Disclaimer: I have a business marketing degree. I am not a doctor and have absolutely no medical training. The information in this post is based solely on my own personal experience. The purpose of this post is to show those unfamiliar with an insulin pump how it works and is not meant as an educational post for new pump users. Always consult your physician before changing any of your treatment plans.
I have been asked a few questions about my insulin pump as it usually sits out in the open on my hip, however I know that there are hundreds more questions that have NOT been asked. So I thought I’d answer two common questions with the short video in this post.
“How much insulin is in your pump?” “Where is the insulin?”
In the video you see that I draw the insulin out of a vial into a small plastic cartridge. I fill this cartridge with approximately 150 units as that will last me about three days. It is best not to fill these cartridges with more than is needed for three days as the potency of the insulin can lessen the longer it sits in the pump and goes through the different temperature changes of being close to my body, going outside, working out, etc.
Insulin is a tricky thing as it can spoil. All unopened vials of insulin must be kept refrigerated until ready to use. Most diabetics and their families learn early on that, the butter shelf in your fridge should really be named “Insulin Shelf”. Once a vial is opened, it is good for 30 days. I unknowingly tested this rule by not realizing how long I had been using the same open vial. I noticed my blood sugars rising no matter how much insulin I took and I finally put the pieces together to realize that the vial had gone bad and wasn’t working at full strength.
My pump will give me a warning when my cartridge is running low so I know that I need to make sure to have supplies ready for when it goes to empty. I always carry my insulin vial and supplies with me but this just gives me a heads up before we’ve reached zip, zero, nada.
Favorite times for your insulin pump to reach zero units: five minutes after you’ve fallen asleep, driving, 2:00am, while helping in your kids classroom, 3:00am, movie theaters, 4:00am, seconds before you are ready to enjoy a fantastic, hot, dinner, and five minutes before your alarm is ready to go off.
Once the new cartridge is loaded the external tubing needs to be filled and then it is ready to be connected to the site on my skin.
“How does the insulin get from your pump to your body?”
Putting a new site on is truly not a painful process…most of the time. Still, there is the occasional site where the needle hits just the right spot and stings like crazy. Sometimes this pain goes away instantly and sometimes it hangs around until you can’t stand it anymore and you take the site off and try again. Usually, however this is a pain-free and easy process. No, you can NOT feel the little tube under your skin.
In regards to insulin sites, there is a term that sends insulin pumpers into a state of pure fear and dread….kinked tubing. Kinked tubing is when that sweet, kind little tube under your skin hits something when inserted or even a day later and goes from being straight to a right angle. This right angle does not allow insulin to travel into your body properly, leading to blood sugar rise. The biggest problem with kinked tubing? You have little, to no way of knowing it is happening until your blood sugar has already spiked. While this is annoying, it can also be very dangerous if not caught quickly and a new site inserted.
Pump sites can be inserted in a few different areas, legs, butt, stomach, basically anywhere with a layer of fat. Inserting directly into muscle does not feel good and also does not promote good insulin delivery.
I spared everyone by using a stomach site in the video. Moment of truth…my kids have seen more of my butt than I care to admit thanks to changing my sites in my kitchen where we keep all my supplies. It’s a memory I’m sure they’ll cherish and tell my grandkids about some day.
Last note about sites, you can’t use the same site location all the time. Rotation is a huge must. Early on I only used my stomach for my shots and then my pump sites. Thanks to this I now have hundreds of small white scar dots on my stomach that are only really visible with a tan. Scar tissue happens both above the skin and under the skin. If you use the same location all the time you will build up scar tissue and the insulin will not flow as freely. This is also the main reason why you must change your site every three days. (Easier said than remembered) Over those three days your body is healing around the little tube and as it heals it builds a scar. Old Site = Scar Tissue = Slowed Insulin Flow
It should be noted that all the supplies seen in this video are one time use. Changing sites and refilling insulin every three days along with checking my blood sugar at least 6 times a day means that I go through a lot of supplies. Diabetes is not a disease for the garbage conscience or for those who don’t have extra storage space. It is also statistically, one of the most expensive chronic diseases ever. Yippee!! Grumble Grumble….
So that is a very quick look at my insulin pump. I hope to add more posts about the ins and outs of daily diabetic self care and would love to have some questions or topics thrown my way. What do you want to know?? Comment on this post or send me a message.
Nothing’s out of bounds and just like your teacher said, “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”