HealthDoctor Karen

Diabetics pump for no needles

Doctor KarenBy Dr. Karen Palmer
Diabetics pump for no needles

Insulin pump therapy has given siblings Ben (9), Emily Mai (7) and Harry (4) Ryan from Co. Tipperary a new lease of life and a life free of up to 15 daily insulin injections between them.

The three are under the care of Dr Stephen O’Riordan and Dr Susan O’Connell, consultant paediatric endocrinologists at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and their specialist diabetes team. 

An insulin pump is a mini computerised device which continually infuses insulin under the skin and optimises the blood glucose control.

The device is about the size of a small mobile phone and is attached to the child via plastic tubing just under the skin.

It delivers a continuous amount of insulin 24 hours a day, based on the requirements of the child. The amount of insulin delivered can be changed by the child or the parent.

At the age of two, Ben was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, following a viral illness.

Over the years, his mum, Jane, became familiar with managing his condition, recognising his symptoms and treating them.

So when his siblings, Emily Mai and Harry, were ill, she used to check their blood sugar levels “just to rule it out”. One day, when Emily Mai was four, she appeared excessively thirsty.

When Jane checked her blood glucose levels they were high, so she took her to South Tipperary General Hospital and Emily Mai was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Harry’s diagnosis followed when he was just two years old.

By 2011 all three kids were on insulin injections twice daily and “diabetes was controlling their lives”, according to Jane.

They had wonderful special needs assistants at the school, but Jane still had to go to the school and playschool daily to inject all three.

They couldn’t go on play dates or to birthday parties without Jane as she had to keep a watchful eye on what and when they ate as she was trying to match their food intake and their insulin dosage.

“Administrating 15 daily injections takes a lot of effort. Then last year a phone call from diabetes nurse specialist Norma O’Toole completely changed all of our lives,” says Jane. “The team was ready to offer insulin pumps to the children, which meant the injections could stop.”

Jane adds: “We are now controlling the diabetes rather than the diabetes managing the childrens’ lives.

I don’t have to appear at the schools daily, they can go to parties and on playdates.

They can eat what and when they like as they know how to check their blood sugars - they check the label to count the carbs and input the data to the pump.

The pump will diffuse the necessary insulin based on these details.

“At night, I have to check in on the children less often and only wake them occasionally to make them take some lucozade to regulate their blood sugar levels compared to when they were on the insulin injections.”

Dr Stephen O’Riordan says that   his multi-disciplinary team approach with the patient at the centre is the key to success.