Posted by on Sunday 1 January 2012

Pumping for two months - A little bit of everything

Artoo and I have been pottering along for almost two months now, and what with the New Year and everything it feels like about time for a bit of a catch-up. 

Anyone reading who has watched my transition from pump-averse to pumper might be interested in how I have found it in practice. If you have wondered whether pumping might be right for you,  but don't really like the idea, I suspect this might be doubly so. 

Before Artoo and I hooked up I had read a lot of accounts of people who almost immediately felt 'at one' with their new robot pancreas. People who almost forgot it was there pretty much from day one and while most report that it takes a bit of work to get a pump set up and working well the physical 'attachedness' side of things seems to evaporate. I wish I could say that I felt just this way, but I don't. Not quite anyway. *Almost* all the time attachedness is of little or no importance. I've had nights of uninterrupted sleep. No-one around me has batted an eyelid whenever I've  disconnected or reconnected in public (at the gym for example). Now that I've worked a way of hanging Artoo horizontally on my belt I no longer get dug/pinched in the side every so often. But in spite of all that there are still a few times every day when being attached by a short string to a lump of plastic is a tiny bit annoying. Most regularly i feel this while getting changed, but also occasionally just getting tubing caught on things. I even managed to pull a set out while hoiking up my trousers one day. Almost nothing, but I certainly couldn't say that I 'completely forgot it was there after a week'. 

On the other hand, of course, I have already realised that the 24-hour attachment also offers distinct advantages. I arrived at a meeting not long after a meal only to find that some tasty nibbles had been provided. On MDI I would have had to politely decline, but because Artoo goes everywhere with me I was able to guess the carbs, bolus, and get stuck in! And lie-ins... Aaaaaah! Lie-ins. Since moving my basal injection to the mornings I had needed to keep regular morning hours whether work day or weekend, within an hour or so. But now that my basal is automatically following a predetermined pattern I can sleep in as long as I fancy. 

One thing I hadn't quite expected was how quickly the set-changes would come around. Every two to three days sounded like almost never compared to 4-5 times every single day. In reality though they are quite a bit more of a faff than a single pen-injection. The sets hurt a bit more going in. You have to be quite careful and methodical to make sure you avoid bubbles and so on when setting up the reservoir. Added to that every single set change carries with it a 2-hour period of uncertainty, anxiety almost. Has it worked OK? Is the insulin being delivered? As advised, I make the changes before meals to ensure a proper 'test' but this also means that any slight miscalculation in the meal bolus can look like a potential dodgy insertion. I'm getting better at sensing whether sets 'feel' right in the first few minutes and I've only had one or two that I've replaced within the first hour or two, but it's not something that applies on MDI. 

One peculiar observation from the first few weeks. I know two others who started pumping at almost exactly the same time as me and all of us had the same, rather odd phenomenon in the first few weeks. People often need quite a lot less insulin when pumping, so it's usual for your team to suggest a new total daily dose, basal and bolus ratios. In the first week these new levels behaved pretty well for each of us, but then, quite suddenly at around 7-10 days we found our BG results creeping upward and each of us had to significantly change what had worked fine the week before to establish a new 'normal'. Not sure of it's just coincidence, but if you are about to start pumping it might be one to watch out for. 

And what about levels? After all that's the whole point of the exercise... During these two months I've had a bit of everything. Normality, illness, gym, no gym and of course, every diabetic's favourite mental obstacle-course... Christmas. Even in these early weeks I can see improvements. Fewer hypos and fewer and lower highs. And I have to remind myself that I am comparing with MDI results gained while using the Accu-Chek  Expert, which (once I had it set up right) provided a general 'smoothing out' from the levels I achieved before that. 

I've had some spectacular successes, and a few (largely self-inflicted) disasters too. The subtlety of delivery options is a fantastic addition to the arsenal. I still need to do a little more experimentation, but already the potential is plain to see. Most obviously, almost none of the doses I give these days are in whole units. It's always a decimal point here or there, and while my carb guestimates may be no more accurate, at least the doses are more precise so it's one error rather than two. 

I had expected dual and square waves to be useful for 'tricky' meals, but I hadn't realised how handy they would be at other times. If I'm at the lower end of my range before eating I can just ease the dose in (or just a part of it) over 30 minutes to take the edge off. I'm getting better at remembering TBRs (temporary basal rates) too. I always knew these would be brilliant, but as my experience grows I've seen afternoons playing in the band (with a heady mix of physical effort followed a while later by bursts of stress and adrenaline) that I know from experience would have meant a hypo/high shuffle on MDI pass with bewilderingly serene BGs. Only a couple of days ago we ventured to Bristol's new 'all you can eat' world food market for a leisurely, and not insubstantial, slap-up food fest. Duals and squares (and a few good guesses) left me scratching my head when the awaited BG carnage failed to arrive. 

I've had disasters along the way. For every success there have been wrong guesses and hasty corrections needed. I think it's quite funny, given that it looks like Artoo may well give me my best year of control for a very long time in 2012 that my very first test of the year (at 0.58 this morning) was 17.8 (320). 

Ah well... What's life without a few ups and downs. 


  1. Sounds like you are really getting the hang of it!

  2. glad the transition is going well overall! and it's different for everyone, in terms of how long it takes to get used to the pump. i wouldn't worry about it.

    also, i <3 temp basals! :)

  3. Excellent post as always Mike. And now I've read it I know I've missed lots. Agree about the dual and square waves.

    I've gone with the shorter tubing and don't seem to mind the connectedness as much but I think I also went with that as I know how clumsy I am so know if I drop it it will just swing and not crash to the floor.

    Good luck over the coming weeks and it's great to read another persons perspective in a similar timeframe.

  4. Thanks all. Much appreciated. I have a slip for an HbA1c which I am thinking I might save until around March to see how I am getting along.

  5. It took me a very long time to come around to the idea of pumping too - I loved my MDIs. But now that I've been pumping for almost 4 years, I love it and wish I had started sooner. I don't believe pumping is right for everyone. And like you said, it doesn't fix everything. Lots of things are easier, but some things are harder - or hard in different ways. Ah well, like you said, we just ride out the ups and downs!! :)

  6. Nice update Mike - glad to hear it's generally going well. The set changes will speed up and get less faffy (you'll also probably care a bit less about smaller bubbles and what-not); after a year you'll be able to do 'em in your sleep!

  7. great update! i have been pumping for almost 8mths now. the "being attached" never bothered me at all. but just getting to know how my body works in different situations, and being able to correct without too much thinking has been wonderful for me. i keep forgetting about temp basals though, and i feel i could be using them more to my advantage! well continued good luck with Artoo and looking forward to future updates!

  8. Great to hear you're liking it, Mike. Keep up the good work!