Diary of An Artificial Pancreas – Fall 2018

Welcome to our JDRF Bay Area blog series, Diary of an Artificial Pancreas, written by 14-year-old Jamie Kurtzig. In each entry, 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

First days of high school:
Yay! I am so excited to go on my first ever overnight field trip without a family member (or other person with knowledge of T1D). I am a little bit nervous, but we trained my new high school advisor on glucagon (just in case), and I made a plan for my diabetes management on the trip. We asked in advance about food on the trip. We learned that they would be serving tacos and s’mores for dinner and pancakes for breakfast. We made the plan to bring our own gluten-free corn tortillas (for tacos), marshmallows, graham crackers, s’more sticks, and breakfast since they would not be gluten-free. As another part of the plan, I would text my mom when I got to the camp, before bed, and in the morning to check in. We all exchanged phone numbers with the trip leaders as a plan B.

I didn’t know anyone in my advisory, so I am extra nervous about making friends. At camp, we took advisory photos, played an aggressive game of spoons, and set up tents. These ice breakers had a great intention, but icebreakers in general are just awkward to me. Maybe the awkwardness of it all brought us together. In my advisory, there is another person with celiac, so this made it a lot easier for me since there is strength in numbers. We both got our food first (so there would be no cross contamination), and everyone was super understanding and supportive of this. Hopefully, this will be what I experience for most of my time at Marin Academy.

After breakfast the next morning, we did a tradition of the school: we wrote letters to our senior selves. We will not get these letters back until we are graduating from high school, which is kind of scary to think about. I wrote about some of my hopes for high school (learning, making new friends, and having fun), how the camping trip had been for me so far (funny, a little awkward), and how I was feeling about embarking on this new journey (excited and nervous). I am really excited to see how much things change and how I react to this letter when I am a senior!

First days of school: I am so excited for the first day of school! I know that today I am going to Spanish class, modern world history I, and biology. I was really intimidated to be in this Spanish III honors class first period on the first day of school as a freshman, but I was really surprised (happily) about how much I understood. She spoke in Spanish the whole entire time except for when we went over the syllabus and she cautioned, “This will be the only time you will hear me speak in English during class.” I was actually impressed at how much I understood since I had never had a class spoken in only Spanish. Next, I went to my modern world history I class that every freshman takes. We did an exercise where we had to draw a map of the world from memory in our groups. I think that my group and I did well, but it was a little messy. Then, I went over to the lunch line for a salad and I ate with my new friends. My last class of the day was biology, and we did a lab on snails! The most surprising thing to me was that I had about 3 hours of homework on my first day of school! This worried me since I thought it might be like this every night or maybe even increase. Time will tell!

These are my siblings and I on our first day of school! I am going to be a freshman, Kai (my brother in the middle) is going to be a 3rd grader, and Kelly (my sister on the right) is going to be a 5th grader.

Yay! Today I will see the rest of my classes: chamber music, English I, Human Development (Hum Dev), and Algebra II Honors! I started to sight read (where you have never seen a piece before but you need to play it by reading the music), and I am going to be the first violinist! Yay! In English, we learned about a poem writing assignment. Hum Dev is a class where we learn and discuss “relationships, stress management, ethics, wellness, justice, identity development”, and other important subjects. I am thankful that we are able to talk about these things because I think they are not often taught in a school setting and that it will help me a lot. Finally, I had math class (Algebra II Honors). In this class, I was the only freshman. This was tricky for me because everyone knew each other … and then there was me. I will see how this goes. We did some number sense problems during class which was really fun (sorry I am a math and science nerd). Again, when I got home from school, I thought that there would be hardly any homework, but wow, I was wrong!

Here is a poem that I wrote for my next class: English I. The assignment was to write about where we come from.

I am from continuous glucose monitors, From the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Ifshin. I am from the wildness of the overgrown plants hiding their secrets away. (Blazing, dry, Deer and lizards running through the parched plants.) I am from the plumeria tree The palm tree Whom I remember climbing, inching up, searching for its blossom.
I’m from the party throwers and the rational ones, From Brody and Mulholland. I’m from the techies and the sporties, From try-your-hardest and the live-life-to-the-fullest. I’m from science and modern technology: the belief in evolution that is shaping us today.
I’m from between Parker and Maple, Challah, charoset, and spuds From the stories my Grandma Brody told while acting as a boy, To the eye my great-grandfather lost while fighting fires And the lesson Grandma Gigi taught me: “life is short but sweet.”
Underneath my books lie The pieces of my own history, The very photographs, old drawings, and relics That my drop of water condensed from. I am from the sea of memories- The sea that flows as one, goes as one, Yet each drop makes the ocean bigger and more beautiful.

Advice for people starting high school:

• If you have a block schedule, try to get your homework done the day it is assigned.
• ALWAYS ask your teachers for help if you need it. Go to office hours, tutorial, or whatever it is called at your school.
• Tell your teachers that you have type one diabetes and that you might need to eat, drink, buzz, beep, or use your pump for a minute. Tell them it is because you have type one diabetes and that it is an autoimmune disease which needs constant attention. I heard a story that since someone’s pump was beeping and they did not tell their teacher about their type one diabetes, the teacher took it from her since she thought she was on her phone!
• Talk with your school about test-taking accommodations at the very beginning of school. I get stop the clock time so if I feel low or high or need a break, I can just pause the time limit and restart when I am ready. I also get to keep food, water, and my cellphone with me at all times. If I was very out of range, I could choose to reschedule (but I haven’t needed this yet).
• Leave a supplies kit on campus with a glucagon, extra low supplies, etc. Consider teaching staff and/or teachers how to use glucagon in case of an emergency. (I did this.)
• Join clubs and activities that you are interested in and enjoy instead of just joining them for college applications or to “be cool”. I joined the medical science club “Budz in Scrubz” and the Random Acts of Kindness club. These are things that I am really interested in. I joined the debate club and went to the first 2 meetings, (I really love debating about things to prove I am right!) but it was just not for me.
• If you have celiac and your friends decide to go off campus to a pizza/bread place/etc. for lunch (my school allows students to go off campus), if there is a smoothie available, that is a great choice! A lot of the time when my friends go off campus for lunch, there aren’t any gluten free options. But since I still want to hang out with them and most places we go off campus to have smoothies, I highly recommend getting one.
• Your family is still cool!
• Use your weekends to get ahead on homework so that you are not overwhelmed!
• Don’t freak out if you don’t get a perfect score or if you are not happy with your grade. I actually need to do this more because at my old school, I could get away with higher grades while studying less, so try not to freak out if you get a grade you are not happy about (definitely see your teacher about how you can do better though).
• If your school has a cafeteria and you have celiac, talk to them about what is gluten free. Since I love salads, I just get a salad almost every day. Also, if your school has snack food that is gluten free and you want to mix it up a little, ask what is gluten free also.