Thursday, November 21, 2013

My own spirit squad

Customer service, it seems, is consistently spiraling downward. On social media there are tweets and posts galore of people sharing their frustrations about company xyz with no response from the company. Just when you think it is impossible to even experience the bare minimum of good customer service, you experience or witness customer service that leaves you blown away with amazement. It leaves you questioning if the amazing customer service actually happened or if you just imagined it. 

Working in the public relations industry, I tend to pay closer attention to customer service stories but have never had one that I've been anxious to share or felt an need to share. At least not until recently. 

I recently blogged about switching to a pump. I was absolutely terrified of the switch for many reasons. And it turning into a good decision. One of the reasons it has been good (and pretty easy) to switch has been the exceptional support of Medtronic, the company that makes my pump and CGM. 

I'm sure they are thrilled to sell their pumps and CGMs to make money, but their actions indicate to me that they are invested in all of their customers. Let me break down how they have been putting others to shame with their expectations of customer service:
  • While waiting for insurance to approve everything, they stayed in contact with me and worked with the insurance to get it approved;
  • When the two huge boxes of everything arrived, they called to schedule a time to walk me through everything, which helped to prevent me from having a full-on anxiety attack due to the massive amount of items and training books;
  • In that same call, they walked me through setting up my pump to continue my training;
  • Their certified trainer called and scheduled my pump training and provided me all of her contact information; 
  • The day after pump training, my trainer called to check in with me and make sure everything was going well; and
  • A week after wearing the pump, my other contact at Medtronic called to check in on me and see how I was doing with the pump.
All that is just the foundation of what they are doing. It gets better. 

My trainer responds as quickly as possible when I email, call or text with questions or concerns. For example, insurance wouldn't fill my insulin vial prescription because I had recently filled my insulin pens prescription. I let my trainer know after hours by e-mail and asked how I should proceed. She got back to me within 30 minutes and told me she'd grab a vial from my doctor in case I couldn't get one in time for training. Crisis adverted!

What is the icing on the cake though is their customer service efforts on social media, especially on Twitter (@MDT_Diabetes). If you look at their timeline, it appears they respond to every single tweet they receive or even are mentioned in. Even if it isn't a question but rather a comment. I've seen tweets about their new packaging and they responded how they were glad the person liked it. I tweeted about being excited about the various skins available for my pump and mentioned it's the small things. They responded agreeing that it is indeed the small things. 

My interaction with them today though is my favorite. 

It is as if I have my own spirit squad constantly cheering me on and providing support whenever I need it. Their support reminds me of this commercial

Here is an example when I didn't even name them and they immediately provided help. 

And another example of there cheeriness. 

It isn't fun having a chronic illness to deal with every single second and it seems they get that. By staying on top of what their customers are saying and responding to pleas for help and both positive and negative comments, it is impressive.

As a customer, it leaves you with the impression they truly care about you and not just the bottom dollar. I'm confident with the entire Medtronic team I'm working with along with my doctors, there is absolutely no way I will fail at having a pump and most likely have the best control I've had in ages of my diabetes. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Up and pumping

November 11 was a pretty big day for me. Exciting too. 

On my birthday, I got a huge package in the mail. It was actually sent in two boxes. Those boxes contained all these goodies: 
So much stuff!
As you can see, I made the decision (kind of) to switch to an insulin pump. I had what could be considered an anxiety attack going through all of the materials. There has to be at least five pounds of training materials -- and that doesn't even include all the videos on the website. 

My doctor and I selected the Medtronic MiniMed 530G with the Enlite sensor. The Enlite sensor is a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Together, they are being referred to as an artificial pancreas. It isn't quite an artificial one but it is one huge step closer. In fact, Time magazine named it as one of the top inventions for 2013

Medtronic takes their industry seriously. Trust me on this one. (I plan to write a blog about my experiences with them later this week). They didn't just send the supplies and let me figure it out. They called and walked me through opening up all the boxes. They connected me with a trainer, Ashley, so I could learn all about my pump! 

