Stephanie's StoryI'm just a mom of a child with diabetes, so don't read any further if you are looking for professional medical advice. If you're interested in how one child's life has improved dramatically because of pump therapy, maybe you should read on.
Stephanie was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 4 1/2. Her diagnosis was a big surprise for the entire family, but we were very fortunate to notice the symptoms early and her blood sugars were in the 300-350 at diagnosis. She was in the hospital for four days while her doctor began determining appropriate insulin dosages and we began our initial education. In the beginning it took several large adults to hold Stephanie down for finger sticks and shots, but after several days we had gotten to the point where two adults could do all that was necessary.
We were becoming familiar with the exchange diet and strict schedules, and although Stephanie was becoming more compliant, her diagnosis and subsequent diabetes management brought major changes to our entire family. Gone was the ability to decide to eat out at the spur of the moment, sleep in, or for Stephanie to join classmates for birthday treats and parties at school. Our entire family ate on her schedule, got up on her schedule, etc. But then, in the summer of 1997, something happened that would restore a measure of spontaneity to our entire family.
Stephanie met a female firefighter who wore an insulin pump, and decided that she wanted one, too. Stephanie had just turned 8, and her pediatric endocrinologist and diabetes educator said they wouldn't even discuss a pump for a kid that young. I began to do extensive research into pumps, who was using them, and what exactly was involved in using them. It didn't take long for me to realize that some young children were indeed using insulin pumps successfully, and the quality of life had improved dramatically for each of them. Stephanie and I went to our next endo appointment armed with information from both companies who sell pumps in the US, anecdotal information regarding kids who were using pumps, and a list of potential problems with pump therapy and descriptions of how we would resolve any of those problems should they arise. Our endo was still reluctant, but finally gave us the okay to order a pump and learn to use it.
It's difficult to describe the changes our family has experienced since Stephanie began using her pump. Two weeks after she began pumping, we went on a family skiing trip, and not once did we have to stop and eat because Steph's insulin was kicking in! Within reason, we were able to eat as we pleased, when we pleased. We even slept in on our last morning there! Stephanie's A1c results were in the 7 range (normal for our lab is 4.4 to 6.4) before the pump, but her first post-pump A1c was 6.5!
I feel that Stephanie's childhood has been restored. No longer is she left out of many normal childhood activities. She even had her very first chocolate Easter bunny this year!
Pump therapy is definitely not for everyone, nor is it a cure for diabetes. Pumps are simply yet another potential tool for managing diabetes. If our case is indicative of an "average" one, there can be hassles and problems, just as with multiple injections. It took Stephanie several months to become truly comfortable with changing her infusion sites. It also took a while for us to determine basal rates that worked for her. We've even determined that her nylon windsuit pants can build up static and set off an alarm within the pump!
With all that said, I would strongly encourage families with children to investigate pump therapy to see if it might be the right choice for their situation. It takes tremendous dedication and the support of adults, but then so does managing the diabetes of a youngster on multiple injections.
Betsy receives e-mail at [email protected].
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