Written by Michael Almodova, StoWELL Co-founder, T1D
Fashion and Technology: the Insulin Pump
I’ve always been interested in technology and how it affects our lives and culture. My freshman year in college, I took a “Values, Technology, Science and Society” class where we studied how societies changed when a new technology was introduced: egalitarian cultures changed when one person had an axe, our perception of “being late” or “on time” evolved with the clock, and the mobility of music shifted when it was digitized onto compact discs and drives. Little did I know that my college interest would become so integral to my life 15 years later.
In 2008, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I started with multiple daily injections with a qwikpen, but I soon discovered that needles can be hazardous and the pen can actually crack and spill insulin. I quickly adopted the insulin pump technology and my first device was an Animas Ping.
I discovered that having a device attached to my body 24-7 required some changes: accessing the device often to check readings and make adjustments, taking care that the tubing doesn’t get snagged on handles, and the biggest consideration: how to sleep well every night. I think I slept with the pump clipped onto my clothing at first, but it was awkward and uncomfortable because I move around quite a bit in the night.
I eagerly awaited the launch of the Tandem T:slim pump—it looked just like an iPhone and finally: a medical device of the future with a touch screen and vibrant colors! Once I had this new gizmo attached, I considered my slumber situation and the StoWELL sleep short was born. It was a comfortable solution, I could maintain the tubing, and I could have fun with the fabrics so that my diabetic journey could include some levity and optimism.
I’m a designer and have also been inspired by how fashion has developed to incorporate technology and add function. I once had a snowboard jacket that had touch buttons on a sleeve to control an iPod. Apple watch has an ECG, heart monitor and oximeter inside it, and we can easily change the straps to different colors and make social statements about Gay and Black Pride. Recently, a luxury brand launched a duffle bag with illuminated fibers woven into the material to change colors. We’re at a point in time when our advanced sciences are becoming integrated into the fashion we wear and how we express ourselves.
Looking back, I realize that this life-saving insulin pump technology is another example of my college studies: my medical device became a part of my life, I adapted to using it, developed values around what it means to me, and incorporated it into my nightly comfy clothes.
Those of us who use an insulin pump have no reason to be ashamed. “Excuse me, will you stop playing with your pager,” I once heard at a theater performance. More and more I see other diabetics at the gym, sporting a Dexcom sensor on a tricep. Our Facebook and Instagram posts show off our decorated insulin pumps and CGM patches—we have Diabetic Pride.
As a community, I think diabetics are at a point where we want to add fashion and fun with our medical device and feel normal. Let’s have some dignity on our journey: what we wear out and about and importantly: what we sleep in every night.