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Why this Cincinnati Woman Decided to Go on the Insulin Pump

separator More and more people with diabetes are using the insulin pump to help them control their blood sugar. It’s most common among people with type 1—adults as well as children—but it’s becoming more common among those with type 2 as well.

Insulin pumps deliver rapid or short-acting insulin through a catheter under the skin. People who get the pump take part in training sessions where they learn how to program the pump, how to figure out the correct dosage of insulin the pump needs to administer (based on your exercise level, the food you eat, etc.), how to work the pump in terms of actual administration, how to order supplies and all other aspects of life with the pump.

The pumps eliminate the need for many of the injections people with diabetes must give themselves throughout the day.

For some people, going on the pump is a little intimidating. Often, they don’t like the idea of being attached to something. Sometimes they feel as though it will be too complicated.

Robin Wilson is one of those people who didn’t like the idea of going on the pump. Wilson has had type 1 diabetes since 1994. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two small children, and she’s been on the pump for a little over a year. She’s the Corporate Director of Finance at a large company, and she offers these thoughts about why she decided to start using the pump and how it’s been helpful to her.

What made Wilson decide to go on the pump?  “Pregnancy,” she answers. “I had my first child four years ago. I was doing the insulin injections and controlling my blood sugar well. But when I was pregnant with my second child, my blood sugar was harder to control.”

She knew that controlling her blood sugar was important, but she was resisting the idea of going on the pump. “I was putting it off,” she says. “I didn’t want to be attached to it.” 

Wilson’s husband wanted her to go on it, she says, and she finally took action. She took a 3-hour training session that she says was “very detailed,” and she went on the pump.

A little more than a year later, Wilson is glad she made the decision. “It’s easier,” she acknowledges. “I have to give myself fewer injections.” For example, she says, “I had to give myself seven shots a day when I was pregnant. Now, I change the pump every three or four days, which is like giving myself a shot every three to four days.”

“The pump acts like your pancreas,” says Wilson. “It gives you insulin on a regular basis, but you have to help it think. You have to tell it how much insulin to give based on the amount of carbohydrates you’re going to eat.” Which means the pump works best when you plan what you’re going to eat in advance.

One thing people should know is that there’s no actual medical procedure to undergo if you decide to start using the pump. Many people believe they’re going to have some sort of permanent attachment for the pump made in their bodies. “I thought that too,” says Wilson. “But everything you need for the pump is within the pump itself. You fill the reservoir, and then the catheter remains in place as you insert it. 

“My pump holds 100 mls of insulin,” continues Wilson, “and when it gets down to 20, it starts to beep.” It’s not an extremely loud beep, she explains, just enough to remind her the insulin supply is getting low. 

Wilson plays softball and racquet ball, and she works out on a treadmill. She removes her pump when she’s taking part in these activities. That’s an option for all pump users. Some elect to wear the pump when they workout, others don’t.

Numbers are better overall
There’s no question that even the pump can be inconvenient sometimes. It’s not a perfect solution, because it’s a bit odd to have a device attached to your body at all times. On the other hand, injecting yourself throughout the day isn’t a picnic either.

Wilson says that when she first got the pump, she thought she would only stay on it until her pregnancy was over. But now, she says, “I probably will keep it for the rest of my life.” She knows that blood sugar control is the best way to avoid complications in the future, and she says that since she’s been on the pump, her numbers have been better overall. “I have two small kids,” she says, “and I want to be around for them.”

Her advice to others considering the pump?
“I would say they should really consider it,” she says, “especially if they have decent health insurance.” The pump is expensive, about $6,000, she says, so it’s unaffordable for most people if their insurance doesn’t cover a large portion of that cost. 

If you think you would be a good candidate for the pump, or even if you’d just like to know a little more about it, talk with your doctor, nurse practitioner, diabetes educator or other member of your healthcare team. It can’t hurt to investigate it, and who knows, you may find that it could simplify your life a bit and help you keep your blood sugar under control.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders; Robin Wilson, Personal Interview
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