My Boobs Are Costing Me $7000 (a.k.a. Time for a New Insulin Pump)

Opening Note:  If the title of this post seems like a shameless grab for attention, that’s because it is.  I’m really interested in some opinions/feedback from other pumpers on this post. However, being largely absent from the blogosphere since having Baby B (I’m spending lots of time with the kids instead of at the keyboard, and also dealing with some wicked carpal tunnel) makes me feel the need to put a little extra effort into getting this post noticed.  So if you’re here  just to read about boobs, you’ll likely be disappointed.  If you’re here as a pumper – please read on and leave a comment!

Back in April, I had a baby.  You may already know this.  You may also already know that I had a c-section.  Normally I wear my pump (a Medtronic Paradigm) clipped to the waist of my pants/shorts/skirt/pyjamas, but after my c-section I found it a bit uncomfortable to wear it near my belly while sleeping, so I decided to keep it between my boobs at night.

It’s probably also no surprise to anyone that boobs tend to expand significantly when you’re breastfeeding a baby.  So that pump was in there nice and snug.  What may be news to some, though, is that hormones take a while to settle down after having a baby, and these wacky hormones can cause night sweats.  I don’t mean seems-a bit-warm-in-here sweating.  No, I mean doing-cardio-outside-in-summer sweating.

Does anyone see yet where this story is headed?

It is important to note that Medtronic pumps are not advertised as being waterproof.  I was quite well versed in the dangers of exposing a Medtronic Pump to water after I accidentally took my pump swimming with me last year.  But I’ve always sort of assumed that they would be somewhat water resistant.  And definitely sweat resistant.  I mean, athletes wear them, right?

I realized my error when, a few weeks after Baby B was born, I woke up drenched in post-partum, hormone-induced sweat, tested to find my bloodsugar was high, and hauled my pump out from between “The Girls” to bolus.    To be clear, my pump had not been immersed in liquid.  It was not sitting in a pool of sweat.  It was damp and it was hot, but it wasn’t dripping.  It had not been swimming this time.

So it was a bit surprising to me when the buttons didn’t work as they should.  It took a couple of tries to get a button-push to register.  It was even more surprising when I saw “Button Error” come up on the screen.  (An error I’m sadly familiar with – I’ll get to that in a bit.)

The rest of the story involves me borrowing a pump from a local contact who had a spare while I attempted to dry out my pump in a bowl of uncooked rice (didn’t work), waiting until Monday to call Minimed (because it was the weekend and we Canadians get bumped to Medtronic’s U.S. call centre on the weekends), and realizing I was going to need to purchase a new pump since mine was off warranty as of  last fall.  Once I did get on the phone with the Canadian Minimed folks, I was told that I could use a loaner pump from them for 3 months while I made my purchase decision, so that was couriered out to me quickly and I’ve been using it ever since.  (To Minimed’s credit, when they found out that I had just recently had a baby, they were willing to extend the decision-making time for me.)

So now I’m trying to finalize this ReallyBig purchase decision.  It’s ReallyTough because (a) my pump is such a huge part of my life and I absolutely have to be happy with its quality, its features, and the service I get for it; and (b) I have no coverage for the pump, so this money is coming out of my pocket.  Yuck.

In all honesty, I’m quite happy with the features of the Medtronic pumps.  The one available to me in Canada is the Paradigm VEO, and I quite like the looks of it.  I’m sure it would suit my life quite well, with the exception of the waterproof issue. (You can check out the VEO here.)  I’m also very happy with the service I’ve received from Minimed.  I’ve had a few frustrating conversations with them when ordering CGM sensors (one time a box of four came with only two sensors in it), but they were excellent when replacing my warrantied pump when it joined me in the pool, and the local rep is absolutely fantastic!  So for features and service, I really can’t complain.

Unfortunately, what I can complain about is quality.  Here’s why:

#1 – June 2010: My pump had ghoulies.  It developed a Button Error, brought on by seemingly nothing, and started counting up units without being asked to.

#2 – August 2011: I proved that my pump is definitely not waterproof.  Another Button Error.  This one was totally my fault.  But I can’t help be somewhat disappointed that Animas can make a waterproof pump but Medtronic can’t.  Maybe this is more about features than quality…

#3 – April 2012: I drowned my pump between my boobs.

