Finding out you are diabetic was not easy to hear, all the knowledge in the world may not have truly prepared me. I have used the FreeStyle Libre over the last 4 months, this article is a little bit of information about the journey and my diabetes struggles.
It will never happen to me
Growing up one of my closest friends was diabetic, I used to watch him take insulin and think it was a weird thing to have to do. You see I was fairly addicted to sweets and at one point I had three sugars in my cup of tea (very English of me). At that time my understanding of diabetes was little to nothing, Why would I worry about the type of food I consumed? I was young, carefree and I answered to nobody!
Well that is what I thought anyway, reality hit many years later. I gained weight from an unstructured diet, took on the many stresses life can bring and then a close friend sadly passed away.
I heard that you can get diabetes from a shock event in life or through bad choices in diet.
Boy was I shocked, my friend was older than I and in some ways a father figure who I looked up to. The death of my friend still brings a tear to my eye now 5 years after the event. As I sit here writing my eyes are feeling heavier and the memories flood back.
It can happen to me and it did, a gift if you like from the passing of my friend, I joke and say he passed it on to me but now I’ve accepted I have diabetes.
I’m finally prepared for the commitment that brings with looking after your blood sugars to stay healthy and alive. The journey isn’t easy but stick with it and you will learn about the ups and downs and how anyone who is struggling can get through this.
The path to health is a climb
Miley Cyrus had it right with her hit song “The Climb“, now I am sure there are readers who won’t like the Artist, however the lyrics are correct, it is the climb. During the early months of my diabetes you could say it became an excuse to eat when convenient.
This involved the not so healthy foods and embraced the opportunity to go out and enjoy meals out. I’m not regretting the lovely meals I enjoyed with my lovely wife, however my decisions were not helpful in my journey to control my diabetes.
The hospital started me off on Insulin to get my bloods down, apparently my bloods were registering 60+ when they should be between 4-9 (for me as everyone is slightly different). I have no idea how it didn’t cause permanent damage or death. Prior to the knowledge I had diabetes, often I would finish working come home and almost instantly fall asleep or find it impossible to stop the thirst.
The life changing moment came after a Christening we went to and I had consumed nearly 4 Litres of Pink Lemonade which was there for everyone. Finally I went for tests and the prognosis was clear I had diabetes.
I can beat this
Life for me has always been a battle of will, my belief has always been that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. There is often truth to this but unfortunately if you have the disease of diabetes this isn’t always possible. My insulin production at the time of my diagnosis was still going on and the hospital coined this ‘The Honey Moon Period’.
As sweet as it sounded it was anything but, when your body produces insulin as a diabetic it can become difficult to know what the correct dosage is if sugar should be removed from the diet altogether.
You see sometimes I would have normal bloods and regardless of what was eaten they would be okay, however as a honey moon never lasts forever neither did the insulin production. Now I rely on the Insulin but testing for bloods can be difficult, not because of the physical nature of drawing blood but just keeping up with a busy lifestyle.
My denial grew and sometimes I’d joke to my wife that I wasn’t diabetic just so I didn’t have to think about it. I have to admit though there was a time I though it was beaten, through regular running at the gym the insulin was lowering on it’s own. Unfortunately this was short lived and I began to feel ill again.
So now I’m back on Insulin full time, I take Insulin in a morning and another with meals, it is judged on a Carbohydrates to mmo/l reading of 1 unit per 10 grams of Carbs, I was still finding it difficult to manage due to inconsistency of the tests and what is going on inside wasn’t always clear to understand.
What is the FreeStyle Libre?
For me the FreeStyle Libre system is nothing short of a miracle, I was invited by Harrogate Hospital to take part in the trial and genuinely it changed my life. Once received you place the FreeStyle Libre patch on your arm and keep it attached for 14 days. Once the time runs out the Sensor will stop allowing readings and prompt you to change it.
The FreeStyle Libre has changed my life because now I can take regular readings without the requirement of taking blood and using a sharp needle to prick my finger to take the blood. The FreeStyle Libre Sensor is a small round sensor that sits on your arm, held in by adhesive and a small needle under the skin as below:
Why is the FreeStyle Libre worn on the arm?
