• The Piquant Storyteller

Mystery Box

A few email notifications announced the delivery of a mystery box. I knew when, from where, and how much it weighed. I did not know why. Preceding the emails by a week or two, a phone call from Medtronic rang through during my presidency meeting. I thought Heath would answer, but he let it go to voicemail. A woman left her name and extension number requesting a call back. I promptly forgot and she never called back.

These two pieces of information were the only illumination on the why of this mystery box delivery from the company that sends my insulin pump supplies. That and a vague memory of seeing an email from Medtronic that declared the transmitter I ordered was on its way. I never ordered a transmitter.

On the appointed day a large UPS truck stopped in front of my house. A knock on the door was heard. The truck chugged back to life and lumbered away, its engine growling. I retrieved the lightweight cardboard box from the front porch and set it on my bed. The strange mystery box. The fading dreamlike memory of reading I had ordered a transmitter nagged at me. I knew the mystery box contained a transmitter I did not order. What I didn’t know was why.

I cut enough of the packing tape to rip open the box. Air filled pillows of plastic sat on top my fate. I pushed them aside to find an invoice and a sealed brown envelope. That was odd. A label on front had my shipping information. Why did this sealed envelope need to be shipped in its own box? How special was this transmitter I did not order?

At the appointment where I was first hooked up to my new insulin pump, the pump nurse told me that transmitters needed to be replaced every year. I have been using continuous glucose sensing technology off and on for the last ten years. No one has ever told me that vital piece of information before. I got new transmitters every time the sensors were upgraded. Getting a new transmitter now didn’t make sense. I started using this pump with its sensors the last week in September. I’m no mathematician, but that was not a year ago.

The envelope sat on the bench at the end of my bed for days. Still sealed. I treated it like a bomb that would only be triggered by opening the envelope. I knew I should call to find out why I even had it. Instead, I found other things to do. I could deal with it when I needed to change my sensor.

The night before my sensor was scheduled to expire, I pulled the tab on the back of the envelope, ripping an opening. Inside was a small white manual with little information written in six different languages, a fresh return sticker label, and the transmitter of mysterious origin. There was no return envelope, canister, or any instructions for the return of my current transmitter.

Still, I still didn’t call. My pump was paid in full about the same time the box arrived. I now own Patrick outright. If Medtronic wanted me to have a new transmitter, maybe I would just use it. I plugged it into the charger so it would be ready for the next sensor in the morning.

It’s always sad to pull a sensor that has been performing so well. Their life expectancy is seven days, and it was time. The new sensor went in. I wouldn’t say it hurt, but it was a little more uncomfortable than most. I noticed blood which meant the accuracy of this sensor was a gamble.

At the last minute, Heath realized that I couldn’t just pop on the new transmitter. I had to input the serial number so Patrick would recognize it. That was trickier than it needed to be. The manual that came with the transmitter was no help at all. I had to pull out the thicker pump manual. It can be equally unhelpful as it takes a very long time to say common sense things that any idiot could figure out. Finding answers is like talking to government employees.

Table of Contents: Go to page 52 Page 52: See page 311 Page 311: Go to page 47 Page 47: See page 6

And the wild goose chase continues.

By some miracle we found the right combination and after a few failed attempts, we managed to convince Patrick to recognize the new sensor. All was well at first. Though the sensor didn’t seem to be tracking as well as I would like. Still, some sensors can take a day to settle down. I restart the ones that don’t by recharging the transmitter and telling Patrick it’s a new sensor.

The sensor failed the next morning. No reason. My morning calibration was rejected, and I was asked to wait 15 minutes before trying again. I know this is a death sentence if I actually calibrate again that quickly. I did it anyway because there was no reason for the first calibration to be rejected. Skulls and crossbones may as well have danced across the screen. Patrick gave me the equivalent blue screen of death by telling me to change the sensor. Heath tried to hide his I-told-you-so face while suggesting one more time I call Medtronic.

Ugh. I hate calling them because some of their support center people are nice and some are real jerks. I took my chances. As I navigated the many different menus to talk to a representative, I heard an enlightening message. “If you are experiencing excessive BG alerts, you can order a new transmitter online.” Really? Is that why I had a new transmitter? My excessive BG alerts have been well documented through pump uploads and by me reporting them to Medtronic reps. I call those extra BG alerts the Carousel from Hell and have asked my nurse and several reps how to get off. No one had an answer. One snotty rep icily told me to change the sensor. If it takes more than two hours to get into Auto Mode, I need to change the sensor. The same girl freaked out when I called to report another failed sensor. She told me I had no business calibrating if the sensor glucose and my blood glucose are more than 35% off.

This time a new rep answered. She was very nice and called me Miss Tristan throughout the whole conversation. I told her I had used the new transmitter for the first time and the sensor failed in less than 24 hours. She asked her troubleshooting questions and agreed to replace the faulty sensor. I told her I had a return label for my first transmitter but no way of returning it. She asked when I ordered it. That was when I admitted that the delivery of the new transmitter was a mystery to me. I never ordered one. She punched keys and looked deeper into my file. When she surfaced, she told me that I did not need to return the old transmitter and that’s why I didn’t receive any means to ship it back. Huh.

We said our farewells, wishing each other a nice day and the call was over. I pulled the sensor as I was instructed. A replacement was on its way, and my suspicion was the extra blood was interfering with the glucose sensing process anyway. I have a nice bruise where that sensor was, and the site is a little tender. The sensor’s proboscis was dark halfway down as if blood dried inside preventing the sensor from doing its job properly. A new sensor was inserted. It has been working flawlessly ever since.

Moments like these remind me I am a laboratory rat. I am not often an early adopter of new technology, but that’s what the 670 G series of insulin pumps are – new technology. I am grateful that one annoying problem is being solved with a new generation of transmitters. Maybe things will get better and I can join the other Type 1 diabetics by saying, “I love my new pump. My diabetes management is on auto pilot!” I’m getting closer.


© 2018 by Tristan Westover International. Proudly created with