When Good Insulin Pumps Go Bad (Part 2)

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Last week I was telling you about my insulin pump and some strange behaviors it had been exhibiting. In short, it was shorting out, or it was powering down and then powering up with no help from me. On both that Friday and that Saturday night I was treated to the insulin pump boot-up process, and I didn’t know why.

And, honestly, it concerned me.

I have a pretty good understanding of computers and how software works, and while I was a bit concerned about the power-down/power-up issue, I didn’t realistically think that this could lead to other, more grave issues with the pump. I mean, it wasn’t going to go haywire and begin pushing huge boluses into me in the middle of the night. I assumed there were fail-safes (multiple, I’d hope) against this. What’s more, I’ve never read anywhere of insulin pumps taking on minds of their own and attacking their wearers. So all in all, I felt safe.

Nonetheless, on Sunday, after the second episode with the pump, I e-mailed Smiths Medical through their Web site and explained my problem. I’ve always had great interactions with the people there, and I figured that if they got back to me within the week, that it was no big deal. I wanted, for the most part, to talk it through.

I didn’t hear from them on Monday. But hey, I hadn’t had any more pump malfunctions, so maybe it was the battery cap twisting slightly and causing the pump to lose power?

Then Tuesday morning arrives. And it arrives early for me, because I’m woken up by the low battery signal, which begins as a high-pitched whine (which sounds like speaker feedback), and then turns into a higher-pitched alarm that — and this is the truth — the first few times it happened, when I was in public, I didn’t realize was coming from my pump. I was in a restaurant and I thought I was hearing an alarm coming from the kitchen. I didn’t figure out it was my pump making the awful noise until I was two blocks away from the restaurant and still heard the noise (because for a few blocks I figured it may be some kind of citywide alert).

Anyway, I change the battery and go back to sleep for a few hours.

One hour into my workday, the noise starts in again. Bad battery? That’s probably what it is. So I put in a new battery and fall back into my work. But then it happens again a few hours later. And again.

Now, I am willing to run through many of the easiest solutions first. I checked the cap, and it nestled properly. I bought a new pack of batteries because, hey, the batteries I had been using, while I was certain they were new, came from my kit of diabetes supplies, and maybe, just maybe, they’d been confused for spent batteries.

All to no avail.

The same day that this happens (a Tuesday, remember), I get a follow-up call from Smiths Medical about the pump. The representative runs through all of the issues I’d been experiencing (I find out he wears a pump too, so I’m happy to have a fellow diabetic working through this with me). We decide maybe it is the battery cap, which, for pumps with the CoZmonitor blood glucose monitor, is slightly larger. I take off the CoZmonitor and put the original, smaller battery cap on. We’ll try that. He’ll follow up the next day and see if I’m still experiencing problems.

Continue to stay tuned, because next week, Eric will relay part 3 of “When Good Insulin Pumps Go Bad.”

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