FreeStyle Libre: Questions and Answers from #DX2Melbourne

I’m back home today after a whirlwind two days spent at Abbott’s Diabetes Exchange event in Melbourne. The event was filled with such insightful and stimulating conversation, that my mind was still buzzing at 11.20pm last night when I finally crawled into bed at home.

Abbott covered my travel expenses from Perth to be there, but they did not pay for my opinions here or anywhere else. I am really grateful that Abbott are continuing these consumer conversations after last year’s DX2Sydney event, when they clearly didn’t need to. Perhaps my views are biased because I was a part of these conversations, but I am really enthusiastic about the FreeStyle Libre. My experience with it has been largely positive, and it continues to be a part time member of my diabetes toolbox.

It was fantastic to hear the Abbott team acknowledge and even encourage those little tips and tricks that people out there are already doing, even if they couldn’t technically endorse them. Like letting the sensor sit for a day after application before starting it up. Or the Rockadex patches and other adhesives that people are buying from small businesses online. I loved that they were somewhat aware of what people are doing out there in the real world.

Through my blog, through e-mails and through my circles here in Perth, I have received a great deal of feedback on the FreeStyle Libre. People either love it or hate it. Today, I thought i’d start by sharing some of the feedback I received from Abbott over the past two days. While I’m doing my best to relay what I heard and talked about, I can’t guarantee that these words are 100% accurate.

External adhesives.

Hands up if you’ve had a sensor fall off? During the days of warm weather, t-shirts and outdoor activities, that sensor is simply not sticky enough for me. Jessica Shi, Abbott’s QA and RA Manager, tells me that any external adhesive needs to be of medical grade in order for it to be officially endorsed.

Inaccuracy of the sensor when levels are high.

Ever had the Libre tell you that your blood sugar was 18mmol, while a fingerstick gave you a reading of 13mmol? There was definitely a conscensus among the room that some of us had difficulty trusting the sensor at times.

Bruce Passingham, Abbott’s Scientific Affairs Manager, told us he’s interested in hearing about each individual’s circumstances. There might be other conditions or medications that could be affecting results. He also touched on hydration as well, which is a no brainer for me when my levels are a little stubborn.

The biggest takeaway here is to make sure you call customer service. I am so surprised at the number of people who tell me that they haven’t bothered to. All of my issues have been resolved through customer service, and a few bloggers in the room praised the express shipping of replacement sensors.

When will we see the Libre funded by the Australian government?

Earlier this year, the Department of Health was seeking submissions from consumers to potentially get the FreeStyle Libre funded through the National Diabetes Services Scheme. It’s currently a bit of a watch this space…

Are there any plans to add alarms to alert users of dropping blood glucose levels?

In reference to the likes of Dexcom and Medtronic, Abbott have reminded us that their product is not a Continuous Glucose Monitor. It is a replacement for finger sticks.

How many people will an automated insulin delivery system actually reach?

Recent headlines out of the US have surrounded the partnership between Abbott and Bigfoot Biomedical, makers of an automated insulin delivery system. “Next generation” FreeStyle Libre sensors will supply glucose data, which Bigfoot’s system will use to automatically deliver insulin and regulate glucose levels.

My question to the team was around how many people the end product will actually reach. I was told that this next-gen Libre sensor can also be paired with a Bluetooth enabled insulin pen, which will provide smart dosing advice for those on Multiple Daily Injections. Abbott expect that their product will reach a greater number of people through the options for people with type 1 on Multiple Daily Injections, and those with type 2 diabetes.

Obviously, don’t expect to see anything like this to hit Australian shores for a long, long time…

This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of a very stimulating two days of diabetes conversation, and I’ll have more to follow in the coming days. You can also keep an eye on these bloggers who were in attendance, for their perspectives on the event.

Further disclosures: Abbott supplied me with a new FreeStyle Libre reader, two sensors, and a lovely goodie bag with some pens, paper and a few other bits of branded stationery. I was put up in a room at the Blackman Hotel in Melbourne for one night. I was also fed and watered across the duration of the event.

From Uni Procrastination, to a Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis

Monday, May 3 2010

It was the first week of May 2010. A warm May, from memory. My head was buried in uni assignments and a part time job, with my 18th birthday looming just a few weeks away. 

In an attempt to make some kind of headway with those assignments, I decided to skip uni for a few days. I was never the kind of person who could smash out a 2,000 word paper the night before it was due. There were at least three or four separate papers I had to write, each in need of ten credible journal references. This meant hours and hours of reading through painfully long and boring PDF documents. I needed all the time I could give myself, because I knew I would be working later in the week.

