That's right, you read that correctly: I am a cyborg.
People watch Japanese anime and think, "won't it be cool to be a brain in a robotic body that never dies, doesn't eat, blah blah blah," believing that this is what cybernetics is all about.
But its not. At least, not yet.
Cybernetics is about genetics. Its brain power over physical limitations. I am a living example of that. If it weren't for man's ability to reason and for his overwhelming creative streaks, I would be dead.
In 2000 I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. By May I had to have insulin added to my body from the outside and if it hadn't been for modern science I would have entered a diabetic coma and died shortly after.
Kinda dramatic, huh? Well, no one sees it that way anymore because insulin is readily available.
Have you ever heard the story about Type I diabetes? Let me provide some links and a summary: its a great story.
The following is from here: http://www.epo.org/topics/innovation-and-economy/european-inventor/inventions/2008/diabetes.html
From here: http://www.pslgroup.com/dg/979E.htm
1869: Paul Langerhans discovers previously un-noticed small clumps of tissue in the human pancreas that excretes a chemical whose nature is not understood.
1889: Oskar Minkowski together with Joseph von Mering removed the pancreas from a healthy dog and noticed that the dog excretes sugar in its urine (before he enters a coma and dies).
1901: Eugene L. Opie puts two and two together and realized that the so called, "insulin" excreted by the Ilets of Langerhans in the pancreas has something to do with blood sugar regulation.
1921: Nicolae Paulescu invents a process to concentrate insulin and soon after scientist proved that insulin from dogs, pigs and cows produce a metabolic response in humans.
1922: Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip, J.J.R. Macleod and others extract insulin from calves and are able to reduce the symptoms of a fourteen year old diabetic child. Then went to others in the diabetes ward and were able to bring them out of their diabetic comas in a matter of minutes.
1923: Banting and Macleod received the Nobel Prize for their achievement and Ely Lilly starts selling cow insulin to treat diabetes. Other companies began selling pig's, cow's, horse's and fish insulin, but the quality was often an issue and many diabetics had allergic reactions to the insulin.
Back in these days, diabetics boiled and sharpened their own needles, and the only way they could determine if their blood sugar was too high was to test the amount of sugar in their urine with litmus paper. Sugar only appears in urine when the blood sugar is dangerously high. So this was not a very good way to measure blood sugar. Many type I diabetics died due to complications of the disease. (renal failure, heart disease, etc)
1962: The first blood glucose test created, but requires a lab in a hospital and is not practical for day to day use.
1970: Hospital tests become easier, but nothing for individuals exists.
1978: Genentec developed a perfect genetic copy of human insulin, dubbed "Humulin," by reprogramming bacteria to produce insulin in their bodies. The insulin is then extracted, diluted and distributed.
1980: Roche Accucheck meters hit the mainstream, finally a way to monitor blood sugar that's affordable.
1982: Ely Lilly becomes the first producer of Humulin.
When humulin and other insulins are injected into the fat under the skin as most injections are taken, it takes a long time (30 to 60 minutes) to be absorbed and lower blood sugar: this causes diabetics to need to inject early to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Diabetics do not generally wait after they inject.
1990s: meters are faster, using less blood, and more accurate than ever, but test strips are costly relatively speaking.
1996: Ely Lilly meets the needs of diabetics by introducing Humalog. A human insulin analog where two molecules in the chain of insulin have been reversed to make absorption faster, roughly 15 minutes instead of the average 45 minutes.
With a slow acting insulin, and a fast insulin like Humalog, diabetics can simulate the actual behavior of a functioning pancreas much more closely. With blood glucose meters and test strips they can make sure they keep their blood sugars within safe parameters. (Normal blood sugar values: 70-120 mg/dl. Safe blood sugar values: 50-200 mg/dl.)
However, there are still problems between testing times. For example: I test nine times a day on average and still have highs above 250 mg/dl and lows down below 40 mg/dl, especially at night where the previous days activities can weigh heavilly on my blood sugar values. Having a busy life style makes regulation much more difficult.
Okay, now that you have some background, we get to today and my life experiences.
The history of insulin pumps is pretty fascinating, check the link above, but suffice to say that I started on a minimed 508 pump in January of 2001, about one year after I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. That was the day I became a cyborg. I'm a cyborg because I have a machine pumping insulin into my body to replace my pancreas which no longer produces insulin.
But now I'm even more of a cyborg. I'm wearing a new continuous glucose monitor which tests my blood sugar every five minutes making it much easier for me to adjust and prevent my glucose from going too high or too low. Its much cheaper to use this hardware than to test hundreds of times per day with a test strip (plus my finger tips get a chance to heal). Note: I still test three to four times a day to insure the monitor is calibrated).
Some day, hopefully soon, they'll have code for my pump that automatically adjusts my insulin according to the level of glucose in my blood, making it possible for me to stop calculating everything myself. In effect it will be a true artificial pancreas.
While its true I'm not a brain in an artificial body like the cyborgs in Scifi Anime, I am officially a cyborg, which makes me a bit of science non-fiction.
Causes Brian McKee Supports
I support the cause of peace via peaceful means.