Awkwardly avoiding awkwardness

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My office building is home to probably nine or ten different companies. The cafe on the first floor serves all of them. I had just started my dual-wave bolus and placed the order for my lunch when I felt the unexpected and repeated vibration coming from my hip.

Bvvt. Bvvt. Bvvt. Bvvt…. (I’m not sure how many times, but it was a lot. Also, is that how you spell the sounds of a vibrating insulin pump?)

MotorError_Jan2013When I checked the pump to see what was up, it  turned out to be a Motor Error. It was the first one in a year, I think — I certainly haven’t been plagued with them as I was at an earlier time. Having been through these in the past, I didn’t panic. But I did have a bunch of thoughts go through my mind.

  • Did I bump it or go near any strong magnetic fields lately? (No.)
  • Do I have time to run to the restroom and restart the pump before my food is ready? (No).
  • Could I possibly remember all the variables I just so meticulously calculated into my dual-wave bolus, and then factor in what’s been delivered already, so that I can do it again? (No.)
  • Are the insulin gods conspiring against me in retaliation for filling a medical device with an alcoholic beverage this weekend? (Possibly.)

My thought-process was then interrupted by a voice coming from my right, asking a person behind the counter if he could see the package of whole-wheat wraps. He wanted to check the carb-counts.

This was an older gentlemen, slightly taller than me and very thin. If he wanted to know how many carbs were in the wrap, it certainly wasn’t because he was on a weight-loss diet.

As he read the Nutrition Facts off of the plastic bag, I looked over his shoulder and commented that I also was interested in the carb-count (file this one under “Everything you always wanted to know about…but were afraid to ask”). He mentioned that for people who count carbs, it’s important to know these things, and he counts carbs. And then added, in a quieter and somewhat hurried voice, “…because of diabetes.”

I revealed that I also had the same reason for wanting to know. I forget if it was a proud “I also have diabetes!” moment or a subtle “me too”, but I suspect it was the latter. Meanwhile, my pump was again vibrating to remind me that it had ceased operation.

He read out loud “forty-seven carbs, and three grams of fiber. That comes to… three starch exchanges, right?”

My response (of which I’m a bit embarrassed because there may have been a subtle subtext of judgment) was “Yes… for those who use exchanges.”

I caught my right hand subconsciously rubbing my pump. Not in the way a model would show off a brand new car! to a gawker-filled audience on The Price is Right; but more of a gentle and reassuring “get well soon, everything’s going to be alright” kind of way. A part of me wanted to sing its praises and tell the gentleman that ‘I use this pump and it does all the math when I put in the carbs, and it gives me so much more freedom than when I used to use exchanges, and I can’t imagine life without it… but right now it’s broken.’

Instead, I turned the conversation back to the carbs. The voyeur in me wanted to figure out if he was Type 1, as the evidence seemed to lead but was far from conclusive. The leather-pouch clipped to his belt did not have a tube emerging, so it was most likely a phone (besides, a pumper who uses an exchange-diet is a rare find.) So I confessed that the carb-count “is good to know. I always tend to under-estimate it.” He responded that he always over-estimates the carbs in a wrap, because when he gets to the end of the sandwich and is left with a scrunched up wad of dough, he ends up throwing it out.

Signs definitely pointing to Type 1.

That was the end of the discussion. I retreated to a table to untuck the corner of my shirt and disconnect my tubing from the infusion site so that I could do a Rewind-Prime and get the pump started again, praying  to God (not the aforementioned “insulin gods” that it would work) that it would work. It did, so I re-programmed the remaining bolus and stuffed my shirt back under my waistband.

I looked around and didn’t see my new Probably-T1 acquaintance anywhere (perhaps he retreated to a restroom to take a shot of insulin, as was proper “manners” for his generation). But I did see a bunch of other co-workers, so I joined them as I ate. I did see the tall, lanky gentleman a bit later, but didn’t say anything.

