SALEM, Va. (WDBJ7) - Sally Southard is like most diabetics describing the disease. "It's 24/7. No vacations," Southard said. "You know It's always there. You're always thinking about it."
But that's now changed.
"I don't think about diabetes as much as I used to because of this. I totally trust it," Southard said, pointing to the small device she's holding in her hand.
She's talking about the artificial pancreas, powered by an algorithm developed at the University of Virginia Medical Center, that tracks her blood sugar and regulates the amount of insulin it's pumping into her blood stream.
It's called Control IQ, and when news came that the Food and Drug Administration approved it in December, "Everybody was like, 'woo hoo, yeah, finally!'" Southard said.
Southard knows exactly how it works. You see, she has taken part in many clinical trials over the past several years.
"Eight clinical trials at UVA," Southard said. "Each time I was in a trial things would get better. You make improvements."
"Here is the cartridge that you put the insulin in," Southard explained as she demonstrated how it works.
She's now happy to share with everyone the particulars of the device that's smaller than a cell phone, and how it works in tandem with her continuous glucose monitor to keep her blood sugar in check.
The device checks her blood sugar every five minutes. "[If my] blood sugars are going up, let me give her more insulin, or blood sugars are going down, it stops giving me insulin," Southard said." "So it's like the pancreas here."
The only thing she must do is enter how many carbohydrates she's eating. The device has a sleep mode and an exercise mode.
"And it's managing my blood sugar much better as a machine than I did for 50 years," Southard said.
Ultimately, blood sugars are kept more consistent in what's considered a good range, and that means fewer complications. "I definitely feel better and I'm sleeping better," Southard said.
The software is available through the Tandem Corporation. The company will send emails to people who have the Tandem insulin pumps. Each person will have to watch an educational video on Control IQ, and then they will receive a code to download the Control IQ software onto their device.
"It's easy," Southard said. "It's definitely changed my life."
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