#4 – April 2012: A borrowed pump given to me by one of my pump contacts had an “A33” error and won’t even start for me.  I don’t know what that means beyond the fact that I couldn’t make it work.  To be fair, this was a used pump, and not a certified refurbished one directly from Minimed.  But it didn’t make me feel any better about Medtronic quality.

#5 – April 2012: The first loaner pump sent to me by Minimed (which was a certified refurbished one) had a loose rubber sealing ring in the reservoir compartment, which fell out as soon as I tried to insert a reservoir.  It was obviously loose when I received the pump.  How it slipped by Quality Control at Minimed is a mystery to me.  Thankfully the second loaner pump they sent me has been working just fine.

Since this most recent experience, I’ve heard from a lot of other folks who have had problems with their Medtronic pumps as well.  If you go to the above link to my post about pump ghoulies, you’ll see that two reader comments are about similar problems – and one even mentions the between-the-boobs location as being a possible cause!  I’m hearing from more and more people who have had to have their pumps replaced on warranty like I did.  As long as the pump is still on warranty and the replacement time is quick, it’s not really a big deal, I guess – usually just 24 hours or less on MDI (although I’d never go anywhere remote without a loaner!)  The problem comes when that warranty runs out.  And that’s where I’m at now.

I’ve debated switching to Animas.  With two young kids, and a bad case of “Mommy brain”, I’d love to have a waterproof pump that I can swim with and that I don’t have to remember to take off every time I go in the pool…or run through the sprinkler…or walk in the rain….or sweat :S

The problem is, I don’t want to give up my CGMS, and Dexcom isn’t available in Canada.  If I want the CGMS, I have to go Minimed.

Granted, my CGMS and I have had a rocky relationship, but I’ve finally gotten the kinks worked out and am kind of liking it!  Plus, my local rep tells me that there are new sensors coming soon that are supposed to be much more accurate and much more comfortable.  While I’m breastfeeding and tired, my BGs are wackier and I’m less likely to pick up sudden lows on my own, so I feel so much more secure with a sensor – especially at night.  The long and short of it is that my levels are better when I wear a sensor, and with 30 years of diabetes coupled with proliferative retinopathy I feel like this should trump any desire I have to swim while tethered.

But it’s a $7000 decision that significantly affects my day-to-day life.  How can I feel comfortable putting this kind of money toward a product with this kind of track record?

I don’t have the answer…

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32 responses to this post.

  1. You made me laugh. Your probably not the first to boob a pump, but you may be the first to admit it.

    I have had no issues with my one year on the Veo. I love the IOB feature, but it asks me more questions than the old 722. Are you connected? [yes/no] Sheesh.

    I am not a fan of the CGMS. We just don’t get along well.

    Reply

    • I’m finally getting along (mostly quite well) with the CGMS, so I really want to keep it! I’m wondering if many of the Medtronic problems I’m hearing about are pre-VEO and if (waterproof issue aside) they may have worked out some kinks in the VEO. That would be nice… As for the questions – I have a 3-year-old, so I’m used to questions. 😉

      Reply

  2. Posted by trose76 on July 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I have only had one problem with my MM pump in 6+ yrs and they took care of it quickly as it was under warranty.

    Gun to my head right now and had to get a new pump it would be Animas. I love my Dexcom and I’m shocked it’s not in Canada yet. So that’s not a factor, which may have changed my decision.

    With 3 young kids I NEED a waterproof pump. I’m not sure Omnipod is good for me.

    It’s a tough all because there isn’t a perfect option yet. I will say the Artificial Pancreas trial used Omnipod and Dexcom.

    Nice attention grabbing title 🙂

    Reply

    • I’m pretty sure I’d go with Animas purely for the waterproof factor if it wasn’t for the CGMS issue. I’m pretty shocked Dex isn’t available here too. I could buy it in the States, but I’d have no service or warranty, which is not appealing at all. I could say that I “need” a waterproof pump, but more than that (I think), I “need” CGMS. The waterproof feature could save my pump, but the CGMS feature (and my resulting tighter control) could save my vision. :S Maybe if I buy a MM now, if it breaks after it’s warranty is up, Dexcom might be in Canada – or Medtronic might offer a waterproof pump. (Come on Medtronic!!)

