Eli, a 13-year-old with diabetes, juggles the usual teenage activities — hiking, camping, helping out at home, hanging out with friends and sleeping late — all while managing his own insulin pump.
Managing diabetes requires a lot of structure, but an insulin pump can add a lot of flexibility. Is it right for your child?
Type 1 diabetes management is relentless, a never-ending cycle of pokes and shots and meals and snacks—all on a rigid time schedule. It means waking a child up early for a shot when he would just as soon be sleeping. Often, it means middle-of-the-night wake-ups for a fretting parent required to check on a sleeping child.
But there is a way to manage diabetes that adds flexibility to the diabetes regimen—the insulin pump. About 150 type 1, insulin-dependent diabetics monitored by the Endocrinology department at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland are currently using the pump.
“The pump allows your kid to be a kid again,” says Stephanie Gilchrist, whose son Eli, 13, has been on an insulin pump for about three years.
“Being a kid again” for Eli means sleeping late—“ last weekend I got up at 12,” he crows— and eating whatever and whenever he wants. It means hanging with his buddies and walking his dogs and lots of swimming and, best of all, camping and hiking with his Boy Scout troop. Last summer, Eli did a 50-mile backpack trip up Mount Hood. This winter he snow camped near Immigrant Pass. Next summer he’s going to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for two weeks of backcountry back packing. Eli does all this wearing his pump.
“The thing about insulin pumps,” explains Children’s endocrinologist Susan Conrad, MD, “is people think of it as a magic bullet, it’s going to take care of everything with diabetes, but it’s really just another way to deliver insulin…”
“What I tell families is that going on the pump isn’t any less work, in fact if anything it may be a little more work at first, but you get a substantial benefit for the amount of work you are doing. You get a lot of flexibility with the pump in terms of the timing and amount of food at meals.”
When used correctly, you also get excellent diabetes control. “Research shows there is a significant decrease in hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) when a child goes on a pump,” says Dr. Conrad. “That’s an important benefit, especially in young kids where we worry so much about hypoglycemia and its effects on brain development.”
If you are interested in a pump consultation at Children's Diabetes Clinic, ask your doctor for a referral and call the Endocrinology department at (510) 428-3654.