This past Saturday our community pool opened for the season, and I was there at 11AM with my husband and kids, ready to dive in. We all love swimming, and its been especially hot this June in Philadelphia, so we spent most of our weekend at the pool.
For me, swimming and being an insulin pump user is a pretty manageable issue, as long as I pay proper attention to important details, like keeping my pump cool and checking my blood glucose. Actually, the first detail of successful swimming and pumping for me begins a few weeks prior to the pool opening in the dressing room of Sears, where I can try on Lands’ End tankinis to find a bathing suit that looks decent with my pump clipped on.
I remember when I was first considering insulin pump therapy — I was single and slim at 27 years old. I was devastated by the thought of clipping an insulin pump onto my bathing suit. Now, twelve pumping years later, having given birth to two beautiful children and not yet gotten back into pre-pregnancy shape, happily married and happy with the A1Cs I’m getting as a result of pump therapy, I can barely relate to those old feelings. As long as I can clip my pump onto the bottom part of my suit and the top part comes down enough to not show any stretch marks, I’m just fine with the suit!
The next step in successful pumping at the pool is finding a shady spot on the grass to put down my bag. Our community pool is not fancy, but it is fortunately surrounded by grass and some beautiful, big old trees. We head right to a giant oak and spread our blanket underneath its shade. I always bring a small cooler packed with cold water and fruit and when I take off my pump, I lay it in the cooler right by an ice pack.
The trickier piece is keeping my blood glucose in optimal range throughout our day at the pool, which might include 3–4 hours in and out of the water. My kids are 4 and 7 and are just beginning to swim on their own, and I stay with them during the 50-minute “kids swim” periods.
On Saturday, I checked my blood glucose at 10AM, about 2 hours after breakfast, and the reading was 130 mg/dl. That felt like a perfect number for me to detach at the pool — I find that my activity in the water makes up for the missed basal insulin. But in the next half hour, with the activity of running around the house and getting everything together for the pool (where did I put the beach bag that I haven’t touched since last Labor Day?), I could feel my blood glucose dropping.
I checked again at 10:30AM and my reading was 72 mg/dl. I knew that was a dangerous place for me to be with getting in the pool and swimming, so I ate a few pieces of the perfectly ripe watermelon that I had cut up for us to bring along. I checked one more time at 11AM and I was back up to 127 mg/dl. When we got to the pool, I bolused 0.3 units of insulin before detaching, swam with my kids for 50 minutes, did laps on my own for 10 minutes, then got out of the pool and registered at 117 mg/dl before lunch. I was pleased!
Not every day at the pool goes that smoothly. Sometimes I might not be as quick to catch the lows; some days I might have an unexplainable high blood glucose level no matter what I do. I get frustrated in those moments, but I try and troubleshoot and think about the big picture. I feel fortunate to enjoy these summer days with my family and for the blessing of my insulin pump, which helps me to stay active and well.