Review – LifeScan OneTouch UltraEasy

The teeny-tiny UltraEasy
The teeny-tiny UltraEasy

Received opinion says that good things come in small packages.

This is clearly not true, I can think of loads of things that come in small packages which are simultaneously small and completely rubbish.

Chief amongst these would be a certain ex-girlfriend of mine who was somewhat height-challenged. She was a small package but she most certainly was not good. Think of a ball of seething, dwarfish spite and misery. A hateful being who sapped the joy out of every situation whatever the circumstances. An absolute delight in other words.

Other small things that leap to mind are wasps (hateful little bastards), midges (a source of misery for me and my apparently oh-so-tasty flesh) and jockeys (nasty people who whip horses – the best of all the animals).

So it was with unmitigated surprise that I actually quite liked LifeScan’s teeny-weeny OneTouch UltraEasy blood glucose meter.

In terms of features, it doesn’t really do all that much. Essentially, it sucks your blood and spits out a blood glucose reading. It doesn’t come with the usual useless back-light, but it can give you average readings over a few weeks or so, which is quite handy when you want to be smug about how good your averages are.

The main feature, attribute and benefit for the LifeScan OneTouch UltraEasy (do they not believe in spaces between words?) is therefore its size. It’s very, very small and so can be easily concealed; much like the hidden handgun and swordstick you carry to guard yourself against ambush by rival cartels. So that’s handy.

Not being the leader of an international drug gang (mores the pity) I actually keep my UltraEasy in my cycling backpack, which I keep constantly ready with a meter and a stock of sweets and Lucozade, etc. Just in case I want to sit in the garage looking at my bike. In a deckchair. With a glass of wine.

The meter uses LifeScan’s standard test strips, which require a fairly small sample and suck up your precious life-gore very easily. The finger-pricking device is small, looks quite funky and is also nice and compact.

But it gets better – the UltraEasy comes in different colours! You might think I’m being sarcastic (for once) but this is actually quite a good feature. I test my blood glucose four, five or six times a day and, frankly, I get bored to tears looking at the same meter over and over again. That’s probably why I use so many meters – sheer, unadulterated boredom.

While you can get the UltraEasy in standard primary colours, I think there would be a huge market for clip-on fascias for all meters – just like you get for mobile phones. So sign me up for a Union Jack cover for mine! Oh yeah, baby!

So in summary:

Sample size > 3/5


Test time > 3/5
5 seconds

Test strip calibration > 2/5
Yes, it’s required with each batch

Test strip slurpiness > 4/5
Very good

Memory > 3/5

500 tests

Sexiness > 4/5
Small and sleek

Beeping > 5/5
Yes, can be turned off

4am test > 2/5
No backlight

Grand total: 26/40

Read about our tests and criteria.

Day two


I write this from my palatial suite while Stephan lurks grumpily in his cramped garret, I think I got the better room today (I got the better room yesterday too, hurrah!) After our promised breakfast we set off, covered a feeble eight miles and then stopped at our first Roman fort. It was the turn of English National Heritage to get excited at our trip and they kindly lent us a helmet and sword (both genuine, honest) for pictures (see above).

We followed Hadrian’s wall for most of the day in glorious sunshine. Despite liberal applications of factor 30 we’ve still caught the sun. I think this is mainly because we’ve been sweating off the sun stuff as soon as we put it on. If there’s one thing to be said about cycling in Roman costume, is that it’s sweaty. Very sweaty…

The legs have been bearing up quite well and I think this is mainly due to the frequent stops at interesting sites. Also the consumption of lots of cake and ice cream has helped. The diabetes, too, has been good. Today I’ve bolused only one unit so far and have been on a 15% temp basal all day. I’m saving the NHS a lot of insulin if nothing else.

Anyway, dinner beckons. As always, had over to the charity page above if you haven’t already. We’ve already exceeded our target, but we want to smash it! Rrrargh!

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Every picture tells a story

For reasons unbeknown to most people I recently decided to graph my HbA1c results over the last few years.HbA1c

The graph is quite astonishing. It starts with peaks and troughs, rising above and below 7% but never really settling. It reflects the reality of my diabetes a couple of years ago – I could get my HbA1c down to about 6.5% but it was a struggle. Quality of life really suffered, hypos increased and it was really hard work. That meant that I couldn’t sustain the effort needed to keep it that low, I always reverted back to normal life which meant an HbA1c of 7 ish, not bad but not what I was looking for.

About a third of the way in the graph plummets, like a lemming off a cliff. That’s the change between my HbA1c of 7.3% in Jan 07 and my HbA1c of 6% in June 07 just 4 months after I started using my Medtronic Paradigm pump and CGMS.

I fought for the pump and CGMS because from the research I’d done I believed they were the tools I needed to help me get tighter control. HbA1c levels of people with a working pancreas are generally around 6.2% or lower. In my dreams that’s what I wanted to achieve. On injections I once managed to get as low as 6.2% but it was a blip and certainly not something I could sustain.

So the graph shows that I could get lower than I’d ever done before with my new pump, but was that just the placebo effect? Diabetes is pretty boring, requiring attention day in, day out so it’s only natural that any change in treatment would re-ignite my interest and make me try harder for a while. But look at the graph, from a couple of months after starting the pump until the present day it’s virtually flat. I’ve been flatlining for over 2 years. I can’t sustain artificially high levels of interest in something for that long. And I can confirm that I’m not dead, so the only explanation for the flatlining is that I’ve finally found a tool that gives me the ability to control my diabetes as I want to.

I’ve never graphed my results before, unsurprisingly the urge has never taken me. Having done it, I’m amazed by the story it tells. I hadn’t realised quite how much my results bounced before I got the pump, when I see that picture I recognise the struggle between trying so hard to drive down the result and then taking my foot off the gas and seeing it bounce back up again. For over a year now I’ve had the feeling that my diabetes is reasonably settled. I still have bad days, random blood sugars, hypos, times when I forget to bolus and times when I’ve had enough of the whole thing, but they’re much rarer now.

The graph shows that I seem to have the tools and approach I need to have good control and quality of life. It took a lot of hard work to get it working for me, but what a difference the right tools make!

Curse of the ShootUp meet up is broken

This is what happens when you let diabetics out together

We’ve done it. We’ve broken the curse of the ShootUp meet up.

Tim and I live several hundred miles apart, so we only get to see each other a couple of times a year at most. Whenever Geoff and I meet Tim and the lovely Katie we have a great time. But we have to limit these occasions because they are dangerous to our health. History has proven that if you stick two co-writers in the same city for a while, one of them will always go hypo while the other will end up outrageously high.

Until now. Tim and Katie came down to sunny Liverpool for the latest ShootUp meet up, and even with some dreaded pasta and liberal quantities of beer, wine, and port – the now traditional drink of ShootUp – all was fine. No emergency fruit pastilles were consumed, and never once did either of us hit kidney fryingly high territory. The curse is broken, it appears we can meet without diabetes Armageddon occurring.

Aside from that revelation, it was marvellous to spend some time chatting about diabetes stuff over a drink or three. With people round the table who’d been diagnosed anywhere between 8 months and several decades it was a great mix of experiences. Inbetween the chat, we proved to be very skilled at fruit pastille construction as demonstrated above. And we were even nice to the pancreatically privileged types and let them sit with us, rather than making them stand in a corner as penance for having a working pancreas.

No one suddenly remembered that they’d locked their terrapin in the washing machine, so I’m thinking that people enjoyed it. I just hope there wasn’t a terrible spate of terrapin drownings in Liverpool on Saturday night.

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency

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