When her daughter, Sydney, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 8, Kate Farnsworth stopped sleeping through the night. She’d set the alarm for 3 a.m. so she or her husband, Dave, could prick the girl’s fingers and check her blood sugar. If the results were worrisome, they’d adjust her insulin and keep checking every 15 minutes. At 6 a.m., another alarm went off to signal the next insulin dose, but by then, Kate had usually snapped awake again already. When Sydney got home from school each afternoon, Kate was there to check her glucose level. “Diabetes is one of the only diseases where you’re sent a prescription and have to adjust the dosage on your own” forever, Kate says. For Sydney, the biggest worry was “how I wouldn’t ever be normal again.”
Two exhausting years in, Kate found the beginnings of an alternative in an online forum. A loose confederation of do-it-yourselfers were working on a system that would eventually help link an insulin pump to a glucose monitor and connect both to a smartphone app. The idea was that the wearer—or her parents—could track and adjust her blood sugar, in person or from afar. That would mean fewer pinpricks, and far fewer alarms, because her blood sugar would stay out of the danger zone. Most of the time, the contraption would be able to regulate the wearer’s insulin itself.