Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Diabetes and Me - Part 4: The Insulin Pump

Throughout my active teenage and adult years, I’ve had troubles controlling my diabetes. In 1987, I began taking 4-6 shots a day to get under control. Then in 1999, I finally took the dive and went for an insulin pump.

Insulin pumps have come a long way since their inception. They used to be larger than an adult’s shoebox. Now, they’re as small as a pager. I’ve even been asked if mine was a new form of the Blackberry.

The insulin pump works similar to an intravenous pump. A small plastic needle, or canula, is inserted into my abdomen. I receive a constant flow of insulin during the day and take extra amounts when I eat a meal. I change the insertion site every 4-5 days. The only complications I have are when I swim for a long time or profusely sweat; then the insertion comes out. All in all, it beats taking 4-6 shots a day.

My A1c, or average blood sugar levels, have improved as well. I range from 6.8 to a 7.0, which is personally fine for me. I don’t hold firm to the belief that a lower A1c is the best, e.g. A1c levels below 6.0.

I use a Medtronic Minimed Paradigm 511 and generally take 35-40 units a day. When my blood sugars run low, I temporarily suspend the pump. And speaking of blood sugars, I test my blood sugar 5-7 times a day. I use a Lifescan OneTouch Ultra as my blood machine. It only takes 5 seconds.

Every now and then I’ll meet someone wearing an insulin pump and talk them about it and their diabetes. Many diabetics are very conscious of their pump and are quiet about it. I have known a few diabetics who don’t want their disease made public, for fear of who knows what.

What does the future hold for insulin pumps?

Word has it that Medtronic has made a combination insulin pump AND blood machine. I don’t know if I particularly care for this type of machine, but I’m impressed that companies, like Medtronic, are trying to make the lives of diabetics better.

In Part 5 (my last), I will address young diabetics and the importance of keeping healthy and living without complications.


martyduren said...

The whole concept just makes my head swimmy. I don't know if I could do that.

Angie said...

Mark, my girl has the 515. My girl uses her BD machine to test blood sugars which then sends the results to her pump. The pump has a bolus wizard in it that calculates how much insulin she needs for corrections and carb coverage. We learned a few months into this pump that we have to override a setting which adjusts the insulin dosage according to active insulin in the body. After we figured that little trick out sugars have stabilized. Thanks again for posting your journey in this disease. It is an encouragement to us out here who feel alone.

AL-Amani said...


I read your story with the insulin bump; my sister a diabetic 1 patient, and they advised her to use the bump, but she feel impressed to wear the bump in from of the public since it can be seen. But, I want to ask you, you have to check the blood 5 times a day, and the machine only bump the insulin for you. The main job for the machine is to bump the insulin without checking your blood sugar.

Hope you’re fine

Mark said...


Thank you for stopping by.

Yes, the pump is only used for pumping insulin. However, I believe some of the newer models can actively monitor blood glucose as well.

I hope this helps.