That is why Nov. 11 was a big day. An exciting day. I met with Ashley and she walked me through how to use my pump. She answered questions I had (even ones I considered silly and strange). She determined my starting rates for my basal and bolus along with my sensitivity factor and target range for blood sugars. 

For my wonderful non-diabetic readers -- basal is long acting insulin, the pump works like your pancreases do and gives me my insulin at a steady rate every hour to help control my blood sugars. Bolus is my fast acting and is taken when I eat food or to correct my blood sugars. It is the same insulin but disbursed differently. Sensitivity factor is how much my blood sugar will drop per every unit of insulin I take.

And then, after I learned and learned and everything was determined, she taught me how to prepare the reservoir (holds the insulin) and infusion set (tubing and connects the pump to your body). Next thing you knew, this was happening: 

Officially up and pumping
And then I was sent on my way. 

Ashley called the next day to see how it was going and the day after that went over my numbers with my doctor. I saw my doctor the day after that and we adjusted things such as my carb-to-insulin ratio and sensitivity factor. I'm convinced my doctor, Ashley and really, all of Medtronic, are going to make sure I do not fail at this.

With just over one week completed of wearing the pump, I've only had one error of messing up my reservoir but I'm okay with that because truth is, errors happen in life, especially when adjusting to something new. 

I'm not sure why I was so reluctant and hesitant to switch to the pump because already, my control seems much better and I'm feeling pretty optimistic. Maybe I can avoid some complications such as losing a limb or my eyesight or having my kidneys fail. 

Next week, on the 25th, I jump all in with this new management of my diabetes and learn all about my CGM and get that attached to me. The CGM takes your blood sugar approximately every 5 minutes 24/7. It works with the pump and will shut off your pump if your blood sugar gets too low so you don't receive additional insulin and continue staying low. 

But to summarize, I am now officially up and pumping. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The challenge of risotto

For my first cooking challenge, I decided to make risotto. Ambitious? Absolutely considering cheftestants are sent home from Top Chef for it. I’ve made risotto before – from the box mix. From scratch? Not so much. 

I chose the Basic Risotto recipe from Williams-Sonoma’sTools & Technique book. I raised the stakes by making the four cheese variation. Reviewing the recipe, it didn’t seem that hard. Only six steps. I went to the store and picked up my ingredients.

Mmm, cheese! I had planned to make it on Sunday but realized sine I wouldn’t be home the next three nights for dinner due to my work schedule, a lot of it would go to waste. That and I didn’t have win and the liquor store was not open on Sunday. Thankfully, cheese doesn’t go bad very quickly and I was able to wait until the following Sunday to make it.

Pretending to be a Top Chef but in reality was closer to a competitor on Worst Cooks in America, I prepared all my ingredients. And realized I potentially already failed at making the risotto. I bought shredded, not grated Parmesan and asiago cheeses. Fantastic. I decided to risk it because a) I didn’t want to go to the store and b) I had already bought the shredded cheese and had no other use for said cheese. No need to waste money.

Starting off, it wasn’t hard but then came steps four and five. Step four said to add the simmering chicken stock by the ladle until it is absorbed, which will take approximately 20 minutes. Step five said that after 20 minutes, taste the risotto and if needed add the reserved chicken stock. Crap. Was it another 20 minutes after the first 20 minutes in step four or were the 20 minutes in step five the same 20 minutes in step four? A total of 20 minutes or a total of 40 minutes? I called my sister in a panic because I had no clue. Thankfully, she wasn’t sure either but we determined they were the same 20 minutes, so 20 minutes total. Thank goodness – I was getting hungry. She then admitted that she had never successfully made risotto. Fantastic. Thanks sis! I realized at that moment I had a 99.9 percent chance of not be successful in this endeavor.

