Awareness & advocacy · Everyday life. · Vocabulary.

Meet the things that keep Luke alive…

I’m often talking about insets and pump sites and tubing, but I had a realization tonight.. a lot of you don’t know diabetes jargon! That’s okay! I didn’t either until I started living it everyday. So, let me introduce you to the things that keep Luke alive each and every day. (And the reason why I had a mild panic when Luke told us he only had three insets left.)

The pump

Luke's insulin pump

This is Luke’s insulin pump. He uses the Tandem T-Slim. He chose this one because it looked the most techy & had a touchscreen. Ha ha! Luke switched from MDI (multiple daily injections) to the pump just five months after diagnosis. We knew we wanted to make this switch as soon as we possibly could and he’s done amazing with it!

The insulin


We’ve hopped back and forth between humalog and novolog, but both are fast-acting insulins. When on the insulin pump, Luke only needs one kind of insulin. The pump uses this insulin and gives a constant “drip” throughout the day & night. This is called his basal rate. The basal rate can change as he grows & as hormones change. We’ve been lucky – his basal rate hasn’t changed at all since diagnosis three and a half years ago! Fast-acting insulin is also used when he boluses for what he eats.  This is when we count carbs. For every 15 carbs he eats, he gets 1 unit of insulin. He just plugs his blood sugar and the number of carbs he is eating into his pump and it does all the calculating for him!

The cartridge, syringe & needle

These three things work as a team to get insulin into the pump. The cartridge is a little plastic vessel that holds the life-saving insulin. Every 3-4 days, Luke uses the syringe and needle to pull insulin out of the vial (above) and insert it into the cartridge. He puts about 160 units in at each round – insulin for the constant drip (basal), his boluses (when he eats carbs) and then a little bit to fill the tubing so he isn’t giving himself air for the first few boluses. Once the cartridge is full, he inserts it into the pump.

The infusion set

The infusion set (or inset) is what he has to insert into his body – usually his stomach or upper thigh. The needle inserts a small tube, called a canula, under his skin. Attached to the inset is skinny tubing. The tubing connects the pump to the inset, allowing the insulin to get safely into Luke’s body. Luke needs to rotate the pump site (where he insert the needle) so he doesn’t develop scar tissue. If he uses the same spot over and over, scar tissue develops and the insulin can’t work how it’s supposed to work.

The meter, test strips & lancing device

Blood glucose meters are something you may have seen before. These can be purchased over the counter at Walmart & usually include a lancing device, which we so officially call a “poker.” I’m pretty sure all of our meters were “complimentary.” We “only” had to pay hospital and doctor bills and for a pump. And we have to pay for the test strips – they cost a little more than a buck each. (Yeah, don’t get me started on the cost of life-saving supplies and medications… again.) Luke uses this little machine 4-6 (sometimes more) times a day. He doesn’t think twice about poking his finger and squeezing out a little blood anymore. Luke should test his blood sugar before each meal and before he goes to bed. Other times to check are when he feels like he’s out of range – either with a low blood sugar or a high blood sugar. For Luke, if his sugar is below 70 or above 150, he’s considered out of range. He is usually pretty good at knowing when he’s low & a finger stick confirms it.

So that’s it… a brand new vocabulary! Ready for your quiz?


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