revisiting the CGM: first experience with Dexcom G4 Platinum

The difference in the experience between the two models (top: SEVEN, bottom: G4) of Dexcom CGMs is more than just visual.

Controlling your sugars without a true image of where you are coming from and how fast you are getting there feels like working with one hand tied behind your back.

While a glucose meter offers an invaluable, quick snapshot of where your number is in an exact moment, it does not tell the whole story.

Offering a wiggly line graph to depict the rise and fall of your glucose, as well as assist in announcing the speed at which you are a– or de-scending, a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) gives a much more comprehensive image of why your number is where it is.

Fun to note, dextro-,  in matters of both handedness (i.e., dexterity) and sugar molecules (dextrose) refers back to being on the right side in some way. One has to do with what hand we may use to write; the other, the “[s]o called because this form of glucose [dextrose] polarizes light to the right in spectroscopy.”

With that in mind, the Dexcom has become my right-hand guy as I’m about six full days into my first session of being continuously glucose monitored with a Dexcom G4 Platinum.

(I promise that is the only pun in this post.)

Before I had worked a bit with a Dexcom SEVEN model, which, while initially exciting to use, eventually exposed itself as a somewhat faulty model.

The SEVEN Plus and I did not get along extraordinarily well.

I found that the sensor took a while to truly sync with my blood sugar and that I would check myself via finger sticking about twice as much as normal out of paranoia. I later did learn that over-calibration would negatively affect the ability of the CGM to understand my sugars by itself, but still felt that the SEVEN was not living up to the dream of what it could be.

Additionally, I would get frustrated with just how lacking its tolerance for me to step away from it was. It was out of range way too easily. So clingy.

The quick guide for inserting the sensor is helpful, but read through it a couple of times before actually setting up to place the site. The more familiar your are with what to anticipate, the easier the insertion will be.

I’m complaining, I know.

But it’s interesting to note these things honestly, because I found that I had reached a point where I was so unexcited about using my CGM — “I always end up checking myself more instead of less, like it promised. It’s never that accurate anyway!…,” I’d say, to impart justification — that it wasn’t helping me manage my condition as much as it could.

Right now, though, I’m enthused about the CGM again. Having the chance to use the newer CGM model that is now offered by Dexcom, I’m reminded of the potential of this tool.

Here are some various thoughts on the experience thus far:

  • Hypoglycemia becomes a lot less scary with a CGM, which makes treating a low much more controlled and less likely to lead to a high afterwards.
  • Recently, I’m going low a lot again, as with the CGM, my first few days of seeing the direction of my blood sugars made me way more reactive to hyperglycemia.
  • SkinTac is the best thing for keeping a Dexcom site down. I cannot contain my joy for its magic.
  •  The names for Dexcom’s CGMs are all sort of silly, but whatever. The G4 seems like a play off of Apple products, which is reiterated in the device’s iPodian design. For all the times someone asked me if my pump was an mp3 player and I laughed, this G4 does its best to make a point of looking like one.
  • The battery life on this thing is incredible and I love that it charges via an outlet or USB cord hook-up.
  • Seeing an overnight report of your glucose levels is such a wonderful gift. Waking up to see an assessment of how your sugars ran during your sleep is a tremendously helpful way to decide how to act for the start of the day and gives you a basis for understanding the numbers thereafter.
  • I feel like I lack quality areas on my body for all of my diabetes-related outlets at this point.
  • Even more so than usual fingerstick monitoring, when on a CGM diabetes management becomes such a game of scientific experimentation.  Considering variables! Hypothesizing about blood sugars! Viewing live results! Oh, the fun.

Seeing the instantaneous feedback offered by the device makes me feel more actively involved in obtaining and maintaining glucose regulation — or perhaps just reminds me of my role — which is both empowering and nerdily fun to see.

While I am still waiting for the day that my pump and my CGM speak — c’mon, Animas, get on that project of yours –, I look forward to my continued experimentation with this new companion.

Anything that helps me feel like I am able to approach diabetes management with (com) more right (dex) information is a welcome addition to my lifestyle.

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