Meter’oic Perfection – By Helen May


Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I didn’t know anyone with diabetes. Or rather, I didn’t know I knew anyone with diabetes. One or two of my colleagues spoke to me about it after my diagnosis but, as they were not close, I had no insight into what diabetes really meant apart from the usual naïve knowledge of injecting insulin (whatever that is) and something to do with sugar. I hadn’t considered when someone with diabetes needed to take insulin or to eat sugar. And, hence, I had no idea about Blood Glucose meters.

When I was diagnosed, I was given a meter. At the time, I didn’t question it: it was the only meter I knew. After ten years of experiencing various meters, I realise it was large, needed a lot of blood and 7 seconds was a long time to hang around to wait for a result. Actually my diabetes nurse knew this so she soon upgraded me to a smaller one which took less blood and gave the results quicker.

Apart from a year of using a different meter during a clinic trial, this second smaller meter remained my meter of choice until very recently. It never occurred to me that it was getting old until I received a letter from the manufacturer telling me it was no longer reliable and they would send me a new meter.

My first reaction was excitement: I would get a new toy to play with. I expected something better than my trusty ten-year-old meter: something smaller, faster, and requiring less blood. Then the replacement arrived and my heart sunk. Whilst the replacement, reacted as fast and took the same amount of blood, it was huge. At least, it was bigger and didn’t fit into the bag I carry my diabetes kit in. It had no new features to help me manage my diabetes any better and it had one less feature which I had got used to: a backlight. When I wake in the middle of the night, I don’t want to switch on a light and risk waking my boyfriend and the backlight allowed me to take a reading without disturbing him. So although the meter may be more accurate, I was not happy.

After a few phone calls and emails to manufacturer, expressing my disappointment, they offered to send me a new meter. They explained lots of people like the larger meter which they can read without putting on their glasses and no one else had commented about the lack of backlight. But they relented and offered a fancy touch screen meter which helped calculate the amount of insulin I used and happened to have a backlight. What more could a girl want? Apart from a cure for diabetes, of course.

The new meter arrived. Unfortunately, I was still not happy. Yes, it had a backlight. And it did some calculations. However, it was huge (even bigger than the last one they sent) and the calculations were divide by 10, divide by 3 and subtract 5 which I easily can do in my head without a calculator. Oh, and in order for it to do these calculations, I had to enter information which took longer than insert strip, add blood, count to five: I could do the calculation in my head quicker than the meter. I don’t like “wasting time” taking readings so I can be a little lax at times: I always remember first thing in the morning and last thing at night but throughout the day, I can be too keen to eat, exercise or get on with my life, to go through the faff of getting out my meter, taking out a new strip and a new lancet, taking blood, waiting for the results. So adding more time and more button presses (which didn’t always work on the touch screen) meant I was less likely to bother.

In the end, I decided to return to the meter I was given during the clinical trial. It doesn’t do any calculation and does not have the magic backlight. It’s also less than perfect because each strip is wrapped in its own packet adding more rubbish to the landfill. However, the need to change my meter made me realise size and speed are the most important features for me.

If I had the chance to design the perfect meter, it would be easy to carry, discrete to use and provide accurate results instantly in any circumstances. This sounds like a Continuous Glucose Meter with a remote display integrated into something I have with me all the time. Like my smart phone. And, whilst I’m adding to my wishlist, I’d like it to be cheap for the NHS, integrated to the pump (which I would suddenly become eligible for) and all replaceable parts to be recycled.

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