I have worn an insulin pump for more than nine years. It hasn’t been the same pump that whole time, of course, but I have worn different types and different brands continuously since first trying one in January of 2002. Wearing an insulin pump made my life a little easier when I moved overseas, when I backpacked through Southeast Asia, and even during those all-day meetings that come up in nearly every business environment. In short, having an insulin pump has been great for me – until recently.
A few months ago I started to get annoyed with my insulin pump. It wasn’t my insulin pump per se, but a series of events (occlusions in the cannula, trouble with the areas of skin I preferred to use for it, etc.). Realizing that my blood glucose levels were consistently higher than normal, I tried to fix what I could by changing where I had it infused subcutaneously, but found that many of the alternative areas I could wear it were incredibly uncomfortable for me. I got frustrated. I got angry. I quit the pump, cold turkey.
I know that I’m not the first person to make this change. When I had heard people tell me they just got to a point where they didn’t want to wear an insulin pump anymore, I always thought to myself “that will never be me!” But here’s the thing – it’s been over a month now and I don’t mind using insulin pens in place of the pump. I’ve heard people call their temporary shifts from using an insulin pump to using pens or syringe a “pump vacation” – I might not go back to a pump any time soon, however, so I’ll call this a “pump sabbatical.”
This shift brings up two things that I’d like to share:
First of all, if you’re on an insulin pump, it’s always a good idea to have insulin pens or vials and syringes as back up. Your health care provider probably recommends this, but I admit that I ignored it. I was lucky during my nine years on a pump and I never once had a problem that caused me to need back up supplies. Watching the news about how an earthquake and tsunami have devastated a country I once lived in made me realize how dangerous it was for me to ignore this safety measure. When I finally decided to stop using a pump, I had to request new prescriptions for insulin pens, which I got – then had to request a prescription for insulin pen needles, too. It was a stressful hassle, but also an avoidable one. And if a natural disaster struck? No matter what type of an insulin program I’m on, I’d want to have those back-up supplies with me.
Secondly, it’s taking me a little bit of time to come to terms with this change that I am actually very happy about. Why? With all the great things going on to advance diabetes management technology these days, I wondered – was I being unappreciative? Was I somehow doing my long-term management a disservice by not keeping up with the latest and greatest insulin delivery devices? I found my answer in a book called Transitions in Care which was actually written for young adults with diabetes, their parents and their health care team. In it, the authors write:
“Because it is you who lives with and manages your diabetes day-to-day, only you will really know which type of insulin program will suit you best. The decision should be yours – made in consultation with your health care provider.”