How I Got My FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor

Shares

Is there any more iconic symbol for diabetes than a drop of blood on a finger? Throughout my diabetes career––yes, it’s work––piercing my finger with a lancet and placing a drop of blood on a test strip has been the constant reminder that I am tethered to a disease that is much bigger than I am.

In the past, when I’ve read about continuous glucose monitors (CGM), it always sounded bulky and uncomfortable. I wasn’t eager to get one. And today people are touting the bionic pancreas as the answer to all of our dreams, but being bionic doesn’t appeal to me either. I’ve also read about contacts that Google is working on with Novartis. The contacts will use tear fluid to obtain blood sugar readings that will be wirelessly transmitted to a smart phone. When I found out how long it would be before the contacts were released, 5-10 years, I shrugged it off as another sign that my work would continue.

When I first spotted the FreeStyle Libre from Abbott, my initial thought was that it looked tiny––the size of a quarter, and friendly––approachable and simple. I wanted it, but the problem then was that it was only available in Europe. (The Pro version is available in the U.S. and the company is actively working towards FDA approval for the personal version.) I decided I needed to try and get my hands on one.

As I wondered who to ask for help, I read more. The meter and matching sensor aren’t labeled a CGM because you have to scan the sensor to see your numbers, rather than numbers automatically being logged and recorded. Abbott calls its device a Flash Glucose Monitoring system. They do essentially the same thing, so, whatever, I call it a CGM. The Abbott device doesn’t have an alarm. I know that not everyone knows when they’re high or low. Since I do, I knew the Libre would work well for me.

I realized I finally had my in when a close friend moved to Milan. “Can you do this for me?” I inquired about the daunting task of ordering sensors online, waiting for the delivery, repackaging the sensors and mailing it to the U.S. I was asking a lot. “Sure,” she said. It helped that I was visiting her in Italy, and that we made that first online order together. (If you browse to the FreeStyle Libre European site from any IP in the U.S. you will be promptly denied.)

The first batch arrived in April 2016, but not before there were several panic attacks when the Italian post office asked for letters from my doctor describing what was in the box. I imagined an old woman with a cigarette between her thin lips. I said to my friend: “Tell them it’s diabetes material and electronics.” What we were doing was not illegal, but it felt suspicious. I did it with glee, my friend, not so much. I typed up a letter on my computer and emailed it over to her. It worked!

While I’ve seen some other CGMs in development that require you to go to your doctor’s office to have a sensor inserted under the skin (sounds awful), the Abbott FreeStyle Libre can be attached at home, with zero help. It’s foolproof. Each sensor lasts fourteen days, is waterproof and––I work out a lot––sweat proof. The data can be downloaded to your computer whenever you want.

That day when I could finally toss my old glucose monitor out the window (figuratively) was huge. Despite being diligent about taking readings, I never took enough to know where my numbers were trending––up, down, level––information that would require me to test over four times in a single hour. Forget it.

After trying it in a few places, today I proudly flash my FreeStyle Libre on the inside of my bicep. When I wore it on the outside of my arm, I found that it would get caught on backpack straps or a towel when I came out of the shower. Soon there will be an app for my iPhone––there’s already an Android version––but until then I’m using the Abbott monitor. It’s about half the size of a phone. At the beginning, I tested often with my One Touch Ultra to see how accurate it was. Once I was sure it was on target, I stopped toting around the extra monitor. Today I swipe constantly. I love knowing what is going on, seeing exactly when a meal will hit my blood sugar and learning which foods are best—the ones that don’t cause spikes or stay in me for extended time periods. Getting access to 24/7 data on my body was, to be cliché, a game changer, and I couldn’t wait to see my first A1C.

With my newfound passion for continuous data on my blood sugar, I talked to other people that wore the FreeStyle Libre, like 45-year old Holger Schmeken from Germany. Schmeken has type 1 diabetes and is on his 47th sensor. (Yes, he’s counting.) “The reliability of the sensor data is very high. In fact it’s more accurate than any glucose meter I have ever owned in over 25 years. This made it easy for me to make the big step: trusting the Libre for dosage decisions.” Schmeken is also a software developer and created Glucosurfer, a site for people to upload and share medical data. (He may be more passionate than me.)

Speaking of numbers, Abbott recently announced a direct correlation between a higher frequency of monitoring and better blood glucose control. Abbott looked at 50,000 FreeStyle Libre users in Europe and found that “people who scan more frequently using its FreeStyle Libre system spend less time in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) while having improved average glucose levels.” I can definitely vouch for that. My AIC has already dropped below 7.0% and I’m looking forward to seeing it hit 6.5% soon.

