My experience of becoming a pumper


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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 :)

Mel

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Just been browsing and came across this. I been on pump since november 2010 and i have to admit been best thing i have done for my diabetes, its much easier to control and its almost like your not diabetic because of the freedom it gives you.

My daughter Emma is 11 and in her first year of Secondary School. She is scheduled for an insulin pump in October. Do you have any advice for her, us and the school, on how we keep it safe during normal sports/games sessions.

She is a very keen swimmer, doing 3k three times a week, so we are reluctant to say just take it off for the duration of the school lessons, as some days she could be be off the pump for upto 2-3 hrs (the pump she will be given is not waterproof)

It’s really nice to read about someone’s experience with a pump, I am quite scared about getting one, but it’s reassuring reading your blog post.

Thanks :)

An inspiring account of your transition to pumping. Really glad it’s working out well for you and huge congratulations on your athletic successes.

Such a shame you had to wait until starting pumping before being taught carb counting. This is surely an essential part of ANY insulin regime, T1, T2, MDI or pump. Using insulin effectively is hard enough at the best of times, but to try to keep any kind of effective control on MDI without counting carbs is all but impossible.

The carb counting black hole

Mike

I have now been using a pump 6 years and it is the best decision I made. However it did take me 2 years to decide to try the pump! It is hard work at first as you need to calculate carbohydrate to insulin ratio but you soon realise you eat alot of the same foods and it becomes second nature. After 3 months I had my next Hba1C test, it was lower. I was so happy , the hardwork was worth it.
The other big advantage for me is no longer feeling your life is dominated by food and having to eat. If I dont want to eat or eat at a different time, it is not a problem.

I have been trying to get a pump for over two years now. I am having to take multiple injections (often in excess of 7) and my HbA1c is about 8.6, and will probably be higher when next tested. I have recently found myself in a postcode lottery due to living just over the border in Scotland but my doctor and diabetes team are in England, so referred by them and applied for in England, I was rejected! I feel that it would improve my life significantly and give me much more control.

My daughter was 9 when she was DX and her control has not been great, but she is also chronically asthmatic too and this causes all sorts of added problems. When she is given steroids she has had days of having to inject hourly to reduce her rocketing blood sugars. We are going to approach her consultant in November about the possibility of a pump. Did you find your PCT helpful? Did you get funding straight away? It all seems like a mind field and any hints or tips would be greatly appreciated! Well done on your sporting achievements, you are certainly an inspiration – my daughter loves netball and will not let her diabetes get in the way!

Great to hear about your experiences, and especially that you are doing well on the pump. My son Samuel gets his next week. We are looking forward to the improvements we hope it will bring.