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Posts tagged ‘diabetes’

Trying out the Freestyle Libre System

[DISCLOSURE – PLEASE READ:  The team at Abbott reached out to me and asked if I’d like to trial the Freestyle Libre system.  I said yes.  After my doctor approved a prescription for the device, Abbott sent out the scanning device and two sensors at no cost to me.  This whole review needs that bias lens in place.  Good?  Good.  Thanks for reading.]

When I was first handed the Autolet lancing device back in 1986, I remember being completely freaked out.  And rightfully so, because that thing was a beast and blasted my fingertip to bits on a regular basis.

But over time, lancing devices became smaller and less painful.  And meters became smaller, less cumbersome, and more accurate.  In 2006, I tried a CGM for the first time and my mind was BLOWN because there was this device, stuck to my body, sucking out interstitial fluid and offering up a trend graph of my blood sugars.  And it alarmed when my numbers went above or below my personalized thresholds.  Streaming video of my blood sugars versus a polaroid picture version is progress in my book.

And for the last week or so, I’ve been trying out the Freestyle Libre system. (Note:  they asked that I always use it’s full name – the Freestyle Libre system – so please excuse my formality here on this weblog posted to the world wide web.)  I’m wearing this device in addition to my Tandem X2 insulin pump and my Dexcom G5 CGM, so I’ve gone full robot. Pros and cons?  Don’t mind if I do.

Freestyle Libre system PROS:

The insertion process is a cake walk.  To be fair, I’ve only put in one sensor so far, but it was as painless as this needle crap can be.  And the adhesive is amazing.  I’m clearly a fragile flower in the skin department, with rash reactions to lots of adhesives, and I’ve also spent a lot of money and time taping down pump sites and Dexcom sensors in order to get the approved time out of them.  But the Freestyle Libre system has been stuck to the back of my right arm for 8 days now without any puckering or shifting.

The wearability of this device is also very good.  The profile of the transmitter is very low, making it harder for door jams and bra straps to grab.  It doesn’t leave a giant lump underneath my clothes, and the completely circular shape leaves no snaggy sharp edges.  Subtle, and I like it, and it was harder for my son to grab onto and use to climb me, which was another bonus.  And if I had a child with diabetes, I’d be very inclined to check this device out for them, when taking into account wearability and pain factors.

No calibrations are required, which is kind of magical to me.  This thing goes on, stays stuck, and doesn’t ask me to do anything other than scan it when I feel like scanning it.  And I have scanned it like crazy.  The first day, I scanned a whole bunch of times and enjoyed the little BOOP! noise it burped out when activated.  And I also appreciated being able to add notes after checking my BG, citing food, exercise, etc.

The screens are nice, too.  Every time I scan, I see where my blood sugar is, where it’s been, and an arrow indicating where it might be headed.  I can also see a daily graph, average glucose for some time spans (7, 14, 30, and 90 day assessments) and also Time in Target, which is a real win for me, as time in range means more to me than my A1C results.  Unfortunately, the touch screen on my device sucks and I have to press the screen at least three times in order to get it to respond.  I assume it’s not like this on all devices.  I haven’t downloaded the software yet to see my data, and I could also take the Tidepool route, as they recently added the … Freestyle … Libre … system to their slate of supported devices, but I’ll explore those options in the coming weeks and report back ASAP.

And the basic operations of the device?  A big pro feature.  It’s supposed to make me check my BG regularly.  It accomplishes that goal.  Not having to prick my finger at all is a huge bonus, and it takes half a second to get a result.  (I was also able to easily and reliably scan the sensor through a long sleeved t-shirt, a sweater, and a heavy winter coat.  The thing has good range.)  I scan at least 10 times per day, and it’s easy and painless.  A huge plus.

Freestyle Libre system CONS:

It doesn’t alarm when my blood sugar is out of range.  That’s a big deal to me, especially since I don’t often feel my low blood sugar symptoms.  Also, after using a traditional CGM for over 10 years, I’ve grown accustomed to the data being not only available but LOUD.  The alarms have potentially saved me from dangerous situations, and I am grateful for them.  I also rely on them, as they catch me when I forget to check in on my BG.

The 12-hour warm up period is not optimal.  I’m already frustrated by the 2 hours I have to wait for Dexcom to get hot, so the 12 hour waiting period for the Freestyle (wait for it …) Libre system to ready itself for use is agonizing.  I put my sensor on at 9 in the morning and had to wait all day for data.  Granted, the sensor works for 10 days after it is inserted, but the 12 hours?  Not fun.

The scanner device is another separate piece of technology that I need to keep charged and have with me at all times.  I’ve left it in my car overnight, on the kitchen table when I meant to have it in my purse, etc.  I’m sure that I’d become used to remembering it, just like I did when I had to carry a Dexcom receiver, but at the moment, I forget more than I’d like.

