What I've learned from 12 years pumping
There are currently about 10,000 Australians using insulin pumps as part of their type 1 diabetes management. Insulin pumps are used instead of injections (syringes or pens) and use short-acting insulin to deliver insulin throughout the day.
I have been using an insulin pump for twelve-and-a-half years now. I honestly can’t remember life ‘pre-pump’ and I certainly wouldn’t consider returning to multiple daily injections (MDI). For my lifestyle and me, the flexibility and freedom pump therapy offers is perfect.
I chose to start using a pump for a couple of reasons. I was sick and tired of having to ‘eat by the clock’ and wake up for breakfast to avoid going low. Also, I was thinking about getting pregnant so wanted to tighten my diabetes management as much as possible, and I knew a pump would help with that.
Tips from 12 years of pumping
- A pump is not just for Christmas. Just like a puppy, using a pump needs time, dedication and regular attention. If you think a pump is a ‘set and forget’ device, you will be disappointed.
- At some point, you will drop your pump in the loo. Everyone does! Door handles are the natural enemy of the insulin pump. Just this week I yanked out a new infusion set as I walked into my daughter’s room – usually I tuck the pump line into my undies to keep it out of harm’s way.
- If you wear a dress, you will become clever at finding places to hide your pump. There is a cottage industry of pump holsters, braces and pockets to disguise a pump in any sort of dress.
- Decided you really can’t persist with a pump? You can return to MDI or you can always take a ‘pump holiday’. On a beach day, I generally use MDI with the plan I developed with my diabetes nurse educator.
- The ultimate decision about using a pump to deliver insulin is yours, although consultation and discussions with your healthcare team is important.
- Although pumps are becoming more common, some issues can still arise at airport security points. Carry a letter from your healthcare professional stating that you use a pump and it cannot be removed for screening. Also, check the pump manufacturer’s suggestions.
- There can be a problem with your pump, so carrying a pen (or syringe and insulin) is advisable. Also pumps only use short-acting insulin so it’s important to keep some long-acting insulin in the fridge and a plan in case you have to return to MDI while waiting for a replacement pump.
If you are thinking of using a pump, start discussions with your healthcare team now. And see if you can ask some people who already use pump therapy about the everyday experience of life with a pump. Read more information on insulin pumps from Diabetes Victoria.
Renza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at Diabetes Victoria. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her occasional blogs are her own.
This article published on Diabetes Victoria's blog is a repeat of an article which ran in Diabetes Australia’s magazine, Conquest Spring 2013 (now called Circle)
Diabetes Victoria blog