An Insulin Pump Helps a Mom Manage Her Diabetes While Vacationing With Her Young Children
DIABETES: Type 1
HOMETOWN: Ambler, Pennsylvania
OCCUPATION: Instructional designer
THERAPY: Insulin, CGM, insulin pump
As a one-time travel writer, Laura Rogers has been all over the world. The salt flats of Bolivia, the Peruvian Amazon, the Li River in China. After their wedding in 2014, she and her husband, Peter, took a year off work to see the world, and Rogers—who has lived with type 1 diabetes practically her whole life—never let it get in the way. During a trip to Zambia, for instance, she took a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wade into Devil’s Pool, a shallow spot where visitors come from around the world just to peer over the edge of Victoria Falls. That sort of freedom is just one of the reasons Rogers loves her insulin pump, a waterproof, tubing-free pod.
Before she began using a pump at age 18, Rogers was on multiple daily injections of insulin. This meant she had to stick to an eating routine to ensure her food intake matched her insulin. But her pump gives her more flexibility.
That same freedom is allowing Rogers, now 36, to embrace the adventures of raising Anna, 3, and Ethan, 1, while managing her diabetes. That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. Case in point: While visiting in-laws in rural Connecticut last year, she and Peter wrangled the kids for a visit to a nearby farm before heading back home to Ambler, Pennsylvania. They took photos in the pumpkin patch and went apple picking, collecting an assortment of McIntoshes, Galas, and Pink Ladies. With all that activity, Rogers felt herself going low.
Her basal rate—a setting that determines how much background insulin her pump delivers throughout the day—keeps her blood glucose levels steady when she’s mostly sedentary, such as at work as an instructional designer for a professional training company. When she’s more active, she doesn’t need quite as much insulin. “In this instance, when you’re chasing kids around, it sometimes helps to cut back. With all the distractions, I did not do that.”
She popped a glucose tablet to quickly raise her low blood glucose, then ate an apple, “which tastes a little bit better,” she says. But her daughter still wanted to meet the animals at the petting zoo, so there were more activities ahead. Like most insulin pumps, her Omnipod lets users adjust on the fly, so she set a temporary basal rate to reduce the amount of background insulin being delivered for the next half hour.
On the drive back home, they decided to grab some fast food to go. Burgers, milkshakes, and fries can send glucose numbers soaring, but another quick adjustment of Rogers’ pump ensured she received more insulin to keep her in range.
In the past, dinner might’ve meant dressing up for a nice restaurant—a tapas place in southern Spain, for instance. This is another of Rogers’ favorite features about her pump: Because it’s a tubeless pod, she can comfortably wear a dress without constantly being reminded of her device. It attaches seamlessly to her body, and the handheld device that controls it can be stored in a purse or handbag, out of sight.
She admits that type 1 diabetes can sometimes feel as though she’s taking care of an extra child—one who gets less attention now that she has actual kids to care for. “I don’t want to ignore my diabetes and have crazy, roller-coaster numbers that may lead to complications,” she says. “But I also want to be in the moment with my kids.” Her pump helps her pay attention to both.
A Day in the Life
A crisp autumn morning, but even on vacation, I have a routine to stick to. First things first, I check my blood glucose. In addition to a wearable pod, my pump includes a handheld device (called a personal diabetes manager) that has a built-in meter. With a finger stick, I see that I’m in range. I typically experience a rise in blood glucose an hour or two after waking, so I set my pump to deliver more insulin to avoid that.
After a breakfast of English muffins and coffee, we head to the farm. I’ve heard stories of kids grabbing pump tubes, chewing on them, or yanking them out entirely, but my pump is tubeless, which makes it so much easier to lift my children to pick apples.
Peter and I make a fast-food pit stop on the drive home. With high-fat meals, glucose has a slower absorption rate, so a quick adjustment of my pump allows me to use an extended bolus. This delivers my insulin over a longer period of time and should cover a french fry or two.
Back home after making good time on the road. Still, my blood glucose is a little high—maybe I underestimated that fast food fix. Next time, I may need to adjust my carb estimation.