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My insulin pump has changed my life. My A1C has improved, I've felt more energetic, and I've controlled my diabetes more effectively overall. It has been the biggest and best change in my diabetes treatment since I started on insulin a quarter-century ago.
But it hasn't all been great. Indeed, actually living with a pump day in and day out proves how far the technology has to go. We haven't reached the age of human-robot integration. As a matter of fact, we don't even know when that age will begin.
My point is simple: My relationship with my pump is complicated. I love it for the control it gives me over my disease, but I detest it for its flakiness, its arbitrary malfunctions, and the host of tiny aggravations that turn it from a blessing into a curse.
Here, then, are five of my pump aggravations. Stay tuned for the next installment, when I describe five more ways that my pump aggravates me, and perhaps you as well.
The Lousy Adhesive
Depending on your pump, this might not be a problem. But I have one of the disposable pumps that attaches right to your body. The insulin reservoir is in the body of the unit. While this type of pump avoids the dreaded tubing of other models, it puts a lot of weight (literally!) on a thin piece of bandage-like adhesive. If that adhesive fails, the pump begins to sag and eventually falls off entirely.
I've tried to fix it. I stick on adhesive bandages in a futile race against time. Sometimes I gird the entire pump with three or four bandages, which rather negates the futuristic effect. Sure, the worst that happens is a simple pump replacement. But why can't that adhesive just stick a teensy bit tighter?
All pumps need regular maintenance, of course. Reservoirs must be replaced or refilled, and cannulas must be removed and re-inserted. But do the pump control units have to be so annoying about it? My pump beeps for four hours before it expires. It beeps when only 20 units of insulin remain. It beeps when the time is up. And if it isn't changed immediately, it continues to beep at aggravatingly random intervals, just to make sure that you're paying attention. I am! Honest!
The Bizarre Basal Rates
You spend weeks, if not months, collaborating with your diabetes educator to find a perfect basal rate. It spikes when your blood sugar spikes and drops when your blood sugar drops. It's a perfect mirror of your day-to-day life with your diabetes. Until the day that it isn't.
Why doesn't it work anymore? No one quite knows. Perhaps you've lost weight. Maybe your diet has changed. Maybe your pump has decided to rebel against you. Whatever the case, you have to start over. And any change that you make, however small, can mean a string of other changes. Will it work? You have no way of knowing. You'll just have to wait and see.
It's enough to make one yearn for the days of NPH.
Hello? Insulin? Where Did You Go?
Everyone on insulin injections has had the experience of giving a shot and then not seeing the expected results. Instead of going down, your blood sugar goes up. While that's frustrating, it's easy enough to change injection sites and try again in a couple of hours. In insulin pump land, however, if a cannula is inserted in a bad spot, you have to start over: Time for a new infusion set or a new disposable pump.
The answer, as pump companies and educators will tell you, is to change and rotate infusion spots. For me, at least, that's easier said than done. No site works as well, or as consistently, as the abdomen, and that means that bad spots keep cropping up.
The Nagging Pains
This may sound petty, and perhaps I shouldn't expect anything different since I'm walking around with a cannula inserted in my stomach 24/7. But it's one of the less pleasant sensations around to feel that bit of tubing when I twist my torso or bend down to tie a shoelace. It breaks the illusion, somehow. Yes, you still have diabetes. Yes, you still have an insulin drip inside your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Darn.
That being said, I understand that cannulas used to be even larger and cause more discomfort. We should appreciate what we have, I suppose.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.