Eeny Meeny Miney… Pump

My experience with diabetes and insulin pumps

 diabetes and insulin pumpsBy Christel Marchand Aprigliano

May 2014 — After fifteen years of sporting diabetes and insulin pumps, I feel downright naked without one attached to my body. It wasn't always this way; my excuses to not wear one ran from uninformed to downright ridiculous. If you are thinking about insulin pump therapy, you might have the same fears and questions, so I'll share mine – and the answers of an insulin pump veteran.

I don't want something attached to me 24/7.

Do you wear clothes? A ring around your finger or a bracelet on your wrist (Hopefully a medical alert bracelet!)? These are items that are on your body all the time, except perhaps when you shower or swim. It's the same with most insulin pumps.

In the beginning, you may be hyper conscious of the pump location and how it works into your life. It will be strange. For me, the first night I slept with the pump next to me on the pillow, I could hear the motor whirring when I dosed. Every beep and boop startled me. It's white noise for me now.

Whether you choose a tubeless pump or one with a separate insertion set, you'll find a place that will be comfortable for you. There will be times that you'll need to take extra care (Like going to the beach… I bring a Frio wallet to keep my pump and insulin cool.), but I found that my pump has become a trusted friend that I want around all the time.

Everyone will know I have diabetes because they'll see my pump.

I have diabetes. And insulin pumps are a physical reminder that I have this disease. People have mistaken it for a pager or a cell phone, and after a good laugh, I have an opportunity to share what diabetes is and how we can all live well with this disease because of amazing technology. If your pump is visible, you might get questions from strangers. They're curious. (Aren't we all?) I have a standard explanation that satisfies most people, and those who ask if my diabetes is "bad" or "severe" learn even more about diabetes from me.

Keeping your diabetes private is your decision. You can discretely conceal your pump in a pocket, bra, sock, or thigh holder. If you don't want anyone to see your pump, you can keep it hidden. That being said, I encourage you to talk with those close to you about your diabetes and how the pump will help you, especially as insulin pump therapy can increase the likelihood of hypoglycemic episodes.

Insulin pumps are complicated. It's too much work.

The initial learning curve of diabetes and insulin pumps (insulin pump therapy) can be daunting, but that's why pump manufacturers provide excellent training resources online and face to face to help new (and experienced) pumpers learn how to properly use the equipment.

Once upon a time, I had to do math in my head (or sometimes on paper), to determine how much insulin I should take based on my insulin to carbohydrate ratio and a correction factor (less or more insulin based on my blood sugar). That's complicated. With my insulin pump, I check my blood sugar and it is automatically sent to my pump, where all of my ratios and correction factors are preprogrammed. The pump and I work together: it's has lots of information in its brain, but I'm the final decision maker. It's actually less work for me than trying to keep all that math in my head.

It's not going to make that much of a difference in my diabetes.

Insulin pump therapy was brought up to me as an option after a tearful appointment with my endocrinologist. My HbA1C was not budging from 8.0%, despite working closely with my medical team, blood sugar checks almost every two hours, and multiple tiny correction doses daily. I didn't think a pump was going to make that much difference.

It wasn't just the drop in my HbA1C that made a difference. The ability to sleep later in the morning rather than getting up to take long-acting insulin at the same time every day is freeing. The opportunity to eat when I feel like it or graze throughout the day with a square wave bolus dose is liberating. Changing my basal rate (which is the equivalent of a long-acting insulin for insulin pumpers) halfway through the night helping to prevent nighttime hypoglycemic episodes makes me feel safer.

An insulin pump made a huge difference in my diabetes, and in doing so, my life overall. We all know that keeping blood sugars in range can help prevent or mitigate complications and extend our lifespan. This means more laughter, more love, and more life to live with my family.

If you're thinking about insulin pump therapy, there are great resources found on Talk with other people with diabetes who have chosen insulin pump therapy and with your medical team to see if it's right for you.

Read more of Christel's articles.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 20, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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