      Reply

  3. Posted by Patrick on July 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I have had some major issues with my pump quality as well recently. I have had really good results in terms of my bg control with the pump, but I have a huge issue with how short the warranty is. This is not something we chose to have, but something we have to have. For me, I have been wearing a new pump for about 6 months now, and many parts, although not vital, but still parts, have been falling off. The label at the bottom has come off, the clip just broke one day and is gone, and many of the products such as the reservoirs are not working right either. I feel like Medtronic made a significant dent in the industry and then gave up on customer service and quality. For 7000, I expect to have my product at the best of quality, especially if my life depends on it

    Reply

    • I agree with you re: quality, Patrick. I’ve been thinking lately, though, that we really do expect a lot from these machines. We wear them every day, and they are functioning 24/7 – not only when we’re bolusing. Plus we bang then on doors, drop them on floors, expose them to heat and cold (depending on our climates), and push their buttons constantly. I think, for me, I sort of expect some of the smaller things to go because of this – but because of the life-reliance aspect, I also expect quality in it’s functionality. I don’t know…it’s a tough one. Of course I’m sure there are also cost issues with manufacturing a higher quality pump, but let’s not get started on that. 😉

      Reply

  4. I have an Animas pump and let me just say (from experience!) it is NOT 100% waterproof. I mostly wear my pump on my hip, which means it’s subjected to a daily beating; banging it on doors, scratching it on walls, etc., etc.. So last spring I went swimming with it attached and the next morning I woke up with my pump all fogged up and the buttons not working. Turns out, those daily beatings and scratches, were enough wear and tear for water to get submerged into the pump, which resulted in a replacement pump. While they advertise as being waterproof, they do have small print saying it’s not advisable to submerge it in water (awesome!).

    I’m also not a fan of the clip that comes with the pump as it gets loose real quick causing the pump to easily unlatch from my belt or pants pockets, which isn’t fun. I swear I’ve gone through at least 10 of them in the last 2.5 years … thankfully, though, Animas’ customer service is awesome and they keep sending me out free replacement clips.

    I’ve been told that Animas is getting its own version of the CGM, but given that we’re in Canada, who knows how long it will be before we see it here.

    Good luck with your search.

    ps. I’m in my last trimester of pregnancy; I know those night sweats 😦

    Reply

    • Thanks for your input, Katie! It’s really great to hear from the Animas perspective as well! I keep forgetting that Animas users DO experience problems too and that NO pump is perfect. Any idea of Animas’ CGMS would be its own or external (e.g. Dexcom)? Congrats on the pregnancy!

      Reply

  5. Posted by Marie on July 29, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Do you have a direct email? I’d like to send you my personal feedback but not left publicly. Thank you! My email is Marie.a.gagnon@gmail.com. Very much like you, I’m now 31 wks pregnant, age 30 and dx with T1 20yrs ago. I had to make the pump switch two years ago.

    Reply

  6. I remember you warning me about keeping my pump in a place where it could get sweaty (for me, inside hockey gear), now I know why! I’ve been skeptical of MedT’s quality-control lately. Not enough to make me say they’ve gotten worse… my experience could just be coincidence/bad luck, but I did question it. I wore my first (ever) MedT pump, without a problem well past end of warranty. I still keep it for backup. My second, (upgraded for CGM ability) had an odd sound when vibrating since day-one, and eventually I saw a small crack. Replacement/refurbished #1 gave me two motor errors and had a louder-than-normal “tick” sound when bolusing, replacement/refurbished #2, which I use now, might have a hairline-crack, it’s hard to tell.

    That said, it has unique features that would still lean me towards MedT for my next one…whenever that may be.

    In spite of all of that, would MedT sell you a factory-refurbished unit for less than the brand-new cost of $7000? The times I’ve been sent a replacement pump, I had to return the old one or risk being charged US$3500. For half the cost of a new one, maybe you just don’t send your loaner back.

