Mot*@ &%$#r

Getting the proper lighting wasn’t a priority at the time, but I assure you it doesn’t say “Votor Error”

If you use a Medtronic pump, the words “Motor Error” can be quite upsetting.  Obscene, actually.  So when I woke up on Sunday morning, forgive me if I was taken aback when I saw those words flashed upon my insulin pump. I’d seen those words on a pump screen before in pictures, but never in real life.

So, of course, I did what any diabetes blogger would do.  I went into the bathroom (where my wife wouldn’ t start asking questions) and snapped a photo of it.  Then I did the whole rewind/prime thing, just to hopefully get the insulin flowing again before venting my frustrations on Twitter:

All kinds of thoughts started running through my head:

  • Is this for real, or am I still sleeping?
  • Please, oh please, don’t turn into a Wil DuBois experience!  (If you don’t follow Wil’s blog, he’s been though five pumps in a very short time, all of which have persistently infuriated him with repeated Motor Errors)
  • I really don’t want to switch to Animas.  I like my Bolus Wizard, my not-really-integrated CGM, and my predictive alerts.  And I’m not ready to trust T-Slim.
  • Should I call Medtronic?  I know they won’t do anything unless it happens more than once.
  • Will it happen more than once?
  • I’m supposed to play hockey today!

(That last thought has little to do with the pump, except it was to be the first time in seven years that I’d fully suited up and stepped on the ice, and the first time since pumping.  There was a “family hockey” session scheduled at the Montclair State University rink and I was really excited to go out there with my five-year-old son)

There’s actually a little more to the story.  I had been awaken by my pump-which-also-functions-as-a-CGM, rudely ordering me to METER BG NOW (Medtronic-speak for “calibrate”).  It had been asking me to do this for hours, but this time I heard the call.  So I put a microliter of my blood into a test strip, and it spit back a result: 181.

Do I want to calibrate? Yes.  BG is too high. Do I want  correction bolus? Yes.  Then, something happened.  I must have been looking for some information on the pump and hit the wrong button, because it went into SUSPEND mode.  Quickly, I un-suspended it and checked that correction bolus.  It all went through.

Then the Motor Error happened.

In my mind, I’m trying to rationalize what happened.  The bolus began, and just as it completed and wanted to go back to delivering basal only, it stopped entirely when I accidentally suspended it.  Then it started again.  I’m hoping the timing and the start/stop activity is what caused the pump to get confused and give me the error.

In addition to being frustrated, I was still tired (did you notice the time?) so I went back to sleep.

The correction bolus worked.  So did my breakfast bolus (too well, actually).  Finally, I called Medtronic, if for no other reason than to get it “on-record” in case it happened a second time.

The woman at the other end apologized for the inconvenience and had me answer a bunch of questions and go through a battery of tests.  Rewind and prime an empty reservoir filled with air.  Run the “self-test” option.  Check this, recite that.  I think her script was a bit outdated, because Revel did away with the terms “rewind” and “prime” (replacing it with “reservoir setup” and “fill cannula”), but that didn’t bother me.  I just wanted to get off the phone and get ready for hockey.

So far, my pump’s been operating normally without incident, even after stuffing it in my hockey pants and heating up to (what seemed like) 150 degrees Fahrenheit, soaked in sweat.

But I do have a new addition to my “emergency kit” (a ratty-old Ziploc bag).  Good ol’ Minimed 515, age 6.  It’s never failed me yet.

Posted on June 25, 2012, in Diabetes, Insulin pump and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I have an emergency kit that I kept in a ziplock forever. It’s not in a girly cute bag I found, but I totally know the ziplock bag look. 🙂


  2. Gah! No! Not you, too! Something seems to be going around with those Medtronic Motor Errors!


  3. How serious are these Motor Errors? Mine did it twice on Saturday and once on Monday, so I phoned Medtronic, and they put me through all those tests, and all the results seemed fine, but then told me that as it had done it more than twice, it was now unsafe to use, and I must stop using it. They said they would replace the pump. On Wednesday the replacement arrived, but it was a reconditioned one. Having done some searching on the Internet and seen how many problems people have had with these old faulty pumps that have been repaired, I decided that sticking to my own pump was less risky, and sent their secondhand one back to them.


