My Experience Transitioning from Almost 20 Years of Insulin Injections to an Insulin Pump

I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was nine years old. My mom had gestational when she was pregnant with me and the doctor told her ...

I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was nine years old. My mom had gestational when she was pregnant with me and the doctor told her it was likely she or I would receive a permanent diagnosis some time down the line. When I was diagnosed, insulin pumps were an option, but not the norm and were too expensive (even with insurance). So for the past almost 20 years, I took at least four insulin injections every day and sometimes more than that. I had to take a shot/injection every time I ate something, if my blood sugar was high (even if I wasn't eating something), and a longer-acting insulin every evening before bed.

Truth be told, after many years I got tired of checking my blood sugar and rarely did so. And carb-counting became a pretty basic skill for me. My diabetes was never fully under-control. In fact, I was in intensive care more times than I remember because I went into DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). When I went to see my diabetic doctor last summer, he told me that if my diabetes didn't get under better control soon, I'd be on dialysis in the next 10 years. Diabetes is real, y'all. And it's a damn struggle.

My doctor had been urging me to switch to the pump for years, but I was scared. I'd gone so long taking injections and the mere thought of something being lodged into my body 24/7 was absolutely terrified. When he gave me the bad news last summer, I sat in my car and cried. Really sobbed. Then I decided I would have to make the switch to the insulin pump.

The switch was almost anticlimactic in retrospect, but was really scary at the time.

I had to speak with a local representative for the insulin pump company to discuss my insurance options and some personal items (like how often I check my blood sugar and how out of control my blood sugars often were). That part was absolutely nerve-wracking to me. I later received a call (about a week later - insurance had to process first) about how much my insurance would cover and how much I would owe out of pocket. We discussed setting up a payment plan, and I said "okay." A few days later, I had a giant box arrive. I did have to take the day off work to wait for it, because it had to be signed for.

The box included a tote bag, my Medtronic 670G insulin pump, a new glucose meter (for Bluetooth connectivity to the pump), a Guardian CGM (transmitter) and several sets of all the items I needed - infusion sets, reservoirs, sensors. I had no clue what any of it was or what to do with any of it. I called my doctor to figure out what to do, and I had to set up an appointment with the local pump company representative - the trainer (different person than who I discussed insurance options with). We sat up an appointment to meet at my doctor's office, and that day was set up with one other person who was also moving to the pump (but was new to the diabetes world, in general).

The process of learning how to use my pump was terrifying, overwhelming, and not super helpful. That isn't to say I didn't have a great trainer. She was really kind and knowledgeable, however, I was truly just so overwhelmed. I felt like I would never understand how to use the pump and it would be an utter failure and all my time and money would have been wasted. There was a whole slew of terrible thoughts going through my head about the switch.

During the training session, which was about four hours, we set up the pump and began using it immediately. I left the session with the cannula/infusion set and CGM/sensor in place

With the pump and sensors I use, I have to change out my infusion site (where the insulin is being delivered) every three days; and I change out the sensor every six to seven days (sometimes it expires a little earlier, which I don't totally know why - it just does). Those first few changes were difficult and exhausting. The sensor wouldn't take and I had to keep changing it out. I was running out of places to insert, and I was wasting sensors. I was devastated.

When I first insert the sensor, it takes two hours to "warm up." After that, it has me check my blood sugar every three to four hours to calibrate for the first 12 hours or so. This has been super frustrating, because I tend to change my site in the evening, which means I don't sleep well those nights because my pump keeps going off. The first night changing my sensor site, I didn't sleep at all and I had to actually call out of work.

Luckily, the 24 hour hotline is typically really helpful and they'll send you replacements if something like that happens. AND there's a new online portal, so I can change out my replacements without having to call in. This does wonders for my introverted soul. The "damaged" sensors must be sent back (they send containers to ship back for free), so money isn't wasted. So, that's always a relief.

I will say, I still have issues with my sensors about once a month or so with them not taking at first. It is frustrating, but my A1C has went from being between 9.0-12.0 for the past five or more years to being a 6.8 for the past nine months or so, so it's been totally worth it for me. 

The switch was really terrifying and it wasn't the smoothest ride. Sometimes the pump can be really annoying, and I tote it around in my bra, so pulling it out at work sometimes can be awkward, but my health has improved and that makes it worthwhile. It can be really overwhelming, but have a good support system in place.

If you have questions - please reach out. I'm more than happy to chat about my experience more and answer any questions I can about how this process was for me. It can be scary, but you can get through it.

I walk every fall with the American Diabetes Association to support the search for a cure, and I've even bought pancreas shaped paraphernalia since my pancreas isn't quite active.

Please consider donating to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through my team's page for this fall's JDRF One Walk. My goal is to reach $1000 through my team, but any little bit helps. Though the pump has made my life much easier to manage, it's still a really crappy condition to live with, and I'd love your support.

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