Gather and share portraits of what diabetes looks like for you and your community.
ED DAMIANO: INVENTING A NEW PANCREAS
When Ed Damiano’s infant son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Ed found his life’s work: inventing an artificial or “bionic” pancreas.
“David has diabetes - our lives are changed forever.” That’s how pediatrician Toby Milgrome told her husband Ed Damiano the news about their 11-month-old son. Their baby had been diagnosed at a dangerously high level of diabetic ketoacidosis, with blood sugars many times higher than normal. But how can a baby signal when his sugars are going high or low? He can’t.
For the Damianos, as for all parents with young diabetic children, all the care fell on the family. “When we checked his blood sugar, we used his fingers and his toes. So if he was playing with blocks in the middle of the room, I'd come up and I'd poke him in a toe,” Ed told Blood Sugar Rising. “We had bruises up and down his arms for those first two months when we were giving him injections, and that was something that really was hard for us to see.“ One parent or the other had to get up repeatedly in the night to test David’s blood sugars and, if needed, give him glucose or insulin to keep him in range. To Ed, a biomedical engineer, this just didn’t seem like a viable long-term plan.
Ed began to dream of a computerized system that would take over, checking and dosing without the child’s participation – or the parents’. It would be an artificial pancreas, taking over for the diabetic’s failing organ. Many people were wary: how could you trust a computer with a life or death condition like diabetes? But Ed began his work, with the goal of completing a fully-functioning “closed loop” or “automated insulin delivery” system before David left home for college. Today, Dr. Damiano’s iLet system is one of several artificial pancreas devices that are being tested or just reaching the market.