Friday, August 14, 2009

My Experience with OmniPod


For those that don't know, I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. About a year and a half ago I changed from taking 3-5 injections a day, to using an insulin pump. But no ordinary, tubes-hanging-out-of-you, beeper-looking-thing-attached-to-your-hip, insulin pump - no, I chose the OmniPod tubeless pump system. I've had some requests for my overall impression, and below is something I wrote in response to one of those requests.

I've been a Type I diabetic for over 20 years and I can honestly say that OmniPod has changed my life. For me, not only is the technology an improvement over injections, but it has re-invigorated me and my interest in controlling my disease. In other words, using OmniPod somehow got me more interested in managing diabetes again, instead of being complacent.

Of course like most 'Podders, the big attraction for me was the lack of tubes. I had been turned off by traditional pumps for years because of the tubing, but OmniPod was intriguing because of the freedom from tubes that it offers.

As for cost, even with good insurance it is likely that using the OmniPod will cost you more than injections. My insurance coverage is pretty good, but I still have a deductible each year and then pay 20% after that (used to be 10% until this year). If cost is a big concern for you then you should definitely find out exactly what your policy covers. I think any kind of insulin pump is going to have higher cost. You local sales rep at Insulet can tell you exactly how much it will cost before you have to pay anything.
If you want specific examples... My deductible is $300 per year, which even before OmniPod I would easily use up for lab/blood work. After that, the pod cost is somewhere around $250-$300 per month, 20% of which I must pay under my insurance plan. So it's not dirt-cheap, but for me easily worth it.

I find the system to be very easy to use (but I am a tech geek and love all kinds of gadgets). Even for the average person I think they've spent a lot of effort to make it simple. The process of changing a pod has about 4-5 steps, but they are easy and the PDM (controller "computer") guides you through each one. I think after only 2 or 3 times the average person will be very comfortable with the process; and the training is very thorough. Honestly, think about testing your blood or taking an injection; think of how natural that is for you and how you don't really have to think about it while doing it. Using the OmniPod is the same; you do it so much that it quickly becomes second-nature.

I've only had one or two very minor issues, and with the help of the customer service and the local trainer I've been able to solve them. I've read of some people who have certain problems (like someone who says the pods don't stick well to their skin and try to fall off before the 3 days is up), but I really think those are the minority because thousands of people use it successfully. I've never had any kind of trouble like that, even though I am very active and play several different sports with the pods on (including wrestling with my 3-year-old son).

My control is much improved since I started using OmniPod. I was always turned off by insulin pumps because of the tubing; it was a big turn-off for me to be attached to a pump all the time. Now that I've been using OmniPod for over a year I can't imagine going back to injections. It is very discreet when I want it to be, but I've found it to be a great "conversation piece" too; everyone is fascinated to hear about it if I talk about it.

I love how it lets me be more free to do things like a normal person, instead of having to worry about carrying insulin bottles/pens, needles, and alcohol wipes everywhere. I am so much more free I can't even tell you!
Here's an example: this summer we took our son to Disney World for his birthday. We were at the park from 10am until 11pm. We ate at odd times, food that I was not certain of the ingredients or carbohydrate content, and several little snacks. Plus, we were doing lots of walking which tends to lower my blood-sugar quite a bit. That day would have been a nightmare if I was still using injections. I used to take Lantus as a basal, once per day, and then Novolog (pen) at meal times. I would have had to adjust my Lantus the night before to account for the exercise (walking) and then would have worried about keeping my Novolog pen cool throughout the hot day, taking several injections to cover the small "meals" and the unknown carbs I was getting. I would have almost certainly been too high or two low most of the day because of all the uncertainty and irregular schedule. But with the OmniPod, I was able to easily decrease my basal rate once we started walking, based on what my blood-sugar measured. And I was easily able to take a meal dose each time we ate something or I tested my blood-sugar and found it a little high. I was able to do all of this while standing in line for a ride or sitting on a bench watching my son play. No having to sneak off to the bathroom or some other private place to do an injection. I actually enjoyed the day with my family instead of worrying about my diabetes; I didn't really "think about" diabetes at all that day. For me, that is the big advantage of using OmniPod.

I guess I've written way too much, but hopefully this will help you understand why I love the OmniPod. If you have any more specific questions, don't hesitate to ask. In fact, I'd even be willing to talk on the phone if you'd like.

I am very enthusiastic, but I realize this is a big personal decision to make, and of course the OmniPod (or any insulin pump) is not the right thing for everyone; there are always some people who will be better off with injections. But I'd definitely encourage you to give it a try if you've been curious or considering it.

18 comments:

Lorraine said...

Great post, Eric. Thanks for sharing!

Kevin Pammett said...

Yea, this was a really great article to read - especially for me cause our situations are very similiar. Thanks !

Anonymous said...

Thanks for detail information... I am type 1 more than 20 yrs and now switching to pump from pen.. My doctor told me to go for omniPod but still I was confussed but ur article gave me positive feedback.. Thanks a lot

Chris said...

thanks for the informative post! Like you, I have been using the Omnipod for a little while now, and love it!
I am a LADA, or type 1.5. Diagnosed about 3 years ago, and the Omnipod has made things much easier!
I am also a PA-C, and encourage any of my diabetic patients to consider an insulin pump.

Susan said...

