Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Wisdom of PEZ

Remember PEZ?  

Those hard, little, rectangular nuggets of candy that come in their own reusable dispenser—a clever device with the head of a cartoon character that is hinged on one side.  When the flipping mechanism is activated the reward is one candy. 

These nifty little items have been around since the 1950’s!  I remember having a Woody Woodpecker one as a child which, as it turns out, is now a collector’s item.  I’m wishing I’d had just a splash more "nerd" in me.  I might have thought to save my Woody Woodpecker PEZ dispenser—but I digress. 

This is a product with staying power.  Timeless appeal.  So much so that it begs the question:  Why? 
Perhaps the answer isn’t really that difficult to determine.  I am fairly confident in my own conclusion that it is the dispenser itself that appeals to people.  It can’t be the candies since the candies...well...let’s face it.  They are a far cry from gourmet jelly beans, Jenna’s absolute favourite for treating lows.  (I’ve even been known to feign a low for a gourmet bean or two from time to time.)  

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for an effective, convenient, ergonomically sound dispensing device.  I could likely awaken from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and, without turning on a single light, dispense a PEZ candy into my mouth with minimal effort and little chance of frustration, if I was so inclined.  Of course, that would be unwise given the risk of choking, but that’s neither here nor there.  My point is, unless I was experiencing nocturnal hypoglycemia, I would have no reason to do that.  And somehow I doubt that sufferers of hypoglycemia are the consumers that the makers of PEZ had in mind when they developed their product. 
Now, I may not be popping PEZ in the wee hours of the night.  But what I am doing at least once between the hours of midnight and 3am is awakening to my alarm to check my daughter’s blood sugar.  I shake off just enough sleep to perform the task as efficiently as possible and react appropriately to the reading on the glucose meter.  If it is too high, I need the wherewithal to enter the necessary dose of insulin on the pump to correct.  If it is too low, I must summon the cognitive functioning to enable me to give adequate carbs to bring her number up—but not too much causing her blood sugar to launch into the stratosphere.  Ideally I prefer not to shake off more sleep than is necessary to allow me to get the job done and return to dreamland in a reasonably short period of time.
We are using the most advanced insulin delivery system to date to control Jenna’s diabetes—the insulin pump—a  highly specialized technological device capable of delivering minuscule amounts of insulin to enable the best control possible.  It goes without saying that I am grateful for this technology.  But there is another aspect of diabetes management that seems almost primitive in comparison; the test strip container—a small-in-diameter, flip-top vial that holds twenty-five strips, each one not much bigger than two match sticks side-by-side with an annoying propensity to stick together. 

When I'm alert I find it a challenge to obtain a single test strip from the small vial utilizing only one finger, especially when the vial is full,  limiting the room my lone finger has to maneuver inside.  The degree of difficulty is amplified when I attempt this task moments after waking up in the middle of the night.  At this hour my manual dexterity is akin to that of a drunken person with severe carpal tunnel syndrome.  More often than not I pull out two or more strips, dropping several on the floor in the process.  And since I try to pull off this whole procedure in the dark in an effort to maintain my semi-sleepy state, I invariably find myself on hands and knees blindly feeling around on the floor for the wayward strips.  At a buck a pop, test strips are precious and the idea of losing any conjures visions of financial ruin (I really do wish I’d saved that Woody Woodpecker PEZ dispenser.)  And I challenge anyone trying to pick test strips up off of laminate flooring to do so without letting a few choice expletives fly in the process!
I’m not one to bemoan the small stuff.  That’s really not my style.  I can suck it up.  She’s my kid and she needs me to just get the job done which is precisely what I do.  I can shake off the sleep and turn on a light if need be.  But what about severely hypoglycemic people who test their own blood sugar?  I would imagine my issues with the process would be a walk in the park compared to what someone with a blood sugar of 2mmol/l might experience.  I’m sure there have been plenty of test strips lost and little plastic vials lobbed across rooms in frustration by someone in dire need of juice.  Call me crazy, but it seems to me to be an unreasonable thing to ask of people with acutely compromised manual deftness and cognitive abilities—not to mention a little sadistic.  I would imagine its right up there with inserting the straw into that tiny, foil-covered hole on the juice box during a bad hypo!
Performing the ubiquitous blood sugar test is an act d-parents and people with diabetes carry out anywhere from 8 to 12 times a day or more and not always under ideal circumstances.  That’s a lot of little moments of angst in one 24 hour period, on top of all the other frustrating aspects that is part and parcel of this disease.  

We have the capability to dispense candy more effectively!  Why not test strips too?  And I’m pretty sure that if we were to follow the lead of the PEZ candy makers in designing a better strip dispenser the end result would be a more environmentally friendly approach.  PEZ refills can be purchased and loaded into the reusable dispenser.  Why can’t there be test strip refills sold in reduced packaging and loaded into specially designed, reusable dispensers?  Goodness knows we could stand to reduce the amount of waste generated in the management of this disease!
So I guess what I’m proposing is a revolutionary method of test strip dispensing that addresses the needs of the hypoglycemic person as well as humanity’s need to preserve our planet.   

I can even see a window of opportunity to personalize the dispenser and make it more fun for kids with type 1 diabetes. And any opportunity to do that should be taken full advantage of!    


Cindy said...

Oh my gosh! What a great idea! We get my nearly 3-year-old daughter's test strips (and mine, we're both diabetic) from Medtronic along with all her pump supplies. And they had the great idea to put the test strips 50-to-a-bottle. Great idea, until you go to try to get just one of those darn things out! They're impossible! Annoying!

Jonah said...

Have you tried the accuchek compact? That stores the strips inside the meter, and you press a button and it spits out a strip. Unfortunately, if you press the button a gazillion times, you have wasted a gazillion strips (well actually only 17, because that's how many go into the meter at a time).