The Day My Insulin Pump Outsmarted Me

I stare at Gizmo, my insulin pump. I review its user settings, and basal and bolus rate set-up. But nothing within this gadget tells me how to change my reservoir numbers.

Yes my body is no longer producing enough insulin. And yes that means I must use more insulin to function on a daily basis. My basal rates have increased from .325 to .900, and my bolus rates have increased from 1 unit of insulin per 20 grams of carbs to 1 unit of insulin per 13 grams of carbs.

When my roommate a few years ago told me her basal rates were 1.000 unit, I scoffed and hoped I would never reach that level, at least not for another five years. But now having only had diabetes for six years I am now almost there.

The downside? I’ve been switching out my pump’s reservoir every two days. It used to be that 100 units of insulin would last me three days, if not four. And in the past month, it’s only lasted me two days.

When I traveled to Kentucky for the holidays, I realized I had miscounted my insulin pump supplies, and I made my last set of supplies endure six days as opposed to three. I crossed my fingers and just hoped nothing would go wrong until I got off that plane. Fortunately for me nothing did.

But even though I’ve had Gizmo since the beginning of 2012, surely I could change the reservoir number. I mean I purchased a pump that allowed for 180 units of insulin at one time. And I was only filling it with 100. Why couldn’t I change that number to say 120 or 130?

Being the tech-savvy person I am, I googled this. And only came across PDFs of instructions for how to fill your insulin pump reservoir and insert the new cannula into your skin. I’ve been doing this for four years. I had these instructions covered.

I also knew my pump was only under warranty for a few more months. I was afraid if I called the pump manufacturer they would pressure me into purchasing another $6,000 pump. And I wasn’t sure I wanted this same pump from that manufacturer. There were talks that my CGM would soon sync up with another insulin pump company.

And there were cooler insulin pumps on the market. There was even a touch-screen version. There was a thinner version. I’d never really looked into the insulin pump market until recently. Because at first it mattered more what my insurance would pay for and what my doctor recommended. But now I know I have tons of options and plan to field these options at the next JDRF research summit in March.

It was a waste of money to continue to change my insulin pump out every two days with supplies that were supposed to at least last three days. That and the fact my insurance would only cover insulin pump supplies at the three-day max rate. So it was time to figure out how to change my reservoir amount.

So on Sunday I finally looked up the number for Medtronic and called their customer service line. It didn’t take too long to be connected to a rep on 3pm on a Sunday.

“Hi my name is Tracy, and I have Type 1 diabetes. I have a Medtronic paradigm pump, and I have a question about it. Should I go ahead and ask you?” I didn’t want to waste my breath if a transfer was possible. I’ve done this about a million times.

“Sure go ahead,” the sweet lady on the other end responded.

“Well I can’t remember how to change my reservoir amount. Meaning I’m using more insulin and changing my pump every two days but how do I let the pump know that I’m using more insulin for three days?”

“Oh,” she kind of laughed on the other end, although she was completely sweet about it, “you can just fill up the reservoir more. You know when the pump is priming when you change out the reservoir? It automatically calculates how much insulin is in your reservoir.”

“You mean my insulin pump is smarter than I think it is?”


“So all this time I could have filled up the reservoir with more insulin and it would have automatically calculated the amount?”

“Yep.” I laugh on my end, and she laughs with me. I feel stupid. All this time I thought I had to tell Gizmo how much insulin I would need for three days in order for it to track it. But all this time Gizmo would have automatically calculated the amount no matter what I put in the reservoir. So all that time when I tried to get the reservoir amount correct when filling from the insulin vial, it didn’t really matter.

I laughed so hard when I hung up the phone. And the next time I filled the reservoir I went past that 100 unit line. And after priming the pump and inserting the new cannula into my skin, I checked Gizmo, and sure enough it told me I had 112 units left. It had automatically calculated the amount for me.

My insulin pump was smarter than I thought.

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