I've never used a pump and am considering this product. What type(s) of insulin do you use in it? And I'm assuming you still have to pay for the insulin on top of the pods, right? Same vials as with injection? Do you have to use a syringe to load a pod?

Eric Rizzo said...

@Susan,
I am currently using Apidra in the pods, but I recently switched from Novolog. I'm pretty sure you can use Humalog, too. You're correct in that you use the same vials of insulin that you would for injections.
Each pod comes with a special syringe to use for filling it; you do not use a regular injection syringe.

Joel Davenport said...

Thank you for your write-up. I am in the decision-making mode and have been amazed at what my insurance company is telling me. I have great coverage -- they pay 100% of my needles, insulin (Novolog), Injection Pen Needles (Levemir), Injection Pens (Levemir), test strips, meters, etc. No deductible, no co-pay either! But they don't consider the Omnipod medication or something so it's under durable medical equipment... they'll spend more to keep me on two kinds of insulin and the test strips, etc., that I have to use...

Natalie Hodge MD FAAP said...

Thanks for the post, I am the pediatrician and mom of a 10 year old who I just diagnosed with type I diabetes this morning... We are driving to kosair in Louisville right now. She's ketotic, but doing ok. Between omnipod and the iphone apps i just downloaded we might just have a shot Reading your post gives me hope that she may have a different outlook than teen girls often do.

Best, Natalie hodge MD FAAP

jesuis nokaoi said...

I am one of those who became a type one as an adult - 6 weeks from being "normal" to being diagnosed as a type one. I am on a medtronic insulin pump at the moment and i have to admit it is a "night and day" difference from the injections. But there are issues, especially those relating to air bubbles in the reservoir. I can never get my settings right because I never know when the air bubbles are going to turn up and mess up my scheduled delivery of insulin. Any one have similar experiences and is it any different with other pumps? By the way, hate those tubes!

mugjug said...

About the bubbles in your reservoir.
When you plan to draw the insulin into the reservoir, first pull back the plunger beyond the amount you intend to use. Then invert the insulin bottle insert the reservoir into the insulin bottle and press the plunger all the way in. While the reservoir, and insulin bottle are upside-down, withdraw the required amount of insulin. There will be a large bubble at the bottom of the reservoir. Slowly press the plunger to force some insulin back into the bottle. As you do this you will see the bubble move to the top of the reservoir. When you see the bubbles go into the insulin bottle stop the plunger and slowly draw the desired amount of insulin into the reservoir. Then tip everything over so the reservoir is on top and remove it from the bottle of insulin. You are now bubble free.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the info! We are considering changing from a "tube" system to the pod and this has renewed our resolve to do that for our 16 year old.

Anonymous said...

That was really great info I too am a diabetic for almost 18 yrs and it was a shock to admit it and now I am ready to consider an omnipod for my self

Booty Girl said...

Type 1 diabetic 25 yrs, been on insulin pump for bout 6 yrs now and it was the best thing i have ever done. I have been considering the omnipod, and after your story i believe i have made my decision. thank you for that and i wish you the best! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I have been considering the pod for a couple of weeks now. Have had over 70,000 injections so far and think it's time to change. Don't you? Been type 1 for 53yrs. now. This sounds like a good thing for me. Thanks again.

Kira Connelly said...

I just want to say thank you for posting this information about the Omnipod! I just talked to my doctor about it today and am so happy to have come across this!!!

Angie Parry said...

I have been a diabetic for 32 years and I'm having g a hard time deciding which to choose from the pump or the pod. Which is more expensive and does the pod fail a lot if you don't insert it right? I've mainly been on injections all my life. If I have ansurance that pays 80% how much will supplies cost me each month?

Anonymous said...

My 15-year-old son was diagnosed with T1D 7 months ago & the only pump he'll consider is the OmniPod because he likes the cordless nature of it. I have three concerns: I've read & heard about pod failure. Eric, what would you have done if a pod failed while you were at Disney with your family? If the pods fail, does the company provide free replacements? Also, my son is on his school's wrestling team & most people have said that OmniPod was not an option, but at a meeting with pump reps, the OmniPod rep said kids wrestle with the pod on without issues. Also, when we go to the beach, my son likes to body surf. Will the waves pull the pod off his arm? ... Should I try to get my son to consider another pump that could be detached during vigorous activity? Thanks for your blog.

Eric Rizzo said...

My strategy for pod failures is simple: if I'm going to be more than an hour from home or in a situation where I can't get home within a couple of hours, I carry an extra pod and insulin with me. So at Disney, for example, I had an extra (2, actually) in the car. Remember, going without an active pod attached for an hour or three isn't going to kill you. I've read some people who literally freak out if they don't have a new pod to attach IMMEDIATELY, but to me that's just adding stress. I have a laid back attitude and realize that if I'm without basal for a short time, although my BG might go a bit too high and that doesn't feel very good, in the long run it's inconsequential.


As for activity, I'm pretty active myself: I play men's softball, racquetball, and have 2 young boys to keep up with. I seldom lose a pod due to activity. Having said that, wrestling is whole other level of activity and it could be an issue. I'd suggest getting some demo (non-functional) pods from an Insulet rep for your son to wear for a few days. That way he'll know what it's like to have it on. Also, depending on where you place the pod, you can use things like coban wrap to help hold it in place. I have another blog post about that.