Saturday, 23 July 2016

Animas Sports Weekend 2016: Part Two

This May just gone I had a little too much going on to manage to make it to the Animas Sports Weekend.  So this October, when the new-format weekend takes place on 8th and 9th October at Loughborough University, I will be there with bells on.
 
The weekend has been going around five years now and continues to draw people in time and again. Those who are there for the first time build friendships that last a lifetime. Those who have been before, want to go again.
 
Sports Advice
 
Exercising with type 1, particularly for those unfamiliar with exercise or those doing exercise which pushes them to new levels, is a tricky business.  Hypos, hypers, aerobic, anaerobic, diet, muscle repair, insulin dosing: the whole shebang can baffle my brain.  I've been on a number of occasions thanks to the relationship I have had the joy of developing with Animas but every time I go, I pick up something new.  Each time the knowledge and research by people like Dr Ian Gallen (who helped Sir Steven Redgrave reach his five gold medals at the Olympics) and Dr Alistair Lumb, deepens and broadens, so even if you've been before, there is more to learn.
 
Peer to Peer Time
 
Undoubtedly one of the highlights for me in going to the weekend is the joy of mixing with other people with type 1.  Learning from them, laughing with them, synchronising hypos; every bit of it is a joy.
 
Very few events in the type 1 calendar give the opportunity to mix with so many people living the same condition, so this weekend is socialising gold. It literally leaves you with the warm and fuzzies and 'fills you up' for months more living with diabetes.
 
Inspiration
 
Ever heard of people like Roddy Riddle, the type 1 Scotsman who made the 150 mile Marathon De Sables his bitch?  Or Claire Duncan who takes on ocean swimming or coast-to-coast in one day cycles (this woman eats marathons for breakfast)?  The team of speakers that Animas puts together could inspire a nation to get on their bike and give it a go.  And best of all, they are ridiculously wonderful people to spend a weekend with.
 
Alcohol
 
Because, there's a bar, obviously (hic).
 
How to get registered
 
Whether you are new to exercise, struggling to manage blood sugars in your normal exercise routine or stepping up to the plate for that marathon you always wanted to do, this weekend is for you.  The exercises are adaptable for those just wanting to try them out and for those wanting a challenge.
 
Registration for the weekend starts on the 1st August, when the link on this page will go live.  Spaces fill quickly so don't sit on the fence - hurdle it and give it a go.
 
Want to know more?  Then I guess you'll just have to come and see for yourself.
 
See you on the 8th October!!
 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Be anything you want to be...

I have very mixed feelings about Theresa May. On the one hand the industry I work in has been decimated on a scale far greater than if she had driven a steam train into Piccadilly Station and set off an atom bomb. Morale is at an all-time low and the derogatory comments and smears she has made of services I treasure, such as the Police, are unforgivable. On the other hand, as a person with type 1 diabetes in a public role, she flies the flag bearing the mark of diabetes. 

I often think about the 'what's ifs' of my daughter one day developing type 1 diabetes. She shouldn't, given that she has just a 2% chance of developing it, but the chance is always there. Raising a child with type 1 can be a tricky business, and in amongst the challenges about self-management, maintaining blood sugars, issues with food and trying to manage a long-term chronic condition, come questions and identity challenges about what you can and can't 'be'. Aviation and emergency services are just two of the careers marred by limits on who can do them, and usually people with diabetes need not apply

Had you told me as a girl of just four, hands too small for the cumbersome blood glucose meters of the day, whose life had been irrevocably thrown into a veritable typhoon of diabetes, that she could one day have a job like being the Prime Minister of England, I would beamed from ear to ear.

The fact that the next would-be Prime Minister of England has type 1, is a landmark for people with the condition. People like Halle Berry, still causing merry hell by telling people that she was a type 1 who 'weaned herself off insulin' (God, give me strength) means we may finally have a 'real' face of the condition. Even if that face is one whose political decisions I have disapproved of, deeply. 

The one good thing out of the political turmoil and social unrest in our county is that one day I may have to convince my daughter than she can be anything she sets her mind to, and that can even be the Prime Minister of England.