Currently Abbott only uphold a warranty if worn on the arm, they say that the readings are best worn on the arm, although there are reports of people having success trying different areas of the body. I personally have found the sweet spot to be under the arm a few inches from the elbow.
Several times I would knock off the sensor attempting to wear it on the side of the arm. I’ve heard reports of people trying wacky places but apparently you can’t wear it like an Iron Man chest piece as the readings will be incorrect.
The sensor is 5mm in height and 35mm in diameter, after a little bit of time you stop noticing it is there and go on about your day but the only exceptions is you have to be careful when putting on and taking off clothing not to be too rough or you may inadvertently knock the sensor off (which I have done several times). Once the sensor is removed there is no putting it back, it needs to be discarded safely in a sharps box.
What makes it good?
If you are a diabetic or familiar with blood testing, we typically would use a device that uses a sharp needle to draw blood. Typically it would heal quickly but it would bleed enough to draw blood on the strip and place in the reader.
The FreeStyle Reader comes with a blood test machine but it also supports the sensor, once applied to your body you press the scan sensor button and it will detect that you are wearing the sensor. The sensor will be unavailable for sixty minutes, this gives it time to begin measuring the bloods.
The FreeStyle Libre also supports SmartPhone usage, when pairing there is an option of just using your Smartphone or if you pair the Reader first you can use both the Reader and Smartphone to track the sensor.
Once the sensor is registered it will show at the bottom how long is left from a maximum of 14 days. Every time you want to check your readings you simply select ‘Check Glucose’ and it will prepare itself for you to scan. We do this by holding the front camera area to the sensor.
The Hospital can access the readings once you permit them, to keep the sensor you should ideally take a minimum of 8 readings.
What makes it good? Well, without the sensor I would still be having to prick my finger and you may not know this but you end up with lots of tiny marks on your fingers where you have drawn blood.
With the FreeStyle Libre I can do a quick scan whenever needed and if I need the Nurse / Doctor to look at the readings to see how I am doing they can do so. If you wonder how the data can be shared there is a site www2.libreview.com from here you can view your current and historic data and also connect health care services such as your local Hospital or GP.
In honesty I feel it has changed my life and knowing the trends of whether your bloods are going up or down prior to taking insulin is a huge bonus as illustrated below:
If your bloods are on the rise then depending on if you are due to eat or taking part in physical exercise you can judge what your next steps should be. You can find out your estimated A1C readings going back up to a maximum of 90 days and you can add reminders to try prevent you forgetting to test your bloods. A day like mine it can be quite easy to forget to check the readings, especially if you rely on your Smartphone to complete the readings.
LibreView Shows so much more
Logging onto www2.libreview.com you are given the option of connecting a Reader or viewing the Glucose history:
The Glucose history can go back up to 90 days and provides quite a lot of information to track how you are doing with your insulin / Carb management. The example below shows:
The FreeStyle Libre allows you to record your food intake, how much Insulin you are taking as well as exercise. The note is added along with your blood readings and is useful when you try to track your diet and work out if your dosage is correct. With allthe data in the App and on www2.libreview.com both you and your doctors can work out if you’re on the right track.
The FreeStyle Libre App also allows you to connect others to be able to share in the data, for instance I have added my wife to the app and every time my readings are checked via the app a notification is sent to her with the current reading. An extra pair of eyes looking after your readings is definitely useful.
As you can see the app is definitely useful and a must for any tech enthusiastic diabetics but it has not always been easy to deal with.
Are there any downsides?
Well there has been difficulties, such as clothing knocking it off or brushing past furniture too close causing the needle to come loose. Other issues are if you activate the Smartphone but choose not to enable the Reader, they are unable to both function at the same time.
You can set timers but there is no way for the sensor to alert you, there is a new model coming out soon which is out in Germany which does alert you when your blood sugar is low. As an Apple fan it is a shame there is no Apple Watch app, with the fitness tracking on Smart Watches it seems a no brainer to add the ability to get notifications on the Apple Watch or any Android Smart Watch.
Thank you for reading
At CHTSI we love all things tech, however I felt that talking about the FreeStyle Libre was an important topic even if it is a more personal one. We are all on a journey through life and some find it more difficult than others, if you want to reach out you can do so in the comments below or through our Forum or Contact Page.