Monday, July 13, 2009

I know this sounds like lunacy, but…

I kind of unwittingly fell in love with Duncan Jones’ film Moon. The movie is a snapshot of character Sam Bell’s life as the sole inhabitant of the Earth’s moon. There, Sam spends his days mining a clean-burning energy (Helium-3) for consumption back on the Earth. His only companion as he lives and works is an AI computer reminiscent of 2001’s Hal-9000, called GERTY… that is until, one day, Sam finds a mysterious figure on the perimeter station, who appears to be an exact replica of himself.


I exited the theatre I knew that I enjoyed the movie, but it took me a while to realize why I was so completely charmed: Some hours later, as I lay in bed reviewing the movie in my mind, I slowly understood the films storyline as a twisted mirror of my current state of life. I am a diabetic. I wear an insulin pump. I have met others with the same device, but they are not a regular part of my life… Living with a machine attached to you for 24 hours a day seven days a week is a bizarre state of being and it sometimes gets to feeling as lonely as living on the moon. I can communicate this to others who lack this attachment, but it is never the same as occupying that lonely sphere. Like Sam Bell, I do have conversations with myself about life on veritable lunar landscape and, like Sam Bell, my only other companion is a mechanized helper. Although, of course, my helper lacks the self-consciousness of GERTY…

Or, does it? As I lay reviewing the movie in my mind I had a very strange epiphany- I seem to have developed this unconscious belief that my insulin pump just might be a sentient being. I know consciously that it does not calculate and calibrate my blood sugars without my input, but I do have this worry that it has wants and needs of its own that are unmet either because of my ignorance of machine-life or, perhaps, because of some unimaginable language barrier. And then I realized that I feel guilty about all the times I’ve yelled at it to shut the f@*! up when it would belligerently beep at me to remind me of the need to test my blood sugars and/or replace its insulin cartridge. After all, it was only trying to help… just like GERTY.

Perhaps, at this point, you are wondering if I have lost my mind. But, in truth, I think that people need stories- whether in film, books or subconscious attachments to (in)animate objects. These narratives sometimes instill less than equitable ideologies, but sometimes they can also help people make some sense out of what can be the frightening and senseless make-up of life. So, let me explain- I saw this film little film called Moon and I fell in love with it, because it somehow made me like my cyborg self a little more than I did before…

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Life in Imitation...

"Life imitates art, more often than art imitates life. ~Oscar Wilde

There are cyborgs living amongst us, but it is a reality few people recognize. Of course, there is the broad suggestion that the modern reliance on new information and communications technologies now constitutes a new transhuman era, but this is not what I am talking about. What I am referring to are the many people alive today surviving with cybernetic devices attached or implanted in their bodies. We are the true cyborgs of the day.

The term cyborg is a combination of the terms
cybernetic + organism and originates in the work of Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in their article Cyborgs and Space (1960). Though their definition of cyborg is restricted to instruments embedded in human functioning that work autonomously, Craig M. Klugman suggests a slightly more complex definition of cyborg based on current science and modern science fiction literature. He divides the term into two categories: the replacement body and the enhancement body. These forms are further divided into non-Cartesian and Cartesian forms, creating four final categories as follows:

Of all of these forms, the transplantable body is the only category made reality via modern medical science. The category represents people with mechanical devices used to repair broken or missing human body parts- artificial limbs, pacemakers, etc. However, most current pop culture texts deal with the idea of the cyborg in all other forms, most specifically as an enhanced super body. When I say cyborg you probably think Terminator or Robocop, not a chick with a mechanical insulin pump for a pancreas. But the more I watch and read popular science fiction the more I feel in line with those those mythical super strength forms of cyborg- as a real-life cyborg I too am marginalize and/or a feared monstrosity. That is how disability is coded in an able-bodied world.

Unfortunately, such an awkward mix of medical marvel and human difference is rarely discussed in terms relevant to those of us occupying the boundaries of organism and machine. It took me a while to realize that this is because most authors writing about such states do not actually occupy them. They are tourist, in a way, fascinated by technology without realizing the human consequence. So, here I am, writing to you to remind you that there are consequences.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cyborg beginnings... or how I learned to stop worrying and got the bestest present ever of my life...

I am not sure how many people realize, but insulin pumps cost about $7000 CDN and another $250-$300 per month in supplies. Even with private insurance, patients still usually pay 20%-40% of the pumps cost.

After going back to university and buying into the school's private health insurance plan I realized it might be the best opportunity to purchase an insulin pump. It would still cost me about $2500 CDN, but that was more manageable than the full price. Lucky for me though, just before the purchase, there came this...

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Ontario Launches Diabetes Strategy

$741 Million Plan Will Make Patients Partners In Care

TORONTO, July 22 /CNW/ -


Ontario is investing $741 million in new funding on a comprehensive diabetes strategy over four years to prevent, manage and treat diabetes.

The strategy includes an online registry that will enable better self-care by giving patients access to information and educational tools that empower them to manage their disease. The registry will also give health care providers the ability to easily check patient records, access diagnostic information and send patient alerts. The registry is set to come online starting Spring 2009.

Other key elements of the strategy include:
  • Improving access to insulin pumps and supplies for more than 1300 adults with type 1 diabetes by funding these services for people over the age of 18.
  • Expanding chronic kidney disease services, including greater access to dialysis services.
  • Implementing a strategy to expand access to bariatric surgery.
  • Educational campaigns to prevent diabetes by raising awareness of diabetes risk factors in high risk populations, such as the Aboriginal and South Asian communities.
  • Increasing access to team-based care closer to home by mapping the prevalence of diabetes across the province and the location of current diabetes programs in order to align services and address service gaps.
Ontario's diabetes strategy will help tackle a growing - and expensive - health care challenge. The number of Ontarians with diabetes has increased by 69 per cent over the last 10 years - and is projected to grow from 900,000 to 1.2 million by 2010. Treatment for diabetes and related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease currently cost Ontario over $5 billion each year.

The strategy will support Ontario's two top health-care priorities of improving access to care and reducing emergency wait times.

My pump was fully covered by the government and every three months I receive a cheque to cover the cost of supplies. Two words: thank you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Is that your cell phone?
- no, it's my insulin pump.

Is that your mp3 player?
- no, it's my insulin pump.

Is that your pager?
-wtf? pagers haven't been this bulky since 1995...
*sigh* no, it's my insulin pump.

Is that a data port?
-no, it's my... wait, I actually kind of like that idea... yes! it's my data port! but instead of 1's and 0's it works with the binary insulin/no insulin.