Once plated, it looked like the boxed risotto I had previously made. It tasted pretty good too. Different than the box but that used different types of cheeses. Also, mine probably wins in the sodium, preservatives, etc. count.

The finished product

Overall, I consider my first challenge a success and I can now mark off one of my cookbooks. I’ll work on selecting the next cookbook and recipe to tackle this weekend.

Diabetes wise, it was a guessing game in regards to nutrition. I still had a box of the other risotto in my cupboard so I used that nutrition label as a guideline to determine my serving size and carb count and for my curiosity, fat and calorie count.

If you know of a great website or app that lets you enter in a recipe to determine the nutrition, please let me know.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Taking ownership

It feels as if I've been tapping a reset button the entire month of October. It has been a theoretical reset button since you cannot completely reset your life as much as we would like to. Each time I've tapped this imaginary button, I've been making a change. Thinking about these changes and decisions I've made, I'm in awe of what they all together represent. The changes and decisions may seem small alone but together they result in a huge decision. At least for me. That decision -- I will not let my diabetes own me. I will own my diabetes. I refuse to continue to be ashamed of having a chronic illness that I never asked for. I promise you, as a child I was not praying every night for my pancreas to stop working so I could start injecting myself multiple times a day and poke my fingers daily numerous times. I get why you might think a kid would pray for that because it is the most awesome way to live. Side note: that was 100% sarcasm. Diabetes isn't the worst thing ever, it just isn't the greatest thing ever either. 

Here is the thing. I've had type one diabetes for 23 and a half year. The majority of my life. And I have never been okay with it. I have been ashamed of it because I've suffered some horrible lows at school, on trips and even at work. Even to this day people that have witnessed those lows "tease" me. To me, it comes across as mocking and I'd like to tell them off but that isn't socially acceptable. I've been ashamed because it made me different. Elementary school stunk because I was moved to the front of the entire lunch line to get my "special" hot lunch. Classmates complained because I had to eat a snack in the morning and afternoon. I try my hardest to not mention my diabetes to men in the early dating process. Heck, I had a man use my diabetes as a reason to dump me. He just didn't want to "deal with all that diabetes junk." Having people constantly analyze what you are eating and unknowingly make judgmental looks on their faces - not fun. It gets overwhelming and makes you want to curl up in a hole and avoid humanity altogether. In fact, there have been points in my life when I just refused to acknowledge I have diabetes. That never turned out as it usually ended up with me in an ICU on an insulin drip. Which made me feel even worse because I was letting people down and I couldn't be the perfect diabetic. I still want to shut down and ignore my diabetes and say screw it when I have a high blood sugar but I'm getting better at not doing that. 

So, at the start of October I had a check up with my endocrinologist. She was telling me about a new continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and the pump. I've been pretty dead set against the pump. She asked if I wanted to do a trial run with the CGM to get some really good data on my numbers. 288 readings a day! I said sure, what the heck. And I promised to think about the pump. 

When I returned a few days later to have the CGM removed, the sales rep made it sound like it had already been decided I'd be getting the pump. Oh, okay. I was confused but went with it. Truth is, I needed that extra push to get on board with the pump. I returned at the end of the week to go over the data and get the prescription for the pump. My endocrinologist hugged me and said she wanted me to be a success. That killed me. In a good way. 

For the first time in forever I have an endocrinologist that doesn't judge me. Who wants me to be healthy. Who doesn't push me. Who lets me make decisions. Who works as a team with me. Who seems to believe in me. And that, my friends, is like winning a gold medal.

It was her hug that kicked my brain to where it needed to be. To make me realize I can't let my diabetes own me anymore. That I should not be ashamed of it. Oh heck no. From here on out, I shall own my diabetes. 

My pump, CGM and supplies ironically arrived on my birthday. Happy birthday to me? I just have to complete training and then *boom* I'll be a pumper. I'm excited and scared about this new journey and even if it turns out not to be for me and I return to injections, there is no going back - I will own my diabetes.