    Reply

    • Scott, my own skepticism is largely with the refurbished pumps. I know they are subject to quality control, but they have also experienced wear and tear, so I can’t help but be less surprised when something goes wrong with a refurbished pump.

      Interesting suggestion re: keeping my loaner. 🙂 I’d rather pay $7000 and get the warranty and service, though. 😉

      Reply

  7. How do you like the pump? I’ve been thinking about it, and was hoping to hear from others who have it. does it get in the way of anything, like sports or sleeping (if you move a lot while sleeping)? is there anything you can’t do with it that you can do without it other than swimming?

    Reply

    • Hi Lee. The pump has been a lifesaver for me. My own personal diabetes “situation” (namely my basal profile) isn’t well suited to basal insulins like Lantus or Levemir, so the pump is a perfect tool for me. It has allowed me to gain control of my retinopathy (and stop its progression), and have two babies, so it is worth every penny and every (minor) hardship that comes with wearing it. I love LOVE it and will never go back to daily injections.

      I used to worry about how it would get in the way and how it would feel/look, but those things are pretty much non-issues once you’re used to wearing it. (It does take a bit of getting used to, though, and adjusting how you do a few things.) For sleeping, I just clip it to my pyjama bottoms in a comfortable place that keeps me from laying on it. Some people let it “float free” in bed with them (you’d have to if you sleep “au natural” – just sayin’). Tons of people play sports with pumps, and very often find they’re able to achieve much better control of their diabetes while doing so. (Talk to Scott E in the comment previous to yours or cafemoi (John) closer to the beginning about playing hockey with a pump, or to TRose76 (Tony) a few comments up about cycling with one.

      Honestly, other than swimming (or bathing/showering), I can’t think of anything else you can’t do with a pump. And if you get a waterproof one (Animas), you can even do those things! I even know of people who white water raft with them. I bought a waterproof case for my Medtronic pump a few years ago when I had plans to raft, but our plans fell through and I’ve never ended up using it.

      Anyway…I always highly recommend pumping! If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them. (I’m sure John, Tony or Scott would as well! They’re all awesome!)

      Reply

      • Thanks a lot for your help. I never looked into it in the beginning because it just came across as cumbersome – even if it is easier.

        I’m starting to change my mind 🙂

      • It can be cumbersome – I won’t lie. But 1000 times worth it. 🙂 (This is my own personal experience. YMMV.)

    • Sorry, me again! In response to Lee, we had 4 long years with injections for my son. While I really felt like we had the lantis/Apidra system down it ahas been amazing having a pump. I don’t think my son will ever go back to injections, he has gained so much more independent control with it then with injections. Our favorite feature is the waterproof functionality and the temporary basal settings. I don’t know how we lived without it!

      Reply

      • Thanks! I’m hearing a lot about ‘basal’ what is that exactly?

      • A pump delivers basal insulin and insulin boluses. The boluses are the amounts you take all at once – e.g. 7 units with a meal, 2 units for a high, etc. The basal insulin is the insulin that you have programmed the pump to deliver to you constantly throughout the day. It’s the insulin that your body needs without taking other factors such as food into account. On daily injections you have short- and long-acting insulin. On the pump you have boluses and basals – but all of it is done with short-acting insulin. (I use Apidra.) Hope that makes sense!

      • I think so 🙂

        basically the pumps version of short acting injection insulin… if I understand things correctly.

      • Nope – long-acting. 🙂 Bolus the all-at-once short-acting insulin taken with food or to correct a high.

  8. Laughing so hard and so sad at the same time! We were lucky enough toget to “try” for 1 month each a MiniMed paradigm, omnipod, and animas. The animas won out for waterproof functionality. While we have only owned our animas for 8 months it showers and swims with my son all the time. We never unplug and have never had a problem. He’s 7 and wild and let me tell you that thing is already banged up but working as good as new. If you do go animas I know that in the states they have a “switch” program if you are switching from a different brand that offers a price cut incentive. Our CDE and pump specialist also told us that if the Vibe gets FDA approval within 18 mo tha of our original pump purchase we have the option to upgrade for $99 and the vibe does have the integrated cgms (I think it’s the Dexcom 5?). With that said we really liked the MiniMed but were told before buying that even sweat could disable the pump as you so tragically found out 😦 that was enough reason for us to go forward with the animas even w/o the cgms. Best of luck with those night sweats they are no fun!!!

