I’ve been trying to think of an appropriate metaphor to explain the importance of test strips with respect to diabetes management but my mind keeps going back to the plane crash sequence from Die Hard 2. In it, the bad guys recalibrate sea level for one of the plane’s automated landing programs by 200 feet. Because the weather is bad, the pilots have to rely on their technology to land safely. But, since the bad guys tinkered with the system, when the plane thinks it’s at 200 feet, it’s actually crashing into the runway.
This is incredibly morbid and hyperbolic, but if you stay with me I’ll bring this back around.
The key here is that the pilots had to trust in the tools at their disposal, namely the computer system tasked with landing the plane in inclement weather. The computer system relied first and foremost on the altitude of the plane to govern the entire landing sequence. But because that core piece of data was flawed every action taken based on that number was not going to succeed. (I hope you forgive the casual language of ‘not succeeding, even if it’s just a movie, a plane crash is serious business.)
If you ignore the Hollywood factor, the basic premise still holds: actions informed and influenced by a flawed piece of data will not succeed as intended.
This brings me to Strip Safely, a grass roots campaign aimed at raising awareness around the unacceptable inaccuracies of blood glucose test strips. These things are the foundation of my diabetes management. The numbers they produce start the complex, yet second-nature calculations that result in determining how much insulin to take when factoring the carbohydrate and fat content of a meal. The numbers produced calibrate my continuous glucose monitor, which I heavily rely on to monitor trends and alert me if my blood glucose is too high or low. The numbers produced indicate how much insulin is needed for a correction if my blood glucose is too high. The numbers produced indicate how many glucose tabs I need to eat if my blood glucose is too low.
All of the actions taken in the name of sound diabetes management are based on the assumption that our meters and test strips are as accurate as possible. But they aren’t.
But they can be better. They need to be better.
Strip Safely is the starting point for the diabetes community. There are a number of ways to increase visibility of this issue. If you care about this as much as I do, I encourage you to browse the site and learn about how you can contribute.
I know I’ve rambled a bit here. I’ve tried to clean up the text as much as possible but it’s difficult to focus on sentence structure when I start to really think about how messed up all of this is.
And one more time for good measure – go to stripsafely.com for more information on the campaign, and learn how you can make a difference. Every little bit counts.