Two Keys for Diabetes Care: FreeStyle Libre and Family

Brenda Smith counts on her continuous glucose monitor — and her Nadia — to stay on top of her diabetes.

DIABETES CARE|May.22, 2023

Brenda Smith has been taking care of others her entire life.

Now that she is in sight of her late 70s, she’s finally allowing karma to work its magic by paying her back with two — of many — blessings. One is small and the other is smaller. One considerate, the other convenient. Both are focused on keeping Smith happy and healthy, 24/7.

The first is her great-granddaughter, Nadia — “8 years old, going on 21,” according to Smith — and the other is her FreeStyle Libre 2, an integrated continuous glucose monitor (iCGM) that helps her manage her type 2 diabetes.

Both are key to her living her best life, nestled comfortably in the same California two-flat home that Smith first moved into with her parents at age 13. “It’s a house full of love and life,” she said.

Home is Where the Hearts Are

It’s also been a home of care and compassion, as evidenced by Smith spending almost 30 years caring for one or both parents within its walls, before they passed. “It wasn’t a job, it was an honor,” she said. “You think of all the time they spent on you.”

But even her paying jobs were always uniquely focused on helping those who needed her many, varied skills. A barber by trade, Smith also spent years as a nurse in hospitals in Arkansas and Michigan before retiring. And for two decades she worked with Alameda County Social Services as a Medi-Cal Specialist, where she helped people get their health benefits.

She is well-versed in the challenges faced by those with medical issues. Born into a family with a rich history of diabetes — her mother and grandmother both lost limbs as a result — she began taking medication in the late 1980s.

There Has to Be a Better Way

After years of managing her condition — with adjustments in prescriptions and dosages over time — she noticed some changes.

Armed with a healthy appreciation for self-care and an eye for detail, Smith carefully compiled her glucose numbers through multiple fingersticks daily, a process she recognized as both necessary and kind of awful.

“When I’d go for my labs, I started having troubles with my A1c. It had been about 5.6, then elevated to 6.5 and then up to 7.6 (normal being less than 5.7; the goal for those with diabetes is less than 6.5). I was doing finger-sticks three to four times a day because I wanted to be as careful as I could. This was a problem because my hands were getting leathery from all that sticking.”

Then a light came on. From the television.

The Benefits of Late-Night TV

“A commercial came on for FreeStyle Libre 2,” Smith said. “I asked my doctor if I could get this monitor, which would reduce the sticks and give me an ongoing understanding of my numbers throughout the day.

“Instead, she told me I could use a pen that would take my readings twice a day. But I like knowing what is happening in my body, knowing what and when I can eat, what was going on before I ate. That was my biggest concern.

“So, I changed doctors.”

In June 2022, Smith and her new physician agreed on the FreeStyle Libre 2, and she never looked back.

“Within a week, I could tell the difference,” Smith said. “Before FreeStyle Libre 2, if my sugar dropped extremely low and I was out doing something, I would only know when I got sweaty or couldn’t stand. But now the monitor alerts me before that happens.”

And nighttime became the right time once her sensor was in place.

“I am a heavy sleeper. Everyone around me knows it,” Smith said. “I was concerned about going to sleep and not waking up if my numbers dropped a lot. Most people would wake because of what is happening to their bodies, but I might sleep right through it. Getting alerts at night so I would wake up and do what I needed to do was a huge plus for me.”

Taking a Hand

FreeStyle Libre 2 can be a bit of a life-changer when the sun is shining, as well.

“It helps keep me within range. It also makes it easier to make daily dietary decisions,” Smith said. "I might get an alert at a time I have a taste for something I shouldn’t have right then. I have much more confidence in the choices I make now.”

Oh, and her fingers are grateful for the respite as well.

“I don’t miss the finger-sticks at all. My fingers don’t feel as leathery anymore.”

And this great-grandmother wants the softest, most sensitive fingers she can get for holding hands with her Nadia.

“She is my biggest passion in life,” said Smith, her already-youthful voice turning positively pre-teen. “My ‘ride-or-die.’”

That ride is most likely on a bicycle, winding through the streets of their Northern California town. Or in the form of watching Nadia run. Or making Nadia breakfast. Or picking up Nadia from school. Or listening to Nadia read. Because even though Nadia’s mom, Courtney, shares the house and the love, Brenda knows who runs the place.

“Nadia takes care of me,” Smith said of the young girl who is clearly following a generational role model. “She even tells me when it is time to go to bed. I listen because she’s the boss — and my roommate. She even helped me out when I lowered the volume on my monitor alert. She let me know that I needed to wake up.”

Can’t Slow Down

Smith keeps so busy that she doesn’t have much extra time to look back. But when she can, she sees parents whose legacies she’s honored, as well as children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild who have earned impressive educations, started their own businesses and more.

She has made things possible for others and they, in turn, reflect those accomplishments back.

There is still so much to do. “When I get to be 101, I’m going to be busy — and if you can’t keep up, I’m going to have to leave you behind.”

Brenda Smith isn’t looking for anyone to take care of her, but she certainly doesn’t mind Nadia or FreeStyle Libre 2 helping when they can.

The testimonial presented reflects the real-life experience of someone that has chosen to use an Abbott product and is only applicable to the individual providing the testimonial. It may not be indicative of future outcomes for prospective patients. Abbott does not claim that these are typical responses or experiences that a patient will generally encounter. In the case you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted within please consult your healthcare provider before making any diagnostic, treatment, or other medical decisions.


FreeStyle Libre 2 and FreeStyle Libre 3 systems: Failure to use FreeStyle Libre 2 or FreeStyle Libre 3 systems as instructed in labeling may result in missing a severe low or high glucose event and/or making a treatment decision, resulting in injury. If glucose alarms and readings do not match symptoms or expectations, use a fingerstick value from a blood glucosemeter for treatment decisions. Seek medical attention when appropriate or contact Abbott at 855-632-8658 or for safety info.