Type 1 diabetes patient, Marc Peverett, tells us how technology has allowed him to build his own artificial pancreas.
I have been living with Type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. I must admit, in my opinion, changes and advances in treating diabetes effectively have been slow.
After years of counting carbs, glucose levels and insulin units, not to mention the countless finger pricks, I’ve been living in a never-ending maths puzzle. Get the answer wrong and you’re dead. If not immediately, then in the long-term.
Open-source Loop app
It was after discovering the concept of the open-source Loop app, in 2019, when I began to feel hopeful. This artificial pancreas revolutionised my diabetes control.
During all the years of strictly managing my condition, I could never obtain a consistent HbA1c reading. Now, over the past year, my readings are between 6,1 and 6,4 and I can go to sleep with the confidence that my blood glucose levels are controlled throughout the night.
My 90-day blood glucose readings from my continuous glucose monitor show that I’m 96% in range.
Building my artificial pancreas
With a little IT knowledge and from the comfort of my home, I built my artificial pancreas, affordably.
I already had most of the components needed: a compatible Medtronic insulin pump, a Mac computer, iPhone and Libre glucose sensor. I had to source the remainder of the required components: a Bluetooth data reader (MiaoMiao2 – imported from China) and a transmitter device (Rileylink – imported from the USA). These were necessary to send communications between my iPhone and Medtronic insulin pump. All these components are available in South Africa.
The MiaoMiao2 data reader fits on the FreeStyle Libre glucose sensor and is instrumental in establishing a continuous glucose monitor, sending readings automatically to my phone every five minutes, without needing to scan. This is a game-changer for people with Type 1 and 2 diabetes.
MiaoMiao2 sounds an alarm if you’re high or low during the day or night, and glucose readings can be shared continuously with other family members who are not nearby.
Tidepool Loop is an amazing international community, driving innovation forward to make software management for diabetes free and affordable.
Tidepool offers amazing data management for all diabetic devices, allowing the counting of the diabetic maths puzzle to be located and integrated seamlessly.
Achieving an artificial pancreas can be done in stages, with increased benefits at every stage.
STAGE 1: Start using a CGM
MiaoMiao2 + FreeStyle Libre Sensor or Dexcom G6 are compatible devices. Implementing Stage 1 will already improve blood glucose levels.
STAGE 2: Using a second-hand medtronic pump
Applicable Medtronic insulin pumps 515, 715, 522, 722, 523 or 723 (firmware 2.4 or older), Veo 554 or 754 (firmware 2.6A or lower).
STAGE 3: Securing an iPhone
An iPhone 7 or higher.
STAGE 4: Sourcing a Rileylink
This is a component sourced in the USA and distributed locally here in South Africa.
STAGE 5: Building the Loop app
You will need an Apple Developer Account (which anyone can acquire). Tidepool has a vision of launching their product in the App Store. When this becomes a reality, building the app won’t be necessary.
Peace of mind
With the use of artificial intelligence comes some peace of mind. I’m no longer restricted by this condition. In some ways, I have my life back. I can look forward to a good night’s sleep without worrying about lows or highs. ‘Someone’ else is doing all the thinking and I can focus on the important things.
This feeling of finally being in control could be a reality for you too. Should you need any further information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marc Peverett (49) has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1989. He is married and has two children. He is an industrial/organisational psychologist.
EDITED BY Kathleen Mukheibir
After obtaining her LLB degree and commencing with her articles of clerkship at a firm in Cape Town, Kathleen Mukheibir discovered her interests lay elsewhere. Following her passion, she took a leap and has pursued a new career path into the world of copywriting, proofreading, and editing.