Diary of An Artificial Pancreas – October 2017

Welcome to our JDRF Bay Area blog series, Diary of an Artificial Pancreas, written by 13-year-old Jamie Kurtzig. Each month, she shares her day-to-day experiences living with the Medtronic MiniMed 670G closed-loop system, or Artificial Pancreas. Jamie, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at 19-months old, participated in a clinical trial for this system with Stanford University in the summer of 2016. She was able to keep the system and has been living with it ever since.

By Jamie Kurtzig

October 7
Tonight I finished my English essay. The prompt for the essay was “What will life be like for you in 10 or 20 years?” Here is my essay – I thought you might like to read what I hope for. It is called THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. I hope my teacher likes it too!

THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE

My name is Jamie Kurtzig, and I value kindness, hard work, and having fun. I am thirty-three years old, and am proud of my accomplishments thus far. I am an author, a biotechnologist, a motivational speaker, the leader of the PIFF (Pay It Forward Fun) Club, and a major fundraiser and contributor to diabetes research. So far, I have helped to raise over ten million dollars towards a cure for type one diabetes through various events such as The Royal Ball and the Hope Gala. I often reflect upon how I was the Hope Gala Honoree (the Hope Gala is a giant annual type 1 diabetes fundraiser) twenty years ago and raised two million dollars in that one night!

The most important day of my life was two weeks ago today, Tuesday May 18, 2038 – the day before my thirty-third birthday. On that day, like most other days, I went to work, writing novels and poetry books (my writing days are Mondays and Tuesdays and I work at a biotechnology company the remaining weekdays). On that special day, my publisher gave me a check for one million dollars for my series of historical fiction books. I was ecstatic! I decided to donate much of these earnings to type 1 diabetes research (to my brother who is an endocrinologist and works on diabetes research). After working in the morning, I gave a speech to the San Domenico middle school, hoping to inspire the students to be kind, work hard and have fun. All of the kids seemed really thoughtful and nice. They had lots of questions for me about how I had achieved success and how I persevered through hardships with diabetes. I remembered how I had once been a student there and how I had enjoyed every moment of it. Afterwards, I went to an elderly home, called AlmaVia (where my 113-year-old great-grandparents still live), where I met with the PIFF Club. We talked to the residents and listened to them reminisce about past times. I enjoyed hearing their stories about World War II and about how a loaf of bread used to cost ten cents. Later, we played bingo for chocolate. It was great fun!

Then, something happened that would change my life forever. My brother, Kai, came to find me at AlmaVia. He told me that I needed to go with him to his lab urgently. He took me into his clinical trial study room. I had been in a clinical trial when I was in seventh and eighth grades, but hadn’t participated in one since then. He said, “I have found a cure for type 1 diabetes. Would you like to be the first person to ever be free of type 1 diabetes without a transplant? It is a shot that you will take now, and never again.” I sat there… completely stunned. I had always known that this day would come, but I never expected it to happen now. I nodded, feeling excited but also nervous. He put the shot into my arm and I grinned the whole time. It felt just like a regular vaccination, but it lasted a little bit longer. “Done!” he announced as he threw his hands up in celebration. We walked downstairs and my friends, family and everyone I knew jumped out and yelled, “Surprise!” It was my first ever surprise party and I was completely stunned — yet so filled with gratitude. There was a photo booth and I took many photos with my friends and family. My parents had somehow brought J.K. Rowling to the party. (J.K. Rowling is a hero of mine because her creativity and beautifully crafted writing inspired me to become an author.) For a moment, I thought that all of this was a dream, since it was so incredible to have all of the people I love in the same room. J.K Rowling said, “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” This quote reminded me of how I had pushed away my nervous feelings for the life-changing shot just moments before. I also remembered nervously choosing to participate in the artificial pancreas clinical trial about twenty years ago and becoming part of diabetes history. I really believe in the truth and encouragement of her quote. My sister, Kelly, catered the event with her team from Kelly’s Kingdom of Kooking. (her food and entertainment company) I felt marvelous and extremely special. It was the best day of my life.

With hard work, kindness, and having fun, anything can be achieved, especially “if you’ve got enough nerve.” These are my values and I hope that they will lead me to accomplish great deeds. It has always been a dream of mine to help find a cure for diabetes — and my kind brother has always wanted to help find that cure. To achieve these dreams, I will always try my best and never lose sight of what I really want for myself and others. I hope that I can one day write about the most important day of my life and it will sound like this.

