So I read an article this week detailing the results of a very small clinical trial using an artificial pancreas. (Editor’s Note: To learn more about this trial, click here.) The pancreas was made using a modified iPhone, a continuous blood glucose monitor, and a traditional insulin pump setup. I think it also contained a vial of glucagon that the system would use to correct low blood sugars, all in the same iPhone-based artificial pancreas. The results were “very promising” according to a number of researchers, and certainly it sounded like a massive step forward in the future of diabetes care.
Reading that article sparked a few thoughts for me. Of course the technology involved is pretty amazing — to think that we can use an old CELL PHONE as the central brains of an artificial pancreas is beyond anything I could have imagined as a newly diagnosed teenager all those years ago. It made me think that while searching for a cure for diabetes can often feel like the search for Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster (fleeting glimpses and rumored sightings that never seem to really lead to anything substantial), diabetes care actually MAY significantly transform during my lifetime.
Most of all, the article gave me an appreciation for the miraculous inner workings of our bodies. I mean, it’s taken us almost 100 years to get to this point in diabetes care, and what we have is STILL something that can’t quite get blood sugar management to the same precise levels our own bodies can (well, could before diabetes showed up). Sure, as people with diabetes, we have to live with the chronic results of a malfunction of one of those formerly automatic systems in our bodies, but that’s just one of thousands, maybe even millions. Every single thing we do, every single action we take, is the result of countless inner processes working to perfection.
Think about taking a drink of water. Our eyes have to spot the glass, transforming incoming light into recognizable objects for our brains to identify. Then our brain has to send electrical signals to the various muscles groupings in our arms, hands, and fingers through the vast nerve network in the body. Then, we have to pick up the glass, utilizing that same nerve system to get just the right pressure in our grip, judge the weight, and move the glass toward our mouth, not too fast, not too slow. This very simple act requires the coordination of SO MANY automatic systems! And for the most part, we’re unaware of ANY of them — a thousand miracles barely registering in our consciousness.
All of this reminds me of a phenomenon I noticed years ago. I was always a serious music student, and I practiced every day. When the family would go on vacation, I couldn’t practice. And it was often during these periods that I would gain new insights into my practice, new insights into music, and new insights into my relationship with music. I don’t just mean I would “realize how much I liked music” in that bland “absence makes the heart grow fonder” kind of way. I mean those breaks would really deepen my relationship with music in substantial ways. I think the reason is that the absence took me out of my “practice habit,” and highlighted the process and relationship on a conscious level for me.
The same thing is true for those of use with diabetes. Because we have to manually manage one of the systems that used to be automatic, we have a first-row seat to see how amazing the inner workings of the human body really are. We have the chance to develop a DEEP appreciation for all of the things that go RIGHT each and every minute of every day. And noticing these daily miracles is a true gift. It’s easy to resent our bodies as people with diabetes — to get mad at what doesn’t work the way it should. But I would urge all of us to remember to take the time to appreciate the countless ways our bodies DO work, the miracles going on every second of our lives.