The Greatest Gift I Received When My Insulin Pump Failed Last Christmas
Type 1 diabetes never stops—it doesn’t give you the day off on your birthday, over the holidays, or for any of life’s most precious moments. For me, Christmas Day last year was no different.
That day, I experienced pod failure for the first time—a day I dreaded and hoped to avoid. I’ll never forget it. I had only been using the Omnipod tubeless insulin pump for a short time, so this experience was a bit of a shock. (Read more about today’s insulin pump options here.)
Pod failure means my Omnipod was not delivering insulin as it should, and I was running between roughly 347 to 375 mg/dL for several hours as a result. For reference, my blood sugar levels should ideally rest between 75 to 130 mg/dL.
I felt miserable on a day I was excited to kick back with my loved ones, enjoy each other’s company, and cozy up in the Wisconsin winter.
Okay, It’s Official: This Pod Has Failed
After realizing my pod wasn’t going to come back to life, I finally changed it about two hours into this high. (It was roughly 11:00 a.m., so you can’t blame any holiday indulgences for the situation.) I tried to push more insulin through it a couple of times, but nothing worked. So, I took an insulin injection with the advice of my Omnipod rep whose phone number I had access to through the initial Omnipod onboarding process. (You can reach Omnipod customer service via these contact options.)
Thank goodness I still had some syringes on hand! I also walked slowly on my treadmill in hopes of bringing my blood sugar down safely. But, my blood sugar levels were stubborn, and they only decided to decline around 2-3:00 p.m slowly.
Later that evening, I rebounded and went low at my parents’ house after I’d initially arrived there at about 165 mg/dL. I went all the way down to about 53 mg/dL, which was dangerous in a different way. Throughout the day, I worried about ketones. I lost my appetite. I drank a ton of water. (I avoided the holiday cookie platter, packed with my childhood favorites.) I got dressed, did my hair, and faked a smile until it was real. (I forgot to take a deep breath.)
I was upset, but these were all moments—moments I could tolerate and manage in the long run but didn’t want to happen again. T1D isn’t exactly kind. This situation is one example of how it goes for people with diabetes when pod failure occurs. No matter how much you give yourself to T1D, sometimes your body just doesn’t work with you, and sometimes tech fails. It’s typically a one-sided relationship that requires you to do a lot of the heavy-lifting, if not all of it.
(Though, wouldn’t it be nice if Santa decided to carry the weight of T1D’s burden in his sleigh for once?)
Improvising and Moving Forward
Type 1 diabetes has the power to control you if you let it. It can be so disruptive. It can give you these moments, but it can also gift you with the humbling reminder that life is fragile. You can’t plan everything. Sometimes you have to stop everything you’re doing for T1D. Jarring as it can be, you can enjoy your life with it well.
Moments like these remind us that we have little without our health (T1D or not). Perfection is impossible. You can do your best, and when your best isn’t good enough, you can be kind to yourself. You can be your own friend. Knowing these things (and practicing them) are among the greatest gifts you can give yourself over the holidays while managing chronic illness. That source of empowerment and peace is far and few between. (Don’t make it more so!)
Type 1 diabetes may seem invisible to most people in your circle unless they’re around you for crappy times like this. But when you do have bad T1D days, support means everything. I felt comforted and grateful to have my family and boyfriend check-in while I managed all of this last Christmas. I felt thankful for their genuine interest and concern for my well being. My mom and sister, in particular, asked me often if they could get me some water and where my blood sugar levels were at when my CGM would sound off throughout snacking and chatting.
This Pod Failure Taught My Family More About My T1D
While it wasn’t the gift I asked for last Christmas, it certainly was the one that made me feel the richest and most seen—one you could never wrap in a box.
The bad moments were not my whole day. (I didn’t let them win—you can’t let them win.) Especially on Christmas, I didn’t want to feel emotionally controlled by my condition or my T1D tech. (I also didn’t want my family to feel the T1D burden with me.) Still, I had to let them know what was happening because these crazy highs made me about three hours late to our Christmas celebration (and seven hours late to having my first Christmas cookie of the day).
I thought that asking for emotional support to manage my T1D made me weak, fragile, or even a “bad diabetic” when I was a teenager. I imagined myself a burden. Luckily, I grew up since then, and I now know that opening up to others means quite the opposite. Asking for help when you need it is a courageous act. You’re allowed to ask for help whether it’s a holiday or “average” day! Seeking love and nurturement is brave—and necessary with chronic illness.
T1D has taught me over the years about how fast things can change in life and that nothing is permanent. Never lose sight of how important it is to nurture your health and relationships—including the one you have with yourself. When you don’t have to do it alone, you feel less of the weight on your shoulders. Extra support should also make situations like pod failure easier to manage emotionally.
Take care of yourself but let others take care of you, too—even those who seem the strongest on the outside need it. We never truly know the internal battles each other are facing.
These types of days didn’t happen to me often before this pump failure. I typically experience “rolling hills” blood sugar levels on any given day and keep my levels within the desired range. I was using insulin injections my entire life before I tried pump therapy for about 4 to 6 months. Ultimately, this experience highlighted other cons of pump therapy, and I decided to revert to my old ways early the following year. It was the best decision for me.
Still, I don’t regret ever giving pump therapy a try—this was a necessary reset and wake-up call in my T1D journey. (But that’s another story!)
The moral of this one isn’t just that I finally got to have a Christmas sugar cookie later in the day, but that I was reminded of one of the best gifts I really have in life: care and support from my loved ones.
If that isn’t a holiday feel-good, I don’t know what is!
‘Tis the Season…
Godspeed your blood sugars this holiday season, whoever you are, whatever you believe or celebrate. Spread love and show care to yourself and others.
Most of all, never apologize for the management methods that work best for you! No two people have the same management style, and that’s okay.
It’s a gift to have options, right?