I got a new car a couple of years ago and in pure German auto-engineering genius, there are alerts and alarms and warnings for absolutely everything! I thought that this was wonderful and a sure sign that I was driving the world’s safest car.
Until the alarms started. The car has front, rear and side sensors. This is ostensibly to assist with parking. Now, I’m a great parker – I’ve lived in inner-Melbourne for a long time. I can negotiate a tight parking space incredibly well and love to prove people wrong when they dismissively pronounce ‘You can’t fit in there.’ ‘Oh yes I can, ye of little faith! Just watch me!’
Despite my superior parking abilities, I was more than happy to have a bit of technology to help out and make things even easier. I got used to the lights that flashed like a Christmas tree when I was getting too close to the car in front and the gentle beeping that became more and more persistent as I approached any object.
After two days of driving, I called the dealer, asked to be put through to their service centre, asked to speak to the senior mechanic and said ‘turn those effing sensors off.’ ‘Ha ha’, he laughed in a German accent. ‘Not possible!’
The problem wasn’t that the sensors weren’t helpful when I was parking; actually, they were great. The problem was that they went off when I didn’t need them to.
Sitting at a red light, the front sensors would sound if someone walked too close to the bonnet of the car. If a bike came too close to the rear or side, the sensors would go off too. Why? If I am stationary and someone is walking too close to my car, surely the alarm should be for them, not me.
It turns out, that there was no way that I was going to be able to have the alerts turned off.
My insulin pump has been designed by someone trained in German auto-engineering
sadism genius. Again, there are alerts and alarms for everything. Connect it to my CGM and it makes vibrating sounds all the freaking time. The soundtrack to my life is a buzzing, beeping little box.
Now generally, these alarms are great – especially the ones that alert me to rapidly falling BGLs BEFORE it becomes a hypo problem.
But some of the others drive me nuts.
The YOUR BLOOD SUGAR IS ABOVE 14. DO SOMETHING NOW. DO SOMETHING NOW. DO SOMETHING NOW alarm is unhelpful to say the least. This one comes up when I am entering my BGL meter result into my pump to give myself a correction bolus. This frustrates me no end and usually results in me having this conversation with my pump (we will workshop that last statement another day):
Firstly, I know my BGL is above 14, you judgemental little pump, because I just did a BGL check on my meter and it told me (in a significantly LESS judgemental way). I am entering it into your system, you judgemental little pump, so again, I know what the number is. Also, I am plugging it into your correction bolus wizard so you can do some clever maths and tell my how much insulin I need in order to stop being so high. So quite frankly, you and this particular little alert can shove it up your judgemental little pump-ass.
This alarm cannot be turned off.
The problem with all the alarms and alerts (and bells and whistles) is that we stop responding to them. I know that I almost never wake up anymore when my pump alarms. Sometimes, it’s just telling me that the battery is getting low and I should change it. That’s an alarm that can wait until morning, rather than causing pump-alert-anger in others woken by the incessant noise.
I understand that the main reason for these alarms is safety. I really do get that what the pump company (and car designers) are trying to do is alert to and reduce risky situations.
But when there are so many alerts and alarms and warnings, having to deal with the ones that are less important to us means that we can stop paying attention to all of them – including the really useful ones! I know that’s what I do.
In my perfect world, my perfect pump will be completely customisable and only warn me of things I really need to know. Actually, in my perfect world, I won’t have diabetes. But for the sake of this, in my perfect world, I have perfect diabetes that is managed by my perfect pump. Perfect.