Medtronic Insulin Pump Class – I’m Now Officially an Insulin Pump User

Holding a Filled Insulin Pump Reservoir

With my instructor after filling an insulin pump reservoir for the first time.

Meeting at Panera Bread for an Insulin pump class is a little like a heart patient having cardiac rehab at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Only in my case, the decadent treats behind the counter might actually save me.  My wife Trisha and I entered the local Panera at around 8:45 AM for a 9 AM one-on-one class with Ellen, the local Medtronic insulin pump instructor.  She had already reserved the private meeting room in the back for us.  We took a table near the glass-windowed backroom and waited anxiously, looking toward the front of the store for a pregnant woman to head our way.  It was the lone defining characteristic that we knew about Ellen’s appearance, having only communicated on the phone and through email.

Shortly before 9, I turned to my wife, “I hope she’s not at a different Panera,” I said, only half joking.  My wife’s eyes were drooping as if they were reaching out for the nearest surface, hoping that her head would follow.  It has been a long couple weeks since a severe low landed me in the ER.  Our nights have been filled with waking up to check my blood sugar at least three times, never getting any more than three hours of consistent sleep, sometimes less.  The anxiety over knowing that it could happen again has left my wife in a constant state of fear and me with haunting glimpses of a terrifying morning that I can’t fully remember.

Filling the Infusion Set Tubing

Filling the infusion set tubing after connecting it to my Medtronic MiniMed Revel Insulin Pump.

Shortly after my attention turned from the arriving customers to double-checking the email box on my cell phone, my wife finally had a suspect, “Is that her…the brunette by the counter?”  It’s amazing from a distance how many larger women dressed in winter clothing can be labeled “might be pregnant,” where you embarrassingly just don’t know for sure.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to move in closer to confirm, because at that moment a rather thin redhead, who was clearly pregnant, broke through the crowd and emerged before us.  A new chapter in our lives and in my struggle with diabetes was about to begin.

My Medtronic insulin pump instructor, Ellen, is about my age with long, somewhat curly red hair that seamlessly fit her pleasantly motivated personality; the kind of person whose appearance perfectly matches

Holding the Quick-Serter

Holding the Quick-Serter infusion set insertion device.

the on-the-go lifestyle demanded by their career.  One of the first things that Ellen did was ask me to pull out my vial of Novolog fast-acting insulin.  Her request made me a bit more nervous than I had already been.  At that point, I didn’t know if she was going to more or less just slap the pump on like a busy attendant at a gas station, instruct me how to fill up, and then encourage us to hit the highway so that she could go meet her next customer.  To my relief, she was only checking to make sure that I had brought the right kind of fuel, Novolog U100.  My concerns were soon alleviated, as we quickly discovered that her methods were quite the opposite.

She began the class with a brief overview of type 1 diabetes and insulin pump therapy, answering any questions that my wife and I had.  Her style definitely wasn’t rushed, as she had every intention of confirming that I was thoroughly prepared for my new insulin pump, at least as prepared as I was going to be on Day 1.  She then reviewed each menu on the meter and we entered the settings that had been discussed and approved by her and my doctor (insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio, insulin sensitivity factor, basal rate, etc).  I say “we”, but she really only watched and allowed me to enter most of the settings myself as she guided me

Cannula Inserter Needle Still In

Checking the adhesive after inserting the cannula.

along, which was nice.  After my insulin pump was set up completely, we were now ready to attach the pump to my body.

My wife took out our camera to capture the many “firsts” that were about to occur.  That moment marked my first time filling an insulin pump reservoir, my first time opening an infusion set, my first time filling the infusion set tubing with insulin, my first time using the Quick-Serter to insert the infusion set under my skin, and my first time filling a cannula.  However, that moment also marked a significant last.  It was hopefully the last time that I would have to think about giving myself insulin shots 5-8 times a day.  And for that reason (but not only that reason) it was a moment worth capturing.

Infusion set hook-up complete.

My first infusion set hook-up is complete. Goodbye shots.

If you are planning to start using an insulin pump or you have already scheduled an insulin pump class with an instructor, the best advice that I can give you is to educate yourself prior to the class.  Medtronic offered several workbooks, an instructional CD-ROM and online courses to help me learn the basic foundational skills of insulin pump therapy.  I personally found the time that I spent reading The Basics of Insulin Pump Therapy Workbook and the Step-By-Step Guide to be the most effective, but they all helped to make me feel more relaxed in my insulin pump class, especially when I could immediately understand and identify with the majority of the material that the instructor was discussing.

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