The Ames Reflective Meter for measuring blood glucose levels.

One day in 1969, he came upon an advertisement for the new Ames Reflective Meter, which was informally called the ARM.  The ARM cost  $650.  It functioned in an apparently simple manner:  you put a drop of blood on a strip of paper, waited for 60 seconds, washed the blood off with a stream of water, and finally you put the strip of paper into the ARM.  The ARM had a light source and a photocell.  It simply measured how much light reflected off the piece of paper.  If you applied the blood to the paper for exactly 60 seconds, then the glucose values it reported were fairly accurate.  The readout was simply a needle that moved further to the right the brighter the signal was.  The ARM had been calibrated, so that the needle pointed at numbers indicating the number of milligrams of glucose per deciliters of blood.  This simple function, made it the first precision glucose meter.

Dick Bernstein wanted an ARM like a child wants a new toy.  The ARM was marketed for emergency rooms and physician’s offices, not for patients.  They would not sell him one.  [http://www.mendosa.com/history.htm] But, Dick would not take no for an answer.  He wanted the ARM.  He called around until he got a hold of a marketing executive in charge of the ARM.  The marketing executive told him that the legal department did not want to sell the meter to patients, but that with a doctor’s prescription they would sell him one.   Dick Bernstein’s wife was a physician, so he just ordered it under her name.

With the ARM, he could finally measure the output of his system.  He started measuring his blood sugar levels five times per day.  He was surprised to see that his blood sugar was wildly fluctuating, between 40 mg/dl and 400 mg/dl every day.  (The normal range is generally taken to be between 70 mg/dl and 100 mg/dl.)  He started making small changes to his diet, and kept detailed records.  He soon figured out that 1 gram of carbohydrate raised his blood sugar by 5 mg/dl and 1 unit of insulin lowered it by 30 mg/dl. He eventually modified his inputs to keep his output, blood glucose, within a narrow range, just like a non-diabetic persons .These small changes accumulated into a large change in his health.

Within a year, he had learned to control his blood sugar levels.  He could maintain it within the normal range around the clock.  This change brought about significant improvements in his health:  He was no longer moody and his kidney’s improved.  His peripheral artery disease slowed.  Most importantly, he felt better overall.