Pump it up!

It’s been 3 years and 2 months since I have been dealing with all the syringes, needles, lancets, insulin and testing strips  every day. During this time, I’ve gone through numerous “situations” at the dinner/lunch table. I’ve listed some of them that are relevant to this post down here:

“I’ve already taken the insulin shot according to what I thought we were eating. You guys go ahead and order the dessert”! aka “you suckers! couldn’t you have thought about the dessert in the beginning itself!”

or

“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! shit! I can’t scream out loud in the middle of the office cafeteria! suck it up! suck it up!”

or somebody at the dinner table saying:

“Oh crap! I can’t watch this! I am just going to be rude, leave my dinner and walk out of here while you finish injecting yourself with something that saves you from dying everyday.” or something a little politer than that.

Something in the way I manage my diabetes changes today – in a good way. Now, I don’t have to deal with any of the situations listed above and I don’t even have to care about injections anymore! Instead, I am going to care about something way more sophisticated than that.

What’s different?

I finally have this brilliant piece of technology attached to my belly (trust me when I say that it is better than injections) that pumps the insulin under my skin all through the day. It’s called Omnipod. Here is how it looks:

Omnipod - Pod and the PDM

My first Omnipod - Attached to my belly.

It contains an insulin tank and a stepper motor that pumps a constant (or variable) rate of insulin (called basal insulin) to me throughout the day. And when I want to eat something, I whip out this other device called PDM from my pocket and press a few buttons. The PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager) talks to the pump over radio frequency and asks it to deliver the extra insulin (called bolus) for the food that I am about to eat. And that’s it! I put the PDM back in my pocket and start eating – no poking, no needles, no showing off your six pack (ha!) to the world.

Actually, I lied a bit there when I said “no needles”. How can a diabetic live without needles now – can he? My diabetic control still is completely in my hands which means I still need to

  • Test my blood sugar by poking my fingers 4-6 times a day. [Here are the needles!]
  • Count carbohydrates in whatever I am about to eat before eating it and tell my PDM to deliver insulin accordingly.
  • Fly the airplane just as before – See the analogy here
  • Stuff my face with whatever I can find in case my blood sugar goes low.
  • And most importantly, refuse to share any food with the friends by saying – “Sorry, I already took insulin for this.” 😉

Scary Stuff!

And ofcourse, the pump is attached to me by a really strong adhesive and lasts about 3 days. So, I need to take it off every 3 days and install a new one. Now, there are a couple of problems with doing just that. First – a tiny tube (called a canulla) doesn’t just get under your skin without a needle poke. So, here come more needles. Although, the insertion process is automatic and not nearly as painful as my biggest scare about this whole setup – the pod removal. You see, being an Indian, I have been “blessed” with a very hairy belly and arm (see Russel Peters explain that to you here). I am just horrified by the thought of waxing myself twice a week! But, I’ll get to that when I get to the first pod removal day (just 2 more days to go :o).

I own my data!

Apart from getting rid of the injections, there is one more thing that my Omnipod does for me – it keeps all of the information in one place. In my old setup, I had my blood sugars in my glucometer, the amount of insulin I took in my head, and the amount of carbs I ate also in there somewhere in my head. Diabetes is different for everyone – everyone behaves differntly to different kinds of food, activities, exercises, seasons, stress, sickness, insulin. In order to manage diabetes better, you need to understand your own diabetes. In order to understand your diabetes, you need to be able to look at all the data and the graphs. This allows you to figure out what affects your blood sugar and how, so that you can make better decisions in future. This is all just a very complicated feedback loop with a lot of inputs. The problem with my old setup was that all the information was in different places and I am obviously not diligent enough to collect all of it and put it in an excel spreadsheet to visualize it. My Omnipod PDM, on the other hand, has a glucometer inside it. It also tells me how much insulin I should take if I tell it how many carbs I am eating. So, there you go – blood glucose, insulin, and carbs: all the data inside my PDM! Now, I can surely understand my diabetes better than ever before.

Shortcomings – what’s that?

Inspite of all this awesomeness, there are some shortcomings that I have noticed. But today is not the day for the shortcomings. I am too pumped up to point out any issues with it right now. I’ll post about them once I have had enough experience wearing this beautiful thing! Until then, expect some more posts about the pure awesomeness of this device!

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11 thoughts on “Pump it up!

  1. Lorraine says:

    You seem excited. Good luck on your new adventure with OmniPod. I hope you have continued success with it.

    • virmani says:

      Hey Lorraine,

      I am definitely excited! It took me about 6-7 months to decide between Omnipod and other pumps. To be frank, it was your blog and Caleb’s videos (he’s so cute!) that finally convinced me that it was the best pump for me. Thanks for writing about your experiences! And did I tell you how cute Caleb is? 🙂

      • Lorraine says:

        That’s so lovely to hear. Thanks for sharing that. I hope that it’s still going well for you.

  2. Asha Balasubramaniam says:

    Very exciting indeed. good luck with the device removal =)
    But in the needle days, you took 2 different kinds of insulin right – the long acting and short acting, so how does that work now ?

    • virmani says:

      It’s only short acting insulin in the pump now. The way long acting insulin used to work was the following: When I used to take it early in the morning, it would go under my skin and crystallize. Then, throughout the day, it’ll melt away at a constant rate. As I said in the blog above, the pump supplies the insulin at a constant rate (called basal insulin). This constant rate supply replaces the long acting insulin shots that I used to take.

      Now, when I need to eat, I just add some more insulin to the basal rate (called bolus insulin) by pressing some buttons on the PDM – this replaces the short acting insulin shots that I used to take.

  3. Abhinaw says:

    Take care. May You , Omnipod and Mansi live in harmony. 🙂

  4. Surendranath says:

    “you suckers! couldn’t you have thought about the dessert in the beginning itself!”
    I never suspected you were thinking such. How innocent does the face seem. No wonder you carried off Chaplin costume so well.

    Good luck with the brilliant piece of technology – May more such which make life easier keep happening.

    • virmani says:

      🙂 I was referring to the restaurants visits here with the friends. Thanks for your wishes. It has been really good so far. I am also waiting for more of such innovations as well.

  5. Hey! wordpress has got facebook comments!

  6. diabeticgoingaspartamefree says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been diabetic for 20 years August 1st. I am now a brittle diabetic so I need a pump to help me get control over this disease that has been controlling ME for the past 13 years since I went brittle.
    I have researched several pumps but with my job, I didn’t feel comfortable having tubes that could be pulled loose by the people I take care of at work, and the Omipod is the perfect answer. I’m very excited about getting mine in the next few weeks.
    Again, thank you so much for posting this.

    You might want to check out my own blog. It’s diabetic related. Mine is more about going off of Aspartame because of the ill effects it has had on me and others. Maybe it has effected you in a similar way. Here is the link:

    http://diabeticgoingaspartamefree.wordpress.com/

    • virmani says:

      Hey. Thanks for the comment. 20 years is a long time! I am glad you are looking into pumps as a treatment. Omnipod has proven to be very convenient for me. There are a few things that may frustrate you in the first few months e.g. figuring out your insulin-to-carb ratio and the correction factor for various times of the day. Another thing with the Omnipod is that you tend to forget that you are wearing it (may be a good thing :)) which sometimes leads to you yanking it off by mistake. It can be very frustrating. The key is to get through the first few yank-offs and slowly, you will get habituated to its presence.

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