Fancy a new pancreas?

large-pancreas_medA correspondent just left this in my basket and it’s clearly this season’s must-have accessory for the pancreatically-challenged:

Tragically the postage from the USA to the UK costs more than the actual product, so – yet again – its one rule for the USA and one for the cash-strapped British NHS. Woof!

Review – Lifescan OneTouch UltraSmart

Not just smart - UltraSmart
Not just smart - UltraSmart

Some of my friends (and they are few and far between) are sometimes kind enough to say I’m slightly smart. I know a bit about physics (though it’s very limited) and I occasionally read some fancy books that were written over fifty years ago. You may think this all just false modesty and actually I’m wildly clever, but no – it’s not – it’s real modesty.

Anyway, it’s very kind thing of my friends to say such things and I’m very pleased to have reached the dizzy heights of “slightly smart” amongst my peers and loved ones.

So when I first laid my hands upon Lifescan’s OneTouch UltraSmart I was beside myself with anticipation. How good would something have to be if it was not only slightly smart (like me), not only smart, not only very smart but actually ultra smart? My mind boggled.

Could it do difficult things like hard sums, change your energy supplier or work out what you’ve done to upset your wife this time? I knew that since Banting’s discovery and isolation of insulin eighty years ago the field of diabetes research has come on in bounds and leaps; but could such a small meter promise so much?

No, not really. The OneTouch Ultra Smart is pretty much the same as any other blood glucose meter, except it offers a few more bits and pieces. Chief amongst these is the claim that it is proven to reduce your A1C (essentially your average blood glucose over three months). Having read too much of Ben Goldacre’s wonderfully insightful and somewhat cynical blog over at which includes hideous facts about dodgy scientific trials I immediately thought “cobblers”.

But I was slightly surprised and slightly delighted to see in the fine print down at the bottom of their website the details of just how they had performed their tests to come to this supposition. Lovely! Anyway, having read all the guff I came to the conclusion that it didn’t make a wild difference either way, with perhaps a gnat’s whisker in favour of the UltraSmart.

So anyway, how is it to use?

Not bad really, the test strips are Lifescan’s standard strips which are used over most of their range. So in summary they’re blue, they need to be coded with each new tub, they suck up your lifeblood very quickly and they process the results in five seconds. So far so wonderful.

The screen is easy to read and it comes with most of the usual meter features. So the main benefit of the UltraSmart over other meters has to be the plethora of graphs and statistics it can churn out for you at the press of a button. Most of time I didn’t use these graphs, but on occasions when my blood glucose went all out of goose they were very
handy in trying to track down what the problem might be. All this without have to hook it into the computer and use the obligatory management software that comes with most new meters.

On the flip side the massive brain that it needs to create the graphs does mean this is a slightly bigger and bulkier meter than most. But given you’re a diabetic and you lug a tonne of stuff everywhere you go this is hardly the end of the world. Even smart old Einstein could work that out.

Sample size – 3/5
1.0μL – small, but not small enough

Test time – 3/5
5 seconds; meh, okay

Test strip calibration – 1/5
Bah, they need to be calibrated

Test strip slurpiness – 4/5
Pretty good

Memory – 5/5
Above average 90 days of readings

Sexiness – 3/5
It looks a bit clunky compared to other meters, but on-screen graphs look cool

Beeping – 5/5
Can be turned off

4am test – 3/5
Fairly useful backlight is helpful

Grand total – 27/40

About our reviews

Diabetes Question Time

Last night I popped along to “Diabetes Question Time”, organised by Diabetes UK and briefly plugged on the blog the other day. The purpose of the event was to give the pancreatically challenged hoard the opportunity to quiz Scottish MSPs from all major parties about diabetes health care and policy.

If this sounds incredibly boring to you, then I can safely report that it wasn’t. Questions covered off controversial issues such as pump funding, test strip availability for Type Twos, psychological support for children with diabetes and so on. All good, wholesome and highly absorbing stuff.

Present were MSPs Ross Finnie of the Liberal Democrats, Nanette Milne from the Scottish Conservatives, Patrick Harvie from the Scottish Green Party, Richard Simpson from the Scottish Labour Party and Shona Robison from the Scottish National Party.

To be blunt, none of them impressed me with their proposals (such as they were), with Ross Finnie (who does actually have type one) and Richard Simpson being the best of a bad lot. At least they did have some reasonable understanding of the issues under discussion and made some good points from time to time.

Patrick Harvie of the Green Party scored major idiot points by somehow bringing diabetes care around to transport policy (his point was that if we were less reliant on cars, then more people would exercise, and we would have fewer diabetics. See, I told you, an idiot), so the less said about him the better. Nanette Milne didn’t say much, but at least had the honesty to say the argument about test strip provision was too technical for her and therefore she didn’t really have a view. Honest maybe, but I wouldn’t want her as health minister.

Shona Robison – currently Scottish Minister for Public Health and Sport – was so feeble and gutless I couldn’t even bring myself to hate her. When criticised about specifics her defence tended to be that she didn’t know about it and would “look into it”. I was entirely unconvinced about anything she said in relation to health care.

The main observation I made was that the audience was infinitely better informed about health care in Scotland than anyone sitting on the panel. There were some great questions and great counter arguments raised and Diabetes UK specifically scored major points by pointing out that they intended to honour their Diabetes Manifesto – unlike most politician’s with their manifestos – and would be there to support diabetics for their lifetime, not just for a five year term of office like those on the panel. Yeah, you tell ‘em DUK!

So, anyway, the politicians hedged and fudging and I was entirely unconvinced by any of them. However, a thoroughly entertaining time was had by all and I would highly recommend going along to events like these if you have the slightest interest in the state of diabetes healthcare.

