'A tough pill to swallow': Quispamsis mom with diabetic son touts 'life-changing' tech

·4 min read

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story quoted from the Diabetes Canada website, stating continuous glucose monitors are only covered by Yukon and Ontario on a case-by-case basis. In fact, according to the company Dexcom, public coverage is now offered by British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon for individuals of specific age groups but not Ontario. British Columbia and Quebec also fund the devices for both kids and adults. We regret the error.

For National Diabetes Awareness Month, Quispamsis resident and mom, Melissa Bordage, wants more people to learn how innovations in diabetes management technology, like a continuous glucose monitor, have changed her young son Ethan's life.

She says it can do the same for others suffering from diabetes, a chronic and long-lasting group of diseases in which the body doesn't produce enough or any insulin and/or doesn't properly use the insulin that is produced.

At just six weeks into kindergarten, Ethan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. And Bordage, like so many parents whose young children receive this diagnosis, was concerned about what it would mean for her son.

"It was pretty traumatic for us, even with my history as a pediatric nurse," she said. "It was a tough pill to swallow."

The first year presented a steep learning curve for the now nine-year-old and his family. His parents had to wake up twice a night to check his glucose levels with a finger prick, to ensure he wasn't low while asleep.

One day, Bordage said the family was introduced to what she called a game-changing continuous glucose monitor. Ethan can now wear the sensor that monitors his glucose levels in real-time on their smartphones. They use the brand, Dexcom G6.

"He does not have finger pricks anymore. Through the night, if I wake up and roll over, I can look at my (app)," said Bordage, adding up to five people can monitor the app on their phone, regardless of where he is.

Her son can go to karate three times a week and sleepovers with friends and family without his parents worrying about him.

The "urgent low soon" alert beeps 20 minutes before a dramatic drop, providing parents with a warning when levels are critical.

"It's more peace of mind for families," she said, adding with COVID-19, his doctors can analyze Ethan's levels without seeing him in person.

As well, the monitor has directional arrows indicating whether the levels are rising or falling, she said.

"Two arrows up mean his blood sugar's rising really quickly or two arrows down means he's dropping really fast so I would act on that now," she said. "Before, I wouldn't know that ... so I'm catching it before he's low and I'm treating his high glucose level with insulin before he gets really high."

The issue, however, is the price, which is high for Canadians without insurance. According to the company, for a Dexcom G6 subscription, the monthly fee is $299, with an annual commitment. The total cost for a year, without insurance, is $3,588.

Other brands of monitors that come highly recommended include the Eversense CGM System, the Guardian Connect System and the Abbott Freestyle Libre 2. But they are equally expensive.

Another type of monitor is called a flash glucose monitor, which is worn externally and inserted under the skin of a person’s upper arm. It can record 24-hour glucose profiles.

Because of prohibitive costs, Bordage said a monitor isn't standard for all Canadians living with diabetes, especially in the Atlantic provinces.

"Not all Canadians have this equal access to this life-changing technology," she said. "I think that should hopefully be standard for all."

The company website says British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon offer public coverage of continuous glucose monitors for individuals of specific age groups but not Ontario. British Columbia and Quebec also fund CGMs for both kids and adults.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month around the world the globe. This year represents the 100th anniversary of the revolutionary and life-saving discovery of insulin, according to Diabetes Canada.

Currently, one in three Canadians has diabetes or prediabetes, according to the charity's website. Less than 50 per cent of all Canadians can identify less than half of the early warning signs of diabetes, while only 33 per cent of Canadians are aware that stroke is a complication of diabetes. Only 40 per cent identified heart disease as a complication of diabetes.

Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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