How the Omnipod® System Makes My Big Mountain Snowboarding Lifestyle Possible
Type 1 diabetes has been part of my life since 2004. It came crashing into my life from out of nowhere when I was 19 years old. As a professional snowboarder, that diagnosis did not come easy - especially at that age in my life. I had many questions and many concerns - let alone the unknowns at the time of still maintaining my professional snowboarding career.
My snowboarding career has taken me to all seven continents - and diabetes technology has enabled this lifestyle for me, making it less risky for me to live the life I want to and not be tethered to restrictions
I opt to climb remote mountains with my own two feet or use a helicopter to access them and spend most of my time exploring the arctic regions and its remote environments far away from help or civilization. Most of the time I am winter camping in a tent in far-reached places or living in my off-grid cabin of the Alaskan wilderness above the arctic circle.
Since I know that my Omnipod® is against my skin and under all of my layers of clothes, my body warmth protects me from having to worry about my insulin freezing in these remote and harsh environments. I don't have to be concerned where my tubing is located because there is none.
When I travel through various countries and airports, I don't have to worry about the X-ray machines on my pump and can make simple adjustments to my basal insulin to calculate time zone changes.
Finding the Omnipod® System, I found a pump that was best outfitted for my lifestyle that also gives me so much freedom in my life while allowing me to have so much more control of my diabetes and be the driver of my disease instead of a passenger.
I Used to Think Pump Therapy Wasn't For Me
At first, I wanted nothing to do with it. I didn't really want to be reminded of my disease by being connected to a device 24/7.
Before insulin pump therapy, I had been struggling with how climate, altitude, travel/time zones, severe hypoglycemic episodes, and adrenaline would impact my blood sugar readings with my sport. I was then pointed towards the direction of insulin pump therapy from my medical team when looking for a solution.
Before using a pump, I struggled the most with severely low blood sugars. I could never predict the weather for the next day. For example, if it's really cold out, my blood sugars tank really quickly, because my metabolism was working overtime to keep me warm.
On multiple daily injections (MDI), I had to take my long-acting at night and I couldn't change that for the next day. This kept causing a lot of severe lows.
Using the Omnipod® System also means I can make these micro-adjustments very quickly that I couldn't do with multiple daily injections.
How Diabetes Camp Opened My Eyes to Pump Therapy
Through months of investigations and exploring the concept, I began a non-profit called Riding On Insulin that hosts action sports camps for kids and teens with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).
Through the process of camps - I found a community and I realized how many people were using insulin pumps to manage their T1D. Pump therapy was extremely common and natural. I could ask others on what life was like and get a true and real description of how pump therapy was improving their life to change my attitude. Authentic and personal pump therapy benefits coming from people impacted by the same disease as me.
Getting Started on Pump Therapy
When I started my first insulin pump it was just a traditional tubed pump. I didn't know much about the various types of pumps at the time and just sort of chose randomly.
I immediately gained appreciation for the benefits of using an insulin pump for managing my diabetes - especially when I was out training, competing, and exercising.
As I continued down my diabetes journey over the following years I saw other kinds of pumps. I remember being at a JDRF Ride to Cure in Death Valley, California, and seeing a fellow biker in that ride wearing a tubeless insulin pump -- the Omnipod® System.
I was blown away with how discrete it was, how you could wear it under your clothing, shower or swim with it on, and that it had no tubing! Upon getting home I started getting excited about the possibilities of what it would be like to get a good night's sleep and not have a pump clipped to my boxers or better yet - not have to wake up and untangle myself!
How nice it would be to go wakeboarding or the beach and not have to worry about being disconnected or where I would place my pump in a wetsuit.
My brain shuffled for weeks on what life may be like for me with making a change in my pump therapy and trying a different pump. Now I will admit - this was also very scary. Making a jump to pump therapy was a big deal for me and now making a jump years later from one pump to another was just as nerve-wracking.
Once I had the courage to investigate this further I reached out to a local Omnipod® rep and opened up a discussion with me setting the boundaries of having no strings attached (or in diabetes terms - no tubes attached, yep bad pun I know but I had to) to just gather more information about what going tubeless would be like.
When all was said and done - I made the switch myself. I did my research, I spoke to patients and members of my medical team and made the decision to switch from a tubed pump to a tubeless pump all on my own.
When You Live in the Middle of Nowhere and Help is Far Away
My wife and I live 63 miles north of the arctic circle. The nearest town from here is 271 miles south of us, which is a 7-hour trip. We have to be really self-sufficient up here.
Just the other day I was hauling firewood for next winter onto the snow. I had a significantly low blood sugar. We were able to treat the low but I still kept dropping. It wouldn't go up. By quickly suspending the insulin drip from my pump I was able to let my blood sugar finally start rising and recover safely.
The Omnipod® System allows me to continue living my life as an athlete every single day. I have now been tubeless for over 8 years and have never looked back.
Sean Busby is a paid sponsor of Insulet Corporation.
*The Pod has a waterproof IP28 rating for up to 25 feet for 60 minutes. The PDM is not waterproof.