My Abbott FreeStyle Libre Experience!

This is not new news!  Abbott’s flash glucose monitoring system, FreeStyle Libre was released to the Australian public last week.  You can find out further details and order your very own right here   if you haven’t already!  If you dig a little bit deeper online you will find blogs reviewing the product from across the globe.  It is a new technology for Australians but people in the UK and Europe have had access for quite some time now and there is a lot of consumer experience to learn from.

I was part of a pre-launch event and trial sponsored by Abbott Diabetes Care and managed by Weber Shandwick.  I was given the product two weeks prior to the official market launch to assist with the associated media activity.  My experience was used in radio and print media to help people better understand what the real life application of the product is.  (Please note I wasn’t paid for my comment, nor was I obligated to report about the product.  Participating in the radio interview, the newspaper article and writing this blog was entirely my decision.  I am expressing personal views and not those of Abbott Diabetes Care.)

Here is the article that appeared in the Geelong Advertiser on Saturday 4 June, 2016.

20160604_GeelongAdvertiser_SwipeBeatsPainfulTest

 

The advantages for me were the incredibly easy insertion and start up procedure, and the discretion.  Scanning my arm with a smart-phone like device is so much easier to get away with in public than performing a finger prick to check my glucose levels!  In the absence of any other monitoring tools, using the FreeStyle Libre meant that I didn’t have to perform between 10 and 12 blood glucose checks per day to achieve the diabetes management goals I had set for myself.  The system was accurate after the first 24 hours post-insertion and I grew to rely on the readings in the same way I previously relied on blood glucose results.  I have very few glycemic excursions in my average day and I believe this helps to achieve such great accuracy.  The added benefit was the graph on the screen depicting what was happening between scans.  Having the graphs and trend arrows helped me to make better diabetes management decisions.  The sensor that was inserted in the underside of my arm was very comfortable to wear, and in fact I was unaware of it most of the time.

I have decided not to continue using the FreeStyle Libre system because of my individual needs.

I have impaired hypo awareness; almost 100% of the time overnight and between 75% and 80% of the time during the day.  I am not afraid I am going to die of hypoglycemia.  What I am afraid of is endangering myself and others when I may not be aware of how incoherent and unable to function I am due to low blood glucose levels.  Driving is one example.  Looking after my children is another.  I shudder to think about it too much.  So I need a system that will help me to identify the times when I need to prevent or treat hypoglycemia.  Using Continuous Glucose Monitoring System, (CGMS) does this and I have come to rely on it.  Having that data and alerts with me all the time, (integrated with the insulin pump) eases my worry in ways I struggle to put words to.

I also find that using an insulin pump requires a little bit of help to manage at times.  During the media launch week I had an infusion site occlusion overnight.  Instead of being alerted by alarms indicating a rapidly rising glucose level, I woke up hours later with a high blood glucose level, mild ketones and nausea.  It took me nearly six hours to get my glucose level back on track and feel better.  Again, it simply illustrated to me that the FreeStyle Libre doesn’t quite meet my needs.

This is a great tool for people who are looking for an alternative to blood glucose monitoring.  It is important to understand what your personal needs are and what the product offers.  I can’t emphasize that enough; this experience has crystallized that for me even after living with type 1 diabetes for nearly 30 years.

And the say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; well I beg to differ!

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#DBlogWeek 2014 – What Brings Me Down

“May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks go out to Scott of Strangely Diabetic for coordinating this topic.)”

My revived addiction to exercise is what makes dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for me.  I get so very frustrated with the fact that I can’t just “go to training”, or “go for a run” when I want to.  I know that if I did it could be quite dangerous from a diabetes perspective, but more to the point, I wouldn’t be reaping the benefits that exercise has on my health and wellbeing by being reckless.  I get frustrated and angry that I can’t impulsively exercise to clear my mind or blow-off a bad day.  Listening to people who have no health issues and choose to not exercise, yet complain about lethargy and weight issues drives me bonkers.  (Cue latest Nike campaign!)  If only they experienced how hard it is to exercise while managing a chronic illness at the same time, they may think twice about doing themselves out of the opportunity to simply feel good.

I made a decision mid last year to get over myself and just do the things that make me feel good.  After experiencing a health scare that closely related to the reasons why my Mum passed away unexpectedly in 2010, I felt it was time.  I realised that no amount of planning was going to get me any closer to happiness; if anything, it made happiness seem even more unattainable and distant.  And my diabetes was certainly staying put.  That was that; my propensity for “paralysis by analysis” was going to be extinguished!

