Choosing an insulin pump is personal

chosing an insulin pump

Choosing an insulin pump is a very personal experience. Anyone who tells you otherwise is basically lying to you. To pump or not to pump, to go with tubing or no tubing, it is all a matter of personal preference.

When we first began looking for an insulin pump for my son it was 2002 and he was 4 years old. The only requirement he had was that it could NOT be the blue pump. Everyone he saw seemed to have a blue insulin pump and he wanted to be different. As a parent, I knew that there were other things to consider. At first, however, I wasn’t quite sure what they were.

I read books like Pumping Insulin. I reached out to the parent email list on the Children with Diabetes website. Finally, I consulted with friends and began to compile my own list of features that our insulin pump had to have.

Get our insulin pump shopping list ebook.

It was important for this to be the most up-to-date insulin pump. I was paying for this pump out of my own pocket and would have it for the next four years. I wanted the best technology for my money.

My son was only four so it had to be able to deliver very small amounts of insulin. Because we were new to pumping, certain alerts were also going to make our journey a little easier.

I didn’t order the blue pump. I didn’t order from the rep who became a lifelong friend. The other rep whom I met for coffee and answered every question I had, also did not get our business. I felt horrible not purchasing from either of these amazing people but pumping is personal. I had to go with the pump that fit us. They understood.

wearing an insulin pump

I chose a brand new insulin pump. It had everything that we wanted in a pump. It had features that he would need in the coming four years and features that were perfect for our life at that time. This was an insulin pump that was ideal for our family.

Let me repeat that…it was ideal for our family. It was not ideal for everyone’s family. This was a pump that was not ideal for every person with diabetes. That is the thing with insulin pumps and with diabetes in general…everyone is different. Everyone’s needs, wants, and budgets are different. The technology has to fit the person.

If you are looking at an insulin pump for the very first time, here are five things to consider…

insulin pumps

1. Do you want tubing or not?

For some people, being attached to something 24/7 can be overwhelming. This might mean that an insulin pump is not for them. It may also mean that they might be better suited to a pump that has no tubing like the Omnipod. Other people find that having a pump at the end of their tubing allows them to know where their “pancreas” is at all times and gives them peace of mind.

2. Is a Continuous Glucose Monitor important to you?

Do you need a continuous glucose monitor with your insulin pump? Are you already using one? Do you want a pump that “talks” to your CGM? Do you prefer the Flash Meter system?

There are some insulin pumps with CGMs built into them. This can be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. It is great to not have to be concerned about carrying or dealing with another device but technology is changing so rapidly that it can be nice to have a stand-alone device that is more updated than the one integrated into your pump.

3. Does it update itself?

As I said, for me it was vital to have to most uptodate technology. My thinking was that if I was spending that kind of money, why did I want a Kia when I could get a Cadillac for the same price?

Insulin pumps are constantly changing. New models are being brought to the FDA and Health Canada on a regular basis for approval. Some people, like me, want the most advanced technology for their money. Other people are okay with any insulin pump as long as it delivers insulin. Again, an insulin pump is a personal choice.

Currently, in the Canadian and US markets, there is only one insulin pump company that offers upgrades without having to purchase a new insulin pump. A Tandem insulin pump has the capability to remotely update its software without the need to purchase an entirely new device.

4. How much insulin do you need?

The reservoir or insulin cartridge is what will hold the insulin in your pump. Depending on your age and needs, size can make a huge difference.

Teens for example, tend to go through a lot of insulin. An insulin pump with a 2mL(200 unit) cartridge will not last them nearly as long as a 3mL (300 unit) cartridge. Changing the reservoir takes time out of your day and that can be annoying to some. If you hate changing out your insulin reservoir, this might be something that you have to think about.

Also, depending on your age and lifestyle, basal rates and bolus amounts are important. The basal rate is the amount of background insulin that your pump is delivering to you every hour. Each pump delivers that background insulin differently and has different maximum and minimum amounts.

