My Lovely Little Insulin Pump

Rachel Garlinghouse

| Jun 24, 2011

"My pump, my pump, my lovely little pump!"  My sister invented her own version of the Black Eyed Peas' song, "My Humps" to poke friendly fun at my insulin pump.   

Four months after my type 1 diabetes diagnosis, my first insulin pump arrived.  I opened the box to find multiple manuals, a CD, a new glucose meter, and a collection of wires and plastic baggies full of I-don't-know-what.  I am a person who avoids technology, and the pump intimidated me.

I took the entire box to my diabetes nurse educator, who proceeded to toss three-fourths of its contents aside.  With confident expertise, she quickly pushed a series of buttons on the pump to set its basic features.  I had no idea what a "temporary basal rate" or "daily totals" meant.  I just sat in my chair, pushed back from the table, and stared at her fingers going a mile a minute, like a teenager sending a text message.   

She showed me how to unwrap the pump supplies, connect them, insert the pump set into my body, and then, voila!, start pumping. Sensing my nervousness, she assured me that doctors put five-year-old children on pumps.  I left the office with a headache and spent the ride home praying that my pump wouldn't beep to alert me that it was royally screwed up.  And I'd be the one who had to fix it.  Alone.    

I dreaded the third day, when my pump set would need to be changed and the real test of being a pump owner would begin. When it arrived, I begged my husband to inject the cannula into my body.  As he prepared to push the serter against my lower back, I took a few steps forward.  He told me to hold still.  I stepped forward again.  I was sweating and shaking. Here I was, having this foreign device inserted that would be attached to my body every hour of every day. Did I make the right choice by moving from syringes to the pump?

Eventually, the set was inserted and I let out a sigh of relief.  After a few weeks, I was able to navigate the pump buttons and some of the settings without the manuals or a call to my diabetes nurse educator.  Pumping became normal, but it has never become easy.

At times, I become incredibly annoyed with my diabetes.  Despite being a good patient (eating right, exercising, seeing my doctor regularly), I still have really bad days.   And usually, I blame my pump. I have often envisioned driving down the interstate at seventy miles an hour, rolling down the window, and chucking my insulin pump.  It would fly dramatically through the air, bounce multiple times, shatter, and fall into the abyss of median weeds.   Bye-bye, problems!

Then, of course, panic would set in and I would have to then yank the car to the side of the road.  My heart would be pounding as I realized that I was without my lifeline:  my insulin.  And I'd begin to frantically search for my dear pump, calling out to it like an owner looking for a lost puppy.  

I have spent many hours of my life on the phone with the pump company, troubleshooting pump issues.  But no matter how angry I get, how confused I become, or how discouraged I feel, my pump is with me through thick and thin, sometimes mocking me (ha ha, you can't live without me!) and sometimes comforting me (at least something with this crazy disease is loyal).    

Thankfully, the pump is durable.  I have thrown it more than once, out of frustration.  But then I immediately regret my decision and want to apologize to my pump, as if it's a spouse whom I've insulted in a state of self-centered rage.   

My pump is like my husband---there through thick and thin, in sickness and in health.  No matter what kind of day I'm having, my pump is there to provide me with the insulin I need to live.  And for that I am thankful.

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Categories: Blood Glucose, Cannula, Diabetes, Diabetes, Diabetes Nurse Educator/CDE, Eating, Exercise, Insulin Pumps, Syringes, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 28 June 2011

I have an 11 year old grandson on his second pump. It has made his life so much better, but not without frustrations. Your aritcle is helping me to understand the trails all pump users experience. Thanks for sharing and good luck.

Posted by Joyful Diabetic on 28 June 2011

Thanks for your post, Rachel. Getting trained by the "firehose" method is painful and a good example of challenges we diabetics face.