Diabetic days – great expectations

A number of babies, yesterday
A number of babies, yesterday

As part of our superlative ongoing series, type one mum-to-be Sam Clifford describes her diabetic day:


The first thing I thought when Tim asked me to write about a day in the life of diabetes was how on earth to chose one out of the many fabulous days I have experienced not only in the four years of being a Type 1 diabetic but especially in the last four months when I am very excitedly growing my first child in my tummy!

So should I chose the day this week when I spent 5½ hours at diabetic ante-natal clinic moaning along with other diabetic mums-to-be about the long, lengthy, boring and stuffy wait? Or the day a few weeks ago when I woke from a horrendous nightmare about drowning with a hypo of 1.8 and engaged in a fist fight with my husband as the poor man tried to get some kind (any kind!) of sugar into my mouth? Or the day when I was told my Hba1c has gone from an amazing 5.7% to 5.4% during the first trimester meaning I am giving the baby as good a start as possible?

Probably an amalgamation will do best! As I am Jewish and we traditionally count our days from sun down to sun down, I thought I would give you my day that way. So one hour after a very nice supper of spag bol my sugar is an un-pregnancy friendly 11.3. Having a slight panic about the impact of this sugar on poor little baby, I instruct my trusty Animas 2020 to bring those naughty sugars down and correct. An hour later – still high, correct again and then go to bed. My vibrating pump wakes me up shortly in time for another test – thankfully its 5.8 and I can happily sleep through until the morning… or until 3am when I wake up knowing I am having a hypo! Joy of joys – uttering the call to action “Marc – Hypo!” my lovely husband jumps from bed and brings a delightful selection of juice, sweets and dextrose for a lovely middle of the night snack. Eventually we settle down and return to sleep.

Alarm goes off at 7am, stretch out an arm, turn off the alarm clock (well, actually, phone but alarm clock sounds better) and reach for the good old blood glucose meter. First reading of the day is a very satisfactory 5.0 which I figure will mean I can get to work and have breakfast there. Hubby and I get in the car together (I know – so sweet that we travel together!) and embark on our usual morning argument about which radio station to listen to – Marc always wins, I am now an expert on 5 Live morning discussions.

Arrive at work at 8.30am – make the momentous decision between porridge and Weetabix, decide on Weetabix and let the pump know what to do. Get on with work only to be interrupted by the gentle vibration of my pump reminding me to test my sugar. Test is good – 6.5 so carry on with the day. A few hours later in conversation with my manager, I realise that I am not making any sense – we stop and I test my sugar – 2.5 – great! My trusty colleague next to me offers me a selection of sugary treats from her desk especially for me and after about 15 minutes life returns to normal. My eyes can again focus on a computer screen and I can open my mouth without fear of sounding like an idiot.

Lunch time – having spent the last few hours planning where we will go we decide to go to the local cafe. Eating out is always fun, especially as I keep my pump in a really appropriate place – my bra!! I have often been caught out with my hand down my top reaching for my pump, I wonder what people think I am doing!

Lunch and the following hours go well diabetic-wise and therefore work-wise which is always a bonus. I leave work early as we are going to the hospital (practically my home away from home now as I go every two weeks!) to see how the little one is getting on. The ante-natal clinic is great, long but great and it’s fascinating to see how the teams involved work (or don’t work) together.

First of all we check in and do the obligatory urine test which we all then furtively hold in our hands, trying to look like respectable members of society while carrying test tubes of our wee! We settle down, compare bumps, work out who the newbies are and occasionally tut at other expectant mothers who have dared to bring their other children with them and are doing what children normally do – i.e. making noise. Some even go so far as to rub their bellies and look knowingly as if to say “no child of mine would ever act like that.”

First call of the afternoon is for observations – blood pressure (tick) weight (tick) urine test (tick) then back out to the waiting room to wait for the next appointment. After about an hour (if you are lucky) the first call comes from the obstetrician. Each time you see someone different, this week I have the luck of having the obstetrician who has had his personality surgically removed.

He asks me the same questions I get asked every week (how many times can they write down that I am on an insulin pump) before listening to the baby’s heart beat. Usually this is the part of the clinic that I look forward to the most, a chance to hear the baby’s very quick little heartbeat. However, Dr No Personality doesn’t think this is so important and finds the heartbeat in 0.0001 of a second and generously allows me an additional 0.0002 of a second to enjoy the moment before he whips the ultra sound away. He then informs me that I don’t need to come back for 5 weeks. 5 weeks!! Wait till I tell the diabetic team, how they will laugh – as if they would let me out of their grasp for that long!

Anyway, its back to the waiting room for an incredibly long 1½ hour wait, thank God for some tangerines I found in the bottom of my bag! Then we get called by the diabetic team. This appointment is like a cross between appearing on Mastermind, being forced to recall your worst test in school and having to have a memory that recalls every single thing you have eaten in the last two weeks. Although having said all that – they really are the most lovely people and all this effort means that my hospital has the lowest mortality rate for diabetic pregnancies so I’m not going to moan (well, not that much anyway). After my interrogation which I pass (phew!) it’s off to the blood room for some test before I book in for two weeks time.

Absolutely exhausted from the whole day – Marc and I decide unanimously it’s time for take away and then spend the rest of the journey home trying to decide between Indian, Chinese or Greek. It’s been a tough day . . .
Sam lives in London with her wonderful husband Marc and is 4 months pregnant with her first baby. She has been Type 1 since a certain fateful day (9th March 2006 – but who’s counting!) and has been in a committed relationship with her Animas 2020 Insulin pump since December 2008.

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency