PETERSBURG, Ind. — At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Fran Lewis of Petersburg became the first person in Indiana to receive an artificial pancreas.
"It's like I have my pancreas in my pocket," she said excitedly from the Downtown Deaconess Clinic of her new insulin pump and sensor that incorporates technology just-approved by the FDA.
The device — a Medtronic MiniMed 530G with Enlite, is the first system in the U.S. that will automatically stop insulin delivery when the sensor detects glucose levels that are too low and the patient doesn't respond to the threshold suspend alarm, said Ann Freyberger, RD, CDE and senior diabetes clinical manager for Medtronic. The device is the company's "most accurate and comfortable continuous glucose sensor with a 31 percent improvement in overall accuracy from the previous generation."
The FDA created a new category for the device — artificial pancreas device system.
"This will provide patients with a sense of security," Freyberger said. "Seventy percent of low blood sugars occur overnight and many sleep through those lows. Sometimes they may wake up soaked in sweat or their partner or spouse will find them seizing."
But with the new technology just approved in September, the pump will stop delivering insulin if those levels reach the low threshold set on the device by the physician.
"This technology is important because we are one step closer to a closed loop system and finding the cure for Type 1 diabetes," Freyberger said. The next step will be a pump that not only can respond to levels of sugar that are too high by delivering insulin but it will also respond and treat levels that are too low.
Lewis, who is also president of the Petersburg Town Council, was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic at age 42. She described herself as a "very brittle diabetic" saying that because she is so small even the smallest amount of insulin greatly affects her. Lewis has been using an insulin pump for about 12 years.
"It's not just something I wear," she said of her pump. "It's a part of me. It allows me to keep track of my blood sugar and gives me glucose 24 hours a day instead of getting injections throughout the day. The pump allows me to keep tighter control of my disease and gives me freedom. I don't have to worry, 'Do I have needles with me? Did I bring my insulin?'"
This newest device though is so much more than a pump, she said.
"For me and my family it means peace of mind," Lewis said, referring to the threshold alarm and automatic shut off. "There's an alert prior to your sugar going too low, and you will have a chance to take care of it. And if you fail to do it, like if you are sleeping, then this new pump will shut down. During the night is always when I have the most trouble so this will almost be like I'm sleeping with a security blanket."
She was in need of a new pump when the new device was approved for use, and Lewis was a good candidate.
"I've always been an advocate for my own body," Lewis said. "This gives me a chance to help raise awareness and get word out about this device. I love spreading the word. It feels special to be the first although it just all fell into my lap."
Deaconess Certified Diabetes Educator Mandy Stevens, RN, CDE, CPT, said the device is life-changing for patients. The device can give patients more accurate dosages, tracks blood sugar throughout the day and helps give patients better control in managing the disease. And whereas the typical diabetic may require up to18 injections every three days, this device requires a small stick to change the sensor every six days and another small stick to change the infusion set, or tubing, every three days.
"This is the first of its kind," Stevens said. "We are a premier diabetes center here at Deaconess with four endocrinologists and a full staff of certified diabetes educators. There's no reason to travel anywhere."
The 530G is for patients with Type 1 or 2 Diabetes who require insulin and are 16 or older. Other insulin pumps are available for those under 16. Anyone interested in seeing if they are a candidate for the new device or any other pump should call their doctor or diabetes educator.
"The ability to have tighter control of your blood sugar will help prevent the complications of the disease that we often see with it," Stevens said.
Lewis said, even just having the device for just a few hours, that she already feels more comfortable and in control.
"My body is aging, and I want to take care of it the best I can," she said. "There are so many issues if you don't control your blood sugar -- problems with your kidneys, feet and eyes. This gives me tighter control like I have a properly functioning pancreas in my pocket."