Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How a handheld gadget for testing blood sugar levels keeps diabetic pilots ...

IN THE two decades since he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes Jon Hall has rarely let his condition get in the way of living life to the full.

Yet the keen amateur glider pilot was almost forced to give up his passion for flying when new EU rules decreed that diabetic flyers must test their blood glucose levels every hour while in the air.

That was something he thought would be almost impossible to do safely while flying solo because of the need to assemble complicated testing equipment.

Type 1 diabetics need to monitor their blood glucose several times a day to keep their levels within a target range. Failure to do so could lead to problems such as heart failure and blindness.

However 63-year-old museum designer Jon got the chance to try out a new type of testing kit called the Mendor Discreet, an all-in-one monitoring device that enables diabetics to check their blood glucose levels quickly and discreetly.

The gadget, which resembles a smartphone, has been designed for patients who find it difficult to monitor their blood levels as often as they should, such as workers in large open-plan offices with no privacy.

The device contains an integrated meter, lancing device and cartridge that holds 25 strips at a time and the test can be carried out within 20 seconds. The Mendor Discreet was launched in the UK last year but has only recently become widely available through diabetes specialist nurses.

It is estimated that one in 20 people in the UK has diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed) and there are two types.

Type 1 develops if a person cannot produce any insulin, the hormone that helps glucose to enter the cells where it is used as a fuel by the body.

This type accounts for 10 per cent of all sufferers with the disease.

With Type 2 the body can still make some insulin but not enough, or the insulin that is produced does not work properly.

Recent European legislation stipulates that pilots who are diabetic have to test their blood glucose 30 minutes before take-off, every hour while in the air and then 30 minutes before landing.

Jon, from Bristol, says: 'When the new legislation was announced I thought, 'That's it, I'm not going to be able to carry on flying'. All other blood glucose monitors need to be put together before you can use them, which you just can't do safely when flying solo for hours.

'For commercial pilots it's not really an issue as they usually fly with another pilot but for solo glider pilots it was virtually impossible.

'The Mendor Discreet is amazing. Because it's integrated it doesn't need assembling so you can test quickly while you're flying without having to let go of the controls.'

Jon, who is married to Loraine and has two sons, adds: 'I've always been good at managing my condition and my medical advisers are amazed at how I have been able to keep my blood glucose readings nearly the same as a non-diabetic person.

'I've made sure it hasn't made any difference to my life. I sail keelboats, walk and cycle and now I can carry on being a glider pilot.'

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