There aren't many things about the insulin pump I don't like; mainly because it is a genius invention which hundreds and thousands of us diabetics rely upon to make life easier, give us a more normal life, make us feel more in control but mainly because it means I stand much better of chance of keeping my extremities attached. Just the way I like 'em!
There are hassles, including finding places to hide it in a skimpy dress, catching the tubing on a door handle as you rush through it only to be pulled back in a cartoon-like way and becoming almost dog-like in your ability to distinguish one beep from another. But there is one hassle which I simply despise and unfortunately, is one of the very few drawbacks of a pump which can't be controlled. Kinked cannulas.
Even the words will probably make those diabetics out there reading this shudder. Not only does it impede your ability to control your own levels even if only for a few hours, but there is also no way of knowing it has happened until your BGs are horrendously high and you're feeling like a crack addict going cold turkey.
So many times I have been asked what a kinked cannula actually is which is understandable considering unless you have diabetes and an insulin pump, you probably wouldn't know what a straight one is, so this post is about explaining it to anyone who has either never had it happen (well done!) or those who don't wear a pump.
The cannula, which is the part of the infusion set which goes into the skin, is how the insulin gets in. Once it has been inserted, the adhesive tape keeps the set in place and the cannula (a tiny thin Teflon tube) allows the insulin to enter your system and do its thing.
It should look like this:
Now the plastic bit at the top is where the tubing which carries insulin from the pump to the cannula, connects. The material is the adhesive 'pad' which is what keeps it all attached and the tiny Teflon tip will be under the skin and allows the insulin to enter your body.
Unfortunately when a cannula kinks, it looks like this:
Now this tiny little change which to those who don't pump probably looks like no big deal, is one of the pumping community's biggest frustrations. This kink will mean that very little - if any - insulin can enter their system. Despite its name, the pump doesn't actually vigorously pump insulin into the body. Mine in particular very gently 'drips' insulin into the body. So unless I bolus (give a dose for food, for example) a large amount, in which case my pump will alert me to tell me that something is not allowing it to release the insulin, I won't be any the wiser. This is particularly the case when I go to bed a time when I won't be giving any large doses - and means that I will wake up at around 3am with BGs of 20 or more and feeling extremely ill as I did this weekend. Thanks to the pump meaning I have far less 20s these days, it also means that those 20s I do have feel a lot worse.
The problem is, as you can see, the bit which can bend (and to this day I still do not know why) is under the skin. As this is a disposable set, the first I will know of it is when it come out of the skin; and a whole new set is required.
Well there you have it. Unfortunately I have no wise words or positive vibes to end this one. But this was more to explain what they are, and what they look like. Hopefully it will make it easier to understand next time one of us is moaning about a kinked cannula, how they happen and why we can't avoid them.