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Go With the Flow

Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page C14

This month, Ellie will try a different way of getting insulin -- using a pump worn like a pager that drips small amounts of insulin all the time. The insulin flows through a small, flexible tube into a tiny needle that is inserted near the stomach and can stay in place two or three days.

The pump can be set to give less insulin at night when Ellie is asleep, more during the day when she's eating and less on days with long swim practices. And if Ellie wants to eat a big meal or a classmate's birthday cupcake, she can press a button and get extra insulin.

An insulin pump can replace shots. (Courtesy Of Smiths Medical Md Inc.)

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Flexibility is one of the pump's pluses. It also helps keep blood sugar levels in the normal range, with fewer highs and lows. And it means fewer shots, although finger sticks are still needed.

What's not to like? Programming the pump can be tricky, and it could break or lose battery power (rare occurrences). Also, some people don't like wearing a pump all day, although it can be unhooked briefly for a swim or shower. Some pumps are waterproof.

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