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Debi and her Insulin Pump

Debi and her husband Derek

Debi and her husband Derek

Luke referred these questions to me since I’ve worn a pump since 1991.  My name is Debi Nunley and I was diagnosed with diabetes in November of my last year of high school in 1980, in my hometown in New York.  From the day I was diagnosed, I continually sought out the most knowledgeable and up to date medical insight about diabetes I could find.  In 1982, I was accepted into a diabetic study at Yale University and gladly took part.  Due to the brittleness of my diabetes, meaning my blood sugars varied dramatically even when I was doing all the right things, the doctors at Yale offered me the trial of one of the first insulin pumps invented.  When they showed me the pump and I saw it was the size of a kitchen toaster, I vainly turned their offer down. 

Over the following years of testing a ton and tried to do everything right to keep my blood sugars as accurate as possible, I had little success.  My doctor’s only solution for me was to increase the number of injections I took to six injections daily.  I did this for years, wanting to do whatever I could to not allow this disease to control me from living a “normal” life or doing anything I desired to.

In 1989 I relocated to Oklahoma and raised support for living expenses, to volunteer full-time with a teen, outreach organization.  I began to hear about the insulin pump once again and how it has become a great tool to gain better blood sugars control.  For the next two years my interest grew since I would soon be traveling to other countries, leading groups of teenagers and needed better control from my constant highs and lows.  As I inquired more in-depth I found that the cost of the new insulin pumps was much too high for me to even consider while living on raised support.

In 1991, I was preparing to go on my first two month trip to Venezuela when a friend approached me with a gift to help with my food and medical expenses I so desperately needed. They blessed me with the exact amount of money to cover the full cost of my first insulin pump and a year of supplies! This was truly a God miracle and I’ve been blessed to wear one ever since.  So 20 years later I can say wearing the pump has been only beneficial in so many ways in my life! There’s much work that goes along with wearing the pump but the help it’s been has been well worth it!

I’ll share just a few of the benefits I’ve experiences with my pump which most importantly has been its accuracy and convenience!  I wear it just tucked into the waste line of my jeans most of the time and no one ever notices it. If they do get to see it, it gives me a great opportunity to educate people about this disease that most people have little knowledge about! I had my first son in 1998 and my second in 2000 and ever since I’ve loved my pumps alarms and use them daily, especially the one that reminds me to test two hours after I eat a meal for better awareness and control. Another thing it offers are all the various settings for different activities. For instance, when I go to the gym or hike up a mountain here in beautiful South Africa, I no longer have to eat more carbs before and load up with juice in my bag! I just need to remember to lessen my basal rate (the continual slow amount of short acting insulin the pump releases every three minutes in replacement of long acting insulin) or even turn it off for optimum control!  I was never able to do that with injections, it always seemed to be a guessing game to me.  Another advantage for me is something called the “Bolus Wizard”. This has lessened my brain work as it’s a part of the pump that calculates the amount of insulin it will need to deliver according to my blood sugar at that time and the amount of carbs I will eat. The Bolus Wizard does the adjusting accordingly and helps me by calculating for me the perfect dose needed by tenths of a unit (which was also never available with injections)!!!

All this to say… for me… living with diabetes is a major challenge and a lifetime of work but I wouldn’t want to live without my insulin pump as part of me as it helps to keep my body in more stable control and helps me to live a more “normal”, active life!!

I hope and pray my information encourages you to keep your head up and to contact your physician to hear his input!!

Thanks, Luke for having me share and I’m here to help any fellow diabetic that wants more info or needs encouragement!  We’re in this together!  You can reach me at, anytime!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. ash permalink
    05/09/2011 12:11 pm

    I lived with a family when I was working in Namibia, and one of the family members got her pump while I was living with them. It changed her life, and also made things easier on the family, cause her diabetes was finally under control after years of hectic highs and lows and close calls. It was pretty expensive though, so guess its not for everyone just yet.

  2. Gwen K. permalink
    05/09/2011 1:00 pm

    I grew up with 3 brothers with Type 1 diabetes. One of my brothers got one of the first pumps in the country. He has had several through the years. He is 56 and is very healthy. Part of this is do to the pump. Loved your story.

  3. 21/10/2011 3:02 pm

    wow… Thanks so much for telling your story Debi. Im chatting to my doctor about getting a pump at the moment… (Professor Bonnicci)- still a little on the expensive side but I really think it will help me gain better control.

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