Process of picking a potential pancreas

The first time I met an endocrinologist was during my DKA hospitalization when I was accurately diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I barely had any idea what diabetes was, and I certainly didn’t understand the job of an endocrinologist. I don’t remember a lot about our conversation (can I blame DKA fuzziness?) but I do remember one thing he said very clearly. He asked me if I was good at math and when I told him I was he asked when I would like to start on an insulin pump.

About 11 months later, I understood a little bit more about diabetes and diabetes management. I was struggling with high blood sugars and using NPH (not the actor) successfully, and was ready to try the insulin pump because the doctor told me it would make my management easier.

Once I made the decision to start pumping, the process went very quickly. I was on my dad’s insurance (still in college), and was approved very quickly. Side note: His coverage was better than anything I have had since, and I was only responsible for about $600 of the cost of the pump.

The thing is – I never actually picked which brand of pump I wanted. When I decided to pump, the Medtronic pump was on my doorstep a few days later.

As much as you can enjoy wearing your pancreas on the outside of your body, I have enjoyed wearing the Medtronic MiniMed insulin pump.

Some aspects that I have appreciated over the years:

  • Their customer service has always been exceptionally quick and helpful. Any time, day or night, I have always received the help I have needed. Even away from home, they were quick to overnight me samples to replace forgotten supplies.
  • Also related to customer service, I found the infusion set (Sure-T) that works best for me at the recommendation of one of their representatives. It is the cheapest infusion set that they offer, and it is refreshing to not be up-sold and instead matched with the best product.
  • I think that the MiniMed pump looks the most non-pump like. I’ve enjoyed the fact that it has been mistaken for a microphone pack and a garage door opener.
  • Wearing a pump has allowed me to successfully navigate my unscheduled life. Sleeping in, delaying or skipping meals, and eating fast food all became easier on a pump.
  • I have always been able to use a meter that transmitted blood glucose values to the pump. I don’t underestimate the value of this – especially when the number is in the high 200s. When it changed from the BD meter to a OneTouch meter, I was able to enjoy this linked testing with a $0 copay for my test strips.
  • I used my first (gray) pump for four years. When my warranty ended, I briefly thought about switching to another brand of pump, but there was nothing that motivated me make a change. Except color – I switched from gray to clear. In addition to the color options available for the actual pump, using the Skin-it products I’ve made my pump as plain or as fancy as my mood desired.

old and new (2)

Then DexCom entered the picture. The DexCom system is the continuous glucose monitoring system that works best for me. Others systems work well for other people. The DexCom is my choice.

As the ending date for my warranty approached, it was time to revisit my pump choice. The MiniMed pump is integrated with it’s own CGM. The Animas and Omnipod pumps are working on integration with the DexCom system. For me, it came down to a single decision – which is more important to me, my insulin pump or my CGM?

Some people don’t like it, but I have grown quite attached (pun) to my tubing. The Omnipod was quickly ruled out as an option. I needed to try out the Animas Ping so that I could make an informed decision.

With the aid of my friendly pump rep (hi Todd!), I was able to wear the Animas pump for about two weeks. There are definitely some features I like and some things I wish were different.

  • Just like the MiniMed pump, you can input the amount of carbs you are eating and your current blood glucose level and it will give you an estimated amount of insulin to take in response. Medtronic has a trademark on the bolus wizard, so with the Animas pump you have to dial in the value instead of simply confirming that is the dose you would like to take. A bit of a time waster.
  • Another trademark? The threaded reservoir. On the MiniMed pump, the top of the reservoir screws into the body of the pump. The other tubed pump companies have to use a luer-lock system. I was worried I would find the extra bump on the Animas pump annoying, but I did not notice it as much as I thought.
  • I am excited that the Ping is waterproof because it is annoying and worrisome to take it off every time I head to the water at the pool and the beach. I live in Florida – that happens a lot!
  • My goodness it is loud! If I held my MiniMed pump up to my ear while it was delivering a bolus, I could hear a faint clicking. I can hear EVERY delivery of insulin on the Animas Ping (even the basal clicks). No sneaking a bolus with that pump!
  • The Ping – the beloved Ping! The ability to deliver a bolus from the meter remote is amazing! I bought the remote with my original MiniMed pump and in eight years I think I have used it less than 5 times. With only a bolus, suspend, and act button you have to be able to hear the beeps or feel the vibrations (depending on your pump settings). Since I had to excuse myself to be sure the bolus delivered anyway, using the remote didn’t save me any inconvenience.

