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Artificial Pancreas Algorithm Project

A Patient's Story

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It seems nobody has added a story here so I thought I would share my personal experience with diabetes from a patient's (and engineer's) perspective. Feel free to add your own, I'm just getting this section going.


My name is Brennan Lentz and before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I already knew a lot about it. That is because my younger sister Jordan was diagnosed with it about 5 years before me. She was only about 9 or 10 when she was diagnosed, and my parents figured out something was wrong when she was always drinking tons of liquids and could never seem to satisfy her thirst. Of course we all know that meant she had very high BG levels, but at the time you can imagine how scared everyone was, because none of us knew anything about it. We were on a family vacation in Pennsylvania when it got really bad for her, so we took her to the doctor as soon as we got back home. I was at school when she was diagnosed, and I remember all too vividly what it was like to come home that night. The house was very somber, very worried, and my parents were sobbing. My dad of course knew nothing about the disease and overreacted, saying things like "she might have to get her feet amputated" and ignorant crap like that. I later found out that she was nowhere near problems like that, which of course are possible if you do not take good care of your diabetes, but at the time I was only in High School and it freaked me out. My sister has always had bad luck when it comes to health. She had an eye problem when she was 2 and had to wear a patch and get glasses. Her jaw was growing crooked and later she had to get major surgery to fix it, as well as have braces twice. And did I mention she once had a tumor on her ear lobe that had to be surgically removed? Yeah, I didn't envy her health, but she was still happy, until we found out about her diabetes.


I remember the screams for the first few weeks after she got back from her week long stay in the hospital. She was terrified of needles, as was I, and taking shots before a meal were a big ordeal and ended up with her and my mom both crying. My mom had to give her the shots because she was still too afraid to do it herself and of course if the shot hurt my mom would get blamed. It was a very bad, somber situation in our household, but at the same time we had to act positive for my sister and let her know it was going to be alright. I gave up eating bad food since she couldn't have most of that stuff anymore - goodbye Dairy Queen Blizzards, haha. At the same time I always had this thought in the back of my head: "What if I get it? I am terrified of needles, I couldn't do it. I just couldn't, no way, no how." I tried to ignore it when her doctor told me I had a +- 80% chance of getting diabetes, now that my sister has it.


So my life was chugging along, and I got through High School just fine and went to college. I am going to the University of Iowa for Electrical/Computer Engineering and I also joined the Hawkeye Marching Band. I played saxophone in High School and I didn't want to stop playing, so that combined with my love of Hawkeye Football made joining the HMB a no-brainer. So the year is now 2006, and at the end of the season it became clear that the Hawkeyes were going to a bowl game. It ended up being the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, TX, and I got to go for free with the band. Little did I know the trip wouldn't be so fun. I had sneaky suspicion something was wrong because I was always very thirsty for water. I chalked it up to being dehydrated from the warm weather, but I started to realize I was more thirsty after eating. I had an ice cream cone one night and had to use the bathroom literally 15 minutes later. I'm used to never having to go to the bathroom so this was quite a shock. Again, I tried to ignore it. Finally it was the day of the game and we were all dressed in our marching band uniforms. Marching in a full uniform on a hot day while sweating is sure to cause dehydration and thirst, so I made nothing of it that I was so thirsty all the time. It was the worst feeling because I was so incredibly thirsty but I could spend 10 minutes at the drinking fountain and still not feel quenched. At this point I knew I was going to have to go to the bathroom during the game so I made sure to make a pit stop before it started. Well that wasn't good enough. Around the end of the first half my bladder was about to explode, literally. I've never felt something so intense in my life. We aren't supposed to leave the stands during the game so I was literally thinking about using an empty water bottle - that's how bad it was. I really think my bladder would have burst if I waited any longer. I finally had the courage to sneak out and run to the bathroom, and it was at this moment that I knew something was wrong. I had to deal with it the rest of the trip, which was hard when we were on a bus for hours on end and I couldn't drink anything. When I got back home I gave in to my fears and used my sister's finger poker and strips to test my BG. It was in the 500's. Well crap.


So now it has been almost 3 years since my diagnosis and my sister and I are both on the pump. She uses a Minimed Paradigm and I use the Animas 2020. Like I said, I am a computer engineer, so having a piece of ancient technology connected to me at all times isn't too fun. The pump is a great invention, but the more I use it the more I realize it has flaws, and it is not a true life-long solution for me. That's when I started doing some research on designing my own pump and the artificial pancreas project, which recently led me here. I just wanted to say you guys are on the right track and I really appreciate all of the time people are putting into this. I really think this is the best use of our time right now, because I don't honestly believe a cure to diabetes will be found in my lifetime. If you have diabetes I am sure you have heard this phrase every year: "A cure is 5-10 years away." That would be great if it wasn't the equivalent of saying "I'll figure it out tomorrow." Well when is tomorrow? 5 years from now? 100 years from now? I hope not. So keep on doing what you're doing and I'll be around to help out when I can. Good luck everyone!

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