The pump has given me greater freedom
MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE: DONAL BURKE:‘I can finely tune my insulin doses to suit my needs’
WHEN I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three and started on insulin injections, my parents taught me that I did not have to let diabetes control my life.
They helped me to manage my diabetes and ensured I could manage it for myself so I did not have to rely totally on them.
My grandparents on both sides had diabetes so my parents recognised the symptoms quite quickly although neither of them has it. By the time I started primary school, the other children were counting from one to 10 but I was doing multiplications of units of insulin to grams of carbohydrates.
Having to take insulin injections several times a day meant I had quite a regimented lifestyle as a young child. I had to eat at very specific times each day to avoid my levels going too low and had to do finger tip blood tests four or five times a day. If I was playing sport, I always had to make sure my dad was on the sidelines with a can of coke and I had to try to co-ordinate my sport with meals and injections.
When I was in sixth class, I finally convinced my mother to let me change to an insulin pump. She was hesitant at first since I had such good control of my diabetes on the injections despite their lack of flexibility. The pump gave me a huge degree of flexibility and much greater control over my diabetes and I no longer had the regimented lifestyle the injections demanded.
I could now eat when I was hungry rather than as a necessity to avoid going low. The pump meant I could have a lie-in on a Saturday morning and play a football match at any time of the day. It also made my diabetes treatment more discreet. I no longer had to bring my glucose meter, injections and sugary food with me when I went out with my friends. With the pump, I didn’t have the awkwardness of having to take out needles and insulin pens.
In 2009, I was put on a different insulin pump with a glucose sensor and low glucose suspend system which has given me even more control over my diabetes and allowed me to fine-tune my treatment.
The new pump has advanced features which allow me to set certain levels for my sugars and beeps to alert me if they are going too high or too low. If my sugars dip below a certain level, the pump will stop giving me insulin and switch off to avoid a severe low and reduce my risk of going into a diabetic coma.
The pump itself is about the size of a credit card and works by giving a small dose of insulin every hour via a kind of IV cannula. It also allows me to take an extra boost of insulin by means of a bolus to replace the injections I had to take at meal times.