Back in August, I emailed the lovely people at Ypsomed to ask about the Omnipod. I’d been having a think about the whole ‘pump-MDI’ (manual daily injections) debate for a while, and had browsed a few pump options. To be honest, up until this point, I’d never really been keen on the idea of a pump. There’s a few reasons for this, some of which I imagine other ‘MDI-ers’ may also relate to when thinking about whether to make the move – and yes, some of them are aesthetic, I admit – but at the end of the day, you’ve got to feel comfortable in your own skin – and to know whether or not I would do whilst wearing a pump – without actually trying one first – is hard to say.
I’ve laid out a few of my previous worries and (perhaps, if I’m honest – wrong) preconceptions about ‘the pump’ below – now bear with me. I’m sure many pump users will read these and disagree – and that’s fine – I completely expect people too. These are just some thoughts that I’ve had over the past 12 years where I’ve been uneducated about what a pump actually is and how it works (e.g. I had no idea until a few months ago that a pump used only fast acting insulin), and have only really seen it for ‘a box with some tubes attached’. These days, I’m starting to think a bit differently, and I’ll discuss this afterwards too.
It seems like having something attached to you would take some getting used to
The only clothes I wear with pockets are jeans, and to be honest I hardly ever wear jeans. So the idea of trying to find somewhere to secure my pump – be it using a special belt, down my bra, wherever works best– 24/7 – is a bit daunting to me. And the tubing – would I be conscious or worried about it getting tangled, or caught on door handles etc. all of the time?
When the sites screw you over
The thought of ‘I went to bed fine but woke up with a blood sugar of 20 mmol/l because my cannula site ripped out in my sleep’ scares me a little. Or the tubing having kinks or air bubbles. Or your site being itchy or sore or infected. It just sounds – tricky.
Trusting a machine
I think the thing I ‘like’ about injections is that I’m in control (well – ‘ish – we all know T1D is a bloody nightmare sometimes!) When I take an injection, I know I’ve taken it – I know exactly how much insulin I’ve got in me, and when it got there (OK, apart from odd time where I don’t concentrate and forget what I’ve taken, admittedly!). I also take a ‘long-acting’ insulin everyday – so I always know that I have some background insulin on board to tie me over. With a pump – sure, you programme it all in and it tells you what insulin it’s dosed – but what if my blood goes high for some unexpected reason? Has my pump failed? Am I ill? Did I carb count wrong? Is my tubing broken? My site infected? I wonder if this adds more anxiety to an already difficult process.
Aesthetics & practicality
Just to start – I’m 25 years old now, 12 and a half years into life as a T1 diabetic, and way, way less insecure about my diabetes than I perhaps was as a teenager. I know, and fully believe, that our health is more important than how we look – but I’m not going to ignore this one because this blog is about being honest. These days, most people I meet know I have diabetes. I often inject in front of people quite openly, and don’t try and hide my Libre – it doesn’t bother me. But this hasn’t always been the case, and I know as a teenager, I definitely worried about how comfortable I’d feel having a pump attached to me 24/7. And even now, I sometimes wonder how I’d wear my favourite velvet skin tight dress, or if people would ask about my pump often, or even how I would manage avec pump in different situations – snowboarding and swimming, for example; the few obstacle courses I’ve run recently; or even (random but important) at theme parks (can your wear a pump on a rollercoaster?!) – you know, things like that.
So what’s changed?
Although some of the above still applies, my thoughts towards moving to pump therapy have skewed a bit over the past few months. Firstly – I’ve got the Libre. I don’t take breaks from it (because I love it), and have it attached to me, on show, 24/7. People ask me about it all the time – I’ve had both a Senior Manager at work and a complete stranger ask me ‘what did you do to your arm?’ just this week – and I don’t mind. At all. I’m just not embarrassed or conscious of it. This mind set is something I’ve probably grown into since starting on the Libre last March, and is definitely something I think I would embrace if I moved onto a pump. I think starting the Libre has made me realise that actually, you don’t know how you’ll feel about something until you give it a try.
