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It slipped out of my hand and smacked against the tile floor, making a thick, heavy sound that went silent and caused guilt almost immediately, like dropping your mom’s favorite Christmas tree ornament and watching it smash into a dozen pieces.

Brand new bottle of insulin, used previously for one, single pump cartridge filling.  I had just taken it out of the insulin bottle protector I use to keep it safe.  The insulin escaped from the bottle via a small crack at the bottom, created a small, bandaid-scented puddle on the blue bathroom tile.

“Shit.  SHIT,” I muttered angrily, the pump cartridge needle held uselessly in my other hand.  (I thought briefly about taking a syringe and drawing back as much of the puddle as I could, and then reminded myself that whatever I earned was going to be injected into my body, and also, gross.)

Loopy wandered in and stuck her fuzzy, gray nose towards the puddle, intrigued.

“Ew, no, Loopster.  Hang on,” and I reached over to grab a wad of toilet paper to mop up $140 dollars worth of insulin spreading uselessly onto the bathroom floor.

I thought about insurance coverage, and the pharmacy down the road that would allow me to pick up a new bottle in a pinch, and the insulin pen at the bottom of my purse, and my job, and my support system and I felt guilty and blessed and lucky and grateful that, downstairs in the fridge, two full, pristine bottles of life-sustaining Humalog waited in the butter compartment.


39 Comments Post a comment
  1. Karin #

    My insurance just changed and now 2 bottles of lantus are costing me $389.32…I had some lantus pens and would ‘prime’ the pen into an empty lantus bottle because “why waste the possible 2 units that come out of it?” I opened the fridge and the bottle flew out of the butter compartment and smashed to the tile kitchen floor. My husband and I looked at each other and I cried. My stomach was in a knot reading your post this morning.

    01/24/14; 9:26 am
    • June S. #

      Hold on – I would have taken that broken bottle right over to the pharmacy and asked for a (full) replacement. How would they know how much was inside the bottle before it broke. When my sibling broke a bottle, his pharmacy replaced it immediately, and told him “They’re not supposed to break on impact!”

      01/24/14; 2:31 pm
      • Really?? I had no idea that would even be an option. Also, my insulin comes from a mail order pharmacy b/c my insurance company “prefers it that way because they’re bossy.” I think I’d be smacked with paying full price unless I go through mail order (which seems to be how it works only I haven’t tested the system because I’m scared of said system).

        01/24/14; 2:42 pm
        • I agree with June. Even for mail order. How do they know it didn’t come to you broken already? Or weakened, which caused it to break when it hit the floor? It’s okay to be bossy too.

          01/24/14; 4:14 pm
          • I think writing this blog post sort of let the “it didn’t come to me already broken” out of the bag. 😉

            01/24/14; 4:47 pm
  2. I DREAD doing that so much!! Why can’t they make insulin bottle super durable, like wine bottles? 🙂

    01/24/14; 9:35 am
  3. $140?!?!
    We need to start a black market. I can get it for $30/vial OTC here in Canada.

    I think I just thought of a new career path for me…

    01/24/14; 9:36 am
    • ria #

      good luck with that, Scully ! =)

      01/24/14; 1:19 pm
  4. I think I’ve broken two vials in 18 years. WORST FEELING EVER.

    01/24/14; 9:50 am
  5. I must be super lucky because I have yet to have a insulin bottle break on me.

    I had assumed the bottles were almost indestructible…I must have softer floors!

    01/24/14; 9:56 am
  6. Sheri #

    I feel your pain. For the first time in 21 years, I threw away a brand new bottle of Novolog after filling my cartridge, thinking it was the almost empty bottle in my meter case. Didn’t realize it until I went for my next filling and found that empty bottle. GRRRR!!

    01/24/14; 10:43 am
  7. Donald #

    I always use the whole bottle to pre-fill pump cartridges.
    Once I run out of pre-filled pump cartridges, I pierce a new bottle of Humalog and fill 5 at a time. Is this wrong?

    01/24/14; 10:51 am
    • Stacy #

      I love that idea, but I’ve been told that the effectiveness of insulin is impacted (as in less effective) once it is not in a glass vial aka the insulin reservoirs, which is one of the reasons most pumps except for Asante (who uses glass cartridges) require its users to fill the reservoirs every 2-3 days.

      01/29/14; 2:25 pm
  8. Donald – that is kind of a brilliant idea! I can see where it might not work for everyone, but it would save some time during pump changes at home, where I could store the pre-filled cartridges in the fridge.

    01/24/14; 11:14 am
  9. your protector link is broken! i’m interested in what you use.

    and so sorry about your broken bottle. =(

    01/24/14; 12:34 pm
  10. jenn_ns #

    This happened to me once while I was in the bathroom at a mall. Smashed all over the tile floor and made the bathroom smell like bandaids. Slippery little bugger of a vial!

