How a Blood Glucose Meter Helps an On-The-Go Entrepreneur Manage Her Diabetes
Linda Murray Bullard
DIABETES: Type 2
HOMETOWN: Chattanooga, Tennessee
OCCUPATION: Business consultant
THERAPY: Oral type 2 diabetes medication, meter
Linda Murray Bullard, 60, is used to the challenges of life on the road. As a small business consultant, Bullard speaks at churches, women’s groups, and schools to inspire business owners. Rushing through airport security, dealing with inclement weather, and finding the time to squeeze in a meal are all parts of the job. But on a recent business trip to Washington, D.C., Bullard had something new to contend with: type 2 diabetes.
She’d been diagnosed less than a year before. In an effort to lower her A1C, her doctor had prescribed metformin and recommended that she use a blood glucose meter to check her levels a few times a day. The readings gave Bullard a better understanding of how different foods and activities affect her body, so she vowed to make them part of her daily management—even on the road.
“I’m trying to reverse 59 years of habits,” Bullard says. “Trying to eat appropriate things and take all my medications. Trying to remember to check my blood glucose.”
One of Bullard’s biggest challenges when traveling has been sticking with a healthy diet. She used to just grab a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast or a burger for lunch. Thanks in part to her regular meter readings, she sees how these foods, plus snacks such as potato chips and milkshakes, affect her blood glucose. She tries to stick with salads while traveling, but after missing her flight to Washington, she faced a 10-hour layover—and a lot of fast-food temptations.
By late afternoon, Bullard was still on the waiting list for a flight. To make sure she was awake when her name was called, she tried people-watching and calling her grandkids. Finally, after many hours, her patience paid off. The airline found her an 11 p.m. flight to Baltimore, an hour cab ride from her destination. It would have to do.
Remembering to take her medication and check her blood glucose can be tricky on even the most ordinary of days. But sticking with a new routine while dealing with the stress of an unexpected layover? That takes dedication. Before takeoff, she made a quick trip to the restroom to freshen up and check her glucose.
It was well past midnight when Bullard checked into her hotel, but she was able to get six hours of sleep before heading to the conference the next day.
Bullard attracts large crowds of up-and-coming business owners. At this particular conference, some knew her from her TED Talk about growing up in an underserved community in her native Chattanooga, Tennessee. Others knew her from the previous year’s event. “People who saw me the first year would say, ‘I came back for you.’ That feels good, that they’re encouraged,” Bullard says. “I try to stay around people to keep me motivated.”
A Day in the Life
I check my blood glucose. Like most mornings, it’s around 140 mg/dl. My memory isn’t the best, but the meter logs my readings so I don’t have to keep track. I remember to take my metformin, and I make a smoothie to keep from being tempted by a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit at the airport.
After going through my stash of fruit and nuts, I decide to get a meal. I pass by the endless fast-food joints and find a seafood restaurant with plenty of healthy options on the menu. Logging my blood glucose after each meter check helps me track my numbers and motivates me to avoid fast food.
Some people get squeamish around blood, so I don’t like checking my blood glucose in public. To avoid freaking out my fellow passengers—and give myself a chance to wash my hands with soap and water before pricking my finger—I sneak away to the restroom before boarding begins. I’m still not entirely comfortable with others knowing I have diabetes. Thankfully, my meter is small enough to fit in my purse so I can slip away and use it discreetly. I also apply lotion afterward, which helps with the itchy skin I’ve had since my diagnosis.
I remind myself that even on the road, I need to check my blood glucose first thing in the morning. I don’t have a lot of time to spare, but my meter lets me check it quickly. From finger stick to readout, the whole process takes less than five minutes. This morning it’s 148 mg/dl.
Back at the hotel, after the conference, I decide to take a quick nap before dinner, but I end up sleeping until morning—which means I missed out on checking my blood glucose before bed. Managing diabetes is still new to me, and sometimes I forget. But tomorrow is a new day.