Wednesdays are long days for me and yesterday more so than usual.  I gave an exam at 3:30, which means I was swarmed with happy, cheerful students all day, and then I have a 6:40pm class.  Classes were dark yesterday for many of my students.  My colleague’s class was a discussion of torture during the dictatorship and torture generally and how it is humans come to treat other humans in such a way.  Then there was Exam 2 – exams 2 are always miserable experiences.  You’re in deep enough for there to be masses of material and, yet, not far enough to see the end.  Then, in my History of Chemistry class we covered, too quickly, the history of Jewish scientists in Germany fleeing the Nazi regime and who was able to escape the Reich and who wasn’t.  We ended the class with a discussion of nuclear weapons and how to build them.  Had my students been able to lay their hands on some fissionable material, I’d have been in trouble.

None of this is really the focus of my post.  Chilean classrooms (or, rather, the classrooms where I’m teaching) do not have clocks.  They assume, more or less correctly, that everyone is carrying around a clock in the form of a phone.  But, during an exam, I obviously can’t let students access their phones.  So they end up asking me every few minutes how much time is left.  I’m pretty sure one student cost himself 2 or 3 minutes just in asking me how much time he had.

In the second class, I usually put my phone on the desk and use it to keep tabs of how long I have.  Today, I forgot my phone.  So, with about 20 minutes left, I pulled out my insulin pump and used it to check the time.  This is not the first time I’ve used the pump as a watch and I’m sure I’m not alone among pump wearers.  It serves the same purpose and uses the mannerisms as using a pocketwatch.

Of course, an insulin pump looks nothing like a pocketwatch.  An insulin pump is a modern technological marval serving a noble purpose.  So it looks like a pager.

You see, when insulin pumps first came out the idea was to keep it inconspicuous.  So, make it look like something everyone is carrying around…a pager.  Probably before the insulin pump was fully worked out the thing they were meant to resemble had become obsolete.  I suppose a few people still use pagers – a quick google search confirms this, apparently pagers are a good bit more reliable than cell phones and so still in demand for people with jobs where being reachable is very important – but, by and large, when people mistake my pump for a pager, they laugh that I still have a pager.  Of course, then I feign offense that my life-giving pump is being mocked and ask if they would make fun of a wheelchair or cane.

Obviously, mistaking something for the thing it was designed to look like should cause no offense.  But, then, it’s fun playing with people.

Today, it was noted that I was using my pump like a pocketwatch.  My students are used to it and know it isn’t a pager.  But this got me thinking.  Shouldn’t the pump be redesigned to look like a cell phone?  However, I immediately realized that would be a very difficult piece of engineering.  The pump contains a syringe reservoir of insulin and the pager body’s thick profile suits this well.  It would be very difficult to produce a reliable syringe and syringe pump with sufficient capacity in the relatively thin profile of a cell phone.

However, I do believe an insulin pump could be made that looks like a pocketwatch.  I like to think that I could have a pump that is a golden disk, it could even have a little hinged cover.  Then, in class, I could pull out my pocketwatch, open the cover, and peer at it over my glasses before clapping it closed and returning it to my pocket with a satisfied “harrumph.”

insulin pump pocketwatch

What do you think, Medtronic?  You can have this idea for free if I get a free pump.


4 thoughts on “Pocketwatches

  1. There’s an app for everything else. Why not design an app for controlling the necessities of the insulin pump and skip the hardware altogether?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How do you mean? You still have to have a reservoir and syringe pump (or something like it) attached. If you mean, an app that lets you leave the pump hidden while you control it, they do have that. However, my pump model is the last one before it was included. I will be able to control my next pump with my phone. Of course, then I will have to take my phone with me everywhere.


      1. Ah, well, I guess my tech knowledge of pumps is severely lacking. I had thought the pager portion was a controller of some sort and the other hardware separate. See, “ASSUME” somewhere on a rougher part of the internet.


      2. The pump is both a controller and a reservoir. The white tube that goes from the pump to under the shirt eventually finds its why into my flesh. Inside the pump is a 3cc syringe driven by a tiny syringe pump. That is the tricky bit. A non-circular shape would be difficult to pump reliably. An iphone shape would be fine for electronics and all. If you can figure out how to fit the syringe and pump.

        And, really, it’s not worth the bother. The point of making it look like a pager was to make it look “normal”. Of course, it is embedded under your skin. Most pagers don’t come with that feature so the whole premise is flawed.


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