your car’s sound system. You can also listen from your laptop, most podcasts have a website. Here’s mine (so convenient, right?!).

About one third of Americans listened to a podcast last year, so there are still a lot of you who’ve haven’t. I hope this helps you take the plunge, whether you listen to my show or any of the tens of thousands of podcasts being produced right now. For more info, this is a great explainer from the Wall Street Journal, complete with apps they recommend and podcasts they love.

If you like mine, please share it with anyone you know who’s touched by diabetes. I love creating this show. I hope you love listening to it.

Grateful? Yes. Quiet? No way.

tslim_G4_with_TransmitterLast week, Tandem announced that the FDA approved their new T-Slim G4 Combo, integrating the pump with the Dexcom G4 CGM transmitter. Along with the Animas Vibe, that gives us two G4 integrated pumps, systems where you can see blood sugar readings on the pump screens. That’s great news.

The bad news (to quote this article from Diabetesmine):

Tandem’s new combo device is nearly obsolete on arrival given that last Fall, Dexcom rolled out an advanced algorithm that’s more accurate than its original G4 and that new algorithm is not included here. Moreover, Dexcom’s G5 direct-to-smartphone sensor was also just approved by FDA and will be available in the coming weeks — putting Tandem another square behind the latest tech. 

animas_vibe_features(The Animas Vibe is also G4 integrated and not compatible with the new G5. I have an agreement with Animas.)

This mixed news touched off an interesting social media conversation about appreciating what we have in terms of diabetes technology. Many people expressed excitement about how fast new gear is getting FDA-approval and coming to market.  Others – like me – expressed frustration.

A good example of the first way of thinking is this this well-written and thoughtful post  by Kari W. A few tweets throughout the day from others asked the DOC to just be thankful for what we have, that we’re “beyond blessed” with d-tech and what else could we possibly want?

The second is illustrated by D-Dad Greg Dooley writing that his 5 year old daughter’s Omnipod system failed three times. Three pod failures and a belly-up PDM.  A friend posting on Facebook that her son just switched to a T-Slim and one of the first comments is a warning to be careful. “The screen is delicate. (My daughter’s) dropped it and cracked it twice.” Our Animas Ping system hasn’t changed since 2008, but we still think it’s the best option for my son and stayed with it this summer when our four-year pump choice window opened up (don’t even get me started on that).

When I posted these examples, and that I felt d-tech lags behind other sectors, I was told the tech has come a “tremendously long way in ten years” and “what more did I want out of a pump?”

Really? Glad you asked!

I want an agnostic system where my pump talks to my CGM and my phone. I want to be able to program a temp basal in advance (say, for 5pm baseball practice tomorrow night) for any amount of time. I want a meter remote that can be used without cancelling pump communication with a CGM or a phone. I want insets and CGM sensors that stick better, with less irritation, that last longer and hurt less. I want more choices of what insulin can be used in what pump and a system that’s less susceptible to pressure and temperature changes or static. I’d love to change my alarm chimes & volume as easily as I change ring tones on my phone. Better brightness adjustment on meters would be good too. How about more accurate meters while we’re at it? To say nothing of the bionic or artificial pancreas (and of course we all want a cure, but that’s a different post…).

I don’t understand why I have to be just be grateful for the diabetes technology we have.  I’m inspired by We Are Not Waiting and CGM in the Cloud even though I do not remote monitor very often (and I’ve never used Nightscout). Without the push from these groups, I truly believe Dexcom would have left the Share cradle on the market a lot longer, and we wouldn’t be talking about the FDA approving the G5 this quickly. But, the moves ahead in CGM technology lead us to wonder why the pumps don’t seem to keep up speed. I know they’re different companies, I know it’s propriety, I know we’re told it’s complicated and medical, but it’s 2015. This thing should talk to that thing (hat tip, James Wedding of the Nightscout Foundation).

Of course, of course, of course, I’m grateful that we have access to insulin let alone all the higher tech gear I’ve talked about. I’m thrilled and thankful that we aren’t sharpening or boiling needles at home. But is this our standard? Be happy it’s not as bad as it was? Unless we push, things will not change. Unless we demand better, we won’t get it. Our kids and our community won’t thank us for not speaking up. They’ll be glad we did.

#DOCburnout2015 – Feel the Burn


Interesting blog prompt today from Diabetes Daily. They want our stories about social media burnout.

At this moment, I’m not really feeling the burn on social media, probably because I’m  starting to use it in a whole different way. I started my podcast, Diabetes Connections, a few weeks ago; I have additional Facebook and Twitter accounts to manage. The beginnings of things are always shiny and new, so it’s fun right now. I’m even using Facebook ads for the first time this week. It’s got me firing some cylinders I haven’t used before.

However, in my personal accounts, over the past year I’ve disengaged from a bunch of diabetes parenting Facebook groups.  I post and comment a lot less.  I love the support that social media brings. It’s helped me find my place in this community and I like to think it’s helping me help my son become more independent and confident in his diabetes management. But I also feel like there’s a lot of judging and comparing going on.

Parenting with diabetes is difficult, in part, because parenting is difficult. We all do this in our own way. What works for me may horrify you. Like those crazy energetic moms on Pinterest taking hours to create amazing school lunches. I make my kids’ lunches and they will never look like that. While DOC conversations are less about cutting sandwiches into fancy shapes, there still seems to be a competition over who can out-parent. Night checks, remote monitoring, what pump to use, what to do at school. These are all important topics for parents of kids with diabetes, but sometimes talking about them feels like wading into a minefield.

