Thursday, September 19, 2013

This is why I pump

I see the question of whether or not to use an insulin pump come up a lot on various Internet forums, and I want to make my statement loud and clear: I love my pump. His name is Henry, and I would not give him up for anything (except a functioning pancreas).

Unfortunately, it wasn't love at first sight. I fought the idea of a pump for two years before my mother convinced me to try it for 6 months. If I didn't like it after 6 months, I didn't have to keep it and I could go back to shots. I really didn't want to give up the freedom of movement and be attached to that thing all the time. Reluctantly, I agreed and we contacted MiniMed to get a pump. We ordered blue (purple was not a choice yet). I went to a training class for three days before I was allowed to use it. Although I was only 13 at the time, I was the oldest kid in the room by at least five years. I felt like I had really gotten onto the pump wagon late. A few weeks, lots of hypos, and a few adjustments, and I was ready to go. Needless to say, this was just another case where my mother was right and I was wrong.

See, back in the day (2002) when I was on shots, I had to keep a strict schedule for my diet and insulin. This meant eating the same amount of carbs at the same time each day. That meant getting up at 6:30, even on a Saturday. I was not the favorite friend to have sleep over. The very first time I spent the night away from my house, my mom came to get me at 9 the next morning and my blood sugar was 43 and the friend's parents were out of the house. Getting an insulin pump meant I didn't have to keep such a tight schedule of my dining times. Hallelujah, sleeping in!

I love the flexibility in dosing with a pump. I don't have to pull out a needle every time I go high or want food. I just push a few buttons. My pump can dose in small fractions of a unit. Try that with a syringe or pen! It's much more discreet in social situations. My personal favorite: it does math for me. Not that I'm bad at math, but having dinner shouldn't include algebra. My meter is linked into the pump, so my BG readings are sent straight to the pump when I test. I tell the pump how many carbs I plan on eating, and the pump uses the carbs, BG number, and how much insulin is still in my system to calculate how much insulin to give me. It greatly minimizes the number of ways I can screw up my dosing.

With a pump, you have no long-acting insulin. Instead, you have a basal rate of insulin given as so many units/hour. If something goes wrong with your site or pump, things can escalate pretty quickly. It's important to keep an eye on things for that reason.

Being attached to the thing? Not so bad. I just keep it on a clip or wear something with pockets. In a pinch I will stick it in my bra.

A lot of people are concerned about exercising with a pump. I have done a whole host of things with my pump and I have been fine. Cheerleading, running, marching band, physical therapy... I've done all of those without taking my pump off. The only things I've removed it for are swimming and tumbling (for obvious reasons). During things like band camp where I knew I would be sweating my butt off all day in the sun for a week, I turned my basal insulin rate down to prevent going low. Of course it took some trial and error to get it right, but I got there eventually.

Sexy times? Yeah, it's not a big deal unless you make it a big deal. I'll let you work out the logistics on your own. I'll just mention that your partner should probably know where your site is so they don't accidentally rip it out. It kills the mood.

No, the inset doesn't hurt much. Well, it doesn't really hurt more than a regular syringe, in my opinion. You can't feel it under your skin unless something is wrong or you hit a weird spot. For me, at least, that is rare.

Yes, an insulin pump is going to be an outward manifestation of diabetes. You know what? Most people have absolutely no idea what it is. I've gotten cell phone, pager, and even a mic pack for going on TV (there were TV cameras around, to be fair).

After I got over my initial misgivings about trying the pump, I loved it. I still love it. I understand that pumps aren't for everyone, and if someone is doing well on syringes/pens, they can keep on rocking. Henry and I are together for life, though. So far I've had three Henrys.

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