An insulin pump becomes a part of you when you wear it every day. It becomes your friend; your partner in crime; your invisible ally; and even your enemy at times. But it is a part of you, come what may.
As this blog turns four years old on January the 24th, having been started the day before my pump journey began, the time has come for a new pump to be chosen. Pump warranty lasts for four years. And as this has proved such an effective self-care tool for me (with a million pointers from my long-suffering (but well paid) team, and lesser-paid members of the DOC) I have earned the right to keep this tool, according to UK standards.
The way I see it I have three viable options.
My Paradigm Veo has been my lifeline for the last four years and I could not rate Medtronic, the company behind it, more highly. Their customer service is second-to-none, their technology superb and their customer engagement on the up all the time. But pumps have what the world likes to call, 'Unique Selling Points'. Much like a car, phone or long-desired gadget you may still be delighting in after Christmas, there will be something about each pump that best suits your life and your needs.
When I started the Veo I still didn't fully understand the mechanics of Continous Glucose Monitoring (CGM), but I knew that Medtronic were the only company offering this in the UK, which is why I so wanted one; just to have that option. Patient choice. The pump teamed with CGM has a low glucose suspend feature which, if you suffer from unexpected hypos - particularly overnight - is a godsend.
But, travel a few years forward and having tried the Enlite CGM and come to learn about the Dexcom system which people seemed to so rave about, I fell in love with the Dexcom way of doing things. And this was the system I ultimately chose. Given that fact, perhaps the USP of the Veo isn't quite so relevant to me anymore?
My second option was to go tubing free. You know those people who say the tubing is no big deal? Well, I. Am. Not. One. Tubing is the bain of my life and for me, the one part of pumping which pisses me off. Anyone with cats will understand the kitty playground you become during set changes. Anyone with doorknobs in their houses beware, should even an inch of tubing escape from your waist area, be prepared to learn what 'involuntary tubing-induced reverse' feels like.
The Omnipod is the only tubing-free patch pump system available in the UK, and since the upgrade to a newer, smaller pod, is freakin' tiny! It's about a third the size of normal pumps and can be place anywhere on the body you can inject, being controlled with a wireless remote-control. Sex. Ee.
My experience with Omnipod all those years ago when they first landed on our shores was not good. I won't go into it again but they seem to have turned a corner. This time my demo pod arrived only days after my enquiry with a bright, bubbly letter. Their communication has been good and word on the street is their popularity is growing all the time.
But I keep a close eye on their Facebook group, because I'm a nosey PWD who likes to know what's going on, and the frequent complaints about pod failures, some people claiming up to 10 month (seriously?!) is something I can't overlook. You see, the next pump I wear will, I hope, bring me through at least one safe pregnancy. I have been using steel cannulas for a year now because Teflon ones kink like a bitch, and switching to steel ones means I've removed that risk factor all together. Omnipod don't have steel cannulas, a USP I have come to rely on.
Perhaps that's why, despite its attraction and apparent popularity with Omnipod converts, I haven't even taken it out of the box. It still sits neatly in my (rapidly growing) diabetes drawer under the bed, still resting in its case. (By the way, anyone else's bedroom/kitchen/living room drawers being taken over by diabetes paraphernalia?!).
So I have one last option: the Vibe. The Animas Vibe is a tethered (meh) pump, but it has several features which - for me, for now, for my life - make this one a major contender. Firstly, the Dexcom I so treasure can now be integrated onto the screen of the pump in exactly the same way that the Veo's could all those years ago. Granted, I have a (very expensive) handheld receiver that I prefer to use (easier during exercise/work meetings/dates/driving) but like those steel cannulas, I have come to rely on my Dex so much, and plan to make it a huge part of my diabetes management during pregnancy, that if anything were to happen to my handheld receiver I would be screwed. We can't afford another one, end of story. So as with the Veo all those years ago, if the worst were to happen and it broke/got stolen/ran away to Rio, I would have the back-up option of my pump which can act as a receiver and display the information to me.
Secondly, my husband Jamie and I hooked up because of a surfing holiday to Cornwall. It was one of the fondest times of my life and for three years we went back every year to the same place, and beach, where we became a couple whose futures were intertwined. Problem was, with an insulin pump that was barely splash-proof, I had to go without insulin for the 4 or 5 hours we would be at the beach, and sure enough each time I would have angry tell-tale high BG readings for hours afterwards, making it an increasingly miserable experience. The Vibe, you see, is waterproof. Problem solved. We could surf again. I could Kayak without trying to squeeze my pump into waterproof cases that barely work and worry the whole time that splashes of water may render my pump useless. The Vibe, solves that problem.
It also has steel cannulas. And a customizable food database ready for (*squeezes eyes shut and prays to a god she doesn't believe in*) a pregnancy.
Have you lost count of the USPs yet? Yeah, me too.
The choice was obvious to me, too.
I've been hooked up to my cutesy, pink, pumpette now for 48 hours. Unlike my initial learning curve of 'ohmhgodIpressedthewrongbuttonamIgoingtobreakit' when I first plugged in the Veo, I have learned that the way a pump functions is pretty much the same from one pump to another. A bolus is a bolus; a temp basal is a temp basal. There are, I guess, some features that seem awkward to me because the vibe does them differently to the Veo. Mechanics are louder on the vibe but the screen is easier on the eye. Some menus are more complicated, some things are much easier to find. I know that familiarity will come with time. In a matter of weeks, maybe days, I will forget the 'old' pump and simply remember the new.
So here she is, the still-nameless-but-rather-beautiful, bath-tubbing, Animas Vibe.
And so the next leg of the journey begins.