Afterwards, I was a bit embarrassed about how I had handled the whole situation. Yes, my pump abruptly crapped out on me and left me a bit frenzied. But here I was, interacting with another (probably) T1 who – unlike me – was confident enough to ask to see the carb counts, and here I was, mister “let’s talk about diabetes”, too ashamed to advance the discussion. (Can a guy with a broken pump really advocate, or would that just serve to discourage? was the excuse I gave myself.) For a proud and confident person with diabetes, I was acting like anything but proud and confident.

But I did make restitution – sort of. In my own mind, anyway.

Before lunch, I’d figured that I had enough insulin in my pump to last until I got home. But thanks to that unexpected rewind-prime Motor-Error-recovery, suddenly I was caught short and needed to do a site change. So I did.

At my desk, right out there in the open.

For the first time in my life. Ever.

A part of me wanted to make sure nobody saw me doing it. Another part of me was hoping someone did. (I’m pretty sure it went undetected).

To be honest, it was really no big deal, and I’d probably do it again. But I wonder if the distinctive aroma of the insulin made it over the cube walls.

Posted on March 13, 2014, in Diabetes, Insulin pump, Personal, Type 1 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. They might have thought you had some scotch there in your cube. Now THAT would get notice from your co-workers. Great post


  2. Although I can never be positive about this (and it’s never been said outright), I’m pretty sure doing site changes at work got me moved from a cubicle into my own office so that I could have some privacy. I’ve worked for a small company for about 6 years now. When I first started and we had about 10 people in our office, I used to do my site changes in the conference room–not because I don’t want people to see me, but because I’ve found that seeing needles makes other people nervous. A few times, not knowing that the conference room was booked, the owner of the company walked in on me during a site change and would get all flustered. She would apologize profusely, despite me saying it was no big deal. I liken it to being walked in on in a bathroom stall.

    Two years ago, my company moved to a new office space and I got an office instead of a cubicle despite not having any changes in my job title/duties. Since I work for such a small office it’s not like there is anyone else doing the same job as me saying “why does she get an office and I don’t?”. I’m convinced that site changes got me this office–so go ahead and do them out in the open! You’ll never know what you’ll get!

    Now I just wonder what I need to do to get an office with windows? I’m open to suggestions!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Site change at your seat?! That’s amazing.

    Since I’ve only held a pump in my hand and never used one, I’m continually fascinated by your blog and others who describe all these terms that still seem so foreign to me. Site change, bolus, tubing etc. I’ve been online long enough to make it out but it still seems like such a distant reality for me. I’m not on long lasting insulin, just short-acting with meals. But I kind of want a pump really bad. Your post makes me think of the day when I’ll be able to do a site change. Was it the same feeling as the first time you tested in a somewhat public manner? I’m curious!

    Thank you for sharing. Always enjoy your stuff 😀


    • I don’t much remember the feeling of first testing my blood sugar in public, but I do remember the hesitation to give myself an injection in public. I remember sitting on a plane with a stranger sitting next to me and my jacket on my lap, and hidden under the jacket I was sticking an insulin pen into my thigh through my pants leg – hoping it would work and not all over the place. That was a bit nervewracking.

      But the thing about an insulin pump site change is that you can’t really be discrete and contain all the pieces in your hands. Filling the reservoir with insulin from a vial, holding it up to the light to spot air-bubbles, then flicking the bubbles to the top and pushing the air out, isn’t really something that can be done secretly.(this is the contraption I’m talking about). Then there’s the smell of the insulin drops, the insertion (the infusion site needs to remain stuck to the skin, not the shirt), and the beep-beep-beeping of the pump, which beeps even if you’ve got it set to Vibrate (on the Medtronic anyway).

      So it’s an interesting comparison, but the mindset for doing a blood test in public versus changing a pump site in public is a shift from “I hope nobody sees me” to “I don’t give an eff if somebody sees me.”

      I tend to take for granted that people know what I mean when I say things like basal, site change, etc, but perhaps I shouldn’t. If you’ve got any questions, just ask! You can always contact me privately if you like. Thanks for reading!


  4. Kachunkers are the new breast pump?


  5. After being recently disappointed by the ay my “okra conversation” with my neighbor went I’m realizing we can’t always have the perfect diabetes conversation every time – so don’t worry yourself over that. Props for pushing your comfort zone with the site change though!


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