Thursday, 7 July 2016

Dexcom: Gen 6 and beyond

DexCom has always been a market leader in Continuous Glucose Monitoring; that's just a fact. While there are some fantastic sensors out there, for example, the Enlite sensor by Medtronic and the Freestyle Libre by Abbott (not strictly CGM but as close to and for many a more preferred way of engaging with their glucose levels). But, DexCom has always been just a hair breadth ahead in terms of accuracy and length of wear of sensors.

The exciting news from camp DexCom is that they are set to increase that gap even further with longer wear, an improved inserter (leaving 'the harpoon' in days gone by) and less calibration needed. And that is just Gen 6 (we are currently stealing through Gen 5 unless you are an old-skool Animas user like myself, who still rock out to Gen 4!) 

The full list of improvements can be found below, and are a fine example of how forward-thinking at DexCom raises the bar for everyone else. 

Enjoy! 

Friday, 17 June 2016

Dario: The changing face of home glucose testing

I have a confession; for the last few months I have wanted nothing less than to engage with my diabetes.  Burnt out from having a baby and managing thyroid issues on top of diabetes, I've retreated completely to the land of head-burying.  CGM sensors have been stacking up in my paraphernalia cupboard, and my transmitter is lost somewhere in North Wales following a holiday where diabetes was ignored to an impressive extent.  As diabetes week appeared on the horizon I had nothing to say, and thought it had nothing I wanted to pay attention to. Or so I thought, until along came Dario.
 
I was contacted by Dario about their glucose meter and asked to review it.  I agreed, aware that diabetes week was a great deadline to have my thoughts on paper.  Little did I know that inspecting their device would lead to testing more regularly and a hugely positive SHOVE back into the land of looking after myself - slowly, but surely.
 
So here is the detail.
 
The Meter
 
The Dario glucose meter is a palm-sized device which turns your smart phone into a glucose meter*.  Everything needed for the test - strips, pricker and smart-phone adapter - are all contained in the stylish case, which fits comfortably in my handbag giant baby-sack.  This works alongside the Dario app which can be downloaded from your smart phone app store. You can buy the meter from Advanced Therapeutics for £14.95, or ma be able to get one via your diabetes team if they stock them.  The test strips are also NHS approved.
 
The App
 
The Dario app is ridiculously pleasing to use. Rather than the typical 3, 2, 1 countdown, the six-second test shows on the screen in a buffering-style circle, which makes it somehow less ominous than the dreaded countdown.  This might sound ridiculously tiny as a detail (I mean seriously it is), but the first time I used it I was surprised at how pleasing the on-screen detail is.  Even my husband who has no preferences whatsoever when it comes to anything diabetes, perked up and agreed how the design was aesthetically a little bit of a treat (is it totally weird, the things we 'like' about our technology?).  The App itself is self-explanatory in use and has some great features like the ability to log food (fairly standard these days) and exercise (something I missed enormously when One-Touch removed that function from their testers) and a handy counter for hypos and hypers along with the usual average glucose range.  All-in-all, a job well done.
 
The good
 
Self-contained and all-in-one, this meter does what other smart phone-compatible testers have, in my opinion, not done so well.  It is sleek and convenient, and small.
The app is very well designed and extremely easy to use.  I didn't even bother with the manual as the kit was so easy to use.
The size makes this a really good bit of kit for a mother who is already weighed down carrying god-knows-what for my bundle of joy.
 
The bad
 
As a fumbling-bumbling-mum-of-one I often forget to charge my phone.  It's just not really been a priority for the last eight months and I have, on a regular basis, found myself without any battery.  If this happens, the meter is (very obviously) useless.  This only happened to me once while I was testing the device, but it was while I was out and about with my daughter, and I was due to start driving which in the UK comes with a strict caveat that we test before driving.  Luckily I was still packing my other meter so was able to test.  My advice?  If you think this is the meter for you, carry a spare charger for the car. 
 
The only other negative for me was that I use Diasend regularly to share my data with my diabetes team.  I have not found a way to share my Dario data (if you know how, please drop me a line to anna@insulinindependent.com) and for me this is a really key feature and I would love to see Dario introduce this as a feature.  If they did that, along with a spare car charger would make this meter perfect.
 
Would I use this meter?
 
