JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charityNo thanks to pumps

No thanks to pumps

This page has personal stories of people who used to say “I would never want an insulin pump” but changed their minds. If you’d like us to publish your story, please contact us.

Personal stories

Amber Rose

Amber Rose (@diabetes_geek) tweeted a link to this blog post Busting Misconceptions About Insulin Pumps.


Mary, 66, who has had type 1 diabetes for 38 years and has been using a pump for four years, told us the following:

Why did you dislike pumps?

Having to insert the cannula, being connected all the time.

What or who changed your mind?

I went on a course about counting carbs and insulin doses. Pumps were discussed and I decided to put myself forward.

What would you say to someone who hates pumps for the same reason you used to?

It improves your control giving you the ability to manage your diabetes better. You can basically eat whatever you want and whenever you want, even not eating. Trust the pump. It is not heavy or cumbersome and you get used to it. It is very difficult to accidentally knock or disconnect it. You can disconnect for up to an hour if you want to go swimming or be intimate. Go for it, you will love the freedom from injections.

Any other comments?

I have had better support from the diabetes team as there is a special clinic for pump users and education sessions. I struggled for a long time adjusting the basal dose but my specialist nurse rang me weekly to offer support. My HbA1c is 7 and I am far healthier than before the pump. Some of the complications of diabetes have improved dramatically due I assume to a much more ‘normal’ and stable blood glucose level. Life is good. No more having to inject in public. I believe that the NHS investing in more pumps would save millions over a diabetic lifetime. I am disappointed however that continuous glucose monitoring directly connecting with the pump is not widely available.


Stephen Dixon, Sky News Presenter (Twitter @stephendixontv), has had type 1 diabetes for 22 years and has been using a pump for five years. He told us his story:

Why did you dislike pumps?

As a journalist I am used to interviewing people. When some organisation called “INPUT” was due to come on to my Sky News programme back in about 2003 to talk about pumps, my immediate reaction was to think “what a waste of money”. As someone who managed my type 1 pretty well on MDI I genuinely felt pretty outraged that people wanted more investment and help. If I coped, why couldn’t they?

The result was an interview with Andrew Dysch, whose son uses a pump. Frankly, I tore a strip off him, waited a moment, then tore another, and another, and another. He must have wondered what had hit him.

It’s a moment I am ashamed of, simply because my views were based on the worst sort of ignorance, not just ‘not knowing’ but having firmly set views because of my own condition. I knew nothing about pumps, had never heard of them before and avoided them like the plague in years to come.

What or who changed your mind?

Many years later I was helping Roche launch their Nano glucometer when one of their team mentioned pumps. I said I knew little and wanted to know less. Not put off (he was Australian!) he brought one out, showed me, but more importantly explained exactly what they did and how and why that helped. Suddenly the penny dropped that I had missed a trick and misunderstood all those years previously.

What would you say to someone who hates pumps for the same reason you used to?

It took about another year before I had my pump fitted. I had to undergo a DAFNE course to qualify for funding and that changed my views even further. Once on the pump, my life changed completely. Although my control on MDI was good, the control and quality of life gained on a pump was almost unbelievable and I have never look back.

They say sorry is the hardest word. I think that is especially true when you’re a hard nosed hack, but I have to say a deep and heartfelt SORRY to Andrew Dysch for that interview.

It had its benefits though. It means I understand why some people reject pumps. They seem extreme, expensive, unnecessary, when other methods of treatment are available. That’s why I now talk to people about the quality of life benefits a pump can bring, and the long term savings it can have for the NHS.
I’m proud to support the work INPUT does and will happily take my turn in sitting down for an aggressive interview with a misinformed journalist. But be warned, I will fight back, and be thinking of Andrew Dysch whilst I do it!


Celine contacted us with her story seven months after her pump start:

I have been type 1 for 19 years. I thought I would never want a pump. I could not see how it would be more beneficial to the pen which I could discretely have in my bag and administer without too much fuss. My main concerns about the pump were:

  • the practicalities of wearing a pump – especially for a female wearing many different types of clothing to men who always have pockets or waistband on their trousers or shorts. Things like how do I manage to quickly try on clothes in a changing room if I am wearing a pump and line, where do I put it? Will it get tangled? Will I take twice the time to do spontaneous activities like that?
  • going swimming – what do I do with my pump?
  • sleeping – where do I put the pump and what happens if I accidentally roll onto it or disconnect it?
  • intimacy – What do I do with my pump during intimate moments with my partner?

