Reviews, Type 1 Diabetes

All Mouth, No Trousers? – Review of iBG Star

May 28, 2012
Isn't she pretty?

Although the title rather aptly fits a number of the more offensive men I’ve met in my now 25 years, it actually refers to diabetes. Honest. Well, a product for diabetes more specifically.

By the way… hi! I won’t waste time apologizing for going AWOL, because I seem to do it to some extent at the beginning of each and every blog post, and quite frankly it’s getting a little bit embarrassing. I started writing this post in the middle of April for god’s sake. The past few weeks have been filled thus: getting to grips with my ridiculously amazing new job (*toot toot* trumpet sound), trekking around various suburbs of North West London trying to find a flat that isn’t mouldy/box-like/astronomically expensive, settling for an amazingly gorgeous place that isn’t at all mouldy or box-like, but DOES mean I’ll be eating beans on toast for the next… erm… three years, venturing to East London (always a danger) and ending

“These… are my… cousins!”

up steadily merry for approximately 72 hours of complete random mayhem that involved (amongst other things) an Example gig (do NOT take this as a marker for my taste in music, thanks), bowling, a gay club, inventing a dance routine with a stranger, Boris bikes, a worrying amount of pizza, a house party in a London surburb that took so long to get to I was sure we had made it Yorkshire by the time we arrived, almost getting stuck in the lift of a very posh hotel, accidentally making my first designer purchase (OUCH) and an encounter with an unusually compact woman with a hipflask of Sambuca. Oh, and watching Despicable Me four times in succession and not getting at all bored of its genius. Apart from the last point – which I thoroughly recommend, neigh actively encourage –  this type of behaviour Is. Not. Advised. And then there was the small matter of being welcomed into the quarter-century club, and being very very humbled by my amazing friends and family. I’m more than happy to turn 25, as these are proving to be my best years yet. I’m loving life more than I ever have and everyone around me that makes it so and, diabetes aside, feel completely blessed and grateful to be surrounded by amazing people and to have my health and happiness. Moving on…

Let’s talk diabetes then. I was lucky enough to be given, by a lovely Twitter friend (as opposed to a ‘real’ friend, but I’m starting to think there’s less of a difference than popular thought would have us believe), the spangly, new, all-singing, all-dancing, next generation in blood glucose monitors, unveiled to the UK to much applause earlier this year. ‘Ohh, ahh, isn’t it pretty, isn’t it cool,’ I exclaimed to my computer screen as I read the press releases and media coverage surrounding the iBGStar. A little repin from Pinterest to Twitter (cross-social media pollination, no less) and a few others offered similar reaction.

This product, in short, is a super-small and super-sexy blood glucose meter that attaches to your iPhone. Yes, I potentially am getting over-excited by a bit of superficial beauty, but my initial excitement was based in the thinking that it could be HUGELY important for diabetes in general in the sense that it can be very hard to get young people concerned, involved, let alone actively interested in their diabetes and what it means for their body and life. Don’t get me wrong – I know teenagers aren’t stupid enough to be duped into thinking diabetes is cool thanks to the power of a gadget – but this has the potential to be a rather bloody incredible baby step. I was impressed with it and I’m 25. Going on 6, if the above behaviour is anything to go by, but still. Not that the marketing of the product suggests that this was the thinking behind it, but there’s definitely a gap in the market for making diabetes, for want of a better phrase, sexy. In fact it really goes further than that; in my eyes there’s an absolute screaming and wholly important need to get young adults to take this beast seriously. I’m also aware that the phrase ‘easier said than done’ would be something of a monumental understatement.

For those that haven’t come across it, the iBGStar is in my opinion one of the coolest pieces of diabetes-related tech by far to ever be released, for the simple reason that it plugs into and works from the iPhone. Apple = cool, ergo, iBGStar = coooooool. The aforementioned Twitter friend was happy to give it up to me on account of ‘accuracy issues’. Hmm. This led to a little bit of searching and it didn’t take long to discover that otherusershave also reported similar issues. Surely not? Surely the SOLE purpose of a blood glucose monitor is to MONITOR your GLUCOSE!? Anything outside this realm struck me as pointless, stupid and quite frankly dangerous. I was determined to keep the faith, having been sucked in by all the PR surrounding it, and very excitably tore open the packet when it landed on my doorstep. (This was, however, done with some difficulty thanks to the dear sender’s outstandingly thorough wrapping/packing/taping skills! Challenge Anneka eat your heart out).

Isn’t she pretty?

First impressions – oohhhh it’s bloody beautiful. You can tell it’s been designed with its fruity companion in mind – all sleek edges and fancy screen. Plus it’s the smallest diabetes-related gadget I’ve ever seen. It’s TINY. In a rather beautiful way. Okay, you get it, it looks good.

I dutifully downloaded my free corresponding app and got ready to test. The app is more of a log than anything else – you don’t need it to test, which I liked as I often find myself testing surreptitiously, after having the sudden *liiiightbulllllb* moment (that one’s for you, Despicable Me fans) and realising that I really do, need to do a test. This ranges from the H&M changing room to the packed tube at rush hour, so any kind of ease of use is most welcome.

