My Animas Vibe #PumpTrial

Since mid-2012, I have received product and supplies gratis from Animas (a Ping insulin pump with monthly supplies). In December 2014, I was provided with the Animas Vibe system, a Dexcom G4 Platinum sensor, and a Diasend kit to evaluate at no charge to me. Following are my impressions about the product as I experienced it. Animas has not seen or vetted this post prior to me publishing it.

Dec. 19 I started a trial of the Animas Vibe insulin pump:

Since the start of the trial I enjoyed seeing a few small things that I had longed having on my pump. But I will start with the bigger things that most PWD who are not on the Vibe may be wondering about.

THE BIG THING: Dexcom-integration
I am fairly open about my personal preference towards the Dexcom G4 CGM given its accuracy vs. other CGM systems in the market. So any pump that integrates with it I favor over others because CGM has been a diabetes technology that has saved my life countless times. While Tandem is on track to integrate with the Dexcom G4 next, and Asante will do so with the G5 further down the road, at this point the Animas Vibe is the only insulin pump that integrates with the Dexcom CGM.

Seeing on the same screen the glucose trend arrows along with the Insulin On Board (IOB): priceless!

A “chubby” downside:
The transmitter you use with the Animas Vibe is the “chubby” G4 (see it on the left, below), not the slim one (on the right, below). Not a HUGE deal… just a HUGE transmitter. Get it? ;)

Update (Jan. 6, 2015):
Heard this from fellow #DOC members, Melissa Lee and Mike Hoskins:

An upside:
As Kerri pointed out, you can pair the same transmitter to your Animas Vibe AND to one or more Dexcom G4 receivers at the same time.

A potential “downside” down the road:
Dexcom has gotten us a bit spoiled in recent months with the release of the Dexcom Share and the 505 algorithm, which increased their accuracy even more (although you can only upgrade the Dexcom receiver, connecting it to a PC).

There’s no doubt that Dexcom will continue to innovate, and by the time the Dexcom G5 is approved, unfortunately it will not be compatible with the Animas Vibe. Dexcom is supposed to submit the G5 to FDA any day now, so I am hopeful that the Animas team is working diligently to keep up with the pace of innovation, in order to make sure that there is not such a long wait for an Animas pump that can take full advantage of the latest in CGM at that point.

Most of the small improvements on the Animas Vibe pump did away with a number of annoying “features” that I could have totally done without, and welcome with arms wide open:

The first one you can witness on the Vine video below… You REALLY cannot blink, otherwise you will miss it:

Basically, with the Animas Ping you have to press the UP arrow all the way to the total bolus you want to administer, which can be fairly annoying if you are giving yourself anything over 1 unit of insulin. With the Animas Vibe, you only need to press the UP arrow once and the calculated amount of insulin gets populated on the Bolus Total screen. Yay to small improvements! :)

The SECOND improvement which I was VERY happy to see only becomes apparent when you change an infusion site or a battery. When you do either one of these things on an Animas Ping, your combo bolus default values (duration and Normal/Extended percentages) get reset. I cannot describe how much this “feature” has driven me nuts since I’ve been on the Animas. While, I didn’t have the chance to test it with a battery change, I did see the improvement with site changes. Now, your combo bolus default values do NOT get reset with site changes! Yay to more small improvements! :D

There’s one lost feature that will be missed by many: the Animas Vibe does NOT have the companion OneTouch that doubles as BG meter and remote. It is a very unfortunate loss that takes value away from the product. Though I can live with this shortcoming, I’ve read about women who wear their pump on their bra or caregivers (parents as well as spouses of PWD) for whom this feature will constitute a deal-breaker. Again, this is an area where I am hopeful the feature will be restored with an eye on innovation not simply catching up.

There’s ONE last small improvement that exposed me to a feature of the Animas pump that I didn’t know about. Ironically it only became apparent as a serendipitous result of remote meter no longer being available: I am referring to the Food database. As it turns out (not sure why it was so, but clearly it buried the feature) the Food database was only accessible through the BG meter remote: you could not access it through the pump. Hence, why I never used it (or even knew it was there, although I did get trained on the pump): I only bolus from the BG meter/remote for BG. For carbs (the place in the navigation menu where the Food database is found) I always bolus from the pump.

There you have it! That’s my experience with the Animas Vibe during my two-week trial. Let me know if you have any questions: I will do my best to answer them. Beyond the Animas, I HIGHLY recommend you read Melissa Lee’s super-thorough comparison of all pumps on the market, that she published a few weeks ago on ASweetLife.

