Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
Beeps and screeches from diabetes equipment are simply a daily part of a diabetic's life — not much time elapses without an electronic reminder of some sort or another.
Managing diabetes with an insulin pump seriously isn't always a bowl of cherries (albeit, it does make many aspects of diabetes easier). As with any piece of technology, there can always be issues that erupt — and troubleshooting to be had.
The "no delivery" prompt or black screen of doom is never one we're happy to see—it's more than a minor inconvenience. With a dead battery, post-fall to the floor, or a mechanical issue we can pay the price for hours to catch up on an insulin deficiency.
In the throes of pump failure panic, it's time to take a deep breath and ask yourself some important questions:
-Can I handle this or should I call my provider's office for help?
-Did I forget to change my insulin site and reservoir and run out of insulin? Is the battery low or dead? Is there a knot/ kink/ air in my tubing / did the puppy chew through it? (Yes this happens)
-Do I have a new battery, a new site, insulin and tubing, and a back up syringe?
According to Diabetes Health: "A good policy is to always have a syringe with you — in your car, backpack, etc.— in case you have to harvest insulin from your pump's reservoir to give yourself insulin if your pump's not delivering."
More questions to ask
-Should I check my blood sugar and check for ketones? Yes, always check a blood sugar as soon as possible and urine/ blood ketones when you discover a pump problem; continue to check per your providers guidance.
-What would work best? If you're not certain, call your provider for their help. These situations need to be acted on quite quickly. Without a long-acting insulin such as levemir or lantus, blood sugars increase quickly along with ketones in type 1 and type 1.5 diabetes and for some people with type 2 diabetes.
-Now what? Once your immediate situation is being cared for, you can call to troubleshoot with the 24 hour help line at your insulin pump company (the phone number is usually on the back of your pump). If it's not a resolvable situation they will ship you another one overnight (as long as you aren't in Fiji or something).
You will need syringes and both long and short acting insulin to bridge you over to the new pumps arrival. Your care provider will explain how to adjust back to the pump and wean from the long acting insulin you don't usually take.
Many people will lose their pump settings when things like this occur. A good policy is to keep an updated version of carb ratios and basal rates in your phone just in case the worst happens.