Pumping Up - My Journey Towards Becoming an Insulin Pumper

Sunday's blog 'First Fears and How I Got My Insulin Pump' told about my journey of what led up to my making a decision to go onto an insulin pump. It told about having to first learn about how to carbohydrate count, know food values off by heart and also about how the pump works.

Pumping Up

So with all those lessons done and the saline trial complete I was ready to go onto the real thing. Part of the agreement of me receiving an insulin pump was that I had to give up athletic training for a few weeks, whilst I got my background insulin rates right. And then when my blood sugars became settled I could go back. At the time I still felt very unwell  because of the high blood sugars I was experiencing and because nobody knew how training and the insulin pump would mix, I agreed. Although with a slight concern regarding the fact that effectively my background insulin rate (the insulin that is fed into you 24 hours a day, regardless of whether you eat or not) would need to effectively be set twice. As my insulin needs whilst training are completely different to when I'm not. I was set on a background rate of 0.6 units of insulin continually throughout the day and night as a base that we could develop from.

I was sent home straight away with my pump after learning how to change the needles and look after the general maintenance of the machine. I was also given the advice that I needed to test my blood sugars every 3 hours throughout the day and every 4 hours throughout the night. If I had high blood sugars I needed to test every hour until they came back down. And if I became hypo I was to test every 15 mins or so until they came back up. Perhaps I should of seen the problem coming, but with 14.4 units of insulin (IU) set as a background rate whilst now on a pump, but having come from an average of 55 IU whilst on injections- within days I quickly developed ketones and ended up back in hospital. Another unpleasant experience under my belt, I was more closely monitored and attended clinic every couple of days to show my blood sugar readings to the specialists and make adjustments accordingly.

It's hard to describe how I felt in those initial days- disappointed because I thought I would start to feel well again more quickly. Tired because I was up throughout the night and could only sleep during the day for short stints. Confused because I was still at university but I couldn't manage both this new regime and studying. I also missed training. But I can honestly say at no point did I feel like giving up, I wanted my insulin pump to work for me and to stop feeling unwell so I was going to make it work.

Change is as Good as a Rest

This cycle of constant blood sugar monitoring, lack of sleep and missing training went on for 3 months. I went onto an insulin pump in the March time when I was 20, and in the April it was going to be my 21st birthday. For months my mother and I had planned to go to New York on holiday for it and when I was told I wasn't safe to fly, I hit a real low point because I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel which was going back to normal life. But as I mentioned that after 3 months things started to get better and in the September I was finally allowed to go on holiday. Doing it safely without the concern of being hundreds of miles away from a medical team that new me and my past history.

Not long after September I was contacted by a Mum, and her son who had Type 1 diabetes and was thinking about going to an insulin pump. They got in contact because he was also thinking about going onto a pump and wanted some advice about what it would be like, especially from an athletes point of view. I learnt a lot from speaking to them, including that there were other pumps out there aside from the one that I had been given. With mine I noticed that I had an abnormally high amount of no delivery notifications- where the needle or tubes get blocked and the insulin is stopped from being delivered. It wasn't water proof which was an issue with regard to the fact that I a) Sweated on it during exercise and b) trained outside in Wales (it rains all the time). Also the needles (also known as sets) went in at 90 degrees to the skin. Which was probably my biggest issue because I had a muscly body type, so if I sat for long periods of time the needle would kink.

But this other pump had sets that could go in at 30 degrees along the fatty tissue layer of the skin- perfect for someone with my body type and the issues I had had. And the pump also came in pink (but that's a blog for another day), but colour choice is important. So I got in contact with the manufacturers of the new pump and swapped over, and within days the set changes reduced to the norm- every 3 days and my blood sugars started to regulate as well. And I've been on this pump for the last 4 years or so.

A door closed but a window opened

Although I did finally complete my degree, I couldn't finish the year of uni I was in when I got my insulin pump. I appreciate that this sounds like a slightly sad story about going onto a pump, but little did I know that what happened to me in those horrendous months would be what introduced me to one of the greatest passions in my life- volunteering. That actually then led onto a once in a lifetime experience. So keep an eye out for Thursdays blog to learn how it all came about...













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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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