Student Review: Tandem Tslim

Mindy Bartleson, University of Georgia '15

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I will be the first one to tell you that I do not like certain kinds of change, so I’m not completely sure what I was thinking when I told my mom I wanted something new. Fingers crossed, I started the process. Besides a few summer pump vacations, I have been on the same pump for over 13 years. I added POLI (pumper on long acting insulin) to my resume full time last spring. But besides that, little has changed.

When I first started the new pump, the first words out of my mouth were “I have my life back,” while I flashed that 9-year-old-missing-her-front-teeth kind of smile. I was diagnosed at the beginning of the age of major changes in the diabetes world. Sweets were not frowned upon (moderation please), meaning my doctor quickly shot down the idea that I was to never have sweets again. To a 7 year old, those were the best words besides “presents”, “cartoons”, and “mac and cheese.” Unfortunately, this was also the time of NPH (the insulin- not the actor) and R. These were the days of having to wake up and eat 45 carbs of breakfast at 6AM, 15 carbs of snack of 9AM, 60 carbs of lunch at 12PM, 30 carbs of snack at 3PM, 60 carbs of dinner at 6PM, and finally 15 carbs of snack at 9PM. That’s a lot for a seven year old. It didn’t matter if I was sick. It didn’t matter if my friend was having a party and dinner was at 5PM. It didn’t matter if it was Saturday and I wanted to sleep in (I don’t like naps, but I sure do like to sleep in!) We were feeding the insulin. I remember my dad allowing me to have cake for a majority of my meal on occasion (Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone). I remember my parents bringing me breakfast in bed on Saturdays so I could go back to sleep.

But more clearly than anything else? I remember the moment my diabetes care team okayed 9-year-old me going on the pump. In the early 2000s, unlike now, they usually preferred teens being on the pump - oh look I am in the middle of another round of changes in diabetes management.

I got my pump at 9, and my dad told everyone I would not be getting a used car because I already had a used car on my waste. I remember the kids teasing me about my pager, but I didn’t care. Little did they know that I could eat when I wanted, how little or how much I wished (within reason).  Sleeping in was now a thing again, and tighter control of diabetes management had arrived. I had my life back. I have been proudly carrying my pager around until this December when I decided it might be time for a smartphone. 

Attached to my hip is now a t-slim pump, which is touch screen and bright and shiny and I feel like I am sitting at the cool kids table. (which is rare- and I am fine with it). My case is lime green- what a change from the same colors for years.  And sitting in my pocket is my new pink Dexcom- yes. All the changes, all at once.

Often, I forget that I am on a different pump. Then I look down and my pump is in sight and I quickly press 1-2-3 to unlock it. I often feel like singing “fancy”, and as a college student it’s not normal to have something that is fancy.

Occasionally I can hear the insulin being precisely delivered into my body. Navigating this pump could make me a well-seasoned pirate- it makes a lot of sense, and I feel like I am discovering something new all the time.

I am excited to really delve into profiles. So far I have absolutely loved it.  My schedule is honestly all over the place. Mondays, Tuesdays, and parts of Fridays I am interning and working with adults with developmental disabilities. On Wednesdays I am in class all day, and in class for part of Friday. Thursday is my school work, other commitment work day. So we can all imagine that these schedules are VERY different thus requiring different basal rates, carb ratios, correction factors, etc etc. Which I can now change at the touch of the button! Here’s to tighter control of diabetes management with honestly not much work! Perfect for a college student right?

I have on occasion tripped up on changing my sites, but I have literally been using the same site for 13 years so I’ll get the hang of it. I think my eyes bugged out of my head when I learned about the extended bolus. No more math for that either so my correction would be separate. Instead of the correction for blood sugar and food being combined for the extended bolus, you get the correction for your blood sugar first, and then the rest of the extended bolus is determined by food. I prefer to do 60% up front, and 40% over 2 hours for something like pizza. Also- carb counting? There’s a calculator for that when you are plugging in carbs and BG. I don’t like math so that’s nice.

The moment it truly hit home for me- I drove from Athens to Atlanta to see diabetes camp friends, and I charged my pump on the way! Wait. What? I charged my pump? That’s a thing? And while I’m driving? It likes to be charged and it doesn’t get overcharged (I’m sorry- but if this is possible for my pump- why is it so hard to for a laptop or a phone?)

But honestly, what gets me is the customer service. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I have yet to be on hold for more than a minute. The rep for our area volunteered at camp for the whole week. I was activity head staff that week, and he literally told me to put him to work where needed (yay!), and his son has type 1. The woman who trained me has been working in the diabetes field for a long time. And finally- every time I have called- I have spoken to someone with Type 1 or someone who knows a lot about type 1. I am calling and someone understands what I’m saying. I have yet to get upset on the phone because of customer service or a comment or anything. Thank you. Finally. Less stress- yes!

I knew I was set when they asked my blood sugar range and I quietly said something in the 400s. I didn’t hear a comment berating me. I quickly said I had been on steroids for an asthma flair up, and on the other end I hear “steroids are evil when combined with diabetes.” He proceeded to mention his experience a few months ago. The fact that he understood and didn’t lecture me on diabetes care was a relief. 

I keep getting asked what’s the difference between pumps? And the thing that comes to mind first? I’ve upgraded to a smartphone. Here I am again- in the middle of change to diabetes management.

Change can be good. I should remember that more often.

mindy holding pump