By Kerri Sparling
Kerri is a passionate advocate for all-things diabetes. She is the creator and author of Six Until Me, one of the first and most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, reaching a global audience of patients and caregivers. Her first book, Balancing Diabetes (Spry Publishing), looks at type 1 diabetes in the context of “real life.” Kerri has lived with diabetes for 30 years. She has experienced a full childhood, the teen years, the college experience, and now pregnancy and parenting, with diabetes along for the ride.
Why do I pump insulin? It just plain works. I have decades of taking injections to compare decades of insulin pumping against, and pumping wins, hands down. No need to bust out syringes or an insulin pen at the dinner table. I can design the basal profile that hits my dawn phenomenon where it hurts, leaving my fasting blood sugar levels more consistently in range. I can dial down my basal rates before exercising, allowing me to get through a workout without tanking, BG-wise.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven, back in 1986, insulin pumps weren’t a readily available option. I spent years taking my insulin doses with a syringe and vial, often times bringing two bottles of insulin with me when I left the house. As essential as these bottles were, it was inconvenient and cumbersome to bring them out at the dinner table. It made my insulin doses feel like an event, something that brought my life to a halt so that diabetes could intrude for a few minutes. Pumping changed all of that, putting my diabetes management into a more subtle, streamlined package.
Diabetes community members across the spectrum prefer pumping over multiple daily injections, and they aren’t shy about sharing why. “My daughter started on a pump at age seven. We couldn’t get accurate enough dosages with syringes, even with those half unit markings. So that’s why we started her on the pump,” said Laura Buda Clark, parent of a child with type 1 diabetes.
“Dawn phenomenon was the big reason for me. I need a different amount of insulin during the early morning hours than I do during the rest of the night. I also enjoy the added flexibility for temp basals around exercise,” offered Scott Johnson, who has had type 1 for over 35 years. The ability to use pump technology to fine-tune and track diabetes data is a theme in the DOC. “A big plus for me has been that my pump keeps track of things more accurately than I was ever able to do. I loathe logging [diabetes data],” said Mike Barry, living with type 1.
Melissa Lee, PWD for several decades, appreciates the ease of administering insulin with a pump. “I like that I can make micro-adjustments to trends in blood sugar with the touch of a button. Before I started pumping, I was worried about being ‘hooked’ to something. Once I started pump therapy, I actually felt like I had more freedom to sleep on my own schedule and eat as I liked.” Sarah Schmidt, also living with type 1 herself, agrees. “I wear an insulin pump because it allows me to better micromanage. I can have multiple basal rates, can give partial doses, it keeps track of IOB [insulin on board], and helps me make better decisions about corrections.”
“My son uses a pump because he eats mass quantities all day and it’s easier than taking a zillion shots a day,” quipped Stacey Nagel, mom of a teenaged son-now-adult with type 1 diabetes.
Michelle Campbell echoed Stacey’s sentiments about food management. “The first time [my son] got second helpings of something without balking about an extra shot, we knew we’d made the right decision for him. And even now, it’s nice that he can say, ‘I’m going to bolus for maybe half of this and see how much I eat, and then if I’m still hungry, I’ll bolus for the rest.’ It’s really helped him with normalizing eating habits.”
And Anna Floreen, diagnosed at the age of six, cuts to the core of her preference. “Easy-access. I’m lazy, and having insulin physically attached to me is how I will remember to give the dose to cover a meal or correct a high.”
Sure, pumping has its drawbacks, on some occasions. There are moments when the device is difficult to blend into my outfit (learn about creative ways to overcome these challenges with Fashion Fixes), or the tubing gets caught on a doorknob, but those moments of inconvenience are far-weighed by the benefits. Pumping is the easiest, most streamlined way for me to get insulin into my body without disrupting my entire life. My life feels like it’s built around what I want to do, instead of anchored in the needs of my diabetes, and it feels good to have that feeling of freedom.
From time to time, we may pass along: suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem Insulin Pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. However, please note individual symptoms, situations, circumstances and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified health care provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information linked below before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.