Posted by johnd on 28 June 2011

Thanks for your "tongue in cheek" comments on the pump.I have been on a pump for 27 years and it has provided new freedom to me and my family. Also have experienced no severe low BGs while on the short acting insulin. After 54 years with type 1 diabetes I can say I hope you continue to enjoy your "lovely little pump"

Posted by Anonymous on 28 June 2011

I have been on a pump since 1981, about 25 years after I was first diagnosed with diabetes in 1956. I love it too. And I especially love (and sometimes hate) the continuous glucose monitor. It isn't perfect, but neither am I. I really believe that the technological improvements including glucose monitors, much purer insulin, pumps and monitors have and will continue to keep me going for many more years.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 June 2011

After 40+ years of injections I LOVE my insulin pump! I started with glass syringes that had to be boiled in distilled water to sterilize them, needles that had to be resharpened then boiled to sterilize them too, and U40 Beef-Pork insulin that could cause a skin reaction or temporary pock marks! Then there were the urine test tablets that had to be dropped into a test tube of "fresh" urine to get a very inaccurate blood glucose reading by matching the color of the result in the tube with a six strp color scsle on the tablet box :-( !

I don't miss "the good old days" (though I was hsYou

Posted by jlconrod on 28 June 2011

After 40+ years of insulin injections, I LOVE my new insulin pump!

I started with glass syringes that had to be boiled in distilled water to sterilize them. Then there were the surgical stainless steel needles that had to be sharpened after the first use, then also boiled in distilled water. (They felt like 24 ga. spikes).

Even better were the blood glucose test tablets that were dropped into a special test tube with a "fresh" urine specimen. (Ever try to get a second urine specimen less than 30 minutes after you just went?) The pill boiled in the test tube and changed colors. We then had to hold the test tube up to the color scale bars printed on the pill carton to get a very inaccurate blood glucose level. The pills had an accuracy of +/- 80 mg/dl for a 30 minute old ssmple. :-( !

I do NOT miss injecting 5 - 6 times a day or more, even with the benefit of ultrafine, ultrasharp pen needles and accurate 5 second blood tests.

Of course my early experience warms my heart to my new pump. Changing an infusion site every three days is a virtual pleasure to intensive conventioal injection therapy.

I hope your lovely little pump becomes your friend, too.

Warm regards and best wishes,


(P.S., I tried to post earlier using my Android smartphone, but only part of the comment was submitted when I hit a wrong button on my cell phone.)

Posted by Anonymous on 28 June 2011

After using the medtronic pump(s) for ten yrs, i just this week quit. The past few months have been nothing but trouble as the resoviour lubrication is jamming. The transition to shots is alot more work, but i am so happy to not be at the mercy of a machine, not to mention the crazy expense!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

It's funny! I feel the opposite way - like my pump is my best friend. :)

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

I have gained 35 5 yrs. using the pump. At 60 years old, it is so hard to lose weight. Even though the pump frees you up, I am reconsidering it. I eat right and exercise, yet have not lost much. I am only 5'1" and do not feel good with 35 extra pounds.

Posted by mhall1 on 29 June 2011

As a diabetes educator and a person with type 1 diabetes who wears a pump I can't help but wonder what in the world is making you dislike your pump so much? Maybe 4 months after diagnosis was too short of a period of time before going on the pump.
Most people I have put on a pump, including myself LOVE IT. I can't imagine why you would need to spend hours on the phone with pump support. After reading this story I am not convinced that you got proper introduction and instruction to the pump. It is a shame because there is no reason for that. The pump should be a pleasant experience. Not a nightmare.

Posted by Carolg68 on 29 June 2011

Wow... this little story hits the nail on the head. While I've never thrown my pump I do feel like it sometimes. Having diabetes is quite depressing and I thought getting the pump would help with that. I love technology. At first i was totally excited but then I got used to the technology and how easy it is and I'm right back at square one... depressed. I try not to think about it too much but it always creeps up because of having to monitor everything all the time. So I just try to enjoy as much as I can and get thru the monitoring as quickly as possible. Does it help? Not really... I guess it's pity party time. LOL

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

My doctor has encouraged me to get on the pump, but I've resisted because I didn't want something attached to me that is a constant reminder of having diabetes. I was diagnosed Type 1 at age 57. This article has reassured me that I do NOT want to go on the pump.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

