Paloma Kemak was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 23-years-old and for the past several years she’s struggled with managing her blood sugar and even admits to neglecting her health because she hates having to prick her finger all the time. That’s all changed because she recently became the first Hispanic type 1 diabetes patient to try a device called the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, which was just approved in the U.S. by the FDA.
It may seem like she was diagnosed with diabetes young, but for type 1 diabetes, which is often referred to as juvenile diabetes, she was actually diagnosed late. This insulin-dependent diabetes is a chronic condition that causes the pancreas to stop working, so it stops producing insulin. “I started feeling extremely thirsty and I was drinking like 10 water bottles a day which made me go to the bathroom all the time and I was tired of this cycle because something was obviously not right,” she says. She Googled her symptoms and diabetes came up and the first thing she thought was why this was happening to her because she didn’t eat many sweets, yet she was feeling extremely fatigued and had no idea why she lacked energy. “I never thought I would be sick enough to see a doctor,” explains Kemak who didn’t have health insurance prior to being diagnosed. “ In my Latino household, you don’t see a doctor unless it’s an absolute emergency.”
Her doctor diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes because her pancreas was no longer making insulin, so she had to learn how to manage her own insulin intake and blood glucose levels, which are normally handled by the pancreas. “Right away I had to start with all the needles and the pricking and I started insulin that same night,” she says. She hated that she had to prick her finger to check her blood glucose. “Just the inconvenience and the thought of having to prick my finger–I hardly ever even did it. Even when I continued to feel sick, I would rather feel sick than continue to prick my finger.” Who could blame her, when she had to prick herself 8 to 10 times a day.
Kemak has a great diabetes blog called Glitter Glucose where she talks about her personal experience with this disease. She connects with other type 1 diabetics on a variety of issues and has followers in the UK and Canada, which is how she learned about the FreeStyle Libre. “I saw my European followers wearing this device and I was super interested in it and I did my research and it wasn’t available in the U.S. at the time.” It wasn’t until just recently that the device got approved by the FDA and she knew she had to try it.
She became the first Hispanic to use it and it’s really changed her life. It’s simplified the way she manages her diabetes because the glucose monitor that she wears on the back of her arm is very small and it eliminates the need to prick her fingers to check her glucose. You wear it for 10 consecutive days before you change a new one and anytime you want to know your blood sugar, all you have to do is swipe the reader that comes with the device that is similar to a small cell phone.
The FreeStyle Libre system utilizes innovative sensor technology and is easy to use.
- No fingerstick calibration required
- Small sensor, that it is 48% less bulky1 than the Dexcom G5 transmitter and sensor
- No interference with medication containing acetaminophen
- Painless sensor application1 and comfortable1 to wear
Your blood sugar pops up right up on the screen and not only are your blood sugar numbers on the screen but there are up and down arrows that show how stable your blood glucose is. It has a graph of what your blood sugar has been all day. When she used to check her blood sugar with a glucose meter, there were a lot more steps, she had to prick her finger, and would get just one number. Check it out in the video below to see how it works:
“The first time I tried it, I watched the video and I was nervous about doing it wrong so I asked my husband to do it and I didn’t even feel the needle going in, it doesn’t hurt at all,” she says. “One prick every 10 days instead of 10 pricks a day on my finger!”
“I didn’t have the best control of my diabetes because of the inconvenience that it was, but now that I have the FreeStyle Libre I’m swiping my arm 20 times a day just because I can. It’s nice and convenient and I don’t even feel it on my arm.” She’s only been wearing it for a couple of weeks and when she first started using it, she took a picture of her graphs and her numbers were all over the place and now the numbers on her graph are steady, which has helped her get more control over her diabetes.
“I know that a lot of Hispanics and Latinos deal with diabetes–I hold a lot of Spanish [diabetes] support groups and many of my family members have diabetes and it’s not easy to manage it. We can go on and not prick our fingers and not inconvenience ourselves but we’re never going to feel better. With a device like a Freestyle Libre, it just simplifies management and we can just start to gain control and start to feel better.”
Interested in the device? You may be eligible to try it the FreeStyle Libre system for free.