Priming the (Insulin) Pump (Part 6)

By Eric Lagergren | November 8, 2007 9:51 am

This week, Eric returns to writing about his insulin pump[1]. In his next three or four entries, he plans to take you through his morning with the insulin pump. Or, as he says, he’ll lead you on a roundabout journey with him as he wakes up and goes about getting ready to change his infusion set. Eric can often find it difficult to be succinct when writing about his insulin pump, so sit back and enjoy the narrative of Eric and Pump.

It’s 7:30 in the morning. The alarm wakes me, and although I hear only a few seconds of whatever news story NPR leads with on the half hour, the sentence or two before I turn the alarm off sticks in my head and follows me downstairs.


I have a choice to make: pee or check blood glucose. The bladder is often the arbiter here, but this morning there’s no imperative to hit the restroom first, so I go into the kitchen to my monitoring kit. On the counter next to the stove is the kit’s home. I know where the kit is at all times—if I need to check my blood glucose in the middle of the night, the range’s dim night-light casts enough glow to make it easy to go through the blood-glucose–checking steps without overhead light.

When I sleep, I wear a pair of lightweight hiking shorts with zippered pockets. Occasionally, I return the pump to a pocket and forget to zip it shut. I’m one of those people who tosses and turns throughout the night, so 9 times out of 10, when my pocket is unzipped, the pump falls out. And almost always I fail to realize I’ve been separated from the pump until I’m about two feet from the bed. My reminder: when the inch-diameter site connector tugs at my abdomen then removes itself and the adhesive dressing either partially or—and I remember this happening twice—completely from my body. Not any huge distraction, however; I’m left with one more morning chore of attaching a new infusion set after I shower and before I leave for work.

I’ve found that an insulin pump is way more durable than I initially thought. Kid gloves the first few times I changed my site; I worried about screwing up inserting the needle/cannula, filling the reservoir with insulin[2], attaching the site to the wrong place. My pump, however, has proven to be a workhorse. Therefore, on those mornings when the pump has tried to get away in the night, the infusion site’s got a good hold and the strong surgical tubing—the liason between me and the actual pump—stretches first, then retracts, pulling the pump toward me. It’s unfortunate when this happens, because I always realize too late what I’ve done, turning back to the bed just in time to see the pump slide from behind a pillow or out from under a sheet and whip at my legs. I try to dive back, try to cut the taut tubing some slack and impede its progress out of the bed, but the vicious little thing is headed toward me, assaulting my legs, my knees, hitting me in the ankle.

This morning, however, my pocket is zipped.

In the evenings, before I crawl into bed, I first wrap the extra 18 inches or so of surgical tubing around the pump itself. This is habit; I can’t find anything better to do with the excess tubing. The excess surgical-tube pump-wrapping—hog-tying the pump, if you will—never holds. The tubing twists as the pump moves one way while the tubing goes another in my pocket any number of times during the night. Therefore, when I remove the pump from my pocket in the morning, the tubing is tangled in much the same annoying way as the orange extension cord hanging in the garage.

To untangle it, I pull the pump out away from my body, lower it from its cord, then allow it to hang freely for a moment as it untwirls its twists and kinks. Those of you who grew up with the spring-loaded curly telephone cords that never straightened out only have to remember dangling the receiver by the cord to understand.

Next week, Eric will continue with his site-change diary.

  1. insulin pump:
  2. insulin:

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Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)

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