Saturday, 6 July 2013

Mr M and his insulin pumps

New pump controller and old pump side by side
mylife OmniPod insulin pump wireless controller and Animas insulin pump with tubing
I mentioned a while ago that I had commissioned a guest post from Mr M, who has a new insulin pump. He has come up with the goods - a blog post comparing and contrasting his old and his new pumps, as well as providing some insight into the world of insulin pumping.
Hello ... Mr M here with my first contribution to the wonderful world of Lola Life.

Regular readers may already know that I have Type 1 diabetes and use an insulin pump. As I have changed insulin pumps recently Lola I asked me to write something about the two pumps.

My old pump (affectionately named Stanley by the lovely Lola II) was an Animas 20 20 pump which clipped on my belt [pictured at the top of the post on the right] and had tubing leading through my clothing to a patch [containing the cannula that delivers the insulin] on my waist or leg. I have had Stan for four years, and has had to been sent back to his parents three times – once because of the buttons sticking, and twice through water leakage.

Stan has been upgraded to Whitney (aka New Stan) who is a mylife OmniPod. Whitney came in a huge box and I wondered if I had been given a toaster. But no, it was my new pump.

New OmniPod pump patch
The new pump has two parts: the pump control unit, which is about the size of a smart phone – though four times as thick [pictured at the top of the post on the left] – plus a matchbox size patch which sticks to my leg, arm or stomach and contains the pumping mechanism and insulin [and the cannula that delivers the insulin]. The two are linked through a wifi system.

Stanley swinging back and forth
Now I had become quite attached to the old pump and not just literally. The most annoying feature though was that the small patch - about the size of a 2 pence piece – often came unattached, either because it didn’t stick down properly, or, more often, because the cord got caught when taking my trousers off. This happened frequently enough for me to have two patches attached at all times so I could switch to the emergency one if the first came off.

Old Animas pump patch
So… when I was offered an upgrade at the end of my four years, I decided to go for the wireless option (or rather, the tube-less option).

New Stan has the obvious advantage that being a wifi option, the tube tangle problem doesn’t come into play. After a month or using it, none of the patches have even come near to falling off. This may be because there is a large sticking area, or because the pump tells you every three days to change it, even if there are a few days of insulin left. (Stan used to just tell you when the insulin was going to run out). This does feel like the manufacturers trying to get you to use more patches than you need to.

Apart from the obvious wifi (or tufi?) advantage, pluses of the OmniPod over the Animas is that the basal programmes can be copied into a new programme so you can tweak it. For those who haven’t had advice or training in diabetes, a basal programme is the schedule of how much background insulin to give at which times, and on the Animas, you had to write all the times and figures down, then re-enter them into a new schedule which could take 20 minutes to do, with the potential of entering something incorrectly.

Another big advantage is that it is combined with a blood glucose meter – and as you get the pump control unit out each time you eat, there is more tendency to also test your blood than you would if you had to find your blood meter. There are also some fancy graphs on it so you can see your blood sugar results, and useful carb intake lists etc. There is also the advantage that my hospital can download my results – though this does of course assume you want them to know the actual results!

However, it is not all positives. There are some possible serious quirks. One is that if you are about to eat, and test your blood sugar – if it comes out low, the pump won’t calculate how much insulin you need for your carbohydrate intake – so you have to either guess, or remember to take some insulin 5 minutes later when the test result has cleared.
[Ed's note: 'guessing' is how people with diabetes who don't have a 'bolus advisor' estimate how much insulin they should take!]
The Omni Pod also doesn’t tell you how it calculates the insulin it suggests you need, but just the end figure. This is different from the Animas which would tell you that you needed X for the carbohydrates, and that it was taking off/adding Y for the blood sugar adjustment, and then would take off what insulin it had given you recently (as this will take some time to act). The reason this is useful is if you have just started a meal and given yourself insulin, then test yourself and find you are high, both pumps think “I have just given you insulin” so suggest you don’t have any more – however, if the food hasn’t actually been eaten yet, you may want to ignore the deduction for “insulin just given” as you want to have some more for the high blood sugar, and the insulin can deal with the food which is about to be eaten. 
On a lighter side (or maybe darker), the screen time out is only a maximum of 60 seconds and so it is impossible to change the pump patch without it timing out a few times – not a major issue but annoying especially as it would be an easy thing for the manufacturers to fix.

Finally, there is a negative side to the wifi facility. One of the selling points of wifi is that you don’t have to carry it around – but the same logic also means that as it isn’t attached to you, you can leave it behind without realising it. This doesn’t cause any changes to the background delivered, but means you can’t eat any carbs. I asked the rep about clips and bags to carry the unit (the Animas had a clip which made it look like a pager); the rep said it didn’t need to be carried so they didn’t do one. This sounded like an oversight and given the size and weight – is a problem for men in the summer as we don’t tend to have coats or handbags to carry things in.

Mr M 'texting' his insulin pumpIn short, I think the wifi device is a better option, but Omni Pod could make a few software changes to improve it, and provide a clip or bag to attach it to your belt. However, the Animas device has a better designed piece of software and also makes you look important as you have a pager, while the Omni Pod makes it look like you are always on your mobile texting!
Thank you, Mr M! And a small prize* to anyone who can come up with the explanation of the new pump's name. All the clues are there for you in the text!

* not really


  1. Houston, or do we have a problem?

    Get a shoulder holster, and look like a G-man texting.

    1. It is to do with the deceased songstress, but not exactly the reference you've given. Mr M, when do we tell them?

  2. The Bodyguard? Still needs a shoulder holster.

  3. New Stan, I will always love you


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