By Sheila Dwyer, MedTech1 Staff
Sylvia Juraschek, age 80, can remember what her life was like before the advent of the insulin pump, but she would not want to experience it again. Diagnosed with Type I diabetes 30 years ago, Juraschek has used a pump since 1985 to deliver insulin to her body.
An insulin pump mimics the pancreas more closely than traditional insulin-delivery systems. Pumps have several advantages: reliance on shorter-acting insulin, such as the human body; a basal rate, which is defined as small amounts of insulin delivered regularly during the day; and multiple bolus deliveries, which are larger doses of insulin taken to cover meals.
For the past 10 years, Juraschek has used an insulin pump made by MiniMed, Inc. MiniMed developed a system to give diabetics more control over their disease. Most Type I diabetics depend on long-acting insulin shots given in the morning. Absorption of long-acting insulin is unpredictable, however, and may account for the extreme fluctuation in blood sugar levels that many diabetics experience. MiniMed pumps send a little bit of insulin every few minutes, just like the pancreas, to maintain consistency within the body.
Because insulin pumps allow diabetics to control the amount of insulin entering the body, they have more control over meal times and activities. “If I know I’m going to have dinner two hours late, I wait to give myself a bolus for a meal,” Juraschek says. “I usually give myself (a bolus) three times a day.”
Despite her age, Juraschek seems to be as active as someone several years her junior. She has traveled extensively in the past few years, including jaunts to Poland, Bulgaria, and South America. “I couldn’t have done that, I think, without the pump.” The only problem she has encountered with her insulin pump and her active lifestyle was when she lost the pump’s beeper-sized plastic case in a swimming pool.
Maybe because she was diagnosed later in life with insulin-dependent diabetes, Juraschek maintains a sense of humor about her disease. “Years ago, my grandchildren were fascinated by me testing myself. So I named the pump Charlie,” she says.
She was willing and able to incorporate her insulin pump into her life and she finds it less invasive than traditional insulin-delivery. “It lets you control the disease is the way I put it. If I took shots I’d probably have to take three a day now. I’d have to eat at regular hours.”
She is also careful about seeing her endocrinologist at least every four months. And she tests her blood sugar level at least four times a day. If she does not feel well, she monitors it more often.
She recently recommended the MiniMed pump to her niece, also a Type I diabetic. Juraschek wants to share her diabetes success story with people who are ambivalent about the insulin pump. She is also realistic: “I’m very fortunate to have this and to have the insurance that pays for it, because they are expensive.” Her story should encourage anyone living with Type I diabetes to investigate how an insulin pump could change his or her life.