My results seem to run on the lower side when compared to my Dexcom G5 CGM and my Freestyle Freedom Lite glucose meter.  Like just now, my Dexcom said I was 146 mg/dL, my meter said I was 145 mg/dL, and the Freestyle Libre system said I was 113 mg/dL.  I’ve been using the Freestyle Libre system for nine days now and it has been consistently lower that my other devices. I will report back after longer use times, but for now, that’s the trend I’ve seen.

Overall assessment?

The Freestyle Libre system is easy to use, but it doesn’t replace the Dexcom CGM, for me.  Continued use would take a bite out of those annoying things, like forgetting the scanner at home.  Does it make checking my blood sugar easier?  Yes.  Are the trends useful?  Yes. But the fact that it doesn’t alarm is the biggest drawback for me, and I am not sure I’ll ever change my opinion on how important those alarms are for me.  Also, I have years of Dexcom use and trust, so it’s hard to accept new tech without bucking up against the idea of change.

These are just initial impressions, and I’m very happy to have the chance to check this tech out.  More on all this stuff in another week or so, after I’ve ripped off this sensor and checked to make sure my skin is still there.  For now, I’ll embrace this new method of diabetes cyborgishness and see where it goes.

Some pros and cons after trying out the Freestyle Libre system @freestylediabet #freestylelibre #disclosure Click To Tweet

Traveling with Diabetes

With the calendar about to tip us right into the holiday season, I wanted to share a few “traveling with diabetes recommendations,” since many of our fellow PWD will be braving the roads, seas, and skies to get home for the holidays.  (How many of you travel by boat to get home?  Any PPWD [pirate people with diabetes] reading here?)

On the road with a busted pancreas?  Here are some tips for traveling when you don’t make insulin:

Pack back-ups.  Wearing an insulin pump?  Bring a few more infusion set changes than you think you’ll need.  Have a long-acting insulin and fast-acting insulin pen in your carry-on, just in case your pump craps out.  I always keep a few syringes in my bag, too, on the off chance that I’ll need them.  And if I’m planning on being away for a week or more, I’ll bring an extra vial of insulin, in case I smash one on the bathroom floor.  (Rarely happens, especially since adding this protective cover to my arsenal.)

And bring extra underwear and socks.  Just because.

Keep a solid glucose supply.  With airport security different in every city and country, you never know when a juice box will be tossed as contraband.  Keep your glucose supplies non-liquid, if you can.  I keep jars of glucose tabs in my backpack and one of those raisin box 6-packs in my carry-on in case of lows.

Wear a medical alert ID.  A medical ID speaks for you when you can’t speak for yourself, and with the unpredictable nature of diabetes sometimes peaking during travel, it’s crucial to have your bases covered.  Wear something that says you have diabetes – a necklace, a bracelet, a temporary tattoo, a REAL tattoo … whatever can help someone help you if you need it.  And the medical alert jewelry available today is an upgrade compared to the crap we used to have to wear, so there’s that bonus.

Know where you are.  As someone with a useless sense of direction and an equally useless pancreas, resources that help with directions are key.  Whether I’m trying to get back to my hotel or am in need of the closest medical facility, the Here WeGo app has been really great while on the road.  You can download maps of the cities you’re visiting before you even get on the plane and the maps work in real-time and don’t require cell service/wifi to use while you’re out.

If you’re not a fan of smartphone technology, do some research ahead of travel to scope out the nearest medical resources.  Either method will arm you with important information, if you need it.

Have fun.  Hell yes have fun, because traveling with diabetes is completely and utterly doable.  And there is fun to be had, and stuff to SEE.  Whether you’re taking an afternoon to roll up on a mountain and hike that thing or jet-setting off to another country to take in the sights, planning properly makes diabetes less of a Thing and more just a carry-on.

Safe and happy travels!!

On the road with a busted pancreas? Here are some travel tips! Click To Tweet

Holiday Gift Guide for People with Diabetes

Holiday shopping is HAPPENING, and if are a PWD or loving one, there are a bunch of silly, fun, clever, and joy-sparky gifts available for you to snap up in time for the holidays.  Check out this gift guide for people with diabetes (here’s the one from last year), and if you have gift ideas that are perfect for PWD, please share those suggestions in the comments section!

(And be on the lookout for a holiday reading list next week, featuring some excellent books for and by PWD.)

You want this cookie cutter.  Cookies shaped like insulin bottles are literally a delicious irony.  Actually, you can score this cookie cutter for your bolus-worthy treats and also explore this site’s other bits of awesomeness, like the custom insulin pumps and CGM sensors for dolls.  Slap a Dexcom on your Elf on a Shelf, or subject your Paw Patrol critters to a pump!

