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Innovative insulin pump gives diabetes patient more freedom

Diabetes educator Sheri Setser-Legg with Lisa Conley
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/ by UK HealthCare

No matter how diligently a person with diabetes works at managing their condition, the effort doesn’t always have the desired results, and it can be frustrating.

A person living with diabetes can spend hours every day tracking blood glucose levels, calculating insulin injections, finding time for exercise, counting carbohydrates and making food substitutions. Timing is everything in all areas of life, particularly for the person living with diabetes. The challenges can be great, but the reward of a longer, healthier life is greater.

Fortunately, advances in diabetes management continually improve, and an insulin pump has been an option for many patients.

An insulin pump administers insulin, and it must be programmed according to blood glucose levels and food intake. The pump requires one needle stick every two to three days to deliver insulin through a cannula attached to the pump. Because the pump takes the place of multiple daily injections with a syringe, it can simplify the demands of diabetes management for many people.

Medtronic 670G Closed Loop Hybrid insulin pump
Medtronic 670G Closed Loop Hybrid insulin pump

The UK Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center now offers an insulin pump that allows patients even more freedom and control.

The Medtronic 670G Closed Loop Hybrid insulin pump is the first and only technology that mimics some of the functions of a healthy pancreas by automatically delivering a personalized amount of insulin 24 hours a day.

After the first week or two of wear, the pump “learns” the patient and creates a set of algorithms that change the insulin dose as the patient’s needs change, offering less fluctuation and more control of blood sugar.

Lisa Conley’s story

In July 2017, Richmond, Ky. native Lisa Conley became the first Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center patient to wear the new technology. Her experience using the 670G has created a knowledge base for patients and providers.

Conley, 52, spent the better part of her adult life in the healthcare industry, so she knew the importance of being proactive and taking care of herself when she was suddenly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in her early 30s.

The mother of a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old, Conley lived in Iceland at the time with her husband, who was in the military. Even with her symptoms of sickness and weight loss, she was still shocked by her diagnosis, since she had no previous symptoms. She had no idea what her medical history might be, because she was adopted as an infant.

While living in Iceland and working as a medical technologist, she had a strong support system with her diabetes care and education. She managed well on four shots a day.

Conley and her family eventually transferred to Camp David at Bethesda, Md., and a few years later to Pensacola, Fla. While in Florida, she shifted career paths and began to travel internationally for a healthcare company that sold software to hospitals. Conley stayed on top of her diabetes management while juggling a busy life as a wife and mom with a demanding career.

Four insulin injections a day became more of an inconvenience the more she traveled internationally. Conley began doing her own research about insulin pumps. By the time her husband retired from the military in April 2006, she decided a pump would make traveling much easier.

Beginning to use an insulin pump

Conley’s doctor in Florida advised her that the best place in Kentucky for her diabetes care would be the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center. It was there that Conley started using her first insulin pump. She upgraded several times over the years as improved models were released. The pumps gave her more freedom and control, although she still had to do finger sticks five to six times a day to program into her pump.

Since coming to Kentucky and the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, Conley has forged a strong working relationship with her physician, Dr. Lisa Tannock, and her diabetes care team.

“The comprehensive care offered by the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center is critical to the success of patients like Lisa. It is our team of physicians, advanced practice providers, diabetes educators and staff that allows us to provide cutting edge care,” Tannock said.

Lisa Conley shows the placement of her insulin pump on her abdomen.
Lisa Conley shows the placement of her insulin pump.

Always one to keep up on the latest technology, Conley studied the literature on the latest Medtronic 670G Closed Loop Hybrid system, currently the only pump that constantly self-adjusts to keep glucose levels in target range, based on how patients live their lives. The patient is still responsible for giving the pump information about carbohydrate intake and high blood sugars.

When Conley told her care team she wanted to try the Medtronic 670G, it coincided with the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center’s introduction of the 670G to its patients.

“We learn as much from her as she does from us,” said Sheri Setser-Legg, diabetes education service coordinator at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center. “We’re very fortunate to be at a research institute like UK and have patients like Lisa who are willing to try the latest technology.”

Setser-Legg says that Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center now has 25 to 30 adult patients and one or two pediatric patients on the 670G pump.

“I can’t imagine my life without this pump. It is far superior to shots,” Conley said.

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