Because our little diabetes community is about sharing and caring, a sharing and caring friend of mine gave me a few Omnipod Dash pods to try. I’ve been Open-Source looping with an old (small size) Medtronic for the last 6 years, and the recent news that the 1.8ml cartridges were coming off the market sent me into a spin of despair. I probably wailed ‘Why do things keep changing?’ at some point.
I am firmly of the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought, and needing to re-evaluate my current, very-not-broke Medtronic Loop set up was not something I was particularly keen to do. But it seemed that the decision was being made for me, and switching to Omnipod seemed to be a not-too-stressful way to keep using Loop.
Of course, between my panic, wailing and fury (alongside talking myself off the ledge of stockpiling every box of 1.8ml Medtronic cartridges available in Australia), a DIY fix was already being created that involved cutting down the larger 3.0ml cartridges to safely fit the smaller pump.
But the seed had been planted. Maybe Omnipod could be the easy solution. Pods are easily available. I have private health insurance that hasn’t been used to get a pump since 2013. And, most importantly, I won’t need to stop using Loop, or lose any of the beautiful ease it has brought into my life. This has been the reason I’ve not switched to a commercial system. I’m not willing to consider anything that requires what I consider to be a step back. Not being able to bolus from my phone or smart watch, needing to carry another device to drive whatever I’m using, and less customisation are all a step back in my mind.
So, I bribed my sharing and caring friend with lunch, and he came over my way to deliver some pods for me to try and since then I’ve been on and off Omnipod since the beginning of August, including for ten days travelling in India for work.
I’ve been pumping for over twenty-two and a half years. I’ve never taken a pump break. When I say having an insulin pump hanging from my body is my normal, I mean it. It was with me in the delivery room when my kid was born and has travelled the world with me. I have worked out how to tuck a tubed pump away in my clothes so that it doesn’t cause any sort of unsightly bump and other than my constant (sadly losing) battle with door handles, the tubing really hasn’t bothered me.
For these reasons, I’d never understood the deep-seated position some people hold at not wanting to use a tethered pump, or the overall appeal of a patch pump. That’s not to say that I don’t think they’re a good option. I just wasn’t drawn to one the way that I know others have been. To be honest, I’ve been kind of ambivalent about the benefits of no-tubing. That was all 15 pods ago ago, and now I get it.
Here are some of the thoughts I’ve had since using Omnipod:
⊙ Oh my Lordy! Phantom-pump is a real thing. I spent the first week of wearing a pod groping around for my old Medtronic pump. I’d go to grab my pump if I got up out of bed overnight, or first thing in the morning. One night, I thought I’d ripped out my pump and after groping around for a few minutes, woke Aaron, thinking it was under him. Half asleep, he said ‘It’s on your arm.’ I still do ‘the pat down’ before walking out of the house each day, gently tapping the middle of my chest to reassure myself that my pump is there. It’s redundant these days!
⊙ I don’t know why I thought it might be more complicated to use than it is, but I was really pleasantly surprised by ease of it all. The clunk of the cannula going in is slightly startling the first time, (but no more so than putting in a sensor). I’ve not found it painful at all.
⊙ That tape sticks! After three days, the tape has still been firmly adhered to my skin and looking pretty pristine. This was even in India where it was hot and humid. This bodes very well for the warm Aussie summer we’re being promised!
⊙ I thought that the Pod would feel more obtrusive on my body, but I have absolutely not once had a moment of ‘Ooh – that’s uncomfortable’ when I’ve rolled over in bed.
⊙ I’ve worn the pod on my right arm (Dex is always on my left), sides of my stomach (low and high), thighs (and didn’t rip it off when pulling down my jeans to race to the loo!), hips, lower back and all have been fine. No pain or discomfort at all.
⊙ Not needing to wear a bra if I don’t want to is liberating! Not needing to consider housing my pump and Orange Link is one fewer thing to think about!
⊙ I feel lighter because there is one fewer pieces of diabetes kit I need to worry about now that my Orange Link is redundant. This is a big win!
⊙ I’ve had two faulty pods which isn’t great really and the ‘replace pod’ alert came after three hours of inexplicable high glucose levels that were not responding to adjustment boluses. I’d really like to know if a problem is detected with the device before three hours of low teens numbers. The two faulty pods have happened in the last four days and I’m actually back on my Medtronic right now because I am a little thrown right now, but I’ll go back onto a pod later in the week when I head to Sydney for work.
⊙ Sorting our replacements with customer service has been a slight rigamarole, requiring far more calls and questions than seem necessary, and requiring a lot more emotional labour that, quite frankly, I don’t have to give.
⊙ Door handles are friends again. (Door jambs on the other hand, are now potentially double trouble if wearing a Pod on one arm and Dex on the other!)
⊙ I don’t love the waste and the thought that I am effectively using a pump every three days. Insulet offers a super neat recycling program which goes someway to alleviating my concerns about this. I love that my delivery came with a labelled box, zip log bag and clear instructions for the recycling program. This is outstanding and I wish other device companies could be this forward thinking.
⊙ The three-day hard cut off annoys the crap out of me. And yes, I’ve been using the 8-hour grace period every single time. I know that we are meant to change cannulas (tubed or otherwise) every three days, but many of us extend by a day or two when we know it’s safe to do so. And twenty-two years of pumping, not a single site infection, and knowing when I’ve extended to my limit would suggest that I am able to safely decide to keep a pump running for a few more hours without having it screaming incessantly at me. Alas, that’s not possible here. (And how has the DIY community not figured a work around this yet??)
⊙ Cost is, of course a consideration. I’ve not used my health insurance yet, so I have paid the NDSS + Insulet cost which is $29.30 (NDSS cost) + $168.27 (Insulet cost) per box. It works out to just under $20 per pod which is not cheap. If I make the decision to use my private health insurance and start using Omnipod on an ongoing basis, I will only have the NDSS contribution, bringing the cost down to $2.93 per pod – way nicer!
⊙ Omnipod currently has a new user deal on. You get 90 days of Omnipod for $149.40. Really annoyingly this is only available to new customers. I tried to see if I was eligible for this (after all, I’d consider having bought only one box would classify me as ‘new’ to Omnipod, but alas, I was not eligible). This is actually very disappointing. I’ll never understand why companies ‘punish’ their existing customers. But, if you’re brand new to Omnipod, this is a great deal and I’d encourage you to get onto it now! It’s a great way to try before you commit to using your PHI.
⊙ The best thing? Choice! Having a tubeless pump available here in Australia means Aussies with type 1 diabetes have another pump choice and that is only ever a good thing and should be celebrated. I now get why people are determined to only use a tubeless pump and if that is their choice, it should be available to them, and they should be supported to make that choice. I’m hearing that there are some centres that won’t use Omnipod and that’s absolutely not okay. If anyone is in that situation right now, reach out if you’d like some suggestions about advocacy to change the situation.
It’s exciting to try new things and this really is the first significant diabetes device change for me in some time. It is energising to have something different to play with. If you’ve been thinking of trying something new, this is a good thing to try!
None! I was given a few pods to try from a community member (who has no affiliation with Insulet or Omnipod) and bought a box myself. I have done some consulting work with Insulet before, but not in the last two years.