Rachel Leonard has been living with diabetes for the majority of her young life.
The teenager from Ballydehob, Co Cork, was diagnosed when she was just six decades old and admits: “I have grown up with diabetes and known nothing else. I have probably had to grow up faster and be more in charge of a younger age for this.”
But, there was one portion of this condition which Rachel, who has just completed her Junior Cert at Skibbereen Community School dreaded.
Individuals with diabetes need to take finger pricks to test it can become a concern and their sugar level is nice.
Now a revolutionary piece of technology has meant finger pricks are now a thing of the past.
Living with diabetes means that you need to learn how to follow rules about exercise, diet and sugar measurement.
Rachel says: “I need to test my blood sugar levels often so as to prevent ‘spikes’–in which the level of sugar in my blood is either too high or too low, which can result in loss of awareness and in extreme cases lead to a slump.”
The diagnosis of the teen arrived from the spring of 2008. Her mother Bernie did not take too much note which Rachel feeling exhausted all the time and drank a great deal of water.
A visit to the doctor confirmed Rachel had diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when our blood sugar is too high. Blood sugar is the body’s main source of vitality and stems from the food we eat.
The International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas ( estimated that at 2015 there were 171,800 people in the 20-79 age category with diabetes in Ireland and that by 2040 there will be 247,800 people with the condition
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into our cells. When our bodies do not use insulin well, or can not produce enough insulin, too much glucose stays in the blood and can result in serious health problems including eye, kidney, heart and foot issues.
By pricking their fingers to draw a drop of blood that’s added to a test strip and inserted into a sugar 31, A person who has diabetes their sugar. This needs to be done many times a day to check glucose levels and can be debilitating.
Rachel’s mother Bernie remembers; “Even though she says she did not mind the finger penis, Rachel did not examine herself as frequently as I would have liked due to the pain.
“That can be dangerous because careful monitoring is among the most crucial techniques to manage diabetes.
“I remember when she had been a tiny girl, she’d hide her hands beneath the bed covers when she’d hear me coming in to her at night to test her levels. It was upsetting for both of us.”
On the other hand, the invention, called the FreeStyle Libre system, means Rachel doesn’t need to go through the ordeal again.
Employed by children it is made of a small sensor — roughly the size of a $2 coin — which Rachel wears on the back of her arm.
She simply swipes it on the sensor to acquire a glucose effect in under one minute, and uses a handheld speaker.
The sensor is replaced and the reader will operate through clothes such as a jumper or shirt.
Each scan displays a glucose effect, a trend that is historical and the direction the sugar is heading.
Bernie says: “I can’t praise it enough to the difference it has made to Rachel. It’s absolutely fantastic.
“I used to worry about her when she was out with friends, but not anymore. It’s really easy to simply swipe the reader over the sensor that when Rachel is feeling low or disoriented as a result of a spike in her sugar levels, her friends can choose the reading for her.
“The finger prick test is much more complex and they might never have done that for her. There are no limitations on her now.”
Rachel adds: “My friends are swiping me all the time!”
Rachel consequently has seen huge improvement in her treatment of her own diabetes and is monitoring herself more frequently.
“They were astonished at the improvement during our last visit to University Hospital Cork,” Bernie said. “It is definitely due to Rachel taking control of monitoring herself more frequently with the FreeStyle Libre system. She loves the figures and data the machine gives her and can correct her diet as she needs to.”
The reader holds up to 90 days of information, providing a historical picture of sugar levels over time.
Its software enables the information to be shown in a user-friendly graph allowing a conversation with health care professionals about any essential modification and treatment to it. “I love analysing each of the information it provides me on my sugar levels,” said Rachel. “It’s great to find out what my sugar levels were trending, particularly while I’m asleep. I get an entire reading every 15 minutes without regular finger sticks and it is totally hassle free”
Football-loving Rachel, who plays with Caheragh enjoys the liberty the FreeStyle Libre system gives her and with her beloved games to play with.
“The adrenaline as well as the anticipation prior to a game means that my levels consistently tend to go high before and during a game,” she said.
“It had been tumultuous needing to come off the pitch at the midst of a game for 3 or 4 minutes to do a finger test.
“Now, I just give my reader into one of those mentors and just can run and swipe.
“I’m also able to correct what I eat before a game because I now know the trend in my amounts from downloading information over a number of matches. It’s made a huge difference and enables me to live life to the fullest.”
Rachel makes light of this fact that for the remainder of her life she will be injecting herself with insulin and will need to monitor her sugar levels. “My advice to anybody diagnosed with diabetes is do not ever let it get you down. It isn’t half as bad as you think, although it may seem daunting.
“It’s possible to live a full and active life with diabetes. The Diabetes Team at Cork are excellent, they are just a telephone call away and everybody in the clinic service that is great and provide me. And there are new technologies being developed, such as the FreeStyle Libre system which are currently making it a lot easier to handle. I love the freedom the FreeStyle Libre system gives me.”