Rebecca’s Pump Pros and Cons

December 4, 2023
Rebecca Barrick
Rebecca is a recent graduate from Brandeis University with a BS in biochemistry. She served as the president for her chapter of the Diabetes Link last year.
In early 2016 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I then spent the next couple of days in the hospital meeting with diabetes educators about how to manage my daunting new condition. While it was clear that my life was about to change forever, I was quickly told by one of the endocrinologists that I had just been diagnosed at a very opportune time in the scope of diabetes research. In less than a year the Medtronic MiniMed 670g would be available, the world’s first hybrid closed loop insulin pump that would function similarly to a pancreas by responding to my blood sugar in real time.

While the 670g system was presented as a ray of hope, the path to getting the system was quite difficult. Leaving the hospital, I had only completed one successful insulin shot and so early on diabetes maintenance seemed impossible. Over the next three months I had to document my blood sugar in a log book every three hours to demonstrate responsibility. This was good practice for me in monitoring how different things affected my blood sugar, however the stress of maintaining the log book put a lot of pressure on me and my mother. It was a frustrating feeling like I had to jump through hoops in order to get technology that could ease the burden of living with diabetes.

“It was a frustrating feeling like I had to jump through hoops in order to get technology that could ease the burden of living with diabetes.”
Finally, after three months of very careful low-tech care, I found myself meeting with the Medtronic representative for the first time. At the end of the meeting, I inserted my first ever insulin site with the Medtronic 630g system, a brief stepping stone with an earlier insulin pump before I could eventually be upgraded to the 670g. The experience of putting on an insulin pump for the first time was life changing.

First Pump Observations
– No need to draw up and inject insulin regularly (like when I wanted seconds during dinner!)
– Pump calculator does all the math for me
– Discrete dosing
– Support was everything! The diabetes nurse gave me reassuring knowledge like “dropping the insulin pump will rarely pull out the cannula so don’t freak out if it falls out of your pocket” and “with time you will learn to move the insulin pump around the bed while you sleep so you don’t get tangled in the tubing.”
– Object attached to me at almost all times, it took awhile to get used to
– 630g system had a CGM that was often unreliable, giving inaccurate blood sugar readings resulting in false alarms (and panic!)

Eventually I transferred to the 670g system which included massive improvements to the CGM and many of the blood sugar misreads I had with the old system vanished. The 670g system took away a lot of the stress I had about managing my diabetes. This experience may have been very specific to me as someone who had diabetes for less than a year before switching onto an automated insulin delivery automatic system, but I found myself able to focus less of my brain power on worrying about what my blood sugar was doing knowing that I would not only be alerted to any issues but that the system was doing its best to fix the issues before I even noticed it was happening. I often imagined the pump as a worried friend doing its best to help me take care of myself.

“I often imagined the pump as a worried friend doing its best to help me take care of myself. ”

New Pump Observations
– More accurate blood sugar readings
– Automated system often fixed issues before I noticed them
– Scar tissue after using a pump for years. This made insertions overtime physically painful and emotionally draining.
– Relied on my mom for emotional support through stressful site changes

Now my relationship with pump site changes seems to fluctuate most of the time being just a thing I must do but other times there’s a series of difficult and painful insertions.
Overall, the new improvements to technology that have emerged during my time as a diabetic really eased my transition into diabetes management and has been a great comfort to me and my family. Technology is still changing and I’m still experimenting with the different options out there! A couple of years ago I switched from Medtronic to the Tandem T-Slim and that move was another improvement for my diabetes care. Everything has its own pros and cons and when it comes to diabetes technology it’s all about deciding how important each aspect is for your personal diabetes management.

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