April 19, 2008 - diabetes365 - day 194

  • When the MiniMed pump indicates that the reservoir is empty, there is about another 20 units that will deliver (from the tubing) before you get a no delivery warning. On the Animas pump, no insulin means NO INSULIN and NO DELIVERY. During my trial, there was one dinner bolus that had to wait until after I ate because the bolus I tried to deliver wouldn’t go through because there wasn’t enough insulin in the pump.
  • I didn’t think it would matter to me, but I was able to fine tune my basal settings a little bit more by using the smaller basal increments that the Ping offers.
  • I use the dual-wave/combo bolus feature on my pump quite often. A nice feature of the Animas Ping is that it saves your last settings (percentages and length of delivery) in the combo bolus menu. As a creature of habit, I really enjoyed this feature.

There are clearly pros and cons with every insulin pump on the market. It isn’t a real pancreas so it isn’t going to be perfect. My original pancreas wasn’t perfect, so I guess that doesn’t matter anyway.

The potential integration with my preferred brand of continuous glucose monitoring system is what ultimately led me to the choice to switch to the Animas Ping pump. At this stage of my life, if I was somehow forced to pick between only using an insulin pump or only using a CGM, I would choose the CGM. Since I am able to and can afford to use both, I am choosing the pump with the biggest potential for future technology pay-off. Now I am just praying that it will go back on the market in the next two weeks so I can actually afford to buy it.

P.S. Hopefully I have made it clear that I am not anti-MiniMed – still scheduled for an appointment in about three weeks to hopefully enroll in a clinical trial where I will use their pump and CGM for about 6 months.


  • Great post Sara! I’m in the same boat and have a very similar story. I was put on the MM715 pump 6 years ago and didn’t even really get an option at the time. I’ve come to love the features, support and reliability of my MM pump. Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about a new pump to get back into warranty and honestly don’t know which one I would get.

    I just started Dexcom last month and ABSOLUTELY love it. I don’t ever want to be without it and haven’t heard many good things about the MM CGM. One of the biggest features I want is the waterproof. I have 2 young girls and another on the way and spend a fair amount of time in the water. MM just is a pain with it not being waterproof. MM will say, “do you really want to take that $6k medical device in the water” and my answer is YES.

    I’m going to ride this one out a bit to see if Animas actually comes through with the integration with Dexcom that they’ve been talking about for a few years now.

    Another hang up is that I truly feel Medtronic is one of the leaders in the diabetes technology field and will be the first to break through with new and innovative devices. So I hate to step away. Sorry for the long comment, but really enjoyed this post.

  • I also have tried both the Medtronic and Animas (have a blog post coming up this week about this, as a matter of fact.) When I first went on the pump in 1998, I also was not given a choice, I agreed to start pumping, and like you, the MiniMed one showed up on my door one day. I have worn it off and on for the last 14 years (I also wore the clear one.) When my most recent warranty was up, I shopped around and ended up talking with Animas. The waterproof feature was what sold me. I was very excited about that, and about the pink color I’d chosen. 🙂 I get the pump, and make the switch. But within the first couple of days I realized how much I missed my Medtronic – I’d grown so used to the features that it was a hard switch for me. I quickly switched back, and the deal breaker for me was even on the “slow” setting, the Animas delivered the insulin too quickly and it burned every time I bolused. That may be just me … but the Medtronic has worked out for me, so I’ll stick with it. I also wear the CGM (although I have heard that this is the most painful one to insert/wear.. I just don’t have anything to compare it to.) Thanks for the relatable post!

  • I’ve had similar deliberations and have switched back and forth between Medtronic and Animas in my 10 years of pumping. It’s always a difficult decision, because my “perfect pump” would combine several features from different pumps!

    I’ve been using the Animas Vibe (with integrated DexCom) for nearly 6 months. If the same version is released to you guys there are a couple of differences to previous Animas pumps. It currently has no Ping functionality and does not talk directly to a meter, so no remote bolusing. However they have got around the pre-population of the bolus wizard field problem. Although the screen still shows 0.00 when the calculation first comes up, the actual result appears as soon as you press the up or down arrow, so saves a bit of time! I’ve never used the Ping, as it wasn’t released here, but in most respects the Vibe is like the 2020. It remains the best fit for me right now, but I’m not ruling out going back to the separate Dex as there are a few issues with the integration, so ypu’re not missing out on that much at present!

