Rob Hewlett is 42 and lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and three children. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 26, and has since taken part in three artificial pancreas trials. His youngest daughter, Bea, 7, also lives with the condition.
I don’t remember much of my diagnosis. I was travelling in Australia. I got on a plane travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne and woke up in intensive care in Sydney suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis.
Since then, I am lucky enough to have been on three of Professor Hovorka’s artificial pancreas trials. The first study I was involved in was an early overnight study. It involved being hooked up to an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor and within range of a laptop which ran the algorithm. I would turn the system on at night and it would take care of blood glucose levels while I slept. I trusted it and was very happy with it, although the results suggested that the algorithm may not have been aggressive enough.
In the second trial, I was put in the control group so didn’t use any of the new tech. The third trial I was in involved the complete closed loop system with an updated algorithm (otherwise known as an artificial pancreas) running through a mobile phone app so I could use it 24/7. It looked after me for the entire time that I used it.
The artificial pancreas system is a guardian angel. There’s no better way of describing something that acts to keep you safe and healthy.
Using an insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitor gives you the information you need to make decisions about your own management. An artificial pancreas makes a lot of those decisions too.
It was wonderful to go about my day knowing that I was protected. It worked so well that I didn’t have to worry about anything. It had my back. I felt safe overnight and if I miscalculated insulin doses for a meal, it would often help offset any blood glucose swings.
Taking part in the artificial pancreas trials was my way of helping type 1 research today. Even my daughter, Bea, has taken part in trials for flash glucose monitoring to prove that it is safe for use in children. She is playing her part too.
Technology has progressed so quickly and continues to do so. The development of the artificial pancreas is testament to this. It has the potential to truly transform lives.