After 20+ years of living with type 1 diabetes, I was recently asked how I felt about my blood sugar for the first time. My number was rising after a hefty dinner of tacos and tortilla chips, and I was feeling satisfied but a tiny bit nauseous.
eddii, my new partner in diabetes management, alerted me of the rising number with a whimsical message.
“I just blew into another leaf's family tree. So embarrassing! Your sugar is rising faster than the wind speed in here”
When I opened the eddii app, my little green buddy asked how I felt.
Using emojis to input my mood was both fun and simple. It’s no surprise that replying to a diabetes-related question with a little yellow frowny face feels more friendly than clinical. It was casual, which also made me feel comfortable answering honestly.
As a person living with diabetes, I am so often asked how I feel while sitting on a doctor’s examination table. It feels like a test. There is an unspoken pressure to always be positive. After all, a bad attitude about my disease doesn’t make anyone feel comfortable or confident in my ability to manage it.
eddii’s simple question didn’t feel like a test. It was refreshing to be honest with someone about how my diabetes made me feel physically and emotionally. That’s precisely what makes eddii feel like a friend rather than a doctor–he isn’t testing you.
eddii is adorable. The little leaf is customizable through items in the shop. Using points obtained by inputting data, I could buy the cute character some shoes. Or bows! Or even a little ladybug pet! These items appeared whenever my blood sugar is in range, meaning that eddii would look or dress however I wanted him to when I am in control of my levels. Having control over little features like eddii’s shoes became a surprisingly empowering way to visualize the control I have over my diabetes.
Since I was a 12-year-old I have joked that insulin pumps should come with games. A childhood fantasy of mine came true with eddii. The games within the app are a tool to motivate children, but as an adult I felt every bit of childlike excitement to discover that a medical device could be fun. The puzzles were as enjoyable for me as any other mobile game I’ve played, but it felt even more special considering it was built into an app specifically for me and my physical and emotional wellness. It exemplifies how important fun and joy are to my overall wellbeing.
The interface on the parent-side of the app is just as clean as the child-side. I set up the parent portion on my partner’s phone. He set goals from his side that I could achieve for points. For some adults, this ability to bring a friend or partner into diabetes management could be incredibly useful. The external motivation will help struggling individuals with diabetes be more accountable with their health and having a person to share real highs and lows with (as much as your metaphorical ones) makes it feel less isolating.
Because the interface on the parent side allows for active engagement like goal setting, my partner was invited to be involved in caring for my health. He had an active role in helping me stay motivated, and he could see how I was feeling emotionally. Having insight into my mental and emotional status puts him in a greater position to support me. That is a valuable thing for people with diabetes of all ages.
In addition to my mood, eddii allows me to enter my activity, food, and medicine into the app. I can add anything–from water to a sugary coffee–without fear of judgment from eddii.
When I was a teenager, my endocrinologist gave me an assignment. I had to keep a food log of every single thing that went in my mouth over the course of a month. When I turned it in, he reviewed it in front of me. He lectured me about some of the dietary choices. While many of his observations and comments were fair, the whole experience just taught me to lie in the future in order to avoid the discomfort.
Having eddii would have removed the layer of fear or embarrassment that prevented me from being honest with my parents and doctors as a kid. It would have given my parents access to the data without asking me for it directly. This could have kept them in the know without making me feel like a patient rather than a person.
The ability to set and achieve goals in order to earn rewards created another layer to the game. It allowed me to feel like I could win at diabetes. Though that’s not possible in a literal sense, the feeling of empowerment that comes from it is very real. eddii sets me up to take the best possible care of myself, and he motivates me with rewards. While the incentive to win points so that I can customize eddii or play more games is enticing, it’s even better when I realize that these points are achieved through my own work toward healthy living.
When a child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a sense of normalcy in life disappears and can be hard to regain. Managing my diabetes through a colorful app rather than a clunky and clinical device gives that sense of normalcy–something I have craved for two decades. It gives me hope to know that children living with this disease will now have access to a friend like eddii, and adults can enjoy a refreshing approach to life with diabetes.
About the author
Haley Burnside was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just before her fourth birthday. Now 24-years-old, she has lived with her condition for over two decades. She is one of five children, and she has a younger sister who also lives with type 1 diabetes. The Ohio-native attended and graduated from Manhattan College in New York City before moving to Salt Lake City, Utah. There she works as a social media marketing specialist for an education nonprofit (Waterford.org). She is an avid runner and hiker in the summer, and can be found falling down a ski slope with her partner, Nathan, in the winter.