Back to the bubble recent ramble. New starts, A1c results, and the Freestyle Libre trial(!)

Hello lovely people, I know it’s been a while, but I’ve not forgotten about this blog, or my innate need to somewhat share this small part (yeah, right) of my life with you all on this fun, fun trip to educate. This small concept called ‘life’ seems to have gotten in-between me and my bubble these past few weeks… but do not fear, I’m still here, and I’m back to bore you with an update of what has been going on, D-wise. Actually, quite a lot has happened in the last three weeks. Firstly, I’ve started back at University for my second and final Masters year, which I’m sure is going to royally chuff up my levels what with stress and no time to eat and what not, fun. I’ll be sure to write something up at some point about busy musician life and T1D…

Secondly, I HAVE BEEN PUT ON A FREESTYLE LIBRE TRIAL! That’s right, I’m going finger prick free people!!! The Freestyle Libre is an absolutely brilliant, relatively new breakthrough in blood glucose monitoring. The average Type One Diabetic will check their blood glucose levels 6-12 times every day and night. This involves a prick to the finger with a needle in order to extract blood. It is time consuming, it is not practical or discreet in the slightest, it is a faff, and it is painful, that is the bottom line. Just because one may find oneself used to the ritual of pricking their fingers multiple times a day, does not mean that the pain becomes diminished or any less. If anything, I have found it has become more painful over the years as my fingertips scab over and bruise from repeatedly pricking them. I’ve found them to be sore when playing now, particularly the flute, which is so un-ideal and upsetting, I can’t even begin to tell you the extent of this. So, HELLO LIBRE! What a gem. I should explain what this alien Libre actually is and what it does… There are two parts to the Freestyle Libre: the Libre reader and the Libre sensor. The LIbre sensor is a small white circular shaped sensor that sits at the back of the arm. It measures blood glucose through interstitial fluid, and is therefore not as accurate as a finger prick blood glucose test, which gives the most accurate and up-to-date reading. It last for 14 days, and really is painless to insert. It is the small white circle on the back of my arm that I look rather smug about in the picture below.

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Note: That little black box on my hip has nothing to do with the LIbre system, that is my insulin pump.

The sensor continuously collects data, to be viewed on the Libre reader. The LIbre reader looks very similar to other modern blood glucose monitors (the types which require a finger prick), however, the Libre reader does not require a finger prick to view blood glucose levels. See picture below.

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The Libre sensor is touchscreen, portable, and the battery life is incredible. All one must simply do is hold the reader over the sensor (even over winter coats, people!) and the current BG reading immediately pops up on the screen along with an arrow indicating which way you are heading and a complete graph of the last 8 hours worth of blood glucose data collected. HOW AMAZING! Suddenly we have all of this extra information available to us that we have never had before using finger pricks alone. Waking up in the morning and seeing how my blood glucose levels have behaved overnight from one painless and quick scan has been a real eye opener for sure. If I see I am at a good level and dropping, I know I can eat something or reduce my basal (hourly background dose) rate of insulin on my pump to avoid having a hypo (low blood glucose episode). Likewise, if I see I am steady but rising, I can give myself a bolus dose of insulin (immediate dose) to counteract the rise. I can truly see how different foods affect my levels and I can fine tune doses whilst figuring out different bolus types to counteract blood glucose spikes (rises) after meals. I’ve had sixteen years of pricking my own fingers everyday and now there is this amazing piece of technology that just absolutely blows traditional ways of testing out of the water.

It goes without saying though, that the Libre does come with some downfalls, and therefore, I am not completely free from finger pricks (but there’s a lot, lot, less of them!) The Freestyle Libre has a 5-10 minute lag on the readings from finger prick tests, and is therefore not yet accepted by the DVLA, therefore, I still have to prick every time I drive. I have also experienced issues with the accuracy of my Libre sensor over the past two days, therefore, Abbott (the company who make the Libre) are sending me a new sensor to try. Mine has been giving me readings of up to 4.1 mmol/L below my finger prick tests. With targets of 4.5-8.5, generally speaking, this is a massive amount for it to be out by. Thankfully, Abbott have been brilliant with this. I guess everything has potential faults, just shock that I got a faulty sensor, right! I found the faulty sensor to be a bit upsetting in honesty, as I really, really, wanted this to work out and had put so much hope into it. Here’s to the next one, eh! Another downside to the Libre is the cost of it. The handset costs £57.95 and the sensors also cost £57.95 each. As a diabetic, I am exempt from tax on this, which brings the price of the sensors down to around £49 per sensor. This is still an expenditure of £98 per month. Quite a chunk for a poor student like me! Unfortunately, the Libre is not currently available on the NHS, although, it would work out to be more cost effective and could even save on diabetes related complication costs to our precious National Health Service through the better treatment and prevention of early onset complications. But what do I know…

As I am being sent a new sensor to try, I will be sure to write an update of the Libre, or maybe even a vlog if I dare to be so raucous. Sassy. I’ll be sure to include the full details there, as there is an awful lot I have missed out here. On a last note on this topic, here is a link to Abbott’s Freestyle Libre system, should you wish to find out more: http://www.freestylelibre.co.uk

Moving on from the excitement of the Libre trial, I have also got my dreaded HbA1c blood test result back in the past few weeks of absence. Now, for the non-diabetics amongst you reading this, you’re probably wondering what on Earth this means. The HbA1c, or A1c, as it is fondly known as by us Diabetics, is a blood test that measures glycated haemoglobin. This develops when haemoglobin joins with glucose in the blood. By measuring the amount of glycated haemoglobin, we get an overall average of what blood glucose levels have been over the past 3 months, typically. It’s a really important result for diabetics, as the higher it is, the more likely we are to develop complications. Well, I’ve been working so hard for health and I managed to bring mine down from 63, to 53, in three months. This means my average blood glucose level has been 7.0 mmol/L. I am pleased with this level on reflection, but I was aiming so strongly for 52 or below, as this is considered really very good. I am still within the NICE guidelines for diabetic patients at 53, but I did feel a little deflated by the number when I first saw it. I’m working the hardest I’ve ever worked for health right now, and I am really hoping my next result in January will beat this number, although with Christmas coming, I’m really worried I won’t manage it. Having diabetes can be a real emotional rollercoaster…

All in all, I’ve had a pretty good few weeks and I will try harder to write again next week! If you made it this far, as always, you’re a real star. Much love and support.

THAT.DIABETIC.LIFE

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