The great pump debate

"When can I get a pump?" That was one of the first questions Leah wanted to ask her endocrinologist a month after her diabetes was diagnosed. She had heard about insulin pumps from friends and nurses within the first days (maybe even hours) of learning that her pancreas had shut down and was no longer producing insulin. Thankfully, we found our doctor and everyone else at the Pediatric Specialty Clinic to be very supportive of the idea of a pump. Pumps can help tremendously in the management of blood glucose levels, as they deliver insulin in very tiny increments throughout the day, and with the push of a button to cover a meal or snack. Leah is looking for flexibility and a little more spontaneity in her eating, as well as no more injections 4-5 times a day. Basically, "more snacking and less poking" pretty well sums it up.

We've been doing our research, and although there are about eight different pump manufacturers, and we were given brochures on four of them, we narrowed our choice down to two: the OmniPod (by Insulet) and the t:slim (by Tandem). While each pump out there has it's own unique feature set, these two jumped out at us for some of their newer, innovative  designs.

The OmniPod (which is worn by one of Leah's classmates, as well as the son of our friends Julie & Kurt), is the only tubeless device on the market. It just seems like a great idea to not have to deal with tubing running from your infusion site (where the little tube goes into your skin) to  your pump. The OmniPod has a small pod (hence the name) that contains insulin and is attached to (and under) the skin. A separate device (the PDM, or Personal Diabetes Manager) is then programmed to send messages wirelessly to the pod, telling it when to release insulin.

Our other choice, the t:slim, is a more traditional pump in that the device contains a cartridge of insulin which flows through a tube to the infusion site. The appeal of the t:slim is the technology it utilizes and the research that has gone into it. It is the first pump with a touch screen, which makes programming it much easier than other models, and it takes into account the needs expressed by thousands of diabetics who were surveyed and questioned about diabetes and what it would take to make life easier.

We had been doing research off and on since that doctor visit in October. Then last week, we took advantage of one of our snow days and set up an appointment to meet with Jan at the Pediatric Specialty Clinic. She was so helpful and gave us some direction in how to decide between the two pumps. Of course, the big question to start with was: Insurance. Would our policy cover the pump, and would it cover either one of these two? The second question was: could we try them out and get the feel for them? Knowing Leah would rely on this device as much as we rely on our pancreases, and knowing she'd probably keep her first device for 4-5 years, we didn't want to make a rash decision.

We left the doctor's office around noon last Wednesday, and by 7:00 p.m. I had received phone calls from sales reps from both Insulet and Tandem. Thus began "the great pump debate."