To get a rough idea of how much background insulin you might need, look at the amount of long-acting insulin you are currently using and divide it by 24. This is a very rough guess and will change with an insulin pump but it will tell you if you need smaller or larger basal rates.

Bolus amounts are the amount of insulin that you will inject (or bolus) to cover your meals. If you are a big eater or you have a high carbohydrate to insulin ratio, you are going to want a pump that can handle that. If you are someone who is very sensitive to insulin, then small, precise bolus amounts will be very important to you.

5. What sort of alerts will you need?

Will you remember when to do an infusion set change? Do you need a reminder to let you know if you forgot to take insulin to cover a meal? Is it important to you to have an alert that lets you know if you are dropping low or spiking during the day?

These are just some of the alerts that are found on some of the insulin pumps currently on the North American market. When searching for an insulin pump, take a look at the alerts and see which ones you will use and which ones you can do without.

Choosing an insulin pump can be overwhelming. Make a list of what you require in an insulin pump. Think about the five key things I mentioned above. Add your own features that you feel are important like screen size and temporary basal patterns.

Once you have your list (we have a great checklist of features here), contact your local insulin pump reps. Contact all of them, not just the one from the pump company that you know the most about or the one that you are leaning towards. Get to know them. Get a feel for how they treat you. Learn about their payment plans and customer service. Will they let you try out the pump?

Get our questions to ask your pump rep.

Make sure that you choose the pump that is the right fit for you. You are the one who will have to deal with it 24/7 for the next 4-5 years, no one else.

If you are unsure where to start when looking for an insulin pump, our 4-day email serie can help.

What a wonderful community to have to be in!

When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it was one of the darkest times of my life. I was scared. I felt terribly alone. I didn’t know what was happening or how we would cope.  I was overwhelmed and unsure.

I left the hospital terrified that I would  somehow do this wrong. I eventually called a lady whose daughter was diagnosed the month before my son. Her little girl was a bit younger than my son but we had a lot in common.  We lived in different communities however and it would take years before we actually met face to face and become good friends.

In the meantime, I struggled. I stumbled. I am sure I made mistakes. I tried. I cried alone in the dark at night not sure of how I would make it through but grateful that my son was alive and knowing that failing or stopping was not an option. I had a job to do and somehow I would do it.

My son’s diagnosis happened  in the beginning of the  year 2000.  We had survived the Y2K scare only to land in a new nightmare.  We had a computer but this thing called the “internet” was interesting but new to us.  With prodding from my mom that it would make keeping in touch with family easier, I finally broke down and ordered our first dial-up service.

After a bit of playing around, I stumbled across this place simply called “children with diabetes“.  In a few more keystrokes, I was hooked up to a group of strangers who would come to know more about me over time than many of my own family.  They would be there in the dark of night and share the brightest of days.

Over the years we would share our personal lives as well as the highs and lows of diabetes life. We would talk treatment options and share opinions.  We would get together in real life and instantly share hugs, meals and a warmth to be found nowhere else.

For me this was the beginning of my exposure to the Diabetes Online Community.  It was a place where we, as parents, could share and learn.  We moved past the awkwardness of telling the people around us about our “online family” that we have never met in real life.  We knew just how real this online family was and how strong the bond was. We knew that they were there for us no matter what.

Today, this online community has grown.  The advent of Facebook and Twitter has expanded the community.  We have been able to come together with more adults living with Type 1 diabetes and those with Type 2 diabetes.  The bond and the generosity has someone managed to equally grow.

I have seen the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) reach out to help people who have run out of test strips. I have watched as they have helped to raise funds for families who were out of work and just needed a little help to cover their light bill this month.  I have seen money raised to help a family struggling through the loss of the prime income earner due to terminal illness.  I have seen them jump to the aid of members who have lost everything due to fire.  There is no boundaries to the help they will provide and no borders stopping the support.

