Wil Dubois

And now, a break from our regularly scheduled weekly diabetes advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by longtime type 1 PWD and diabetes author Wil Dubois.

This week, Wil's regaling us with a special Halloween tale...




Gather in close around the fire here at diabetes camp, and let me tell you a ghost story—diabetes-style.

You all know that ghosts like to hang out where they died. Wait, did I say that right? Do ghosts live and die? Or are they just the ethereal elements of the Once Alive? But you know what I mean: Ghosts typically haunt abandoned hospitals, Old West hotels, battlefields, and murder scenes. But sometimes, just sometimes, a ghost attaches itself to an object. And thus it was with the Haunted Insulin Pump.  

This story happened years and years ago, when I was still a young optimistic healthcare worker out to change the world. I traveled by horse far into the backwoods of New Mexico, high up in the Sangre de Christo Mountains, where seven small villages along the Pecos had never seen a diabetes educator.

You know, come to think about it, I wasn’t riding on a horse. I was in a battered white Honda Accord. But the story sounds better with a horse, so we’ll stick with the literary license. After all, it is a Ghost (Pump) Story.

At that time, our clinic was so small that none of the pump companies would provide me with a demo pump to show patients what they were and how they worked. I had to use a block of wood with a piece of string stapled to it. A few months after I started, I rolled up my bedroll, packed my syringes and my insulin in my saddlebags, and rode my horse back down the mountain to a diabetes conference in the big city. At lunch I was complaining to my tablemates, one of whom was a lady doctor, about my inability to get a demo pump. She had an exotic, not-from-around-here look to her, and a New Orleans accent. She was wearing a black top, black skirt, black nylons, and shiny black heels with silver tips. Black pearls were around her neck. Her fingernail polish was blood red, as was her lipstick. Her watch had one numeral on its face: 12. The doctora’s eyes were deep emerald green. Her teeth, small and perfect, flashed white as she smiled at me and said, “I have a pump for you.”

I was delighted but protested at first. I didn’t want to take a unit for a demo pump that could actually help a patient. “Not to worry,” she said, resting her hand on my arm, her fingers ice cold, “no living person can use this pump. It has a… software issue. Anyway, my practice is now large enough that I have a proper demo pump, so this one is now yours.” 

There was something funny about the way she pronounced “practice.”

But I was so tickled at the prospect of having a demo pump, I didn’t think about it until later. Much later.

The conference was at this very time of year, and the sun had long dipped below the western horizon by the time the last speaker was finished. As I left the center and headed for the horse barn, a dry wind rattled the autumn leaves hanging dead on the trees. When I approached my trusty horse, pump in hand, conference notes under one arm, she shied away from me, whinnied and huffed, her ears twitching.

Or maybe it was that the trusty Honda didn’t want to start. Whatever.

I put the pump in the pocket of my sport coat and spoke soothingly to my horse, gently rubbing her snout to settle her down. Then I mounted up and started out on the long journey back up the mountain to the shack behind the clinic, where I worked, ate, and slept for many months during those hard economic times when horse food was just too expensive for me to afford to commute back and forth from my home in the valley.

At first the night beyond the pool of light from my lantern was as black as the grave. But then, the eastern horizon began to glow golden yellow behind the jagged peaks. Moonrise was coming.

And as the full moon clawed its way into the windswept sky, a shaft of moonlight pierced the clouds, seeking me out like a spotlight. In my pocket, the pump started beeping. Not quite a bat’s song, not quite the cry of an abounded baby bird, the ghostly electronic siren’s wail filled the night. Bee-beep-Bee-beep-Bee-beep.

Huh, I thought, it must still have a battery in it. I reined in my horse. She snorted, ears pinned back, and I could feel her muscles tensing beneath me as she pawed at the ground with her left front hoof. I could hear her tail swishing back and forth rapidly over the beeping of the pump, as I fished it out of the pocket of my sport coat.

The battery cover was missing.

There was no battery in the pump.

But still the screen glowed eerily in the palm of my hand, a will-o’-the-wisp on the darkened road. I slowly turned the pump over to read the screen. In bold type it read, BATT OUT. ERROR 666.

Then the pump flashed. Not once. Not twice. But three times, and then it read….


And now boys and girls, bothers and sisters, here’s the truth behind the tale: I can’t ride a horse. But I actually did have a haunted insulin pump. It was given to me by one of my colleagues from another diabetes treatment center, not a N’Awlins witch. It was a nearly new Medtronic pump that had been donated to her by the family of a deceased PWD. My colleague had wanted to give it to one of her patients who needed a pump but could not afford one, but Med-T refused to sell the patient supplies as the pump’s serial number showed the new patient had not purchased the pump from them (way to go Medtronic). But don’t jump to conclusions. That greed-based corporate decision did not lead to the jilted patient killing herself. No, it was the pump’s original owner who had killed herself.

This young type 1 was emotionally disturbed and a known suicide risk. She had attempted suicide by insulin at least once before. As an insulin pump is a handy self-destruct system, my colleague had used the child lock features to limit delivery. But that didn’t stop the girl from walking into a local pharmacy and purchasing a vial of Lantus, then injecting the entire vial.

It killed her. So for one person, 1,000 units did the trick. Your results may vary

Was the pump really haunted? Did it beep in the moonlight? No. Of course not. But sometimes, when the dry autumn winds rattled the windows of my office and no one else was around, it gave off a creepy vibe. After all, it was a dead woman’s pump.


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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.