In the Loop with Emily

Tubes scare me. They always have. I know this is an unpopular opinion, especially in the diabetes community, but I’ve been tube-free since my diagnosis in 2014. I went straight from multiple daily injections (MDI), to a tubeless insulin pump, aka the Omnipod a short six months later.

Enter Omnipod Loop. I’ve been following a few people on the ~gram~ that have been looping, finding myself enthralled and even a tad exhilarated at the prospect of relinquishing some control of my disease to powers beyond (re: algorithms). I’m definitely a nerd and geeked out over the idea of creating my own app, but I also felt stressed at the concept, and worried about faulty pods or Dexcom sensors affecting my overall care. Something that I still worry about tbh, but alas some things we cannot help.

So, if you had told me five and a half years ago that I would be creating a DIY closed-loop system with the help of a (genius) tight-knit online community, taking my care into my hands and not waiting for a a system that already exists and has been tested by thousands of users, simply because the FDA is taking its time approving a closed loop system that is anything other than a Medtronic insulin pump, I’d be shocked.

My RileyLink

So what is loop, you may ask? Loop, in the most basic of terms (aka how I can comprehend and describe it without feeling overwhelmed by math and science because el oh el), pulls readings from my Dexcom (continuous glucose monitor/CGM) and changes my basal rates (background insulin rates) every five minutes based on the parameters that I’ve entered through basal settings, insulin sensitivity factor, carb ratios, and more. I won’t pretend to be able to explain it all, nor will I say that I feel like I always know what I’m doing – because I don’t. But, this tech *knock on wood* is life changing. There’s a learning curve, there are ups and downs like there are with any form of care, and sometimes it is frustrating because there’s no operating entity to call if something goes wrong. But, at the end of the day, the pump and CGM I am using are the same as before, I just have a third party object that allows them to talk to one another, called a RileyLink. The Omnipod compatible version can be purchased for $150 here, and is arguably the most important aspect of the DIY closed loop system that is Loop.

Now, don’t get it twisted, I’m not a huge techy, and while the code and basically everything you need to know can be found online through the Loopdocs, I cannot stress enough how important it is to read, and re-read, the Loopdocs. Plus, there’s a Facebook group you can and should request to join where creators and users convene to asks and answer questions. But, almost every questioned can be answered through the Troubleshooting page.

I built the app, read and re-read the docs, and have been for the most part extremely happy with the results! I still need to dial in and fine-tune my settings (loop shows what areas are overcompensating, and what areas aren’t working), and honestly it can feel a bit overwhelming. But, whenever I feel like I am messing up, I can open the loop and just keep on keeping on. The open loop makes suggestions that I don’t need to accept, and I can just use my cell phone as my PDM.

Now, I won’t go through the nitty gritty and describe what every little thing is/means on the face of the app, but I made a makeshift explanation below.

I hope this has been somewhat informative to all of you pals! Feel free to reach out by sliding into our Instagram or Facebook DMs, or by sending us an e-mail (via the contact page on our website). Let us know what you think if you are looping, and let us know what you think if you have no plans to ever loop! At the end of the day, we’re a community of folks just trying to live our best diabetic lives.

–Emily

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