    Reply

  9. Posted by Mario on August 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I usually don’t comment article about boobs that cost 7000$ but I’ll make an exception for you 😉
    My local Animas represent told me this spring that the Animas pump with the dexcom integrated is already available in Europe so I expect that it will be available soon in Canada. I wish that because I’m also interested by the Animas with the Dexcom. I read that the Dexcom is more accurate than the Minimed CGMS.
    And thanks for the advise, I will NOT sleep with my pump between my balls 😉

    Reply

    • LOL Mario!

      If I knew Dex was coming to Canada within a few months, I might be more likely to wait for it, but these things always take so much time, and I really need the CGMS now. :S

      Reply

  10. Posted by Nicole on August 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I’ve lost 3 medtronic pumps (waranteed) to my “boobs”!!! According to Medtronic, I’m the ONLY one who ever gets “Button Error” messages. Yah right. Because of our ADP program in Ontario, I don’t have to pay for my pump or supplies but we only get new pumps every 5 years. I’ve got a little more than a year left on this one and don’t know what to do….have really been thinking about Animas. I don’t use my CGMS anymore because it was NEVER accurate for me so I’m hoping for the Dexcom to make its arrival in Canada sooner rather than later. I’ve been lucky that my pump has only died during the week so my new pumps arrived in less than 2 hours…didn’t know that wouldn’t happen on the weekends!!!!

    Let us know what you decide…maybe it will help inform me when I make my big decision next year!

    Reply

  11. Posted by Trish on August 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Hi there,

    Just letting you know, Animas and Medtronic are identical in water resistance. Ever read the fine print in the Animas box? Mestronic is actually water resistant at deeper levels than an Animas pump!! I unfortunayely found this out the hard way! And their customer service is terrible. Medtronic doesn’t claim to be waterproof because it doesn’t want to put the burden on the patient in case water damage occurs, Animas doesn’t care!

    Reply

    • I’d heard this before too. Although I’d also heard that Animas pumps still do tend to stand up to water better than Medtronic. Maybe it just takes more bumping and dropping to make an Animas pump lose it’s waterproof qualities. Medtronic pumps might crack more easily. Who knows…

      Reply

      • Posted by Maria on September 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        i highly doubt they’re the same in water resistance if a medtronic can drown in sweat (i too have had this happen) and the animas is waterproof up to 3m or something along those lines!

  12. Posted by Sarah on October 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I’ve just switched to the Paradigm Veo from an Animas 2020. I did enjoy being able to swim with the Animas 2020 and I never had any water related problems with it. But I did have it replaced for a number of reasons (not my fault) as I did with my earlier Paradigm, so I think both are prone to glitches. I got my Paradigm Veo in August this year and I have already had it replaced due to cracks in the casing around the reservoir. Thankfully its in warranty because it has just happened again. So, I’m averaging a pump a month at the moment. I wouldn’t want to put a medtronic pump anywhere near water as a result – despite what the reps and lots of others have advised me about pumps + the waterproof status (that it should be OK provided there aren’t cracks…but the cracks keep appearing). My point is that my pump has been attached to my bra/nightshirt aside from when I put it on my table for a shower. It hasn’t been bashed at all. I’ve seen a few other posts on forums from people wearing this pump on their bra and having problems with unexplained cracks. If you want to keep your pump on your bra it might be worth considering the animas. I did wonder if the cracks were caused by heat – might explain how sweat would cause such a problem?!

    Reply

  13. Posted by tracyk on June 22, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Ha we are currently on our 4th pump with a 5th pump on the way. It has been a button error every time but one. One time my then 6 yr old jumped into the pool without taking it off the day before but it was immersed very briefly as I realized what he was doing mid jump. the rest were all total mysteries. We are 600 kms north of Winnipeg and we are lucky if the replacement gets here as quick as 24 hrs 😦

    Reply

    • I was in Riding Mountain National Park when I drowned a previous pump in a swimming pool. It took about 36 hours to get a new one, I think. I guess you have to be in a (relatively) major centre to have the quick replacement.

      Reply

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