Leave a Reply

17 Comments on "How I Got My FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor"

Notify of
avatar
3000
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Sam J Morris
I want the engineers to take this one small step further. I want to see my levels pop onto the screen of my computer, and I want to set the time intervals on screen. I want an application that will take the readings as I sit at my computer and pop up on my screen in a small window. I want it to work with a USB dongle like a wireless mouse. The connection is established by the use of a USB dongle and the software would be a quick and easy download. The software works with the USB dongle… Read more »
Austin Lippert

Great idea :D I’m a software engineer and a Type 1 diabetic. As soon as I can get mine, I’m going to see what data is available and can develop this if the data supports it. While it might take more than a day, it certainly sounds plausible. :D

Lance
I used to work at ADC and am very knowledgeable about the Libre Flash Glucose Monitor. It is not approved for using the flash results for determining medication (e.g. insulin) dosage. You’re on your own for this. You can use the same strips as are used in the Precision Neo monitor. The interstitial fluid readings are subject to a delay but the Libre monitor has an algorithm that, based on the current reading and trend, calculates a result that approximates a reading you’d get with a finger stick test. Depending upon which country you obtain your Libre monitor from, it… Read more »
Tim
Concept is great, but… Used for over 8 months, sourced from friend in the UK. For me accuracy fluctuated widely. Not an issue if in UK and could get sensor replaced by Abbott. Big issue if in US and have friend shipping sensors. Dealt with inaccurate results but still used meter to dose. Last straw for me was after 6 month of no issues I developed a contact dermatitis to the adhesive. The Sensor would itch and leave a red welt on my arm. So this may be right for you but the article does not reflect everyone’s use. Others… Read more »
dx1955

Sitting here impatiently waiting for my bg to be high enough for me to feel comfortable leaving for my appointment, I’m wondering how long the lag is for the Libre Flash responding to changes in blood sugar, since it must be testing interstitial fluid? My Medtronic Enlites can be quite slow.

Lynne

I order them from a friend in England for my son. He says he’ll never go back to using a glucose meter.

CeliaT

What is the European cost? I don’t have anyone in Europe I could work with to order a unit, so is there any indication of how long it might be until the personal version is available in the US? I will probably be one of the first in line for this!

david

I thought the idea was terrific. Went and bought it.
Libre was generating readings that were much higher than the simple Freestyle system.
Such a situation is dangerous as higher readings result in using more insulin creating hypo situations.
After more research, I found that the system has known accuracy issues.
Until consistent accuracy is demonstrated who needs to use two systems.

Mike

I’m sure you’ve tried, but maybe the accuracy would be more accurate when placed in 1 spot vs another?

Janine

Try ordering from Australia. It is available here, officially for over 18’s, but easy to order online. I am happy to forward your order onto you if needed. The delay in making it available worldwide is just unfair to people trying their best to manage the condition. We find it accurate and also extremely helpful tracking overnight levels.
So expensive but worth it!

Mary

Hi, Janine. Can you please send a link that we can buy it worldwide from Australia? The one below, to they website, is just informative, no option to buy. Thank you

Kim
I am a brittle type 1 diabetic living in Canada and had a friend who was living in UK bring one back when she returned. I love the Freestyle System as it allows me to test frequently and avoid crashes. I ordered a few replacement discs from ebay but can’t afford to get them this way! can you tell me how much a box with one disc costs in Australia? When I tried to order them from Abbott or an online pharmacy I was told they weren’t allowed to ship to a country where Lifestyle wasn’t approved. Does anyone know… Read more »
Pat

You can get Free Style Libre in Canada. They have been advertising it a lot. Go to http://www.freestylelibre.ca. From there you go to the selling site. Starter set is $227, monitor alone is $49 and the sensors are $89. So far this is too expense for me, but I’m hoping the price goes down and that they can be purchased at a store rather than only online. Manulife and Sunlife insurance companies cover the cost, if you have either of those.

Patrick

Janine, What prices are there in Australia for the Sensors and the Displays ?

Sam87

Reader is AUD$95.00 and sensors are AUD$92.50 each
https://www.freestylelibre.com.au/all-products

Hema

Will start this by cmng weekend for my 8 yrs old son. Highly impressed by the technology

brian kimble

I have been using the libre for 2years and although not perfect my A1C has reduced from 8.9 to 7.6 and I’m happy not to have to prick my fingers!!

wpDiscuz
Copyright © 2009-2017 Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
ASweetLife™ is a trademark of the Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.