For active kids with type 1 diabetes, tubeless pump is 'game changer'

Technology, medicine team up to give diabetes patients more freedom

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - June 20, 2013. It's a date 9-year-old Lexi Bentinganan can recite without pause. It's the day she was introduced to the word 'diabetes' and all the challenges that come with it.

[WEB EXTRA: Excerpts from interviews here]

It's the day a doctor came into her hospital room and told her parents she was diabetic. 

It's a day she's accepted. But even at her young age, she refuses to let it define her. 

She calls diabetes her disease of nuisance. Nothing more. 

To call Lexi active would be an understatement. Bouncing between singing lessons, homework and an afternoon game of catch with dad, she does it all with a smile and a question of 'what's next?'

Parents of children with Type 1 diabetes will tell you, managing the disease can be taxing. There's testing, monitoring and always having to have supplies close at hand.

And of course the needles.

"I really did not like the shots," Lexi says. "I hated the poke of it every time." 

When Lexi heard about a tiny new tubeless insulin pump that required fewer shots and let her be as active as she wanted, she knew she had to have it. "When I heard about the OmniPod I begged my dad to get it," she says. "I'm like please can we get it!"

The OnmiPod made by Insulet Corporation has been what Lexi likes to call a "game changer" for parents and kids since it's initial release in 2005.

Several generations later, the OmniPod is a fraction of its original size and even easier to use. The pod is attached to the skin with adhesive backing and programmed wirelessly with a small cell phone sized device called a PDM or Personal Diabetes Manager. 

Once attached to her skin, Lexi can deploy a "cannula" or tube in a fraction of a second. It will deliver insulin for the next three days. "I'm very used to it," she says. "It really doesn't hurt when you activate it."

For the next three days she can make adjustments with the PDM based on what she eats and her blood sugar levels. No need to touch or adjust the waterproof pod.

One of Lexi's favorite activities is singing. She's already built a resume of performances everywhere from Orlando Magic and City games to Mets, Yankees and marlins spring training games.

"Since it's wireless, it can let me move around, get my emotions out when I'm singing," Lexi says. "It's waterproof, it's wireless so it gives you a whole lot more freedom," she continues. "It's so small and I don't even know it's there sometimes."

And that's the point says Dr. Paul Desrosiers, pediatric endocrinologist with Orlando Health. 

"In this practice alone, most of the kids, probably 40-50 percent of them, migrate to some sort of pump. This seems to be the favorite among very athletic people like Lexi.

Lexi's dad Vimille says outdoor activities are a big part of his family's life. They often spend long days at the beach and there's little worry about Lexi's pump.

"You forget it's there when you're doing all those activities. You don't have that wire that all the other pumps have. You don't have to constantly take it off," he says. "We can spend all day at the beach."

Dr. Desrosiers says in the 37 years he's been practicing it's been fun to watch technology improve the lives of his patients. And while the thing everyone is waiting for, a cure, hasn't arrived, devices like this give him hope.

"The whole rule for the entire time I've practiced, kid first, diabetes second. So parents make diabetes first, the trick is to get them back to the other side of the coin," Desrosiers says. "Look your child, yea, they have diabetes but guess what. We've got all these toys. Learn to use them."

Dr. Desrosiers says there are a number of pumps on the market, most use a tube and consist of multiple parts. He stops short of saying any one is better than another.

"They're all fairly equal in what they can deliver," He says. "Small increments of insulin."

He says every patient is different and has different needs. It's not a one size fits all world.

If you would like more insight from Lexi, her dad and Dr. Desrosiers, we've included excerpts from their interviews here.

We're told the cost to the patient is largely dependent on your insurance provider, deductible levels and co-pay requirements.

Insulet Corporation suggests interested patients should call 800-591-3455 to discuss your individual situation.

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