Everyday life with a pump
Wearing an Insulin Pump
The pump is worn all of the time, usually attached to a belt, hidden in a trouser pocket or worn discreetly under clothing.
A range of accessories are available for pumps, including smart leather pouches, plastic clip cases and protective nylon cases. Special bra, thigh and leg pouches are available for women and there are also a number of straps and belts available which are particularly handy for swimming and sporting activities.
Operating The Pump
Using the pump is easy. It can even be operated ‘by feel’ through clothing. At the press of a button you can give yourself a pre-meal bolus of insulin, or change your basal rate for a couple of hours to accommodate some exercise. You can also easily check the amount of insulin remaining in the cartridge and look at recent bolus doses (how much insulin was given and when).
All operations are shown on the LCD display and confirmed by an audible ‘beep’. There is a few seconds wait before the instructions are carried out – this gives you time to check your programming and correct any mistakes you have accidentally made. If you feel self-conscious, or do not wish to draw attention to yourself, then the beeps can easily be muted; the pump will then only sound in the case of an alarm.
Swimming, Bathing, Showering
Although the pump is waterproof, there are several options when swimming, bathing or taking a shower. The pump can actually be disconnected for short periods, leaving the cannula in place. A special plastic pouch is available for showering that can be hung around the neck, or on the showerhead. If you are taking a bath, you can simply place the pump on the floor beside the bath, draping the infusion set tubing over the side of the bath.
Sport and Exercise
Wearing an Insulin Pump does not preclude you from taking part in a wide variety of sports and activities, including water sports. In fact, pump therapy can help you incorporate exercise into your life more easily compared with insulin injection regimens. The basal rate can easily be reduced for an hour or two, without having to change the programming. The normal basal rate can be resumed at any time.
The infusion set comes with long lengths of tubing so you can place the pump beside the bed or under the pillow and still have plenty of room to manoeuvre. Some people prefer to slip the pump into a pocket in their pyjamas or nightgown – this allows you to move about as much as you like. The infusion set is rarely dislodged during sleeping, even in those who tend to sleep on their stomach.
The pump provides a continuous background supply of insulin throughout the day and night. If your insulin needs are higher in the early hours of the morning then the basal rate is set accordingly for that time. You can sleep in and miss or delay breakfast, without having to worry about high blood glucose levels as a result.
The infusion set is securely attached to your body and should not interfere with sexual intimacy. However, the easy disconnect system allows the pump to be removed temporarily and this option is preferred by many pump users. A small bolus of insulin can be given beforehand to compensate, if you anticipate being disconnected for a while. Of course, at nighttime, you should remember to reconnect yourself to the pump before falling asleep!
Insulin needs are often greater during periods of illness or infection. This can be easily dealt with by temporarily increasing the basal rate.
All people with Insulin Pumps can enjoy problem-free travel. In particular, you do not have to worry about the timing of your next meal – a common concern for those people on more restrictive insulin injection regimens. Even challenging trips to distant places pose no special problems. Travelling across time zones and adjusting to new mealtimes is made easier with an Insulin Pump. Having reached your destination the clock in the pump can be altered to the new time if you have different basal rates set over the 24-hour period.
Security checks at airports do not affect the performance of Insulin Pumps and often the pumps are not even picked up by airport metal detectors. Your diabetic identification and/or a letter from your doctor stating that the pump is a piece of medical equipment vital for your survival will avoid any difficulties that you may encounter with airport security staff.