The support is not always about money. It’s not always about a cyber shoulder to lean on.  The support can also come in technology.  The community has always been a breeding ground for innovation. From the early days of creating a headlight for parents who were doing night tests to the most recent creation of the “Night Scout” for parents who wish to have access to CGM data through cloud technology. It is amazing.

While I am fortunate not to have had a lot of illness in my family, I remain forever grateful to have landed in a community that contains the most generous and true friends that a person could ever ask for.  A place filled with family. Family picture

Bionic Pancreas Moves Forward

For the past year or so we have been hearing clips about the Bionic Pancreas Project.  I was lucky enough to have heard  Dr. Ed Damiano present about his  work at the CWD Friends for Life Conference in Toronto.  It was the first time that I was truly excited by what was happening in diabetes research.

This was a project that was privately funded and motivated by a father’s love. There was no political agenda to hold things up.  There was only his passion and desire to see his son safe when he could no longer be there to watch him at night.  His drive pulled at my heart and for the first time gave me hope.

This summer, clinical trials are continuing.  More adults are getting to experience life with the bionic pancreas.  More children are getting to experience it as well. According to the latest video, they are now reaching the stage to change the design making things more streamline.  This is moving quickly to become a reality!

Being me, and spending so many years advocating for access to better treatments regardless of income or insurance coverage, I can’t help but wonder what direction this project will take.  To me, and I am sure to Dr. Damiano, this device is the diabetes equivalent of a pacemaker and should come under the larger umbrella of our health care system making it available to everyone who is insulin dependent.

At this stage, they are far from knowing how things will proceed in terms of distribution.  We will have to wait.  While we wait, I will continue to work to see access to insulin pumps and CGMs for all people with diabetes regardless of age.  I will continue to put money into my son’s RDSP just in case he does have to purchase the system out-of-pocket to begin with.  If need be, we will advocate for access for everyone to this life changing technology but for now, I will watch and cheer from the sidelines.  I will hope that this will be the technology that changes the life of my son and all of our children with diabetes (no matter what their age).

 

Tides of Hope

Artificial Pancreas approved by FDA”  Sounds great doesn’t it? Its sadly right up there with “Scientists find way to cure diabetes”…in mice.  Well, its not quite that bad but it is media hype that does not quite match the reality of the innovation.

The Medtronic Veo insulin pump has been available in Canada for quite some time.  For a change, we were able to avail of a new technology before the US market. In this case, it means availing of a technology that shuts down your insulin pump if your CGM tells the pump that you are low and dropping. This is a pretty great feature but does not for many equate to a true “artificial pancreas”.

A number of people in the diabetes community feel that a true artificial pancreas is more in keeping with Dr. Ed Damiano’s Bionic Pancreas project rather than these smarter pumps. His pro-type has been used on adults and children with Type 1 diabetes in real world settings. A bulky model at that moment, but it has given people with Type 1 diabetes a freedom that they have not experienced since prior to their diagnosis.

Dr. Damiano’s approach combines the use of insulin, glucagon, a CGM, a smart insulin pump, and finally an iPhone.  With all of this, he is able to create a pancreas for people like his son who live with Type 1.  Those who have listened to his presentation (like myself) walk away amazed and inspired. Those who have used the system talk of an experience like nothing that they have ever imagined before.  They were able to enjoy meals without carb counting. They had nights without testing.  They experienced relatively stable bg levels. It is truly amazing.

This research is not funded by an insulin pump company. This researched is fueled by a father’s desire to keep his son safe.  David Damiano was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11 months. This amazing project has given my own son hope where he didn’t have a lot before.

There are many great changes in the wind for people living with diabetes. Whether we are looking at a bionic pancreas, an artificial pancreas, or simply the improved accuracy of Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems.  Diabetes care has moved forward a lot since our journey began over 13 years ago. I am excited to see it move forward much further in the next 13! The next challenge will be to ensure that people living with diabetes will have the ability to access these improved technologies.

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