Diabetes Evolutions: The insulin syringe

I remember the oranges. They were round and firm, with a bright color that suggested dye. I would take the insulin syringe, pull back the plunger and stab it into the orange. That, the doctors assured me, would prepare me for injecting myself with insulin.

It didn’t.

No matter how many times I injected that orange, I never actually felt the needle. It was a hot bunch of nonsense. The needle was a tangible contraption, made mostly of plastic and air with a tiny bit of wire attached to the tip. The orange was tangible too, held in my hand, awaiting the injection. But the painful feeling of needle entering flash – that wasn’t real. Not then.

It would take me years before I was comfortable injecting myself.

That has to be my biggest diabetes admission: I didn’t really inject myself on my own for at least the first two or three years. Given that I was diagnosed at age 8, that meant my mom did most of my injections for those early years.

She learned. She knew how to slide the needle in quickly and efficiently, all the better to make sure any pain was short and not sustained. Being a parent myself now, I can’t imagine how she learned to do so.

Today and over the next several weeks, I’m going to be digging through my memories of diabetic supplies and treatment, past and present. This week I’m tackling insulin needles and delivery systems. They might not have changed as much as other technology, but I’ve still seen notable changes.

But back to my own learning.

I couldn’t hope to inject myself as quickly as my mother did. At least at first, I would inject myself slowly – working the needle in and making sure it wasn’t going to hit any painful nerves. It was agonizing to watch – but at last I grew more comfortable.

In later years, I would gradually pick up speed, until today, when I can make a fairly decent approximation of my mother’s needle skills.

Now, of course, I usually employ an insulin pump for delivery instead. That replaces the multiple daily jabs with a single big insertion, every three to four days. I would like to think it’s better – but I’m not quite sure. The insertion of a insulin pump cannula is quite the production. Whether it’s with an all-in-one system such as the Omnipod, or the simple inserter for the Medtronic system I currently use, there are multiple steps — preparing adhesive, priming the tube and a myriad of other preparatory activities.

Then it plunges in. No longer controlled by me or a family member, but by a spring-loaded mechanism. And no matter the years I’ve spent feeding insulin into my body, no matter how used to the entire process I am, it can still hurt like hell.

No advances have managed to change that, unfortunately. There’s no way to avoid the fact that insulin has to make its way into my body somehow, course through my veins and control my blood sugar levels. That little stabbing pain is a reminder that diabetes remains, no matter how technically advanced, no matter how controlled.

That orange didn’t tell me the truth.

0 thoughts on “Diabetes Evolutions: The insulin syringe

  • September 20, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    Everything you said is oh-so-true! The thing the orange being savagely poked by my Mom did for me….. was to convince me to pick up the syringe myself and NOT LET HER get close to it! I think it was her snicker and the grin on her face as she jabbed the needle into the orange. Maybe I was slow (equally as slow as you, I think) for many, many years, but at least she wasn’t getting that “joy” of jabbing a needle into my arm (or leg or butt or whatever).

    My poor Mom, I don’t know how mine did it either! 55+ years later and I’m still here with all my body parts intact, thanks to her.

  • September 21, 2018 at 6:27 am

    I cam remember when I took Hygiene in high school they were discussing different chronic diseases and one of them was diabetes. They did show us an orange being used to show how an insulin injection is performed. At the time I wasn’t a diabetic. Now looking back on that video, I can say it really didn’t have any correlation with what we as diabetics go through and feel each time we have to inject insulin into our bodies. It was too generalized as I look back!


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