    01/24/14; 1:10 pm
    • That’s what it smells like! Band-Aids! Thanks. I can smell it in my mind right now. I’ve dropped a couple too many in my life — most of them in recent years, come to think of it — and that smell has always bothered me, but reminded me of something, too.

      I dropped a bottle just yesterday and it survived. Don’t have a clue how. Must have hit the lucky thick edge or something….

      03/5/14; 5:31 pm
  11. Jenni #

    Same thing happened to me in a Cracker Barrel bathroom stall 20 years ago (before pump), on our first wedding anniversary trip, out of state! And we had already ordered our food. How could I have been so naive to travel with only one insulin vial! What a pain in the butt to leave and find a pharmacy nearby. Ever since then, I travel with at least two bottles of Humalog, and my emergency N in case of pump failure. My husband came up with a solution after that bottle breaking– he used an old 35-mm film cannister and cut out part of the cap, so the bottle stays inside, accessible, snug, and shatterproof. Pretty ingenious of him!

    01/24/14; 2:18 pm
  12. Prue #

    I did the exact same thing last night with a brand new bottle! Thought about using the dregs in the broken bottle but then realised there may be tiny pieces of broken glass in there so didn’t. Such a waste!

    01/24/14; 2:44 pm
  13. Yes, that happened to me while visiting with my daughter and her family over a weekend. I didn’t have two of everything with me on this trip, so I spent some frantic moments calling a nearby pharmacy and caused everyone to wait for dinner three hours late. My prescription had to be transferred across state lines and then we waited for the vial of Levemir to be delivered to the pharmacy. It cost me $168 and I had to plead my case to the insurance company to get all but my $10 copay back. Not something I want to repeat.

    01/24/14; 6:14 pm
  14. While reno’ing the house last year, I nixed tile floors in the bathroom. So we have boring linoleum but – I’m pretty sure an insulin vial would bounce on it if I dropped it.
    I still want tile but…
    Definitely saved us some money – but then – probably spent the savings on d-stuff.
    Oh well.
    Sorry you lost a vial.

    01/24/14; 6:37 pm
  15. Lauren #

    Try going to, click on the “free trial offer” link, it’s a pharmacy coupon code for ANY kind of humalog product. It’s only for 1 vial or box of pens, not a whole month’s worth or anything (if you’re on a pump that is) and you can only do it once per year or something like that. But I’ve used this myself! It works!!

    01/24/14; 8:10 pm
  16. Steve #

    The worst feeling is putting unused backup vials in the hotel room fridge and finding them frozen in the morning. On the road, away from home and no insulin. We now travel with a fridge thermometer and verify before using it

    01/24/14; 9:15 pm
  17. Christine #

    Yes, I’ve done this once in the past 26 years.
    I’ve also froze two bottles while on vacation. That
    was sickening. But the pharmacy was very helpful
    with dealing with the insurance company.
    Things happen.

    01/24/14; 9:32 pm
  18. Jim #

    I have dropped so many things since I was dx’d 13 years ago. I swear I do this much more often post dx.

    Glad you had backup supplies!


    01/24/14; 10:08 pm
  19. Dennis #

    Yuck, smash! yes, I’ve come very close to loosing my Novolog while visiting 1,500 miles from home and my stash of “extra” vials. Fortunately, my vial landed, unbroken, on one of the 85 lb Golden Retrievers I had volunteered to care for during the snowiest winter on record so our son and his family could enjoy a warm cruise; I just had to retrieve the vial from the frisky male who thought I was sharing my meal with him.

    My back-up plan would have been to visit the nearby branch of the national pharmacy chain to which I transferred all my prescriptions after being frustrated by the Medicare preferred mail-order house. Later that day while out shopping between blizzards [fun for a Florida guy], I spoke with the pharmacist who told me that he would have replaced the insulin if I had brought in the smashed remains.

    01/25/14; 10:39 am
  20. Knock on tile, I haven’t broken a vial yet. I really like the picture though!

    01/25/14; 4:48 pm
  21. anja #

    That had to suck. Oh by the way I’m doing a petition for American Girl to make insulin pumps and other diabetic accessories. Please sign and tell others. Here’s the link:

    01/26/14; 11:02 pm
  22. I’m type 2. I left a monitor and full canister of strips in my hotel room last weekend in Mexico. Had I known I was flying without a monitor, I’d have been far more nervous. But the lost cost of those strips made me feel sick. I’m too poor to toss those away like that!

    01/27/14; 9:30 am
  23. Alyson Cheatham #

    This post is amazing! The Band-Aid smelling puddle is right on. Why does insulin smell so weird? Dropping a bottle of insulin is my fear! Sorry that it happened to you, but I thoroughly enjoyed the way you wrote about it.

    01/27/14; 4:08 pm
  24. I think that the insulin bottle should be more durable….

    03/6/14; 8:00 am

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