Summary: Ways to be prepared for a broken insulin pump.
Please remember that I never give medical advice. Ask your endocrinologist or pediatrician for advice about your own child. Make your own informed decisions for your own child.
A few months ago I shared with you our preparedness kit. I was under the illusion that we were actually prepared for a diabetes emergency. Well, when Q’s pump malfunctioned I realized that I wasn’t 100% in the ready. I’m definitely going to learn from this and I’m hoping you can, too.
Pumps break. They just do. Like any other piece of technology, they don’t last forever. Doesn’t matter what brand or model of pump your family uses, there is always the potential for it to fail, malfunction, or break.
There are several things we needed to have in place to handle the situation. That these weren’t all in place definitely added stress to the situation.
Ways to be prepared for a broken insulin pump:
Settings, Rates, Ratios I have an excel sheet that I update before each endo visit that lists all of our pump settings as well as basal rates and insulin:carb ratios and her correction factor. I was able to print it out quickly so that I could figure out insulin dosages. Having the settings allowed me to set up the replacement pump.
Syringes When Q began pumping I kept a box of syringes just in case. I keep a couple of packages in our preparedness kit as well as a stack of alcohol swabs. We used the fast-acting insulin vial that we use for her pump.
Long-acting Insulin We did not have long-acting insulin on hand and I had to call the endo office on a Saturday night to get one called in. My to-do list included getting a vial to take with us during our travels this summer, but of course I hadn’t gotten around to it yet!
From now on I’m going to make sure that we have an active prescription for long-acting insulin in case we need to get a vial either for travel or pump failure.
Preparedness Kit I’ll admit because of the circumstances of the pump breaking (she wasn’t at home, it was at night on a weekend, and I was on my way out the door going someplace else) it was good to just grab our fully stocked preparedness kit and throw it in the car. I didn’t have to scramble looking for supplies.
Calculator We keep a calculator in our diabetes supply drawer and in the preparedness kit. Most phones have a calculator as well. Since the pump normally calculated the amount of insulin to correct her blood sugar and to cover carbs, we had a little math to do.
Camera Q took a picture of the screen when her pump malfunctioned and texted it to me. That screen capture not only had the error listed, but also the customer service phone number. Once we removed batteries and tried resetting it, that screen was gone.
The photo helped me realize that it was a larger issue. When I first got the text I grabbed a pod thinking that the pod had failed. As I pulled out of the driveway I glanced at it again and realized it was the PDM itself, not just a pod. I ran back into the house for syringes and alcohol swabs. Then I ran back into the house for our preparedness kit just in case.
Practice It was kind of comical that I completely forgot how to give an injection! We grabbed a person we know with diabetes to make sure I was reading the lines on the syringe right. I used to be a pro, but 5 1/2 years of pumping has left me rusty.
The other thing that people with diabetes or their caregivers should do from time to time is a little “diabetes math.” I’m suggesting that every few months you figure out insulin dosages long hand, using paper and pencil and a calculator and your brain. You can double check that against what the pump suggests for the bolus.
I used to be a wiz at diabetes math, but like they say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Prescription for the Pump Our pump was out-of-warranty so it wasn’t as simple as calling and getting a quick replacement. The insulin pump company had to call the endocrinologist twice to get the prescription and letter of medical necessity. (Don’t even get me started on how upset I was that it took twelve days to get a new pump because the endo’s office wouldn’t just fax in the paperwork!) From now on I will make sure that we have a new prescription when the warranty is up even if our pump is working fine and doesn’t need replaced just yet. It also may take a few days for it to get insurance approval before it can be shipped.
When her pump broke, it was the perfect storm…everything was much more complicated than it needed to be. If there is a next time (knock on wood), hopefully I am more prepared with all my ducks in a row.