Absolutely, yes.  It is a space-saving well thought out device and a pleasure to use.  My new-mum clumsiness mean I may stick to my regular battery-powered meter until I can get my Megan Trainor on and be sure that I have all the right chargers in all the right places, but this is a really good device.
 
Drop me a line and let me know what you think if you decide to give it a go. Happy Dario-ing!
 
*Boring fine-print - available for iPhone: OS 6.1 or higher: iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 5C, 6, 6 Plus; iPod touch 3rd & 4th generations; iPad 2, 3 and iPad mini; iPad with Retina display Android (OS 4.1.2 or higher): Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, S4, S5; Samsung Galaxy Note 2, 3; LG/Google Nexus 5

Monday, 16 May 2016

Thyroid issues? The more the merrier.

Having a baby is like setting a bomb off in the centre-most part of your life.  Everything gets blown to smithereens and scattered around, and chaos ensues.  It's marvelous, in the most 'Armageddon' type way you can imagine.

By four months old even during her most sleep-resistant nights baby McP was doing 3-4 hour stints in between wake-ups, and a routine had started to emerge.  I was told it would take about 4 months to start feeling a little more normal by my more experienced baby-mama friends.  Only at four months exactly I started feeling worse.

My self-raising world-exploding  bomb
Just as I had started to figure out her arse from her elbow (and my own, for that matter), and life had begun to become manageable again (meaning I showered once a day and didn't leave the baby in the Supermarket by accident), I was hit with an overwhelming wall of illness.  If Jamie or my mother were around, I would fling baby into their arms and slump into bed for anything from 3-6 extra hours of sleep each day  

My heart was racing all of the time and stairs left me panting and dizzy at the top. My vision was blurry and my blood sugars all over the place, having already jumped from 6.1 - 7.2 HbA1c since the whirlwind arrived. My blog, advocacy work and consulting had all but disappeared. But it was the fact that my daughter was practically raising herself meant I had to get things checked out.  

Symptoms explained and blood drawn the results came back with a bump.  My last thyroid tests taken only six weeks before my symptoms began had been absolutely fine.  My latest ones showed my T3 and T4 to be as much as four times the levels they should.  And the hyperthyroidism diagnosis followed.

The job at hand at the moment is to find out why it happened (in the hope that it may be temporary) and how to manage it alongside the 'normal diabetes' (whatever that may be) and current lack of hypo symptoms (yay!).  Thankfully the beta blockers mean the pounding heart no longer makes it feel and sound as though I have a little man running around in my head, and I am no longer pounding along at 100 miles an hour.

And hey, when it comes  auto-immune disorders, it's the more the merrier, right?

Anyone else living with this and able to give an old tired girl some tips?


Saturday, 14 May 2016

New UK Dexcom shenanigans

Until now the use of Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring in the UK has been through distributors, mainly Advanced Therapeutics for those using the G4 system with the separate receiver, or for those on the Animas Vibe, which has integrated Dexcom CGM, we could purchase directly from Animas.

However, as from this Monday, 16th May, 2016, Dexcom will be distributing themselves in the UK, meaning changes to the way its done and most importantly, new pricing.

From now on there will be no postage charge (which at a steep £6.95 per delivery would have been an extra sensor and up to one months use, per year), and single sensor cost has been reduced to £61 per sensor, or £246 for a 4-pack.

Below is the official letter from Dexcom with formal price list (***screams at Google Docs while trying to create document***).

And perhaps the most important thing you need to know is that the distribution has been taken over by Karen Baxter, formally of Animas Marketing team and one of the key figures in the creation and running of the Animas Sports Weekend.  I have known Karen for four years since first attending the Animas weekend a the blogger for the event, and know personally of the passion, dedication and second-to-none service she will bring to the Dexcom team.  Your service is in good hands.

Here are the details in photo form, because even threatening to throw my laptop across the room did not yield a suitable Google document...






Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Close calls

This weekend I was reminded just how invaluable my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) really is, and of how precarious the balancing act we have to live by really can be.

