Diabetes Blog Week 2015, Day 3: I Keep All My Pumps

By Jenny McCue -

Living this long with diabetes, you develop a personal relationship with the technology you depend on to keep you alive.  That is why I still have every insulin pump I’ve ever used.   Each one tells a story of where I was in my life with diabetes and I won’t let myself throw them out.

Disetronic was my first.  This pump got me through high school and college.  I fondly recall the specialized prescription-only batteries, greyish color, and how big it was. I remember the battles my family fought for coverage because pumps were experimental.  I remember doctors hesitating to put girls on insulin pumps because they thought they were connected to eating disorders.  I remember the freedom I finally felt not having to take insulin shots anymore.  I used that pump for well over six years.  I maybe, possibly, hypothetically, used it after the FDA revoked it.  First love is always the hardest, and this pump was no exception

In graduate school I met MiniMed.  It had a fancy smart button, and arrows and so many screens.  It used regular batteries (mind, blown) and mine was blue.  It was also my first device that did diabetes math. You would enter carbs and then enter your blood sugar and like magic it said, “Here is your dose!”  As I figured my way through mastering graduate school, this trooper of a pump with its alarms and fancy math also introduced me to a technological inevitability of diabetes: when you get sick and go to a hospital, the first thing blamed is the technology.  The first thing they did was try to take the pump off.  The first thing I did was fight to keep it on.  In spite of vomiting with a fever and term papers due, I taught the staff at University of Chicago Hospital ER what a pump was and how it worked.  You could say this was the start of my advocacy career – speaking truth to power.

A few years out of graduate school I met Animas.  It was so sleek and so fast.  You could prime in a nanosecond. It was dark purple in color, and used normal batteries. We had concepts such as insulin on board and what I like to call “boutique blousing”.  Who knew that oatmeal and pizza needed a different pattern for effective blousing? This pump knew!  Eventually we added another member to our family, the Continuous Glucose Monitor, and we all became fast friends.  In my newly developing professional life, I was armed with the best technology.  This was also when I noticed children getting on pumps. The images of three year olds attached to a pump (still much smaller then ol’ Disetronic) stay with me.

Now, I’m in a relationship with t:slim.  And I’m in love again.  It’s quick, super easy, has a touch screen, and mine is pink.  It is so tiny, and has NO batteries. It just charges.  Sometimes I forget I have it on – until it smartly reminds me with a beep that I haven’t touched it for a few hours.   It’s like we were made for each other.

As with all relationships, we have evolved.

Maybe I should throw them out.  But I think I keep them because they remind me how far we have come and how at the end of the day, I still need a pump.

Every relationship starts with excitement.  I get excited when I choose a new pump, when it arrives, and when I talk about it with my friends.  But it is frustrating and sad that I am still excited for this.  I don’t want a world where three year olds get to pick the color of their pump and parents don’t have to worry about batteries. I want a world where we don’t need any of this ever again. 

The balance of care and cure is huge in my work.  I deal with it every day and it’s a very fine and very important line.  The evolution of pumps is about living better with a disease.  But to live without a pump, we need a cure.

And that’s complicated.

I want the technology to grow to make daily life easier as much as I want the clinical research that would leave me without a pump to keep pace.  As our world races towards clinical/technological solutions, our voices, input and histories matter.  It’s forums like this blog week where we can connect, listen, and learn, that can start something big.

Someday, I will throw all the pumps out.  When we don’t need them anymore

Until then, t:slim and I are going to grab dinner.

Scroll Up