Back in November 2016, I started on a new chapter in my diabetic journey. The 9th of November was the day I ditched the insulin pens (MDI) and made the change to insulin pump therapy. Over the past few months, I have seen a lot of diabuddies on Twitter also start on various pumps. I have also seen a few people taking pump breaks or even giving up the pump for good. Now some four months on I thought it was a good time to reflect on that decision and if it was the right choice for me. I hope this blog highlights some of the benefits and pitfalls of insulin pump therapy, and if you are contemplating starting on a pump, hope this helps you in some way. Please have a look at my blog from November – ➡ Pump Start Tips
How The Pump Benefits Me
The change from MDI to pumping can be a daunting prospect. I spent so many hours reading and researching everything I could before my start day. I was as prepared as I could be, and this has paid dividends in a smooth transition between the two. The benefits I get over MDI are huge to me, and in all honesty, pumping is the best thing to have happened to my diabetes care. I now feel like my diabetes is a manageable long-term prospect, and that is essential to keeping a good mental state.
Getting Off That Relentless Swing
When I was on MDI my SD (Standard Deviation) was never great. My blood sugars swung around from the 2’s to the 15’s far too often and this was reflected in my SD.
Since I have been pumping this has greatly improved. I think part of the improvement has come from a more focused mind, I spent a lot of time fine tuning my basal settings on the pump and I am now reaping the rewards with much more stable blood sugars.
No More Morning Spikes
Sounds like a pretty big statement, but its true. When I was on MDI it was the norm to wake up to a high blood sugar. No matter what I tried my morning numbers were always in the double figures. Imagine waking up every day and feeling more tired than when you went to bed. A hangover every morning but without the good night out beforehand is no fun and takes its toll on your enjoyment of life. Since starting the pump I have managed my waking blood sugars so much better.
Sure it took a lot of overnight testing to work out what I needed to do but four months in, I’m there at last. Now the norm is for me to wake to a nice number of 6 ish.
Freedom To Enjoy Food
I never realised at the time but with hindsight, MDI was really holding me back. I would not have dreamed of eating pizza, fish and chips or a Chinese and the like when on MDI. Experience had taught me that they simply weren’t worth the mega high blood sugars hours after eating them. The dual wave bolus is the best invention since the wheel, bold statement but I will stand by it! Being able to enjoy a varied diet and not having to miss out on the treats in life is a huge plus for me.
The pump can offer me the flexibility to dose accurately over a prolonged period of time, and that makes a massive difference to how my body reacts to certain foods.
Less Couch And More Gym
MDI and exercise just didn’t work for me. If I lowered my background insulin the day before exercise it meant I was running high numbers all day. Then when I got to the gym my blood sugars were too high to exercise. If I didn’t lower my background then a hypo whilst exercising was guaranteed, and normally another 2 during that night. The pump has been great in this respect, I am now regularly exercising 3 or 4 nights a week and maintaining target numbers throughout. I can adjust my background insulin to suit the activity and that is a game changer. No more eating a bucket of carbs just to allow me an hour of exercise without an impending low hitting me.
Spontaneity……. Is Difficult To Spell!
This is one area where the pump trumps MDI. We have all been in a situation where an unplanned event has caught us unawares, normally ending up in a massive hypo. An unplanned walk, a delayed commute home, a late dinner, any of these could cause me to hypo before. Now the pump offers me the flexibility to run a temporary basal rate these problems are no more. The fact I can suspend insulin completely is a real help in these situations.
No More Missing Insulin Doses
I was terrible at remembering to do my long acting insulin, now this is not a problem. It is pretty difficult, although not unheard of, to forget your pump! Also, as a lifelong fridge raider, I was bad for eating snacks and not injecting for them, now a few button presses and the
World fridge is my oyster.
It’s Not All Good Though
The pump for me, for now at least, is working really well. I have never felt so at ease with my diabetes as I do right now. That is not to say it doesn’t have its downsides. There are a few things about pumping that I don’t like so much. For now, the good is far outweighing the bad, but in the interests of a balanced view and helping others thinking of changing from MDI, please read on
It Doesn’t Do It For You
The sad fact is the pump is not a miracle worker. It doesn’t look at your plate of food, work out how many carbs are in it and automatically whack the insulin in for you!
The sad reality is you still have to do all the things you were doing on MDI plus a whole lot more testing to get the best out of the pump. This is not an easy fix I’m afraid.
The sad fact is when you take our insulin away, we get pretty ill, pretty quickly. I have had 3 set failures so far, and in every case, there is no way of knowing. The set change all goes normally, doesn’t feel any different, then 5 or 6 hours later my blood sugars are hitting the 20’s.
That is the only way you know the set has failed and you have not been getting your insulin. So far I have always caught it in time and fixed the problem, it does worry me that one day it happens overnight and it could be 12 hours before I notice it!
Always Attached To A Machine
It took me a few weeks to accept my pump as a part of me. I know that this is a worry for lots of people thinking of starting a pump. For me, it was only an issue for a few weeks, once the benefits of pumping started to take hold I soon got over this one.
In fact, once you are used to it, why not personalise it, make it unique.
Time Flies When You Are
Having Fun Pumping Insulin
Silly as it sounds we get one go on Earth and I want it to go slowly!! When you are in a constant 3-day cycle of set changes time really does fly by. It seems that you have just done a set change and its time for another one.
When on MDI I knew that my insulin was in me, I put it there so I knew! With the pump, I assume it is there, but as with any technology, it can go wrong, sometimes with no warning. The fact that DKA can come on very quickly in the absence of insulin does concern me, I have spent 4 days in a hospital with DKA once before and I don’t want to have that experience again anytime soon. This can cause a bit of anxiety sometimes.
So Is Pumping The Best Thing Since Sliced
Only you can answer this one. I know a few people who are very knowledgeable about their diabetes and how to manage it. These same people have tried the pump and have not got on with it at all, resulting in going back to MDI. Others, myself included, get so many benefits from pumping that we never want to go back to MDI. Then there are the huge number of people who get along with MDI really well. A good friend of mine has had diabetes for 45 years and has the most amazing Libre graphs on MDI. As with everything to do with diabetes, yours may vary, the only way you will know is to try it.
If you are thinking of trying insulin pump therapy then be sure to check out Input Diabetes website, it really is stacked full of great tips and advice. Input are a charity and all donations would be very much appreciated by them.
I hope this blog has given you an insight into the effects of 4 months of pumping has had on me. Please comment below with any questions or email me and I will be only too pleased to answer them for you.
Take Care, A Pump I Wear