Vanessa Haydock BCBA, MSc, BSc
The Diabetic Health Coach, FreeStyle Libre Ambassador
Vanessa, pictured above, coaching a client.
After a period of denial during her teenage years, technology is now helping Vanessa Haydock take control of her type 1 diabetes.
Do you remember being diagnosed?
Yes, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was just three and I remember it so clearly.
Before receiving my diagnosis, I remember drinking pints and pints of water and I just couldn’t quench my thirst. I also lost a lot of weight, I was tired and generally did not feel well. I didn’t really understand what was going on back then.
What impact did your diagnosis have on you and your family?
As a little girl, I didn’t really know any different, so, overall, it had much more of an impact on my mum and dad. They needed to weigh out my food, work out my insulin dosages, administer my insulin, check my blood glucose levels and keep a close eye on me. I remember that my mum even used to come into school every lunchtime break to give me my injections. Back then, as there wasn’t the technology there is now, my mum would have to come into my room several times a night to check my blood glucose levels to make sure they weren’t dropping in my sleep.
How did you cope with the condition as you grew up?
The transition to adolescence was quite hard, as I had to gain independence controlling my diabetes. As a teenager I was a lot more in denial than I was as a child. I just wanted to do what my friends were doing and overall my motivation was very low. For example, it would take time to check my blood glucose levels – rummaging around in my bag, getting the meter set up, drawing blood from my finger – I just got out of the routine of doing it consistently.
Overall, my diabetes management involved a lot of guess work for me back then.
How have monitoring tools changed over the years?
Until four years ago, I’d only ever used a typical blood glucose meter.
Since I was introduced to flash glucose monitoring, I haven’t looked back. I have a sensor on my arm that records my glucose levels continuously.
I have access to a reader I can swipe over the sensor, as well as an app, meaning I can also swipe my phone over it, which then provides me with a glucose reading.
How is technology helping you manage your diabetes?
The FreeStyle Libre system has been life-changing for me. Now I feel more in control of my diabetes than I ever have.
There’s a visual graphic display, which makes it so much easier to understand the impact of food, insulin dosages, and activity, which has increased my motivation significantly.
My HbA1c level (a measure of an average blood glucose level across a three month period) has improved significantly; I feel healthier and more in control than ever. I am now also more motivated to help and inspire others living with diabetes.
Would you change anything about your diabetes journey?
If I’d had access to flash glucose technology when I was a teenager, I am sure my diabetes control and motivation would have been completely different.
It’s fantastic to see so many adults, teenagers and children able to access them now through the NHS. Now I love showing my sensor off to people and I am not ashamed to do so, advocating for all of those living with type 1 diabetes.
I always say that you’ve got to learn to own your diabetes; don’t let it own you.