I’ve gotten a little fed up with the judgement and the “my way or the highway” crowd and this feeling that I’m not doing a good enough job. To that end, I’ve removed myself from a lot of groups and I avoid certain topics on my blog. I’m still happy to chime in with advice if someone asks, as long as they understand that works for me may not be best for them.

Honestly, I think so much of this comes from fear. It’s hard enough to think we might not measure up as parents – thinking we may not measure up as diabetes parents is terrifying, because we think our kids will pay the price. But we’re all just doing the best we can. We all love our kids and we all want what’s best for them.

For now, I’m going to keep to the few groups I’m in and concentrate on my real-life connections. When the social media burn gets to be a bit too much, a good in-person conversation (or a podcast interview!) brings me back to feeling connected, valued and heard. Things that can get easily lost in the noise online.



Diabetes Connections – DHF

I can’t believe I’m already at Episode 13 of the podcast. To celebrate lucky number 13, I’m excited to direct you to the Diabetes Connections website. You can listen directly to the episodes through that site, but of course, you can still subscribe and listen through iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, etc. The website will also feature links to sites and topics we talk about about.

This week I’m talking to Melissa Lee, the interim executive director of Diabetes Hands Foundation. Their slogan is: no one with diabetes should ever feel alone. You’ll hear that Melissa did feel alone with her diabetes for a very long time, and how she came to find support.

I’m also speaking to Kelly Kunik about I Wish People Knew That Diabetes…. It started as a hashtag on twitter and is now blossoming into an exciting new campaign. Plus, we are now back to school around here and, while I miss the flexibility and fun of summer, I’m really excited to get back into our routine. I’ll tell you more about why.


Click on this friendly square to go to the new website!

Listen to the episode and click on  the Helpful Links over at the new site. Thanks!


Murphy’s Law

Is there a name for when everything goes wrong with diabetes? Ugh.

Benny is in the middle of practice/tryouts for this baseball season. Today was business as usual, he went to the pool for a little while, enjoying the day of before school with neighborhood friends. He had an ice cream and used his pump to give himself insulin. But, the inset was coming out, then it came out, so the insulin never got in. And his Dexcom came out too. So when we checked him just after the pool as he got dressed for baseball, he was over 400. And he felt it.

We decided to change the inset, guzzle some water and head over the practice. He could sit in the dugout or just play catch until he felt better and his BG went down. But the first inset we tried bounced off his skin. ?? That was new. The second one really stung and immediately we saw blood running up the tube and out of the inset. Seriously? Did I mention he also got smacked in the eye at the pool (by accident, he’s fine)

We needed to gather some strength for a 3rd inset or for a shot. So I let him rest for a few minutes. Thankfully the third inset worked and we got some insuling into him. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel well enough to practice. He did suit up and we headed over to the field, but I could tell it just waasn’t going to happen.

If you read this blog or listen to my podcast, you know I’m a pretty positive person; we try not to let diabetes stop us. But sometimes it stops us cold. It sucks.  This one got to me. I was tearing up all the way home. It’s those small stolen moments that diabetes takes. Small things like this, I mean one practice si’t hte end of the world and the last time we had any inset problems was two hyears ago, so it’s not huge in the scheme of things. But it’s just the crud you have to deal with that shoudl be a second thought for a ten year old who just wants to play ball.


Camp and Professor X

Summer is almost over around here. You may have until after Labor day, but our kids go back to class on Monday. Enough time for one last camp story.

Both my kids go away to camp, for almost four weeks, about four hours away from our home. They love it and have been doing it for years. It’s not a diabetes camp and while I worry, we’ve worked hard with the cooperative and fabulous staff to make this a safe and fun experience.

Every year, a few counselors write notes for the kids to open in the car on the way home. This was Benny’s:

When we got home, Benny put this on our fridge (he never puts anything there) and I have a feeling it’s going to stay up for a while. Thank you, Dylan, for making my son feel like a super hero. Managing diabetes is a difficult and relentless task. How nice to have someone notice and let you know you’re doing great.

(just in case… the drawing is of Marvel’s Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart in the X-Men movies. click here for more Marvel fun & info)


Diabetes Connections – Sebastien Sasseville

This week’s guest has been called an inspirational endurance athlete. And how. When I was writing up the bio I use to introduce each guest, I realized that his accomplishment of climbing Mt Everest wasn’t even at the top.

I first heard about Sebastien Sasseville during his run across Canada last year. He ran the equivalent of 180 marathons over 9 months to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed at the age of 22.  It was a thrill to speak to him and learn more about what motivates him to push himself.

Also this week, if you’re an adult with type 1, the people at the Friends for Life conference have a message for you – they want to know what you’re looking for. What would bring you to Friends for Life?:



Sebastien Sasseville  (official site)

Sebastien Sasseville, Outrun Diabetes

Blogs/websites I mentioned:


Scott Johnson’s blog (news & information)

The Perfect D

Do you have feedback for Kerri about adults and Friends For Life? She asks that you contact her over Twitter: @sixuntilme (If you’re not on Twitter, email me here and I’ll get it to Kerri)