One Week As A PWD

Awhile back, I learned about Michelle Litchman — a nurse practitioner specializing in diabetes in Salt Lake City — and her Fakeabetes Challenge. The Fakeabetes Challenge is a one week challenge where a non-PWD who works in healthcare attempts to live like a PWD by wearing the gear, testing blood sugar, and counting carbohydrates. It’s not a precise replication of the real experiences of a PWD, because they don’t have to deal with the physical feelings of highs or lows, but it’s a pretty good approximation.

I was partnered with Amy Reeder, an RD and CDE, who wore an Omnipod demo pump, tested her BG, counted carbs and reported what she was doing to me so that I could give her feedback on what it might be like if she really had diabetes.

We started randomly on a Wednesday afternoon when I texted her that she had diabetes.

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Over the next week, she would text me when she tested for a meal and I usually texted back with a slightly different BG reading than what she had. Obviously, being a non-PWD, her blood sugars were pretty perfect. 80s and 90s pretty much all the time, although a couple times she was in the low 100s. One time, just before going on a walk, she was 58 mg/dl! All on her own! I was super surprised, not realizing that a non-PWD could get that low. Obviously she didn’t feel it the same way we would, but it was still interesting to see that there was some variation in her blood sugar.

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It was kind of fun randomly texting her with high and low blood sugars, especially since at first she would go on walks or hikes without changing her bolus at the previous meal. It took a couple times before she caught on that she needed to do things differently!

For me, I think I was most surprised at how often I think about diabetes! Obviously I think about it a great deal, but I think a lot of it is woven into my day to day thoughts. It so fluid, whereas working with Amy meant stopping and thinking, “Should I text Amy about this high or low blood sugar?” I realized in texting her several times a day about what was going on that I really do think about diabetes a lot! It’s kind of insane the amount of brainpower that goes into managing diabetes. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I didn’t have to think about diabetes all the time…

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I didn’t always text her what was happening to me because I wanted her experience to make sense for her lifestyle — going high or low because of what I was doing didn’t make sense and wouldn’t give an accurate depiction of diabetes. We are all different! So I based most of my texts off of what would likely happen to me if I was doing what she said she was doing, such as her food or her activity level. Sometimes she’d eat things — like granola — that would shoot me high, so I reflected that at her next meal. And I would change her blood sugars depending on the intensity of her exercise. Her hikes and bike rides dropped her low, whereas a short walk with the dog didn’t drop her very much. It’s all context! And nothing is ever the same!

Overall I thought it was a really interesting and obviously rewarding experience helping someone learn more about the nitty-gritty of diabetes management and how it’s not always so easy to remember to do everything and do it right. You can read about Amy’s experience here!

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