Artificial Pancreas Offers Peace of Mind

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Alicia Hunt is one of the first people in Atlantic Canada, as well as one of the first people in the world, to get an artificial pancreas to help manage her diabetes. And she says it’s been changing her life for the better since day one.

Hunt has type 1 diabetes that is particularly difficult to control. She says it used to be next to impossible to keep her numbers in the normal range, which was dangerous to her health and left her constantly feeling lethargic and worried. Her diabetes was so hard to manage, in fact, that she had gotten on the list for a pancreas transplant. While a transplant would have cured her diabetes, it would also have required her to take immune-suppressing medications for the rest of her life to keep her body from rejecting the organ.

But then another option came along, one that still requires a lot of work but also alleviates a lot of life-or-death worry for Hunt—an artificial pancreas.

The artificial pancreas is a device worn outside the body in combination with an insulin pump. It uses radio frequency to communicate with a glucose sensor and monitors Hunt’s glucose levels constantly so it can administer insulin only as needed, just like a healthy pancreas would do.

Hunt no longer has to calculate her insulin dosage every time she eats a meal, and she doesn’t have to go to bed at night wondering whether she’ll have a serious and potentially life-threatening diabetic episode in the middle of the night, while she’s not conscious to be able to treat it.

“Before, it was next to impossible to manage my diabetes in a safe range,” says Hunt. “And now, I woke up this morning and my sugars were 5.8, and I was able to get up and make pancakes for breakfast and just feel good and have energy.”

The artificial pancreas does still require work, of course, such as regular manual blood sugar checks, and Hunt still has to wear it and her insulin pump on her body. However, the work is comparable to the effort she was putting into her diabetes management before and has the added benefit of taking away the constant worry.

“This isn’t just going to help me manage. This is not going to help us just live a more normal life. This is going to lengthen my life expectancy,” says Hunt. “I am going to be able to live and watch my daughter graduate and hopefully have a family of her own and, God willing, have grandchildren someday.”

For now, the device is only approved for type 1 diabetics, but as the technology continues to improve, it may eventually be possible for people with type 2 diabetes to manage their condition using an artificial pancreas as well.

Check out the video below to learn more about the artificial pancreas and see how it’s working out for Hunt.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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