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[IP] USA Weekend Article on Pumps
Millions of diabetics could get high-tech help
Insulin pumps lead a parade of pain-free tools.
By Tamar Asedo Sherman
Taking insulin no longer means syringes and pain for more and more
Instead, a beeper-size insulin pump is today's most effective therapy
for 1.5 million Americans who take insulin every day. The pump delivers
a continuous supply of insulin 24 hours a day to keep blood sugar in the
desired range and to prevent complications such as blindness, heart and
kidney failure and limb amputation. Unfortunately, only about 5% of
insulin takers are on the pump.
The pump's biggest booster may be Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, who
wears her pump on her waist but sometimes tapes it to her thigh so
evening gowns will keep a smooth line.
After a year of wearing a pump, Melanie Attwooll, 24, an executive
assistant in New York City, says, "My whole quality of life has changed.
I used to get tired so easily. Now I can keep on going." Before, "I was
waking up with such high blood sugars that I was feeling groggy and not
ready to face the day."
She no longer takes four to six injections every day. Nor does she eat
specific amounts of food at prescribed intervals. "I can go hours
without eating if need be, or if I want to indulge myself, I can do
that." Before a meal, she programs the pump to match the amount of food
she intends to eat. She can easily add more if she decides to eat
Freedom is what Zachary Ullman likes best about his insulin pump. The
11-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., has worn a pump for three years: "I
can eat junky things whenever I want. I no longer have to eat every two
Still, insulin pumps are not for everyone, cautions Carol Levy, an
endocrinologist at New York's Beth Israel Hospital. Patients must be
highly motivated and willing to test their blood sugars frequently.
It is especially useful for people who can't control their diabetes with
injections, for adolescents with erratic lifestyles, and for women who
want to get pregnant or lose weight. The only negative: having something
attached to you all the time.
Most insurance companies reimburse for the $6,000 pump, made by MiniMed
in America and Disetronic in Switzerland. An implanted pump is available
in Europe; approval in the United States is pending.
Insulin Pumpers website http://www.insulin-pumpers.org/
for mail subscription assistance, contact: HELP@insulin-pumpers.org