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Life is Not Over, Just Altered

By Karrie Hawbaker

Public Relations Manager

Posted:  5/10/2011 12:00 AM


Today, we hear from John Berry, a dedicated firefighter from Texas, who doesn’t let his diabetes stand in the way of his life-saving work. John talks to us about his “Ah-Ha” moment where he realized he needed to take better control of his health and some of the tools he now uses to manage his diabetes like temporary basal rates and predictive alerts. What’s more, John talks about coming to the realization that living with diabetes doesn’t mean that life is over, it’s just altered.

It was 3am and I was awakened by the blaring sound of the alarm tones that alerts all firefighters at the station to get up because there is an emergency that needs to be handled. As an experienced firefighter, I was very familiar with these middle-of-the-night calls. It was routine. This night; however, I was more lethargic than usual. After helping my crew extinguish the 2 alarm fire, I was sweating profusely. That was normal, but my mouth was dry and I was dizzy. I’m a paramedic, so I knew the symptoms I was having – the symptoms of diabetes. But I ignored it, or denied it.

By the time we got back to the fire station, I was completely passed out. I awoke in the ICU of the hospital with an insulin drip in my arm.  My blood sugar levels had been over 600. This was my “Ah-Ha” moment. 

After months of trying to manage my diabetes with pills and shots and more pills and more shots, I became overwhelmed and depressed.  Eating meals at the fire station became increasingly more difficult. Having to go in the other room to take a pre-meal insulin shot and not being able to eat the usual feasts that firefighters eat at the station was torture. I felt like I had a leash around my neck. I recall once wanting to eat a snack that was provided for the fire fighters at the scene of a fire when I quickly realized I didn’t have my needle and insulin.

After more months of unhappy living and unmanaged diabetes, my diabetes specialist introduced me to the Medtronic insulin pump. It changed my life. With my active and unpredictable lifestyle, the pump fits me perfectly. It was so liberating to be able to eat like a “normal” person. I have the freedom to eat a spurt-of-the-moment snack as long as I took a bolus of insulin to cover it. If I’m on a fire scene longer than expected or jogging, I can use a temporary basal rate to avoid low blood sugars.

Overall it's made life with diabetes so much easier to manage. I lowered my A1C from 10.1 to 7.3 in the first few months on the pump. And I like that my continuous glucose monitor alerts me when I am getting a low or high reading.

The pump isn't perfect, I still have bad days.   I still have to keep an eye on my insulin levels and do finger sticks several times a day just like everyone else. 

But, I’ve finally realized that my diabetes is not a curse and that my life is not over, just altered.

- John Berry

- Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.
- Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps
- Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.
- Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems
- The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.
- Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.



Danette Silman

Posted on Thu May 12 18:19:11 GMT 2011

Great story! I am a labor and delivery nurse and you eat when you can. The pump and sensor helps me to enjoy the time on the run and when I get to sit down and enjoy what I am eating!! Thank you Medtronic

Bobbi Almeida

Posted on Tue May 31 03:07:49 GMT 2011

I was very much in denial about my diabetes. I wound up in the hospital twice with DKA. I was back and forth about getting the pump and found out it was not going to be covered under my insurance. Now, my husbands insurance covers it and it is by far the best invention EVER. I love my pump. I have only been on it a month and I am so excited about it. I love the freedom it provides. I am glad I made the choice to go with it. I start my CGM in a couple of days. Great product!

andrea russell

Posted on Fri Aug 03 23:55:26 GMT 2012

Can you take your pump into a house fire without fear of it melting? Does turnout gear protect it enough?When the alarm sounds and i respond to a working fire i suspend my pump and take it off.

Kate Baumber

Posted on Thu Sep 12 20:29:51 GMT 2013

Just read this - I realise you wrote it a long time ago. I hope you are still well and happy. Well done on your amazing job and on coming to terms with Type 1 Diabetes. I've lived with it for 35 years now and it was only when I got my Medtronic pump 5 years ago (2008) that I started to embrace it as part of me. It's not a magic cure but it really revolutionises life. Keep pumping. Keep smiling. :-)

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