The Genius of Intuition

Steven Lee Gilbert

There is something I just don’t get yet. For as long as we’ve been administering Lia’s insulin through a pump we routinely find ourselves relying on intuition when determining her dose. A word problem of how this happens might look something like this:

Lia and her dad are on a field trip to visit a Native American settlement that had been founded and recreated along the banks of a very old river. It is a three hour car ride from school, for which they program a +30% temp basal. They arrive and while watching a documentary film of the tribe, Lia indicates she’s feeling shaky. Fearing a low, they apply an alcohol swab to her finger and check her blood. It reads 331. To bring it down, the pump suggests a dose of 4.10 units of insulin. The two of them talk and decide that 4 units is just too much, especially for the way she is feeling. They agree on a dose half that number. They finish the film and go outside and stand in the rain to watch a demonstration of primitive hunting, after which it is lunchtime. Ninety minutes has passed since Lia received the dose. Before eating, she checks her blood and the meter reads 64. Lia and her dad share a perplexed look with one another. With almost one full unit of insulin still on board, what might have happened had they given the full amount?

It may be that Lia is still honeymooning, though her endocrinologist thinks not. It may be the first reading was just wrong, perhaps her finger wasn’t cleaned properly, maybe it was a meter accuracy issue.

Or it could be that treating diabetes isn’t really just a matter of science. It requires more than mathematical logic and the relationship of quantity, patterns and conjecture, but must also take into account the most primitive and genius of the human condition, the element of instinct.

Not to take anything away from science. It is science that made the field trip that Lia and I were on even possible, without it the village would’ve stayed lost forever. But just as emotion and intuition were certainly a part of the people of that great settlement, and possibly even its demise, I wonder where in the complex world of artificial re-creation does the word hunch fit in.