Article: Pump Eases Wait for Transplant
City man, Rob Hamilton, still on list for double organ transplant
Local News - When city resident Rob Hamilton goes to Toronto for his double organ transplant in the near future, he will be better prepared for the ordeal because of an insulin pump.

"I haven't felt like this in years, "the 38-year-old said during an interview Thursday." I feel like I'm 20 again."

Hamilton is diabetic and the danger was that he would be too weak to undergo the gruelling kidney and pancreas operation, which may be performed as early as December at Toronto General Hospital.

But the insulin pump enables him to dispense the hormone when needed, as opposed to a needle injecting a large amount at a time. It has given him new hope and he is putting on weight and feeling stronger.

"I haven"t felt like this in years,"Hamilton said. " I used to see the bones in the back of my hand."

No longer, and there are other benefits, too.

It works "all day, all night," Hamilton said. His blood sugar sometimes dropped dangerously low in his sleep, a worrisome development that kept his father, with whom Hamilton lives, from sleeping soundly at night. The pump overcomes that obstacle.

It also means changing a needle once every three days with the pump, whereas he used to have to inject insulin with a syringe up to six times a day.

"I wish I had this when I was younger," Hamilton said. "I'd recommend it to anyone. What a difference. I'm almost normal." The pump, which is used predominantly by Type 1 diabetics like Hamilton because their bodies produce no insulin, was loaned to him by Medtronic Minimed until the operation. It was arranged through the company's diabetes nurse educator Jill Milliken, who lives in Quinte West.

"I didn't have to pay a thing," Hamilton said, expressing his gratitude. If things go according to plan, the new pancreas will produce insulin, eliminating his diabetes.

Milliken said she read of Hamilton's ordeal in a story in The Intelligencer.

"I saw that part about low (blood sugar) at night," she said, and knew that a pump could help him. "Why should the guy suffer like that? The guy needed to have a better quality of life."

Milliken said insulin pumps, which cost more than $5,000, were rare in Quinte a few years ago. But the Quinte Insulin Pumpers group, which meets monthly, has grown to include about 85 people and more are moving to pumps at a fast pace.

"It's increasing by about 30 per cent every six months," Milliken said.

If amortized over 10 years, the pump and supplies average about $3,000 annually, she said. People who use syringes to inject insulin are more likely to incur kidney damage leading to dialysis, which costs the government $86,000 a year. Multiple complications can make the figure $100,000.

"Clearly, the pump is the least expensive by far and improves the quality of life," she said." Yet," Milliken said, " the province refuses to pay for the pumps for anyone, or even syringes." (unless the user is a senior).

She credited Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Ernie Parsons for lobbying the Ministry of Health for insulin pump coverage. But in a letter to Parsons dated Sept. 24, 2002, Health Minister Tony Clements wrote that "Insulin infusion pumps represent a new category of devices. There are no plans to expand...coverage for new types of devices at this time."

Parsons in turn wrote Milliken, vowing, "This fight is not over."

By Barry Ellsworth,
The Intelligencer Friday,
November 22, 2002 - 10:00