Regular and enjoyable exercise is one thing that makes me feel fabulous.  So I identified the factors that had been barriers to me exercising sustainably in the past, and I managed to smash them all, including diabetes.

SOCIAL INTERACTION REQUIRED – joined a local training group which has a large and varied membership base

SHORT TRANSIT TIME – 5 minute drive from home

Jarrah's boot set-up KIDS ARE TAKEN CARE OF – committed to three 9am weekday sessions a week so my daughter, Aspen would be  at school and my son, Jarrah could come with me, go for a run on the oval with us, or take in a movie in the boot of the car  on colder days!

DIABETES – waking up an extra 30 minutes early on training days to combat out of range BSL’s which would otherwise prevent me from exercising safely.

The only time I have had to “play the diabetes card” at training was when my insulin pump line fell out from underneath my shirt during a mad boxing frenzy and I ripped my site out.  I took a 5 minute break to run to the car, do a BSL, inject the amount of insulin I calculated I’d need to see me through training / shower / site insertion and I got right back into it.

Diabetes can take a hike.

I choose to be fit, healthy, and most importantly, happy.

 

 

It’s Easy As 1, 2, 3…

My son, Jarrah is turning three in April.  After harnessing the power of verbal communication, (in other words, he spoke and most understood) I made a quiet decision to start talking about my diabetes to him.  I’ve done my best to adapt words and concepts to age-appropriate material, and that has been a feat in itself!  How do you explain to a two year old boy why Mummy gets to eat jelly beans when ever she has a hypo?  Suffice to say I have recently switched to glucose tablets to avoid that discussion.   Merely picking my battles there!

Back in December last year, Jarrah fell very ill with a chest infection that graduated to a mild case of pneumonia.  I spent most nights calming and comforting him through coughing fits and fevers.  One thing that ended up being a little light entertainment for him was my insulin pump.  He has always known it’s been there and figured out which button switches the backlight on and off, but we started talking about what it actually was.

I managed to record a snap shot of one of our conversations:

It will be a slow and steady process, and I will continue to teach him aspects of my diabetes that I think he needs to know and can handle.  My gorgeous eight year old daughter, Aspen has coped well with everything she has observed and I have taught her.  I have two of the most delightful guardian angels by my sides and I am eternally grateful.

Kids Otways

And I thought scar tissue was sneaky!

I have had trouble with my insulin pump infusion sites lately.  To the point where I thought I might have to review my entire diabetes management strategy; something I don’t feel I have time to do well right now!  I was experiencing fluctuating blood sugar levels at times when I wouldn’t have ordinarily anticipated them to happen.  Yes; I expect them to fluctuate after a few cheeky cocktails and a night out dancing.  No; I don’t expect them to fluctuate after eating a measured serve of brown rice for lunch following a tidy dual wave bolus.

As one would expect, I have developed quite a bit of scar tissue on my abdomen after ten years of pumping and bearing two children.  The evidence has always been visible so I have managed to locate healthy tissue by siting away from stretch marks and little white circles where infusions sites have been inserted before.  Unfortunately my visual checks are no longer enough.  I’ve started using my sides and my back because my abdomen has just grown tired.  Bam;  unanticipated glycaemic excursions gone!  (Note to any company that makes alcohol swabs.  If you can come up with a formula to highlight hidden scar tissue on application, you’ll make millions.  I copyright and patent that!)

Just when I thought my infusion site woes were over, this started happening:

Site peel

To the untrained eye it may mean nothing.  To me, it meant hassle.  The adhesive started peeling away within 24 hours of insertion.  My sites had always lasted longer than that.  Always.  (Unless I got myself all spray-tanned up for a special occasion, of course!)  So again, I went through all the steps in my routine that may be causing this to happen over and over.  Nothing.  Not one iota of a hint… until I started to think outside the box.  And this loomed up over the horizon:

Moisturiser

I had recently changed my daily moisturiser to combat the dry skin I get over winter and because of my bothersome under active thyroid.  This was my product of choice because I found that I could skip a day here or there and my skin still felt good.  What I didn’t realise was that the moisturiser was actually leaving a residue on my skin which interfered with my infusion sites sticking and staying stuck.  Well duh, “Felt For Up To 7 Days” means something in this situation, doesn’t it?

Diabetes beat hypothyroidism this time.  But I suppose I should have expected that.