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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

My Pump's Battery Drained

I awoke one morning earlier this week, and as usual, started the morning by checking my CGM, and found a high-for-me BG. Double-checked with a BG meter: oops, it was real! Time for a correction bolus.

I tried to turn on my insulin pump (t:slim X2 by Tandem Diabetes) to give the correction dose. But despite numerous tries, it simply would not turn on. Finally, I realized that it might be out of battery-juice, so I plugged it in and sure enough, it was at a zero charge level (and it promptly started recharging). It apparently had run out of battery-juice, and since I had been sound asleep, I hadn't heard the warning alarms.

BUT, the fricking algorithm that the manufacturer has in the software refused to allow me to deliver any insulin! It insisted that I insert a new reservoir (which I had just done the day before). Just when I need insulin, I couldn't give any! Yuck!

Eventually, seething with frustration, I filled a new cartridge, put it in the pump, etc., etc., and was able to give the needed bolus (see comment below).

Later, having calmed down after seeing that everything was again working normally, I called the manufacturer and spoke twice with very friendly and knowledgeable customer service reps, and over the course of two phone calls, learned some info of importance to me and other t:slim X2 pump users:

  • You don't have to use a new cartridge (most of the time) if the pump shuts down, despite the message displayed: unless the cartridge is nearly empty, you can remove the present cartridge, reinsert it, and pretend it's new. But be sure to detach from your site so you don't accidentally overdose while reactivating the reservoir!
  • You can look back at the pump's history and see exactly when the pump shut down.
  • When the pump shuts down because of low battery level, it retains most information, but does not retain an active link to the Dexcom CGM if you are using that feature of the pump*. Also, it does not "remember" how much insulin you had on board. And double-check that the date and time weren't affected.
  • You shouldn't deliberately drain the battery down to a low level as was recommended years ago for older battery-driven devices -- the present battery's technology allows one to recharge without problem from any level.
  • You don't have to worry about overcharging the battery, either.
  • If you are using the Dexcom CGM feature of the pump, it does drain the battery somewhat faster than if it's not used.

Hence some advice to all t:slim users:

  1. Be sure to fully charge the battery sometime every day. One excellent time to charge the pump is during a shower.
  2. CHECK THE BATTERY LEVEL before bedtime, to be sure you have a decent charge level to last through the night.
  3. When out of the house for more than a short while, carry a portable battery-charger pack (usually used for recharging cell phones) just in case the battery decides to discharge at an inconvenient time or place. (Example: when out on a day-trip on a sailboat or powerboat).
  4. And, of course, keep some insulin syringes nearby, so if all else fails, you can give yourself a shot.
* I am not presently using the t:slim X2's ability to read the data on my Dexcom CGM, as I am on Medicare, and there have been dire warnings that if we want Medicare to pay for the CGM, we should use Dexcom's receiver. But that's another story for another day.
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