October 14
This morning I took the SSAT test, the test you take in 8th grade if you want to apply to a private high school. I am not sure yet where I want to go to high school, so I am taking this just in case to give me options after I submit my applications this winter. I was in a room with only one other girl with type 1 diabetes. We both had applied for and were granted extra time and the ability to have our diabetes supplies in the room with us. We had to put our supplies out on a desk in the center of the room, but we could access it whenever we needed to. I told my proctor that I may ding or alarm in the middle of a test, so he should not be alarmed (ha ha – get it?) and I would take care of it. My blood sugars were high at the beginning – 260 ish – and only came down to 200 with insulin. I think these highs were because I was really nervous about the test. I do not feel like it affected my performance, but I am not sure. I am signed up already to take a second test in December, so I can see if I can get a better score. I will find out my scores in a few weeks and keep you posted how it all went.

Here is me with my sacks of donations to the Northern California fire victims. Thank you to T1D Marin for delivering them to where they are needed.

October 15
Today my mom and I are collecting some diabetes supplies that we can give to the fire victims here in our area. My mom is going to give them tomorrow at a diabetes talk that is happening in Marin and they will take it to the fire victims – so nice! I feel really sad for all of the people around us who lost their homes and their special belongings. This could have easily happened to me and I feel so fortunate to have a roof over my head and that I am safe with all of my supplies. Even though I have been staying inside the last few days because our school was cancelled from the poor air quality, I don’t want to complain about it since there are thousands of people who need help much more than I do.

Friday October 20:
Today, I am getting my new, commercially available pump! I am so excited and am curious to see how it differs from the clinical trial pump that I was on for about a year and a half. To swap the pumps out, we just disconnected my old pump and connected the new pump. They already had programmed it all for me, copying my settings and inputs. They explained that the commercially available pump is clearer in its explanations on the display screens (they didn’t say this, but I noticed that the auto mode sign looks even more angelic- a blue with lots of white and silver). An example of how it is clearer is how it tells you “wait to enter bg” and when it is ready, “bg required.” This is instead of “enter bg” when it wasn’t clear when to do this. This may seem like a tiny step, but it makes me understand the pump even more. I was so excited the whole time, but then, at the very end, they told us that we couldn’t get back into auto mode for at least 6 days since it is a new pump and it will have to learn about me! My mom was so sad – 6 nights of less than great sleep! I will let you know how that goes.

October 26:
Today is the day! I can finally get back into auto mode. I confirmed and calibrated when I woke up and turned on AUTO MODE today and I immediately got back into auto mode. It feels so nice now to have auto mode as a helper and not have all of it depend on me and my mom. The week was pretty rough. It didn’t affect me a lot, but it affected my mom A LOT. My dad was on vacation (lucky him), so it was only my mom at night. We got through it though and now I have so much more appreciation for auto mode and the 670G! I did not like doing things the old way!

October 29:
I was invited to my friend’s party at Sur La Table in San Francisco. I knew we were going to be cooking but I did not know that all the food we were making would have TONS of gluten in it! All the Halloween-y goodies we made had tons of gluten: mini pizzas, cupcakes, and mummy bars. So, I wore gloves (so I didn’t touch gluten and then touch my face) and I didn’t eat anything. Afterwards I got a no gluten treat though! I am a terrible cook and baker, but I am actually proud of how my cupcakes looked. I made Sully cupcakes (from Monsters Inc) (except the colors were the other way around) with purple frosting and blue polka dots and horns. It was really fun even though it wasn’t gluten-free and I stayed as safe as I could.

October 31:
Happy Halloween! OOOOH! [wind blowing, doors creaking, people screaming]. This Halloween, my friends, family, and I organized a haunted house at my house! It was so cool and there were tons of people who came through. We had a fog machine for our first station (Thank you Reese’s dad!) that would blow and scare everyone. Then, someone would pop out of a coffin. The next station kind of varied from a fortune telling station to someone laying on the ground gasping for air. Outside, a werewolf (me) would jump-scare people and howl and shriek at random times, while there would be a mad scientist experimenting with “blood.” Next, there was someone who would stick their hand out and try to grab peoples’ legs. Finally, there was a Spooky dinner table station where the guests would touch things like guts (tapioca pudding), bloody eyeballs (peeled grapes), and stomach (avocado) and get a wet wipe and a candy as their reward. I especially liked how a bunch of my friends from school came and I would totally freak them out. We asked the groups of people that would gather on our front porch if they wanted SCARY or not as scary so that the little kids would not be so freaked out. After the haunted house ended, my friends and I went trick or treating. We were the last ones, so there weren’t very many houses still open, but the ones that were said we could take all the rest of their candy! My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I used to love Snickers too, but they are not gluten free. Haribo gummies are GF, but not red vines. I am deciding to give my candy to the Switch Witch or to the troops through my dentist. I always keep a few of my favorites. The King size ones. When I am older, I want to be the one to give out King Size bars. Maybe next year!!

Here is a photo of my friends and me, post Haunted House!

Aloha!

Jamie