Patient Success Stories

Patient Profile: Diabetes

Insulin pump gives freedom to people with diabetes

To many, Michelle Devlin of Lynn is a typical expectant mother. She is receiving prenatal care, eating right and taking all the right steps to keep herself healthy so that she will have a healthy baby. However, part of her health regime is slightly atypical, because Michelle has diabetes and for the past two years she has been injecting insulin into her abdomen. But now that Michelle is pregnant, injecting insulin has become a problem.

"I basically ran out of sites where I could inject," said Michelle. At Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital, patients like Michelle can now receive their insulin without injections, through the use of the insulin pump.

The insulin pump works by inserting a tiny catheter into the abdomen. Operating like a pancreas, the pump trickles small amounts of insulin into the bloodstream twenty-four hours each day, eliminating the daily need to inject insulin. And since the small doses are absorbed better, most patients require less insulin.

"The insulin pump helps prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels," explained Alice DiCenzo, RN, certified diabetes nurse educator. "The highs are not as high, the lows are not as low. Patients have more control over their blood sugar, their lives and their lifestyle."

While the insulin pump has been available for years, improved technology has reduced it to the size of a beeper.

Use of the pump has produced positive health, treatment and lifestyle results. "The pump was the best solution," said Michelle. "It's easy to use and always with me. I don't have to worry about leaving the house without my insulin."

In addition to the pump, the diabetes program at Melrose-Wakefield and Lawrence Memorial Hospitals offers patients with diabetes comprehensive services and expert care provided by board-certified endocrinologists, certified diabetes nurse educators and nutrition counselors. The program is nationally recognized and certified in diabetes education by the American Diabetes Association.

"Our diabetes program provides the same quality care and services as that of the major Boston teaching hospitals," explained Sol Jacobs, MD, endocrinologist.

Diabetes is a serious disease that is often silent and sometimes deadly. It occurs when insulin - a hormone that takes sugar from the bloodstream and brings it into every cell in the body - is not produced properly. The result is that sugar accumulates in the bloodstream and over time high blood sugar levels cause numerous health problems.

"Diabetes is a horrible disease," explained Michelle's physician Neil Kobrosky, MD, endocrinologist. "Patients can develop cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, blindness and require amputations."

For some, diabetes is hereditary, for others lifestyle plays a big part in contracting the disease. "People who are heavy, don't exercise, and have a poor diet are more at risk of developing diabetes," added Dr. Kobrosky.

While there is no real cure, with proper treatment people with diabetes can live long and healthy lives. People with diabetes can successfully manage their disease under the direction of a primary care physician. Part of this treatment involves education about diet, exercise, foot care and other health issues affecting people with diabetes. The diabetes program is strongly committed to diabetes education. This is evident in the approach to teaching patients to use the insulin pump.

Learning to use the pump can be a challenge at first, taking up to six to eight hours of instruction. Patients must check their blood sugars as many as eight times a day for one to two months, until the pump is correctly regulated.

"We put a lot of emphasis on the education component," said Alice DiCenzo. "We have the expertise to teach patients about living with their disease. Because we are in a community setting, we generally are able to spend more time and give patients more attention. When a patient finally learns how to use the pump, it makes my day!"

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