New tech big help for diabetic

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Valuable tool . . . Diabetic Marcus Sorenson (15) and his mother Nicola Sorenson say the new technology has improved his quality of life. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

New technology is proving a valuable tool for type 1 diabetes sufferers such as 15-year-old Marcus Sorenson, of Timaru.

“Over the [Covid-19] lockdown we couldn’t meet the diabetes nurse but with the technology she could see his blood glucose levels,” Marcus’ mother Nicola Sorenson said.

It meant that, if required, more insulin could be provided to maintain appropriate levels, she said.

Glucose monitoring is an essential part of diabetes management.

“Without it my levels would be a lot worse,” Marcus said.

The technology comprised a small sensor on the back of Marcus’ left arm and an app, a FreeStyle LibreLink, on his smartphone.

By swiping his phone over the sensor he received an immediate reading, which was also automatically uploaded to a cloud-based platform, LibreView.

From there, his health nurse could access the information to check his latest glucose data.

Before this technology Marcus would have to prick his finger up to seven times a day and inject insulin five times daily.

“I love it _ I don’t feel it on my arm.”

The readings also went to his mother’s smartphone.

“We get in touch with his nurse and talk about his glucose levels,” she said.

“He could have a growth spurt and we can see if he is running too high or too low. If he’s done a lot of exercise, or sick, or he’s eating fatty food [it] can affect levels.”

Marcus checked his arm sensor every two hours.

Four years ago he received an insulin pump, which connected to his stomach.

“With the food he eats he has to calculate the carbohydrate ratio and dosage of insulin,” Mrs Sorenson said.

Marcus said it had not affected his life too much.

“I’ve dealt with it reasonably well – I don’t know anything different now. It hasn’t stopped me.”

Every three minutes he received a small shot of insulin.

After Marcus was born, his health was so bad she thought he might die, Mrs Sorenson said. On being admitted to Timaru Hospital, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“The hospital was wonderful and we had great support from family.”

The insulin pump, and now the arm sensor and smartphone app, had added quality to Marcus’ life.

“A lot of people don’t even know I’m diabetic,” he said.

Dunedin paediatric endocrinologist Associate Prof Ben Wheeler said cloud-based data sharing for diabetes was a great help.

“It gives much more opportunity for patients to be active participants in their care, even from a distance.

“If you can’t see data, you can’t help people achieve better health outcomes. I have no doubt in 10 or 20 years I’ll be giving lectures to my medical students about how we used to finger-prick, and they’ll be shocked at the reality of it.

“These devices offer the opportunity for more engagement and less burden. They [patients] need to understand how powerful that data is. So I think there’s a silver lining that Covid will have helped with that,” he said.

Mrs Sorenson said it cost $50 a week to have the sensor and smartphone app. Unlike in Australia it was not subsidised by the government for those under 21.

“If this was government-funded it would make many diabetics’ lives a lot easier.”