Pod Failure: The OmniPod Problem

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Pod Failure: The OmniPod ProblemThis past January, I celebrated my first insulin pump anniversary. I wrote a blog post in which I discussed the pros and cons of the insulin pump that I use, the OmniPod, to mark the occasion. Generally speaking, my post was a glowing review of the system and I still firmly believe that choosing to go on the OmniPod is one of the best decisions I have made regarding my diabetes. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that my post focused more so on what I like best about the pump and how these features help me.

It wouldn’t have been a true review, though, if I didn’t highlight what I dislike about the pod. The most prominent item on my list of cons was pod failures—they’re disruptive, discouraging, and downright frustrating. Fortunately for me, I experienced less than a handful of pod failures in my first year in a half of using the OmniPod. This all changed this past April and May, when I experienced nearly ten pod failures total.

It all started one Monday morning—I was getting settled at work when I heard an aggressive and ceaseless beeping sound, indicating pod failure. I joked about it with my manager, brushing it off as a random incident and saying something to the effect of, “I guess my pod didn’t feel like showing up to work today, either!” I drove home, retrieved my insulin, drove back to work, and changed my pod in a meeting room. It was not the ideal way to start a fresh work week, but I took it in stride.

But then it happened a second time, that same week. It was nearly the same scenario as what had unfolded that Monday. Except this time, it pissed me off. I knew it was odd to experience a second pod failure in one week. Again, I drove home and got what I needed, and applied a fresh pod. I called OmniPod (again) and asked for another replacement pod. They were happy to oblige.

Irritatingly and inexplicably, a pattern emerged in which once or twice a week, for 5-6 straight weeks, my pod would fail. Each time, I would call OmniPod to explain the situation and request a replacement pod. I told them how almost every time, the pods would fail approximately 24 hours prematurely—so instead of routinely changing them every 3 days, I was now changing them every other day.

They asked me the standard gamut of questions after my explanation: Was I rotating my sites? Was I pinching up my skin during the application process? Did I notice anything unusual during the pod change process? Was the cannula kinked? Was there blood? My answers were like reflexes: Yes, yes, no, no, no. The first few phone calls ended the same way, with them promising to send me a replacement pod and apologizing profusely for my troubles.

The tables turned and I started asking the questions after my fourth or fifth failure. I wanted to know if other OmniPod users were reporting issues with pods from the same batch as mine. I wanted to know if this was unusual. I wanted to know, more than anything else, why I was encountering these issues now after a year and a half of using the system with scarcely any issues.

While the people at OmniPod were very sympathetic and courteous to me, I was upset with the “solutions” they provided me:

A) I could either ask my endocrinologist to change my pod prescription for more frequent pod changes, or

B) I could go on a pump holiday. I couldn’t help but feel ripped off, because to me, neither of these options seemed feasible. I already feel a bit of inconvenience having to change my pod every 3 days, and taking a break from pumping sounded like an awful idea. It was hard to imagine having to go back to multiple daily injections after enjoying the freedom and improved A1c that the OmniPod helped me achieve. So I came up with and decided on option

C) Conduct my own investigation into my pod problem.

Conveniently, I happen to live in the same household as another T1D who uses the OmniPod (hi, Mom). I took one of her new pods, from a completely different lot number than mine, and gave her a “bad pod” to see if my intuition about the batch was correct. And my discovery was…

…my batch was indeed faulty; however, it was seemingly only malfunctioning on me. My mom didn’t experience any issues from the bad pod, but I did manage to successfully wear her pod for the 3 day timespan. Weird, right?

This experience taught me a few things:

First, trust your intuition. When it comes to diabetes, we T1Ds know a thing or two. I knew that it didn’t make any sense for my pods to just stop working for me. I’m glad that I didn’t just give up and resign to the fact that I might have to change my pods every other day or even look into getting a different pump.

Second, don’t be afraid to talk to doctors, pump reps, and anyone else who may need to get involved when you’re having a problem. I consulted my endocrinologist and my diabetes educator regarding the whole ordeal, and they were very supportive of me trying to get to the bottom of it. I also contacted OmniPod close to a dozen times to get insight from their team as well as replacements for the bad pods. My last call with them resulted in me sending back my remaining ten pods from the defective lot and, in turn, OmniPod shipping ten brand new pods to me from a different lot number.

Third, don’t underestimate the power of site rotation! I’m just about convinced that this was a factor into my problem. I never use the same site two times in a row, but I do tend to resort to using my arms more than any other location. This means I’ve conquered my irrational fear of placing my OmniPod on my thighs, so now I have my stomach, lower back, arms, and thighs (on the right and left sides for each) as potential OmniPod real estate. And guess what? I kind of like having so many places to choose from, though I’m not sure how I’ll manage to put a pod on my legs when skinny jeans season comes rolling around again…

I’m still a happy OmniPod customer. If anything, this experience has made me a little more cautious, but definitely still grateful for the convenience and better diabetes management that the OmniPod has brought into my life.

 

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Comments (5)

  1. Melanie E. at

    So annoying! I’ve been on the omnipod about 5 years and had a similar experience – no alarms and then a rash of failures when I was away for the weekend. Went through all my backups. Went on a Sunday to ask a nice nurse in the ER if I could have an insulin syringe! Had plenty of insulin, but no way to get it in my body! haha Now I always have a syringe along, too. And now you know to have insulin with you and keep extra pods at work!

  2. BAS at

    I had similar incidents to the point that I discontinued the use of the pod. As much as it did an excellent job keeping me with a low 6 A1c they continually had alarms and failures at the most inconvenient times.
    When I asked they company they did not have answers as I am sure they did not want to be faulted.

  3. It is a most interesting article, thank you for sharing.,

    I referred your article to the TUDiabetes.org blog page for the week of July 4, 2016.

  4. Paul at

    Had the same issues with my daughter. After 4 pods failing I tools them to take back 1.5 boxes from the same lot#. My girl is 7 and it is already a lot to ask of her to do all this stuff and we shouldn’t need technology to fail us..

  5. Thank you for the comments, everyone!

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