My experience of becoming a pumper
For me it wasn’t a straight forward decision to move from multiple injections onto an insulin pump. For those who aren’t familiar with pump therapy, it involves wearing a small box like device similar to an mp3 player that continuously delivers insulin via a tube to a needle worn underneath the skin. The pump is worn 24 hours a day, but the advantage of having one is that in my opinion it works more like a real pancreas delivering insulin every 3 minutes (although each pump is different).
I’ve been on an insulin pump for over a year and a half now and my journey towards getting one started in 2008. I was 20, studying at uni and training 5 times a week- sprinting in athletics – and my blood sugar control ironically, was out of control.
In my last few visits to clinic my HbA1c result had been creeping up, regardless of the fact that I lived a pretty healthy lifestyle. It had reached 9.7%, and on very bad days I would be on up to 10 injections, as opposed to the recommended 4 a day just to keep my blood sugars in check (this is important anyway, but especially when participating in sport).
So between my consultant and myself we decided something needed to be done to prevent my HbA1c from getting worse. Also health wise having such high blood sugars all the time left me feeling washed out, drowsy and just generally not myself. So he put me on the waiting list for a pump. In the mean time I was put on metformin tablets (usually used to control Type 2 diabetes), the aim of which was to sensitise myself more to the insulin so it could be utilised better. Taking the tablets was not a pleasant experience, so I can sympathise with people with Type 2 with the side effects they produce.
Finally I got my insulin pump in March 2009. After 3 months of carbohydrate counting classes from the dietician and much anticipation, it was here. Although my story of becoming a pumper does have a happy ending (I assure you), it still wasn’t an easy ride initially. From what I understand many people make the transition from injections to pump with relative ease. But because I trained so much my body needed a very varied background rate of insulin which took some getting right in the form of a few months of overnight blood sugar checks and a couple of hospital visits with ketones. But in the end I got my background rates right and the carbohydrate ratio followed.
The reason this story has a happy ending is that getting a pump has helped my blood sugar control and my sporting performance no end. My HbA1c has gone down to being 6.3% and I feel like myself again. From a sporting perspective having a pump has only helped me perform. This year I got a silver medal at the British University Championships Indoors in the 200m (last year I got bronze). This was followed by an international call up in the same event.
Without my pump I can honestly say training would have gotten harder and harder along with doing just day to day things. And although the initial getting used to the pump was difficult, the hard work it took in getting it right and working properly was worth it many times over.
So my advice to those people who are worried about going onto a pump would be put in the hard work initially with learning how to use it and you’ll soon see the benefits :)