Back to my shiny new toy, and I vainly waited until after I’d been to the gym to test, when I was pretty sure I’d get a good reading (anyone else?). Not wanting my trusty OneTouch UltraEasy to feel left out, I tested on that first. This meter has never let me down, and in fact in the 16 years I’ve been diabetic it’s perhaps somewhat ignorantly never occurred to me to question whether any of my meters were providing me with accurate readings. I am ‘lucky’ in that I get very early warnings to hypos and aside from meal times or pre/post-exercise, I generally only test when my body is alerting me to the fact that I’ve been a bit generous with my Novorapid, and if left untended to I will at some point in the near future be likely to hit the deck. I’ve had some serious wobbles on the deck a fair few times, but never KO’ed, touch wood. Thus, I just assume that the meter has been designed with its primary purpose in mind, and is as a consequence able to tell you that in fact, you have NO excuse whatsoever other than pure greed (or lust, depending on how tragic you want to – correctly – assume I am) to chomp on that Peanut Butter KitKat Chunky because you are 9.2. Back in the cupboard with you, chocolately heaven…

OneTouch UltraTrustworthy gives me a reading of 7.2. Cue Smug Jen, so pleased with her post-workout reading, bouncing around the flat in her lycra. I’m Jen, I keep fit and I control my diabetes. For today, at least. Acutally, for this hour, at least. Over to the new kid in town, and as the iBGStar counts down, I’m inwardly cooing over its sheer beauty when it informs me that my glucose is… 9.6.

Huh?

I test again… 9.8. Hmmm. At least it appears to be sure about that. But I wasn’t prepared to accept it. Aside from wiping the smirk off my face, I was, well… slightly outraged. How dare it do that? How dare it get it’s primary, basic, SOLE function wrong. It’s like a convertible with no engine. Who needs a soft top if you can’t cruise along country lanes of a Sunday looking like a moron because it’s acutally minus 6 degrees and cloudy? What’s. The. Point?

Now, I know that a one-off slightly skewed reading does not a bad meter make. And yes, I know that actually there’s no proving that my other meter is correct. Except that I’ve had it for about five years and it’s never let me down. The implications of having a reading of 9 as opposed to 7 don’t make THAT much difference, but at, say 2.0 and 4.0, there could be serious implications to my health, as you will generally (hopefully) act on what the reading is telling you. 2.0 = ‘shit I need some sugar riiiiight nowwwww’. So, in a very dismissive and perhaps unneccesary move, I packed the iBG back in its case and put it atop the shelf alongside my pharmacy’s worth of diabetes prescriptions. What a fickle cow; I didn’t even give it a second chance.

Well…

That was, until, a couple of weeks later I once AGAIN ran out of OneTouch test strips. Oh, didn’t I come crawling back then.

Now, with the strips… I know we’ve been here before – and more than once. I get 150 at a time and they just seem to go nowhere. Far from being praised for being a good little tester (given that I went through a rather idiotic and dangerous phase of doing approximately four tests a WEEK, not a day), my doctor refuses to increase the amount on account of the fact that to buy a box is at least £20. That’s fair enough, but when am I ever going to stop needing them? Unless my pancreas suddenly springs back to life after a 16-year siesta, I’m not going to suddenly stop being Type 1 at any point in the near future. The only way I can see any strips going to waste was if I got a new meter, and even then I surely wouldn’t be as fickle to not finish up the old box would I…

Ahem.

Part of the problem is that my doctor is still registered at my Dad’s, 40 miles from my current abode. That will change when I move to the NW Swank Pad in July, but until then I just really need to stop being such a plonker about EVERYTHING – test strips, blog posts, generally being a flaky idiot… y’know. It’s not something I’ve been before and it’s not a quality I’m enjoying developing. BUT – it’ll all be fine given that come the migration north of t’river, I won’t be able to afford to go out so I’ll have plenty of time to order prescriptions! Maybe don’t quote me on that, juuuuuust incase…

So I returned/came groveling back to the ibg for a couple of days, as slightly inaccurate readings were far more desirable than no readings at all. For the few days I used it, I’m happy to say I got great (superficial) satisfaction in taking the little beaut out of its case and casually attaching it to my phone. Hello 2012, look who’s arrived. I used the readings as a guide more than anything; they alerted me to being ‘high’, ‘low’, or ‘ok’ as opposed to ‘oh, based on that reading and the amount of carbs you’re about to trough, you need an extra 4.5 units of insulin’. Which isn’t ideal with the whole ‘we need people to take this auto-immune disease they’ve been unsuspectingly landed with seriously’ thing. But for all I know, all of the readings could have been spot on, and the first one just an anomaly. But if you check out this much more thorough, in-depth and well-written overview of testing out this very spang-dangly bit of kit (same blog, three different, excellent and informative entries. Certainly not one every two months, JG), you’ll see that it’s not isolated by any means, and actually, the range at which a meter is allowed to stray from 100% accuracy is a rather alarming 20%. In short, I haven’t bothered my doctor about switching to a different brand of strips in order to use the iBG on a full-time basis.

It has, however, opened my eyes to simply taking for granted what’s offered to us. The iBGStar is, I think, an important bit of kit in that it really could pave the way for future diabetes tech that is affordable and much, much sexier. We’ve come a long way from syringes with 2inch needles, that’s for sure. I really do think our biggest problem is the mindset we have to our diabetes. I don’t want to preach here (I NEVER want to preach about this stuff) – I’ve been a fully paid-up member of the ‘let’s ignore the fact we’re diabetic and it might go away’ club and although it took the threat of sight loss to knock it into me, I eventually realised that the only person that I was harming was myself (cliche, anyone? Soz). I’m not less of a person because of my diabetes, and it doesn’t make me a loser to take this potentially life-threatening thing seriously. Now, sure, I brush it off and say it’s no big deal on an almost daily basis, but to an impressionable 13 year-old teenager it is all-consuming, at times completely isolating and something to feel ashamed of. So if the iBG and any other resulting developments in tech even slightly improve this situation for kids, young adults, and 25-year-old blonde idiots who should know better, even on a superficial level, then I’m game. Well, once its basic function has been nailed, perhaps.

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