    Hope you’re able to order soon.

  • Thanks for this, Sara. I also started out on MM because there wasn’t much choice at the time. And I’ve loved and preferred it, even when temptation got the better of me and I deviated to Deltec Cozmo briefly (wasn’t a fan, personally). I have contemplated switching to one that will integrate with my Dex, but have held off simply because of my great experiences with MM and a desire to not change what’s not broken. We’ll see what comes down the road, especially with patch pumps!

  • you know what a huge Medtronic fan i am, but i definitely think people should be able to chose the pump that works best for them, whomever the manufacturer is. i LOVE having integrated CGM and aren’t willing to switch away from that.

    i’m glad you got a chance to try the animas pump, and i hope you’re able to get it by the end of the month!

  • I’ve read so many posts from people and directed towards people about to start a new pump, but none from the perspective of someone already familiar with one considering switching. Thank you for that. I’m on my second Medtronic pump my first that includes the CGM (I wouldn’t go as far as calling it INTEGRATED, though, for reasons I’ll get into some other time and place). I think its little size and its big history is what sold me on it. Both times buying a pump I went blindly with the industry-leader without doing much research

    Shortly after getting my second pump, I had a bit of buyers’ remorse. Two things really bugged me: the CGM was clumsy to use and painful to insert, and I still couldn’t swim with it (reading one of Kerri’s SixUntilMe posts about taking her pump in the ocean really made me jealous). But I eventually mastered the CGM technique (sort of), and I’ve got a brand new AquaPac at home waiting to be tested out in a couple of months. We’ll see how that works.

    I’ve learned not to bank on future possibilities – will the Dexcom really ping the Ping? I’m still waiting for the Enlite to link with my Revel. (What language am I speaking here?). I’m going with what I know now, and what I’m familiar with. If they offer a new feature, I’d probably love it; but I wouldn’t be happy about someone trying to take an old one away from me.

    Ironically, I just got off the phone with MM before reading this post because of a crack in my unit and they’re sending me a replacement. So by this time tomorrow, I should be on my third.

  • Because of the DOC, I was very informed about pumps before selecting mine. In fact, the endo I was going to at the time required pump patients to attend a class about available pumps. But when I walked in with all my booklets and even the sample OmniPod, (oh yeah, and the Solo – which they’d never seen – neither have I since then…) they let me skip that class.
    I chose the Animas for two reasons – the Ping remote and the food thing. I’ve never used the food data but use the Ping remote allll the time.

  • timely post is timely!

    my kid has been on the mm522 for 2.5 years. we chose it over animas because of the integrated cgm. and we were so stoked when mysentry was released, because that could be a huge help to us as parents. HOWEVER. she really dislikes wearing the cgm due to the painful insertion. and the mysentry doesn’t even work with the 522, so we’d have to upgrade to the revel.

    at her last endo appt, we had a chance to look at the animas more closely. she really liked it and would like to switch to it. the things she likes the most are the fact that it’s waterproof, and that she can use the remote to dose herself, which makes it so much more convenient while wearing certain outfits.

    BUT! we were told that the fda recently (ish?) revoked approval for use on kids under 18. which sucks! i guess all the kids on them before the approval was pulled were still allowed to use it?

    anyway, we don’t really know we’re gonna do. it’s not like our insurance would cover another company’s pump when her first one is still working and under warranty. sigh.

    thanks so much for this in-depth look at the differences. i appreciate your point of view.

    ps, you don’t sound anti-mm at all to me. 🙂

  • One of the things I regretted when choosing my first pump in 2006 was not my final choice but the fact that I didn’t really get to test any out. I now recommend that to everyone I speak to who may be considering a new pump. I’m glad you got to use a loaner Ping to see exactly what it’s like. Something I was very glad to do with the OmniPod. Choices are good but sometimes makes the decision all the more difficult!

  • Yesterday at a JDRF expo, I got to handle a Minimed. We JUST started THIS WEEK with an Animas (this is for a 9 year old boy–my son.) So we won’t be switching soon. But the Minimed seemed so, so much nicer. By that I mean minisculely nicer in terms of the pump (kind of easier to deliver a bolus…less scrolling through menus) but MUCH nicer in terms of the sentry thing. Wow. That thing is WOW. Wow. The rep patted me on the back condescendingly and said, “At least now you know why Minimed is better.” And that kind of made me like Animas. She was kind of a mean girl. Anyway, I was very happy to read of your switch.

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