I love gym classes - anything by Les Mills, really, but particularly the Body Combat series.  Structured as separate 'tracks' to loud music, it is a high-intensity class which makes me feel strong and powerful - in a flappy-armed, mistimed-stepped kind of way.  I am 'that girl' who can be seen close enough forward to see the instructor without squinting, but far enough in the corner not to stick out like a sore thumb when then instructor shouts 'Right!' and I go left, with great conviction, into the oncoming traffic of coordinated folk.  But no-matter that my actual combat ability is second-to-everybody else, I love the class.  And it gets results.

Since the birth of the small my weight, body image and fitness levels have started to bother me on an increasing scale.  It won't be long before the beautiful whirlwind becomes mobile, and while I am pretty fit for my size in a gym class, crawling around on the floor and helping her beautiful, fascinated soul discover the world is a no-go at the moment, so I have every motivation to get back to the gym.

Two nights ago I hit my favourite Body Combat class.  I had told myself I would 'go easy' so had lowered my basal expecting that my blood sugars would drop like a stone in a mid-intensity range.  Twenty minutes in and with music blaring, sweat pouring and calories burning, I was giving it all I had to give without a second thought. The funny thing about having children is that suddenly a gym class, one I may normally have groaned my way through constantly checking my CGM because it was all I had to worry about, becomes an hour of God-given freedom.  Without even realising it I had forgotten all about my diabetes and of taking off the reduced basal - one which would now be far too low given the adrenaline steaming around my body.

Post exercise blood sugar debacle
Back home two hours later and I was frustrated at the high sugars I should have seen coming. SRSLY!! I'd had the best time at the class, my ears still ringing from having edged too close to the speakers, but I now faced the prospect of sleeping with a BG heading skywards, so I took a cursory 2.5 units to bring it back down again, and headed to bed.  

I am incredibly grateful that the Dexcom has a 'last chance saloon' alarm even when in quiet mode.  I've had it on quiet mode ever since the small arrived for fear of waking her up, but at 1am two nights ago something sounding like my Dexcom alarm stirred me from a deep, deep sleep.  I recognised it as the one, long, loud beep telling me my readings were too low for the Dexcom to read.  As I opened my eyes, that feeling instantly hit me.  I could feel myself already convulsing.

I stumbled out of the bedroom as quickly as I could to get away from baby's cot, and got myself to my living room, Jamie swiftly in tow.  I had managed to drink a bottle of Lucozade before getting out of the bedroom, but something was badly wrong.  By 1:05 I recognised my mother's voice at my side (there are benefits to living like modern-day Waltons), but could no longer see and had immense feelings of panic striking through me.  Sat on the edge of the sofa, pale as a sheet and barely conscious (I am told), I could feel the convulsions, each one feeling as though someone was shaking me at my shoulders. I became aware that my mother was on the phone to the ambulance service.  Out of the corner of my eye I could make out Jamie unwrapping a Glucagon injection.  After what felt like a lifetime I started to regain my sight, and my breathing slowed.  As my mum finished her call to the ambulance, still on route to give me an MOT, the tears started to stream.  Why does it have to be like this?

NHS MOT: Still alive and kickin
After a visit from two of the most professional, warm and comical ambulance crew it was decided it was safe for me to stay at home.  I'd had two good BG readings since the ambulance had arrived, I was making sense and I had a ridiculous number of people around in case of a second emergency.
 My full MOT (courtesy of the NHS) came back peachy, and I seemed to be on the road to recovery. But I still felt fragile.  I still feel fragile, emotionally and physically.

I often wonder what I would miss least about diabetes if a cure came about. Would it be the daily grind? Wearing medical devices? The blood tests?  For me, it's the close calls.  The times when my mortality is put to the test, or I get a glimpse of what heading into a coma feels like.  The total loss of myself in a hypo and that dreadful feeling of, 'What if?'.

I am confident that my CGM saved me from an unconscious hospital trip that night.  Had I not been stirred by the CGM's 'final call' alarm, I doubt I would have awoken.  It wasn't my symptoms which woke me, and I was so tired between the demands of a five month-old and the recovery sleep of an excessive gym session that nothing was bringing me out of that sleep.  I've sometimes wondered if CGM really would save my life given how good my symptoms have been up until now, but two nights's ago I saw firsthand how one little alarm can give you that five minutes head-start on a vicious hypo, and can save a life.

It's the close calls I could happily live without.