Robotic pancreas and the military

My boyfriend was raised in a very militaristic family; every man was in the military and every female had played some role at civil service. Being diabetic, this was never an option for him. His mother, who works in Portsmouth Naval Medical Center was talking to his endo and found out that minimed is coming out next year with, essentially, a robotic pancreas, one of the pumps that checks you simultaneously, so all he’d have to worry about is going low, which would obviously mean eating. After learning about that, I found out his dreams from 14 years ago of being in the military (he was 6 at the time) are still in existence, and if they would take him, he’d likely finish college and join. Do any of you guys feel the same way or maybe the opposite or whatever and why? I would have figured by now he was over that, that getting a BSBA in Economics would mean he’d continue with that plan of working for the fed or maybe a private corporation, no joining the military. But according to him, “Sarah, everyone in my family is in the military. I feel weird living the lifestyle but not joining”.

As someone who also comes from a military family and had dreams of joining the military when I turned 18, diabetes stops that dream. Here is the deal with the “robotic pancreas,” it is based on the Minimed pump and CGMS and it will not be like a cure for a few reasons.

The big one is that the CGMS part that checks your BGs is not super accurate therefore it will tell the pump to give insulin or stop insulin on incorrect data. As a CGMS user of a DexCom which is more accurate than the minimed, I would NOT want my DexCom telling my pump to give me insulin or to stop giving me insulin. The technology is not good enough yet. Here is a great example, I woke up this AM with my CGMS saying I was 120. I was really 200! I have also had my DexCom alarm and tell me I am in the 60s when my BGs are 120 and stable. So they are far from perfect. Not only do you have to calibrate the sensor regularly with a finger stick, but you have to test if you are low or high on the CGMS to make sure the number is right.

The next big reason this won’t be like a cure for him is that the system is not a closed loop meaning that if the pump gives too much insulin and the blood sugar drops to dangerous levels, there is no mechanism to bring the BGs up like the liver does for nondiabetics.

Third reason, the amount of equipment and supplies that one would need to have available at all times to be on this system. You would need the pump, CGMS sensor, infusion sets, insulin, batteries, meter & strips and electricity to charge the CGMS plus food at all times to be available. He would have 2 things attached to his skin at all times, the infusion set and the sensor. Too many variables for the military to let your boyfriend in, he will not pass the physical, even with this great machinery and otherwise good health.

I get how he feels but until there is a real cure, he will not be allowed into the military. He has plenty of time before he gets too old to be allowed in so there is hope that one day he will have a real cure that will allow him to join the military. I think that supporting the military is a very important and needed function that I bet he would excel at. He can join the FBI as a type 1 so that could be an option. It’s not the same but it is the closest thing I have found to replace Air Force dreams I once had. You are a great girlfriend for supporting him!

yes, he can be in the military. He has to go through a lot of red tape.

I was in the navy for 4 years. I am a type 1 diabetic, AND a pumper.

I had to keep my A1C below 7, go to the endocrinologist every 90 days, and be able to pass all the physical requirements.

Were you Type 1 prior to entering the Navy or did your diagnosis occur during your stint in the Navy? My hopes were shattered at 6 to be in the Navy. At the age of 27, I found out that if I had already had a Master’s degree in Nursing or a medical field, they would have probably accepted me. It was too late by then to apply because I had a family then and still do. I support the troops though and wish them all to come home safe, secure and healthy.

yes, I was diagnosed as a child.