Halfway there – By Andy Broomhead


As the bells are ringing out for Christmas, it would be easy to write a blog about how managing diabetes takes on a whole new level of complexity. But I did that for last year’s blog and I think the information in there is still pretty good so I’m going to leave that link there and talk about something else this month.

At the start of 2013, you may recall I started using an insulin pump as part of a two year clinical study. As the year draws to an end, I’m reflecting on how I feel the trial is going and what effect the pump is having on me and my condition.

Using the pump means diabetes is “in my face” a lot more than it was previously. Being permanently connected to something that essentially is keeping you alive will probably have that effect. Think Ironman and his Arc Reactor but a lot less cool. It’s easy to assume that diabetes being a lot more prominent is a bad thing but I don’t necessarily agree. It can make it harder to forget when you’re having a bad day and want to switch off, but I also think it makes you consider what you’re doing (carb counting, exercising etc) a lot more frequently and that can’t be a bad thing.

From some of the experiences I’ve read about online, I think that I’ve been pretty lucky with my cannulas all in all. In the 11 months I’ve had the pump, I’ve only had one which has gone in wrong and stopped my insulin delivery. That’s roughly one out of about 120 cannulas I’ve had this year – less than 1%! Of course hot weather and/or exercise do mean the adhesive can only last a few hours sometimes (compared to the days they’re supposed to) and that can get frustrating at times but no system is perfect. Great swathes of surgical tape seems to keep them in place in those circumstances.

I find the pump pretty convenient – being attached to it means I can’t forget it when I go out (which I’d been known to do on occasion with my injection pens) and it also means I avoid those dopey early morning moments where I can’t remember if I’ve had my basal injection or not.

I have had a few moments where for one reason or another, I’ve not had bolus insulin with food – which can obviously be a bit of a problem. Writing my doses down in my diary (something of a revelation for me in itself) means I occasionally confuse making a note of the amount of insulin with actually setting the pump to deliver it. Some of the settings which let you control over what period your bolus is delivered require an extra button press or two and if you forget, the delivery is cancelled. Being a little more diligent in future should stop that happening!

The most simplistic way of looking at the effect of the pump is arguably to look at the numbers. My HbA1c was 68 (or 8.6%) at the start of the year before I go the pump. My last reading a month or so ago was 56 (or 7.3%). Whilst it’s not always that easy or appropriate to just look at the figures, I’m pleased that the pump seems to be having a positive impact.

A member of my specialist team here in Sheffield asked me this week how I felt about the pump and whether or not it was a hindrance (I’ve had a few hypos lately which are obviously best avoided if possible). My immediate reaction was that I definitely prefer it – my biggest worry is that someone is going to take it off me!

At the start of the trial I was concerned – a major upheaval in my own self care after 11 years seemed daunting and my dislike of needles made me wary of inserting my own cannula. A year down the road and I really feel like I’ve had a step change in how I manage my diabetes. Whether that’s purely down to the pump, the DAFNE course or the excellent ongoing care I receive remains to be seen – I suspect it’s a mix of the three to be honest. But what I do know is that I’m currently enjoying the most sustained, settled period of managing my diabetes that I can remember. Hopefully that’s something that will be a constant for all of us in the new year.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2014.

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Nice blog Andy, glad to hear things are working out well for you.

It’s good to see that your HbA1c has come down, do you find having the pump has also calmed down wild swings in your BG levels? It seems to have down this for my daughter and is one of the many advantages we’ve found.

Hope it all goes well for the rest of the trial.