After I started taking insulin injections, I had several people–acquaintances, nurses, doctors–suggest that I may want to consider using an insulin pump. At the time, I thought that the pump was something people who could not manage their diabetes went to as a last resort. I wasn’t THAT sick with the disease!
About 6 years ago, my doctor changed offices and I decided to try a new doctor. The new doctor was young, just out of medical school, excited, enthusiastic, and persuasive. She talked to me openly and honestly about what using an insulin pump would mean and how it could improve my diabetic control.
I was intrigued, but scared. I had to learn about and rely on this piece of hardware that would be attached to me 24/7 forever!
The company that manufactures the pump had a nurse on staff locally to help me figure out which model I needed (based on how much insulin I was taking.) Once the pump was shipped, we arranged a time to get it set up and ready for me to use.
There are quite a few considerations to keep in mind when setting up an insulin pump:
- What basal rate of insulin do you need?
- What is the ratio of carbs to insulin you need to set so you get the right amount for the food you eat?
- How do you care for it?
- How do you change out the port?
It was a little overwhelming at first, but I was soon working with it pretty easily without the written instructions.
What amazed me most was that I immediately went to just using one type of insulin–fast-acting–and it was a great improvement from having to give myself 5 injections per day. I went down to using only about 75% of my previous daily insulin amount right away. In a matter of a few months, I was down to about 60% of my previous insulin dosage.
While it was an adjustment to wear the pump (I had to figure out where to hook it in my clothes so it wouldn’t show and I could access it when I needed it), with less insulin I started losing weight without even trying. My A1c went down from 9.0-10.0 to consistently in the 7+ range.
I was also traveling quite a bit at that time, so making sure I had supplies with me at all times was something I had to adjust to as well. Going through airport security was an absolute adventure. I would get pulled aside and dusted for explosives, and every item in my carry-on bag would be unloaded and dusted. That was so mortifying and nerve-wracking. I eventually stopped declaring my pump and if it didn’t set off a sensor, it went right on through the x-ray scanner to save myself some embarrassment. Now, with the newer x-ray scanners at the security checkpoint, they find it every time, so I just take it off and show it to the agent before I walk through. So far, that seems to work. I still get dusted for explosives, but my bags have not been interrogated — thankfully.
Over the past 18 months or so, as I have been working out regularly, eating healthfully, and losing weight, I’ve gotten to the point that I only wear my pump about 12 hours per day; my sugars actually go low if I wear it overnight. My A1c for the past year has stayed around 6.0 and I’m not having lows or highs very often.
“Giving in” and getting an insulin pump was a great decision for me and has really changed my life. I feel so much more freedom to go where I want to go and do what I want to do. No one gives me dirty looks for giving myself an injection at a restaurant and not having to work to find good “real estate” to give myself multiple injections each day has been such a relief. It may not be the answer for everyone, but it was for me. Now, I’m actually in the position to have to consider making a change in the pump that I have. It’s gotten too big in terms of capacity now–I’m wearing the ports for more than the recommended number of days because I’m not using up the insulin fast enough. Once I hit my goal weight, I will make that decision and decide which unit will work best for me.
The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to consider this potentially life-saving and certainly life-enhancing piece of equipment. Do whatever is best for you and your lifestyle and health.
Remember: Be smart. Be healthy. Live YOUR life!