3 Secret Weapons for Nonprofits

As you may know by now, the past seven years I have been President of Diabetes Hands Foundation, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that aims to connect, empower, and mobilize people touched by diabetes for positive change, so that nobody living with diabetes may feel alone.

In the process of growing the organization, we have encountered a number of valuable tools and resources that have been instrumental in support of our mission. I wanted to share three of them that I have been meaning to write about for some time:

1) Techsoup
Nonprofits need software. But software can come in at a steep price, specially packages like Adobe PhotoShop and others that are important as part of creating and maintaining your nonprofit brand. Enter Techsoup!

They aim to connect nonprofits, charities, or public libraries with tech products and services, plus learning resources to make informed decisions about technology. Their free resources are available to all users. Once registered and qualified with TechSoup, nonprofits and libraries can access donated and discounted products and services from partners like Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec.

2) Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group
Nonprofits (as any other business) also need insurance. The Nonprofit Insurance Alliance Group provides a stable source of liability insurance tailored to the specialized needs of the nonprofit sector, and assist their members with programs, tools and training that minimize their risk, protect their clients, employees and volunteers. Not only are they tailored for nonprofits: they are more affordable than other alternatives.

3) Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley
One of their programs is the Latino Board Leadership Academy, which is a bootcamp of sorts, that trains Hispanic executives in Silicon Valley to become the best possible nonprofit board members. We came to their 2014 “Nonprofit Match Night” and loved it. Indeed, we recruited one of our current board members that night! They interviewed me about my impressions on the event:

An eye opening experience at @CWDiabetes!

Blog post first posted on the DHF blog, Nov 19, 2014.

Last month, I had one of the most amazing experiences I have had with technology since I have been living with diabetes. It happened at the Focus On Technology conference organized by Children With Diabetes in Los Angeles (the first time they do this mini-Friends For Life in the west coast), which was a resounding success with 300+ attendees. My experience wasn’t with CGMs, insulin pumps, or some of the other devices available today for day-to-day diabetes management. I had the opportunity to have the most in-depth retinal screening I have ever had, conducted by a group of students of Dr. Ben Szirth (a true legend in diabetic retinopathy, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the topic), which concluded with a detailed review of the results with Dr. Ben himself.


Dr. Ben Szirth with DHF President, Manny Hernandez

He and his team work tirelessly to make software along with manufacturers that will catch eye complications earlier and help manage them before they get more serious. The machines, one of which speaks (giving you instructions to open/close your eyes, blink, etc.) not only do away with the need to dilate your pupils, but also allow them to collect data that is simply invisible unless you view it in a certain way. For instance, one of the machines takes multiples photos of the retina, in layer fashion, allowing them to conduct the equivalent to a histology of the retina, but without having to slice your eye (which of course we patients appreciate!) Here you can see me with one of the medical students by the talking machine:

Evernote Camera Roll 20141026 151028

The Optovue talking machine (which also speaks Spanish and other languages)

Dr. Ben has pioneered a lot of this technology, working with his Medical Students at the NJ Medical School, and with engineers from the companies that make the equipment, effectively pushing the technology well past the point that many of them believed to be possible. He tries to convey to manufacturers the importance of tools that will see the invisible. One of the most fascinating observations he is able to conduct is the result of a very intense flash from a Canon device that leaves your retina a bit groggy for a few moments (again, without any pupil dilation). It takes a B&W picture of the retina, which allows the visualization of micro-aneurysms typical of mild proliferative retinopathy. These are impossible to see in the color photos, but appear clearly when you take the photo using the higher intensity flash. You can see what I mean below, where the color and B&W photos of the same eye are shown. Evernote Camera Roll 20141026 145724 Evernote Camera Roll 20141026 145725


The bad news is that these are photos of one of my eyes. So I caught a glimpse into the future, as unprepared for it as I may have been, because this photo tells him what is going to happen. Dr. Ben said: “This is trying to be a bleeder. The more you do the ‘right thing’, this will disappear within six months.” The good news is I have the information to lower the risk of this blood vessel rupturing, potentially leading to a progression in retinopathy, by exercising more (to increase my Time in Range, doing a Big Blue Test or more every day) and drinking loads of water every morning (as Dr. Szirth recommended). I admit the news made me feel as shocked as I felt back when I got my diabetes diagnosis, back in 2002. It is unfortunately no surprise that this is happening now, since the past few months my diabetes management has not been the best, but it gives me an increased motivation to make sure I do all I can.