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Insulin Pumpers Canada

History of Insulin Pumpers Canada


How we came to be.

Insulin Pumpers Canada is the result of a young girl's life threatening, chronic disorder and a mother's perseverance to find a more effective treatment for her (then July 1992) four year old daughter's "death sentence":  Type I Diabetes  (or "Juvenile Diabetes" or "Diabetes Mellitus").


A clinical study, the DCCT (Diabetic Control and Complications Trial) which was conducted from 1983 to 1993 by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) showed that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible slowed the onset and progression of eye, kidney, nerve and dozens of more diseases caused by diabetes. It also demonstrated that any sustained lowering of blood glucose helps, even if the person has a history of poor control.  Unfortunately such a normalizing of most people's blood glucose is impossible with traditional therapy of numerous daily insulin injections and numerous daily blood tests.


In 1997 this mother asked her daughter's health care team about trying an "insulin pump" to better her daughter's quality of life and to better control her daughter's blood glucose levels so she could expect a longer and healthier life.  They told the mother:  "insulin pump therapy is not suitable".


An American website and registered US charity, Insulin Pumpers Org, put this mother in touch with hundreds of people in the US who were using insulin pump therapy for themselves or their Diabetic children.  This international outpouring of support bolstered the quest to provide the same quality of life for their daughter as the other insulin pump using people and children had achieved.


Now came the hard part:  encourage private health plan insurers and members of the health care profession in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to accept insulin pump therapy as a cost effective and safe method of blood glucose control.  It took time, but was worth the effort.   Almost two years later on March 17, 1999, Erica Lynn Chafe at the age of 10, was finally hooked up to an insulin pump under the watchful, but supportive, eye of her diabetes team at the Issac Walton Killham hospital in Halifax, NS.

The efforts of everyone involved in this medical and lifestyle change were worth the effort as witnessed an amazing metamorphosis.  Barb Chafe’s daughter Erica blossomed from a child wrapped in a diabetic ‘cocoon’ to a happy healthy and free ‘butterfly’.  This Canadian Butterfly became an inspiration for people the world over.  Stories which were written by Erica’s mom during their journey from 1997 to 1999 were shared on the internet with friends and strangers alike as people were caught up in the emotion of their struggle to free Erica.  Her successful emergence as a child pumper was met with hundreds of phone calls and emails from people who wanted to offer congratulations or find direction for their own quest whether they were adults with diabetes, or parents of a diabetic child.  A website, entitled ‘A Canadian Butterfly’ was developed by Erica’s mom in order to share their successes, offer support, and educate people about Insulin Pump Therapy.  

Barb Chafe was very verbal about her daughter's lifestyle change and was brought into the limelight by support groups, health related organizations (commercial and non-profit), newspapers and national TV.  It quickly became obvious that people thirsted for more information on insulin pump therapy and wanted to connect with others who knew something about it.


In the meantime, Darrin Parker who had been a diabetic since age 9 in 1974, was undergoing a similar battle with his health care providers.  Like Barb Chafe, he obtained his education and pump training via Insulin Pumpers Org on the internet.  His life and health changed for the better in November 2000 for first in 27 years!


Barb Chafe and Darrin Parker corresponded and the natural progression was to form a support and education group.  Insulin Pumpers Nova Scotia, which was founded by Barb and Darrin in May of 2001, was started.  Meetings were scheduled to be held approximately every two months while ongoing support and contact via email and/or phone was available at any time.


People were given information on various aspects of pump therapy, from 'where to get one' to 'how to be prepared' while clinical advice was left to the health care professional.  Networking with other people with diabetes was one of the easiest and most important things offered to people who reached out. Unfortunately, what couldn't be offered were the funds to procure an insulin pump nor the medical support they needed from their diabetes health management team in order to 'get connected'.  Insulin Pump therapy is not a 'plug in and go' method of controlling glucose values and a pumper (or parents of a pumper) must be dedicated, self-educated, proactive and prepared.   It is technical but precise when compared with the traditional therapy of injections.


Finding a diabetes health care team that is ready and willing to work alongside them is a key ingredient in their recipe for success.  Unfortunately, the number of people wishing to become insulin pumpers far outweighs the ability of the Canadian health care system and clinics to provide the services they require as they are strapped for time and resources.  This is where Insulin Pumpers Canada helps both the health care professional and the patient!


As the number of people who made use of the Pumpers Group continued to grow it was obvious that within its 'members' a network had to be formed in order to direct the mission of the group and share the tasks.  Over the summer of 2002 an informal Board of Directors was developed from people who had shown a passion and willingness to help others.  This volunteer board accelerated the need to move beyond one person's mission and vision and encompass the needs and wants of people from all of Canada!


A national Canadian website was launched in April of 2003 with online support by Insulin Pumpers Org., the same non-profit charitable organization whose members had reached out to the Chafe family 5 years previous.  One of the first recommendations of the Board was to apply for non-profit status under the name "Insulin Pumpers Canada".  This was achieved in July of 2003.  Charitable status for Insulin Pumpers Canada was achieved as of April 1, 2004.   Barb Chafe filled the role of President while Darrin Parker, who by then was living in Ontario in order to earn money to support his pump therapy, accepted the task of volunteer Co-chair and webmaster.  Having a National website allowed Insulin Pumpers Canada to support and connect with Canadians from coast to coast.


We now have, and are directly or indirectly supporting, through our volunteer efforts, affiliates in Hamilton Ontario, Barrie Ontario, Belleville Ontario, Montreal Quebec, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sydney Nova Scotia, Calgary Alberta, and more like minded individuals and groups throughout most of Canada.  However Canada and the Canadians affected by Type I Diabetes is much larger than these mentioned areas!  Our networking and cohesive efforts by people who believe in a better and healthier way of life for children and adults living with diabetes is allowing us to reach out to all Canadians who are living with insulin dependent diabetes and the health care professionals who endeavour to provide the foundation for good diabetes control.


Like the proverbial pebble in a pond, we have seen the far reaching effects of one person's success; we are excited by the wave we can generate as a united front and hope to use this power to make a difference.


Insulin Pumpers Canada - "Connecting People with Diabetes to a Better Quality of Life'