Monday, December 19, 2011

Diabetes: Just a software glitch.

I became involved with technology when I was 9 after seeing the movie Hackers. Regardless of how many problems exist with the film with my now current knowledge, at the time it was an absolutely brilliant film to me. Not to mention I'm indebted to it for my life pursuits, college, and career. Thanks Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie. Let's move on, that sentence leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when I was 12 and remember radically changing my youth, teens, and ultimately my years to come in terms of how I viewed life, economics, and more than anything my priorities. If 7th grade was about wondering why girls weren't icky anymore, drinking mountain dew, playing games with friends then my life had immediately taken a 180 as now the only things I could be concerned with was checking my blood sugar, dosing insulin, remembering to draw one type of insulin before the other so I didn't contaminate, eating correctly, not having too low or too high of a blood sugar, and everything coming second to this. On top of this, continually learning of ways to manage this issue of mine and how the variables of my life contributed to it's control.

Fortunately and luckily enough, I had my parents and brother as support at the time. While the first 24 hours of this knowledge was not necessarily a stroll in the park, the next week of my stay in the hospital certainly led to my otherwise black and white view on the matter. I remember when i was finally ready to come to grips with this at the time I said "So, when it comes down to it. I have to check my blood sugar and take 2-3 shot a day. K. I can do this." Because this was now and had become my new reality, my new state of affairs, and my new level normalcy.

My dad told me that "the area between two disciplines is the most fertile ground for innovation." Now at age 25 with more knowledge and technology than I had at 12, I couldn't agree more. At its best or worst, diabetes is just a software glitch of the (computer that is the human) body.

More importantly why couldn't it be viewed and treated as such? Like any well written software program, it's full of variables, control, and means of preventing mistakes. Who cares that I'm a living thing? Carbohydrates, blood glucoses, and all the crap involved in this disease is data waiting to be manipulated and dare I say - hacked. Besides, Jerome Radcliff at the hacker conference that I somehow miss every year demonstrated this year (2011) that it was possible to break into the insulin pump and deliver a dose wirelessly from his laptop. I've been dying to chat to him and certainly can only hope by some stroke of luck he comes across this post. In an arguably sick way, it's almost disappointing there are not more diabetics who happen to be of the IT disposition. I certainly wouldn't wish this lifetime annoyance upon anyone, but to quote Bill Gates - "I believe most problems can be solved."

In a series of upcoming posts, I'm going to be blogging the results of my diabetic body hacks that I have done or will be doing on a combination/alteration of injections, insulin pump, and CGMS. As an example, running several miles with/without my pump, consuming with/without caffeine, and all sorts of recently discovered information that is worth sharing. There just isn't enough control engineers, IT people, or technical people talking about this disease as their should be. Casual diabetics provide good conversation and good information, but I want more nerds in this field.

For a list of the seemingly endless articles written on Jerome, I've provided a "top hits" list here.

I'm a system administrator, network engineer, web developer, and as of this past year application developer. Thus far I've managed to improve my quality of life through some incredibly proprietary means (Excel) but my holy grail is hacking the insulin pump (with an Arduino & Xbee), and developing some kind of standard for exchanging data. Diabetes management in the cloud? That doesn't sound like a far off reality at all and while I don't doubt medtronic and other companies are hard at work towards an artificial pancreas, I'm going to be experimenting on myself until then even if this CGMS device isn't 100% accurate - gotta start somewhere.

I am however asking the following of any reader, or passerby of this blog. Read the following article from 2003. Put two and two together, and if Jerome Radcliffe himself should stumble across this - I can only imagine you'll be able to see where I'm going with this. 

Jerome, it works and I need your help.