I think you had some bad training. I went to a Medtronic all-day pre-pump seminar. Then, my Medtronic educator showed me how to do everything and gave me listed instructions for changing the sets and resevoirs. She also had me call her daily to go over any questions and to help me adjust any settings. And once I called the help number on the back of the pump in the middle of the night and they were very helpful. I can't imagine actually throwing it (more than once!) out of frustration or anger. It is a $6000 delicate computer, for Pete's sake. You probably need some more training so that you don't have high levels of frustration. Or maybe you should put it aside for a few months and use Novalog and Lantus until you really miss it. Please tell me you were kidding when you said you threw it.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

I usually never comment on stuff but this is a horrible article. I having been using the Omnipod (which I love), for a year and a half. I was doing 6-8 shots a day before starting it. I was scared to go on the pump at first and if this article was written back then, I would not want one at all. But now after having the pump, I wish someone would have talked to me sooner about getting one. It has changed the quality of my life for the better. When I meet someone with Diabetes I encourage them and tell them they will get through this and that we are fortunate to live in such a technically advanced time. I share with them my experiences, because when I was diagnosed with Type 1, I didn't have anyone to encourage me, it seemed like a death sentence. But as I know now it isn't. There are so many different types of pumps. I was shown the different types and picked the one that was best for me personally. It sounds like the one you have may not be the best one for you, personally.

Posted by Rick on 29 June 2011

i totally agree with mhall 1. this is not rocket science. i don't think you were trained well enough. and there's is nothing to be intimidated by. i've only had mine for four years but it has made a world of difference in my life. my control is much better and my a1c's are consistently below 7. i had more trouble learning how to drive a stickshift. listen, karen i think, go over your manual and any problem that might come up the answer will be in there. and i can't believe you found someone at medtronic to talk with for hours! i have had diabetes for 46 years and have many complications, including severe vision loss. learn to use that insulin pump inside and out and you will avoid ANY complications! i'll say a prayer for you. God bless you.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

I have been diabetic for 50 yrs. or so on Metric mini med pump for 10 yrs. now ! Its recued me from A1C test from 7.8 now for the last 9 yrs. it runs between 5.2 to 5.8! I'm now 73 & in great health so far ! I do test my BS every 2 -3 hours for me is a must to prevent lows & highs !

Posted by kdommer on 29 June 2011

I love my pump - have been on it for 10 years (diabetic for almost 40) and have loved it from the start. I got a kick out of the looks on peoples' faces when they saw it at my waist. I now wear it under my clothing and only I know it's there. Medtronic has been FABULOUS whenever I've had any issues (and they are rare). If you're even thinking about it, give it a "shot" (pun intended). :-)

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

I was really blessed by the article and each comment. It really helped my depression and anger when I went from syringes to the insulin Flex Pens. Always having my discrete insulin "pen" with me gave me such a feeling of FREEDOM! I was wondering... how many of you tried the pens?? Is the pump as freeing as going from syringes to pens?? What is the difference in price (I have minimal insurance)? Thanks for your input.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 June 2011

I live in the "trenches" with diabetes. My husband has lived with type 1 diabetes for almost 30 years and I am a certified diabetes educator. Diabetes is a challenging disease to live with no time off for good behavior.
My husband went on the pump a few years ago after many years of saying he did not want to be attached to something that gave him a constant reminder that he had diabetes.
Once he started using the pump colleagues of mine asked: doesn't he just love the pump? My reply was: he still has diabetes, but the pump does make it easier to manage his diabetes but it is alot of work.
I think it is important to remember that there are pros and cons to each therapy (shots or pump) and each person has to make the choice that works best for them.

Posted by Anonymous on 30 June 2011

I'm surprised at the strong wording of your article and hope it doesn't dissuade people from the pump. I went on the pump after being on multiple daily injections for about a year and experiencing many highs and lows, especially as I was starting to lose weight. I truly love my pump! I have 6 different basal rates which could not have been accomodated by MDI. I have so much more control of my blood sugars this way. As for being constantly connected, I just view the pump as helping my pancreas act non-diabetic. I hated shots more. And, having had 8 surgeries in 18 months, being able to change my basal rates and correction and carb ratios as needed has been a true boon that could not have been accomplished using Lantus and Novolog shots.

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