Kris Maynard remembers that pivotal moment when a low blood sugar stopped him in his tracks and had his loved ones frantic.
The 39-year-old type 1 from Spokane, WA, was diagnosed roughly 16 years ago, when he was a young man serving in the military.
He's had his share of hypos over the years, but in the past two years he's found inspiration for not only bringing himself out of those lows, but helping others with diabetes who experience the same crisis situations.
An avid cyclist and runner, Maynard recalls his first half-marathon in 2014 where he decided not to carry any juice because it was "too bulky" and tough to cart along. Instead, he went without any glucose and had to call his wife in a panic to bring juice to boost his blood sugars after he nearly toppled over.
"It was so frustrating knowing that I could not participate in an activity or sport I enjoyed because of my blood sugar lows," he said.
Then last year, while camping with his kids, Kris went low in the middle of the night -- to the point where he started convulsing, and the paramedics had to rush to the campsite, where they rubbed glucose gel on his gums to boost his blood sugar.
Ironically, Kris works as an EMT and firefighter himself, so he knows that process well as he's administered glucose via gel and IV to many people on the job.
Those experiences sparked the idea for what Kris and his wife are now developing: The Glucose Boost necklace.
Clever Necklace Design
It's a hollow necklace with glucose gel inside, and you squeeze that gel out onto the gums for quick absorption. Resembling those glow necklaces you get at amusement parks, it's made of soft plastic that can be squeezed but won't kink when worn, and it's connected by a magnetic clasp that makes it easy for quick removal and adjustment for any size or shape of person. The magnetic clasp acts as a plug that you remove when needed, to squeeze out as much of the 25 grams of glucose gel inside -- 10 grams more than the American Diabetes Association recommends every PWD carry in case of a low. It's not refillable, so you'd have to buy a new one after using the glucose gel inside.
The necklace will come with a small pendant displaying the Blue Circle universal diabetes symbol in a nod to the global diabetes community.
Wiith a patent pending on the necklace, it's still in prototype phase and isn’t yet on the market. Kris says it's too early to know what an exact cost will be, but he's hoping to keep the pricetag around $5 or $10.
Kris says he wears his 24/7, and when he's used some of the gel, he's been able to successfully cap the necklace to use again later. If he happens to go unconscious, his family or even friends can easily administer the glucose on his gums instead of having to wait for an ambulance or struggle with a complicated glucagon injection kit.
As he likes to say, his t:slim insulin pump and Dexcom CGM help him mostly with the highs and now this glucose necklace helps him with the lows.
“It’s something I wish I’d had sooner,” Kris says, and he's convinced that scores of other PWDs on the "glucose roller coaster" will feel the same.
The stats tell the story well: 30% of type 1s admitted to hospitals are there due to severe hypoglycemic reactions in the last 7 days, Kris says.
Actionable Medical Alert
"I look at this necklace as a type of medical alert necklace, but with a solution!" Kris says. "In times of low blood sugar and the state of confusion, I wanted something you didn’t need to look for -- or that friends and family had to scramble for -- in time of panic. I wanted something easy and readily available. That's when the idea occurred to me... I don’t know how many times I've administered glucose gel to diabetics as an EMT and I never thought to carry it myself."
Here are some prototype images of the necklace, which the Maynards are hopes to get developed and to market as soon as the end of this summer.
"At first, I didn’t think of making it available to other people, until my endocrinologist said, I really need to. I showed her the prototype I was wearing and she said, 'This is a simple solution to potentially devastating and all-too-common problem,'" Kris says.
Adam Morrison Assists
Former Gonzaga college basketball and NBA player Adam Morrison is a silent partner on this, as Kris and he had met in passing years ago and started talking. They are both from the Spokane area and Kris describes himself a big sports fan, and they both happen to see the same endocrinologist and have worked with the local ADA chapter.
They are currently searching for companies to license the product for sale. They're just learning the business side and exploring what the potential market demand might be for this kind of product, so a timeline isn't clear.
Aside from helping PWDs in regular life or during athletic activities, Kris sees a broader potential for this glucose gel necklace to inspire younger generations of D-peeps who might be self-conscious about their diabetes.
"Because I was diagnosed at the age of 23, I did not go to school as a diabetic. But in working with the ADA, I saw firsthand the embarrassment young diabetic school children face. They feel different than everyone else, especially when they need to go eat something or drink something during class to control their blood sugar. The necklace was designed to be discrete to help hide this potential embarrassment for people of all ages."
We absolutely LOVE this idea, and can't wait to get our hands on these necklaces!