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Awesome Dad Builds DIY Artificial Pancreas for His Diabetic Son

When little Andrew Calabrese’s pancreas gave out at age three, leaving him with a lifelong diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, his parents Heidi and Jason wanted to do everything possible help him through the life altering disease. While Heidi set-up a support group to connect with other families battling the illness, Jason, a software engineer, devoted his time to building a device that could help regulate his son’s insulin levels.

He eventually succeeded in building an artificial pancreas system using OpenAPS (Open Artificial Pancreas System), a free online project that makes APS technology widely available to anyone who wants to save lives and reduce the burden of Type 1 diabetes. Developed by 27-year-old Type 1 diabetic Dana Lewis in December 2014, OpenAPS provides “a safety-focused reference design, a toolset, and an open source reference implementation that can be used by any individual – or any medical device manufacturer.”

Using these instructions, Jason spent two months learning how to hack an old insulin pump to automatically keep blood glucose (BG) levels in a safe range – both overnight and in between meals. He added a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that would provide BG data to the pump, and command it to adjust the temporary basal rates accordingly. After ensuring the device’s safety, and getting their doctor’s approval, Andrew finally began using OpenAPS to keep his insulin levels in check. In fact, the third-grader even carries it to school in his backpack. “OpenAPS is there when I can’t be,” Jason said. “It’s cut the time Andrew spends below 80 mg/dL in half.”

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