    • Michael: when it happens to me, I will swap my current pump for the new/reconditioned one without hesitation (though reprogramming settings is a pain). However, I also continue to use the old pump until the new one arrives and I’m ready to make the switch. The worst that can happen is that it stops working and I have to go back to shots, which is what they’re asking of me anyway. If it happens three times in three days, I’d definitely replace it.

      Also, there are sometimes subtle software upgrades that come with the replacements. Mine (look at the last line on the status screen) is “Ver 2.5A”. I know my earlier Revel pumps had earlier versions. I’m not quite sure what the changes really mean, though, I’ve seen an additional item in the Utilities>Connect Devices screen, and also my pump no longer goes into Suspend mode when uploading to CareLink (though I’m not sure if the latter is due to a pump software upgrade, Carelink update, or what).


  4. Scott, Thank-you for the reply and the advice. I did express my concerns to Medtronic about using the reconditioned pump, and they said they would get back to me. Mine does still seem to be working (for now) and I have sent their one back to them already. This has at least made me check my long acting insulin, it expired in November 2011, so I will go get a prescription for some more, just in case.


    • Always good to have a backup plan! In addition to a vial of Lantus (a sample that my endo gives me once a year or so), I do have my previous out-of-warranty pump that never gave me any problems.

      But as far as “reconditioned pumps” go, I asked that very question: is a “returned pump” (for whatever reason) just re-cycled and passed on to someone else? I was told that, when pumps are returned, they get opened up for a fault to be investigated, and once you crack open the case of a Medtronic, then it can’t be re-sealed so it has to go through the whole assembly process again (though with reconditioned parts). So this made me feel a little better and reassured me that, unlike buying a used car, I’m not taking on someone else’s problem. Having said that, the only Motor Errors I’ve experienced are on reconditioned pumps. Of the two “new” pumps I’d purchased, one was returned because of a crack near the battery compartment, and the other still travels with me as a backup. Neither had ever given me an error indicating a failure with the device.


      • Scott,

        Thanks for the reassurance. It has been almost a week since the Motor Errors, and my pump still seems to be working OK. I use CGM, and my levels are no different to usual. My pump is a Paradigm Veo 754, and is about 18 months old, I got it in June 2011. It is my first pump. However, having already told Medtronic to get stuffed, and sent their pump back to them, I will just have to wait and see what happens.


  5. Rachel Nicole

    My daughter has experienced this twice in the last week. One year ago Mother’s Day, her pump completely malfunctioned and she was in DKA, two days in ICU and two more in a regular room. Medtronics sent a representative to the hospital with a new pump ON THE THIRD DAY of her hospitalization. About two months after that we received a call from the FDA asking about her experience. NOW, with this “new pump” that is a little over one year old, she has gotten “motor error” twice this week. The first call to medtronics was the same as with you all… thru a series of tests and everything checks out ok. Today I was FURIOUS that the one thing that helps keep my daughter alive is NOT WORKING properly.. I’ve absolutely had it with Medtronics. She was on the pump 6 years ago…for 1 year. It malfunctioned while on vacation and a three day stay in ICU in Childrens HOpsital in Knoxville was the outcome of that, along with putting the pump in the closet to never be worn again. As a college student, it was highly recommended that she go on it. Reluctantly she did and it worked perfectly for four month….and them the above story goes in to effect. When this replacement gets here it will be the FORTH Medtronic Minimed pump that has failed on her in a matter of 2 years and four months. RIDICULOUS! I wish she had gotten another brand.

    I am going to write the company a very pointed letter after this replacement pump comes in tomorrow. My guess is that she is going to come off the pump at her next endo visit. Quiet honeslty, I do not blame her.


    • Rachel, I am so sorry about what happened to your daughter — going in DKA on Mother’s day, no less! I really don’t know if there’s anything I can do to help, but I can indeed sympathize and share in your frustrations.

      I tried emailing you privately at the address you provided when you left this comment, but it bounced back as undeliverable. If you’d like to continue the conversation (I’d love to learn more, and share my own experiences as well), please leave another comment or use the “Contact Me” link at the top… maybe we can get to the bottom of this, or at least figure out an appropriate way to move forward.


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