I’ve also talked to people who actually use a pump. Now that’s new. When you’re faced with trying something that none of your friends – or anyone you know, for that matter, have any idea about – it’s hard not to feel a bit anxious about the whole thing. But explaining my fears to ‘real life pump users’ – and realising that actually, they felt exactly the same – and that in relativity, the concerns were all nothing to worry about – definitely helps.
I also care a lot more about my health these days. Now I don’t know enough about how the pump works as opposed to MDI to know whether or not it will improve my diabetic health or not – but the majority of reviews and comments about pumps I’ve read online are along the lines of, ‘switching to the pump is the best thing I ever did’, ‘the pump is a lifesaver – my HbA1C has never been better’, ‘you will love the pump’. Plus, after running my first half marathon recently, and – if I’m honest, really struggling with my blood sugars during the race and in training – I think I’d love to try something that would make this easier.
One view that I guess hasn’t really changed, however, is my thoughts on tubing – cue the Omnipod. The idea of kinked tubing and ripped out cannula sites still doesn’t overly excite me, but using a pump like the Omnipod would alleviate these kind of issues – as it has no tubing. Instead, insulin is delivered directly from a cannula attached to a pod full of insulin that you stick to your body, like with a CGM.
So this is what I tried back in November – an Omnipod Demo. After expressing my interest in the product, Ypsomed sent me a ‘dummy’ pod – which is exactly the same as the real thing, except without a cannula or any insulin in it – to give me an idea of what wearing one of these is like. And honestly? It’s pretty damn cool.
When the demo arrived, I was buzzing. I collected it from the Post Office on my way to work, and immediately ripped the box open in my car – and my jaw genuinely dropped.
It. Was. Tiny.
I don’t know what I was expecting really – but I was just so shocked (and ecstatic) at how small it was – and how easily I could imagine myself wearing it – that I couldn’t stop smiling. I talked about it all day at work. I bombarded my family’s WhatsApp’s with pictures of it from different angles, telling them again and again how cool it was. I basically just wanted to get home and ‘try it on’.
As I’d never ‘had’ anything (e.g. Libre) on my stomach before, I decided pretty quickly that this is where I wanted to try the pod, but a lot of questions came into mind when trying to decide where to place it – how high should I put it? Will my tummy rolls (sexy, I know) make it uncomfortable? Can I wear my work trousers with this or am I stuck to dresses for the next 3 days? Worries aside, I looked at the ‘where to apply’ picture advise on the box, wiped my torso with an alcohol wipe, and just went for it, kind of in-line/just above my belly button.
When I first attached this to my tummy, I’ll admit, it did feel a bit strange and kind of heavy at first. But then again – what did I expect – when have I ever had a pod attached to my tummy before?! By the next day, it genuinely felt normal. I managed a whole day of not knocking it, not getting my car seat belt stuck on it, and kind of constantly touching it to check that it was still there (I think I grew quite attached to it quite quickly?!). Sleeping was fine. Working was fine. Life was – just fine. It was normal. And as the days went on, my love for this little plastic box sitting on my stomach grew. To think this tiny little pump could keep me ticking over – help me control my HbA1C, help me run long distances without hypos/hypers – help me be the healthiest I can be – was just awesome.
To be honest, when I started the demo pod, I thought I’d have a lot more to talk about in this post – but as I mentioned above, the 3 days were really just normal – which actually, is great. No drama, no shocks – just my regular day to day routine, with a discrete, little box in tow. Now maybe if and when the day comes and I try a ‘real’ pod, things won’t be so straight forward – I’ll have a whole new language and routine to learn – basal rates, pump suspends, shrieking alarms, the works. But after trying the demo, I have to say that for the first time in my life – I’d like a pump. The Omnipod doesn’t scare me – it excites me. And it just shows – try things. Give them a chance. They might not be as scary as you think.