It was 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and Courtney Duckworth, then 19 years old, was on the phone with 911 trying to get help. During a long run through a desolate area, Duckworth's blood sugar levels had dropped to dangerous levels. Fortunately, a driver who was passing by spotted her, picked her up and gave her multiple juice boxes to get her blood sugar levels back up.
"It was the scariest moment of my life," says Duckworth, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 10 years old. Having grown up as a competitive figure skater, she decided in college to train for and compete in her first marathon. It was a goal on her bucket list, and she wasn't going to let her type 1 diabetes hold her back.
She tested her blood sugar regularly, before, during and after her runs – generally about a dozen times per day. Her doctor called her a "supertester." But it wasn't always enough to keep her blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
That early morning rescue taught her an important lesson. "I learned the hard way that managing blood sugar, especially when exercising, is an exact science," says Duckworth, who currently works at the Children’s National Medical Center and is about to start medical school. Last year, she served as a National Institutes of Health research fellow. "You are always the science experiment."
Since that scary training run, Duckworth has put four marathons under her running belt, and in 2015, ran the Boston Marathon using the Abbott FreeStyle Lite blood glucose meter. Now, she trains for marathons in a revolutionary new way.
During runs, she no longer pricks her finger*, Instead, she waves a handheld device over a sensor about the size of two stacked quarters worn on the back of her upper arm. Her glucose measurement immediately appears on the device reader, along with information about how her glucose has been trending and where it's forecasted to go.
The technology is possible through Abbott's new FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system, which, even without a wave of the sensor, collects data every minute.