This James Diabetes case from Myabetic is the best upgrade to that crummy black nylon case that comes with every meter.  I love the purple, the vegan leather is amazing, and the versatility of this case makes it a gorgeous addition to your diabetes arsenal.  Check out their site for other color options, and peruse out the other design options available!

Glucolift makes the best glucose tabs.  This is my opinion, but it might also be a fact because these tabs have a ton of fans in the diabetes community.  While the cherry and orange cream flavors are amazing, I’m a fan of wildberry.  These tabs are useful little stocking stuffers and also good when you need to stuff your face with glucose during a hairy holiday hypo.

Personal mug plug for SixUntilMe?  Yep.  If diabetes doesn’t define you, but it helps explain you, you can drink your coffee from a ceramic version of that sentiment.  Make sure you don’t bother with decaf in this mug, though.  It might reject decaf entirely.

Ahoy, PumpPeelz!  Dress up your t:slim with these adorable decals, or check out the PumpPeelz catalog of decorative adhesives, from anchors for your X2 to dinosaurs for your Dexcom.  These decals dress up diabetes in a way that adds a little fun to your devices.

FitBit, anyone?  Yeah, the wearables craze is a bit … crazy, considering I’m wearing a whole pile of wearables related to diabetes, but using a FitBit does help me stay accountable, even if just to myself, about exercise.  Pairing with PWD partners helps, too, and the challenges can be fun.

This t-shirt cracks me up.  The Internet is not fearing of a shortage of clever, diabetes-related t-shirts, and since I love spotting PWD in the wild, I thought this shirt was a clever one.  The bear image is a bonus.

Happy shopping!

Giving Tuesday: Diabetes Edition

In keeping with the theme of doing more good, here are a few diabetes organizations that I personally support because their mission is also to do more good.  I mean, it’s Giving Tuesday.  So would you consider giving?

T1 Today (aka Children with Diabetes) is an organization I feel powerfully connected to on a dozen different levels.  As a board member and an adult with type 1 diabetes, the Friends for Life conference that Children with Diabetes puts on is diabetes camp for adults.  It’s an overwhelming sense of community and inspiration condensed into a few days that somehow fill me up for the rest of the year.  With support from generous people like you, the Friends for Life conference can be part of diabetes landscape until we’re all sporting our own islet cells.

Kate’s Cause is an amazing organization born from grief that has the capacity to do a tremendous amount of good.  Lindsay Rhodes, mom to the gorgeous and very loved Kate Rhodes, started this non-profit to push for funding, awareness, and a cure for the disease that took her child.  Lindsay has a type 1 diabetes connection (she has T1D) and she is a friend.  Please consider giving to Kate’s Cause.

A Sweet Life is a diabetes magazine (disclosure: I have done some editorial work over there) that aims to provide people with diabetes the information, entertainment, and inspiration they need to live a healthy life.  Their mission is pure and their team is hard-working.  Your donation will help them continue to provide a dose of digital support to our DOC.

Life for a Child provides a child in a developing country with the insulin and supplies they need for just a dollar a day.  This is the same organization that the Spare a Rose campaign supports every February, but with insulin access at the forefront of so many diabetes discussions, supporting Life for a Child today, and in February, makes a lot of sense and also makes a difference you can hug.

If you’re not in a position to give financially on Giving Tuesday, go back to that whole “do more good” sort of thing.  Give someone a hand with getting their groceries into the cart.  Hold the door for someone.  Tell the bank teller you like their shirt, or the cashier that their earrings are awesome.  Hand out some smiles today.

And thanks for being part of the diabetes community and for making a difference.  You’re awesome.  If there are charities/organizations you’d like to highlight on Giving Tuesday, please leave a link in the comments!

Walking in No-Hitter Wonderland

Dexcom rings
Are you listening?
On the graph
Lows are blistering.
A beautiful sight
Is an overnight
Walking in no-hitter* wonderland

Gone away
Are my betas
Here to stay
Is the data.
My Dexcom alarms
Protect me from harm.
Searching for no-hitter wonderland

In the meadow we can build an organ
And pretend that he’s a pancreas.
He’ll say I’m so useful
We’ll say no man
But I will do your job
You pain in the ass.

Later on
We’ll check BGs
As we dream of a cure, please.
To face unafraid
The plans that we’ve made
Waiting for no-hitter wonderland

Dexcom rings
And I’m tuned in
On my graph
I’m improving.
A beautiful sight
I’m happy tonight
Watching my no-hitter wonderland.


(* A no-hitter is a CGM graph that stays within the lines for 24 hours)


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