Pump surprises – by Helen May


helen-may-150x150It is nearly a week since I started pumping insulin. It’s too early to be able to say whether it is helping or hindering my diabetes management. But there are some things that I can say and have taken me by surprise.
  • The pump is very simple. I previously mentioned the simplicity of the user interface. Now I have got to learn more about the rest of the pump, I realise the cleverness of the overall design Is in its simplicity. It is a cartridge of insulin which is regularly changed and a plunger which pushes the insulin out. That’s it.
  • The pump is very expensive. This seems strange after saying how simple it is, but the health and safety around it means it has to be reliable and waterproof and easy to use and pass lots of safety tests. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it would cost £3500 to replace.
  • It is not insured. The pump has a three year warranty in case something goes wrong with it. But if I break it I have to pay for it. So I was advised to put it on my household insurance.
  • The pump is pretty robust. In the last week I have managed to drop it and, thankfully, it still works.
  • The only known way of breaking a pump is to X-ray it. This means I have to remember it if I am in a hospital or airport. When I travel, I need a letter to say “do not X-ray the pump and let me take sharps on the plane”.
  • Whilst I could just request a specific dose of insulin from my pump, I am recommended to let the pump work it out. Initially, this annoyed me because I just want to say “give me 5 units”. Instead I have to say “I am eating 23g of carbs and have a BG of 7.3”. Based on the pump’s knowledge of me and my history of taking insulin in the last 4 hours, it will do the calculations. This is quicker than taking out my pen, screwing on a needle, dialling up the dose, inject and then putting it all away so for now, I am happy to do this.
  • I am in control. Some time ago, I tried one of those meters which worked out how much insulin I needed based on carbs. This meter did the calculations based on numbers entered by the nurse and protected by a password that only she knew (and I could work out from a hack mentioned on an Internet forum). None of this information is “protected” on the pump: I can edit it all.
  • I need to move house. Most pump supplies are delivered by the manufacturer in batches to last three months. This is a lot of cannulas, tubes, cartridges, … And it all comes in a lot of packaging. Even once the recycling guys have disposed of the many trees worth of cardboard, I still need a cupboard to store it all. And that doesn’t include the h-u-g-e scary sharps bin which I still haven’t found a home for.
  • Not only is it difficult to know where to store the pump supplies, there is no obvious place to wear the pump. After nearly two weeks with the pump, I am yet to find a way to wear it that gives me easy access but is not blatantly obvious. On the waist or thigh leaves a bump in my clothing. I was surprised to realise this includes a bump in my thick, warm, winter coat. And anywhere more discrete (such as in my bra), is not possible to discretely access when I bonus.
  • An insulin pump is not a cure for diabetes. Ok, I knew this. But what has surprised me is how many of my friends and colleagues who, when they spot the not discretely positioned pump, have asked “so how long do you have to wear that for?” as if I have no need for it after a month of so. But on a positive note, it has exposed more people to the complications of diabetes and got them talking.

My pump and I are not yet friends. I would compare it with a colleague who I admire his talents, but wouldn’t fancy going out for a social drink with. I don’t regret recruiting the pump, but I feel it still has some way to prove its true value. Perhaps a trip to the gym, climbing wall and pub will start to show its true colours.

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