Being left to my own devices in an empty house was a recipe for procrastination. Over the course of three days there were many Facebook sessions, browsing breaks, and heading to the kitchen for a drink. In fact, the latter seemed to be happening more often than I was normally inclined. A glass of soft drink was over no sooner than I had poured the glass. Even plain water, which I found unpalatable, was tempting. 

Try as I might, I just couldn’t seem to find the energy to focus on those papers I had to write. I felt rather tired and lousy. Rightfully so, given I had just wasted away three whole days doing next to nothing.

Thursday, May 6 2010

I really didn’t want to get out of bed. My mouth was ever so dry, and I felt really lethargic. Feeling the shame of a very unproductive three days, I forced myself up out of bed. Thinking I had to snap out of my rut, I prepared a super healthy lunch to take to work. A salad sandwich, Ski yoghurt and carrot sticks.

The energy to remain standing on my own two feet at work that day was lacking. I might have lasted half an hour, at best, before I gave in and went home.

I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to drive myself home. Although tempted to call Mum and Dad, I knew they were out and didn’t want to interrupt their errand. It took every last ounce of my energy to drive myself back home. No sooner than I had walked through the door, I collapsed onto the couch and buried myself under the comfort of a blanket.

When my parents arrived home, I told them that I wanted to go see a doctor. Mum relayed to me that the earliest available appointment to see our family doctor was Saturday, and I knew I simply couldn’t wait until then. 

We visited a medical centre later that morning. After explaining my symptoms of exhaustion and excessive thirst, the doctor sent me home requesting bed rest and hot fluids for three days.

I spent the next three days in bed, which speaks volumes for me. Never in my life had I stayed in bed when I was unwell. Sick days were often spent eating Mum’s chicken noodle soup, reading a book or watching the midday movie surrounded by tissues. 

My mouth was now stripped of all of it’s saliva. I was struggling to find any food even remotely appealing, much to Mum’s distress (eat something!). I questioned my diet and lack of interest in physical activity, truly under the belief that these symptoms were of my own doing.

Sunday, May 9 2010

It was very early on a Sunday morning. Mothers Day, to be exact. I was restless, and had gravitated from my now uncomfortable bed to the living room couch. Ice cold, refreshing drinks were now a craving. These cravings were becoming insatiable, and more frequent. I was struggling to pass the mere minutes in between refreshing glasses of ice cold Orange Juice on the rocks.

In the kitchen, I was frantically trying to get ice cubes out of the tray and into the Snow Cone machine. I was onto my third or fourth orange juice granita when my rumblings in the kitchen got Mum out of bed.

“What are you doing? The doctor told you to have hot drinks!”

My heart rate was becoming more rapid by the minute, and I was going to the toilet at least once every hour. A bout of nausea finally made me feel slightly better, and got me settled that night.

When I woke up a few hours later, I was panting. My heart rate was extremely rapid and I felt breathless. I was still extremely thirsty and exhausted, and going to the toilet every hour. I told Mum and Dad how I felt, just waiting for them to suggest what I was thinking.

No sooner than Dad had started talking about going to a doctor, I shot it down. I knew that it would be pointless, and that I couldn’t hold out for that long. My mind was made up. I had to go to hospital.

The car ride was a blur. I was panting the whole time, eagerly staring out the window the way Scruffy does on the way to the park. I had no idea what was wrong with me, or if I would ever have my salivary glands restored. Honestly, then and there, I wasn’t even sure that I would survive this.

Soon enough, I would learn that my pancreas had stopped producing insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, through no fault of my own. I would become dependent on insulin injections and frequent blood glucose monitoring with finger sticks for the rest of my life.

I was diagnosed with a condition called type 1 diabetes, the minute I walked through the emergency room door.

It’s National Diabetes Week here in Australia, and the reality is that many individuals and healthcare professionals aren’t aware of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Case in point. Had these symptoms been properly diagnosed when I first visited the doctor, my hospital admission may well have been avoided. I’m sharing this story today, with the hope that it might stop another person from going through the same ordeal as me.

VLOG: It’s About Time!

Happy National Diabetes Week, Australia!

This year’s theme is “It’s About Time,” which coincidentally ties in with how long overdue I am for another vlog.

I think it’s great that we are focussing on earlier detection of diabetes, and the theme certainly resonates with me. However I’m still not wrapped with the heavy focus on all the bad things that could happen.

Take it away, Frank…

You can also check out Diabetes Australia’s video which I mentioned somewhere in my ramblings here.

Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well.