I always considered it to be too cumbersome and impractical and figured I don’t have these concerns staying on the insulin pen/MDI treatment so why change at all! However, due to some test results not hitting my target range over a prolonged period of time, I realised that my MDI pen treatment was not accurate enough and I decided to apply for the pump to improve my control and reverse any fledging complications.

My foray into my new life on the pump was daunting at first because, of course, it’s new and strange.  The first week is a big adjustment of course and I was very aware of the pump and paranoid about hitting it off hard surfaces, unintentionally pressing the buttons or accidental disconnection of the line as well as all my initial concerns as listed above.

So in a nutshell I have listed the pro’s and cons below:

Pros of insulin pumps

  • no more injections – just change cannula and insulin reservoir every 3 days.
  • no more long acting insulin, drip fed quick acting insulin only. The pump mimics the action of the pancreas more closely than the pen does.
  • dramatically minimised hypo frequency.
  • eventual improved HbA1C.
  • makes me more disciplined and aware of my diet because I have to enter carb amount for each meal, which contributes to eventual weight loss.
    uses 25% less insulin than pen treatment again contributing to eventual weight loss.
  • new glucometer wirelessly sends reading to pump and I just press buttons to give correction dose if above target range.
  • data: can download all my pump data into several reports which enables me and care team to view trends and make changes.
  • excellent support: in-person classroom training with diabetes professionals, detailed online tutorials and direct contact with care team.
  • minimised lumps n bumps.

Cons of insulin pumps

  • wearing it – can feel awkward at first.
  • still need insulin pen as backup and to carry with me if out for long periods. I thought I could throw them away but I still need them in the event of pump malfunction or emergency correction if I have ketones. But I don’t find this a problem.
  • air bubbles in line – If there are a lot, they may prevent insulin going in. Solution: just check line frequently for air bubbles. Just unplug and fill line to expel or change line.
  • can be a long learning curve and frustrating waiting for my blood sugars to settle into my new regime. But I had to remember that all initial dose settings are conservative and usually tweaked in small doses until I found what works for my body and activity level.
  • my opinion on whether to get the pump or not can be summed up in three words…go for it!

Read Celine’s full story here

Clare, aged 44, has lived with type 1 diabetes for 33 years, pumping with Medtronic Veo for one year this month.

“As another issue of Balance lands on my doorstep I thumb through and start reading all the articles which interest me. Ah, something on pumps. No way! I don’t even bother to look at it, let alone read it. I flick over the page. (I think) I’m never going on a pump! I’m quite happy with my pens thank you very much! (I think) Why would I want a pump?

Spin on a bit, I did the ALFFI course at my local hospital in 2011/2012. A lot of very interesting things and now they’re showing us all a pump? Pass it around they say (it’s in its box with various ‘things’).  I’m never going on a pump. Have you seen the size of it? The box edges nearer to me. I am not touching it. I don’t want one. I have to touch the box to pass it on. I’m not touching the pump. I don’t need one. I don’t want one. The DSN says ‘take it out, have a look’. (I think) Oh god, I have to look interested and not petulant. I feel like an irritable child. I take it out. It feels so heavy. How could anybody have that stuck on them and that tubing?! Are you serious? I’m never going on one of those. Why would you?

Spin on a bit to 2012. My HbA1C was edging up. MDIs were not really working. My control was quite poor despite lots of tests and trying things out. I was having a lot of hypos. A lovely dietician said ‘Have you thought about going on a pump?’ Why, I say? It’s disgusting. I don’t want one. She gently explains the benefits to me.

I opened my mind. (I thought) ‘Try it! You’re not in control of your diabetes, and haven’t been for a while.’

I agreed and was put forward. I got mine on 16 January 2013. I have now had two HbA1Cs and I have come down both times! It doesn’t solve/cure all your problems and you need to put in the work but if you’re already carb counting, adjusting your doses and testing your blood a few times a day, you’re already doing most of the work you need. I don’t run perfect blood sugars all the time (alas) but, it’s changed my diabetic life!

I can do different boluses for different meals, have some up front, let the rest go in gently over time that I set, depending on what I’m eating – it’s revolutionary!

I’m still learning and there’s so much you can experiment with, but I would never want to go back to MDIs. This is diabetic-life-changing.

I can do the smallest of increments, correct much more easily, and adjust rates. I feel lost when I take it off even to go in the shower. It’s just with me all the time and I’m loving it. Here’s to my new lot of years in my diabetic life with a pump and the hopes that I master even more things to do with it.”