Tag Archives: diabetes and travelling

Traveling with Diabetes

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I’ve travelled several times each month this year and it’s given me some lessons:

I’ve learned that I get motion sickness on planes and cannot travel without taking Dramamine.  I tried to forego it once and that one time we just so happened to have a bumpy ride.  It is not fun to worry about dropping blood sugars while throwing up and being jostled about in the tiny plane lavatory. 

Taking all the airport stairs and skipping the moving sidewalks (is that what they’re called?) is a good way to combat all the sitting involved in travel.

Staff on planes are always happy.  I still haven’t met one that isn’t, which is freaky, but if I’m feeling low, so far they are quick to grab juice if I need it and want to conserve my glucose tablet stash for later.

The food situation when in an airport is mighty tricky.  Temptation abounds and yet the easiest way I’ve found to travel is to keep it real low carb because if things get hectic, and lately in airports, they always seem to, low carb often saves me amidst skipped blood sugar checks.

Given how close one’s next seat neighbor is in coach, I find it remarkable how injecting insulin in front of that neighbor has never been an awkward experience.  In fact, it’s a great conversation starter and I’ve literally written down each starting line for your own amusement:

“Wow, those needles are tiny, I’m so glad for you.”

“So you have diabetes, huh?”

“OMG, do you need sugar?”

“Ok, what do I do if you pass out on this flight?”

“Wow, in and out, just like that, eh?  It takes me longer to sneeze.”

“How long have you had it?”

And my personal favorite:  “Does it hurt? I’m sorry, of course it hurts, what was I thinking? That was such a stupid thing to say, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say that, I just figured that it hurts but maybe it doesn’t or maybe you’re used to it, is that it, are you used to it? Wait…I take that back, I get migraines and I seriously doubt I’ll ever get used to them.  Just forget I said that, ok?”  5 seconds later:  “So, where ya headed?”

Smile

Travel and Diabetes Ramblings with a Stranger

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One of my favorite places in the world is the airport.  I knew early on the significance of such a place having moved from another continent to this one as a young child.  The airport is like a revolving door of possibilities and opportunities literally flying in and out all day in the most organized fashion we can manage.  Each trip to and from an airport includes new sights and faces.  Each trip holds a little mystery and anticipation.  In an airport we’re forced to be patient.  We’re forced to have faith in others, namely the pilot of the plane.  We’re forced to sit still and be one with our thoughts and observations.

It’s so healthy.

It’s true that frequent travelers tend to dash about, mindlessly hooked to their device of choice, but I think even they must feel much of the same.

The other day as I checked my blood sugar on the plane I noticed how uncomfortable it made the older man next to me.  So I started talking.  I explained what I was doing and why.  I shared the results, “141, I’ll take it!”  The man looked out the window and let out a deep breathe.  He said, “So many people have diabetes.  It’s going to ruin our country.”

“If we let it”, I said.

“Well, I’m glad you seem to be taking care of yourself but what about everyone else?  Why can’t people just eat better and exercise?”

I went into clarifying some myths and misconceptions about diabetes while the man listened intently.  Then I said, “I wish we could bring everyone out on a trip somewhere and educate them all about diabetes and health here in the airport.”

The man laughed out loud and furrowed his brow at me.  “Oh?  Why at an airport?”

“I don’t know, just seems like a good place for all sorts of educational metaphors to really click.”

“Oh? Tell me more.” he said.

“Ok…well, just as with travelling, living life with diabetes is full of possibilities and opportunities.  In fact, every morning we get to face a new day with blood sugars that haven’t happened yet and strive to make the best of them.  Each day we have the power to choose what we are going to do with our health, you know, what we’ll eat, whether we’ll exercise or not, and how we’ll approach challenges.  We can get organized with our lifestyle habits and diabetes management routine for better, more consistent results.  We can choose to take inspiration and support from everything around us, from the people we encounter to the day’s weather.  We can learn to accept the risks of living with diabetes and not let them slow us down just as we choose to get on a plane so we can go somewhere even if we’re scared to do so.  We can learn to handle anticipation so we can move past unsightly blood sugar results.  We can learn how being patient doesn’t mean we have to wait forever and that eventually, we’ll get where we’re going.  We can learn how to trust others and ourselves to do the best we all can.  I just feel like the airport is a peaceful and safe place for learning, I don’t know.”

The man stared blankly at me for a moment and then scratched his head.  Then he laughed again and said, “And on the plane, we go over how to bring up diabetes with strangers by testing blood sugar in front of them.  Then they can ask questions, be educated, and hopefully feel compassion and understanding and spread that around.”

“See?  It would totally work!”

In between chuckles the man said, “It did, today.”

Travelling with Diabetes

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I’ve been travelling more than I’m used to lately and suddenly I’m really interested in what items to pack for my diabetes.  On a plane the other day I suddenly had the thought, “What if I use up all my sugar for lows and need more?”  Now typically on a large plane, there are sodas and juice but on the plane to my hometown there is no such thing because it’s a small bumpy ride home.

So…I want to ask those of you who have diabetes and travel from time to time or frequently, what do you pack in your carry on?  Do you travel with glucagon?  Do you bring tons of back up glucose tabs?  What do you do with your back up or extra insulin that you bring if there is no fridge in the hotel room?  Does that affect it’s function later?  Do you eat differently when you are travelling?

So many questions!

Advocacy On the Go

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Lately, I’ve made it a point to talk to whoever is next to me when I’m on a plane.  It’s almost like an exercise for me since I’m quite a bit reserved and introverted.  But I tried it recently and was so blown away by the experience.

Just the other day, I met a woman whose family endured the holocaust.  I talked to a little boy travelling alone who was my youngest brother’s age.  He talked about baseball like there was no tomorrow.  He was a gentleman too and helped me with my luggage!  And I met someone who has a twin and provided me with insight on how I might be sensitive to my twins while raising them.  And to every person I provided a lot of diabetes advocacy information.  I felt like a travelling diabetes advocate.  In fact, I guess we could all be in our own small way, right?

We know people are largely ignorant about diabetes so if we extend a little bit of accurate info everywhere we go we can do our part to help discourage all those myths and misconceptions out there.

What I was really excited to learn is that everyone I encountered was really eager to learn more about diabetes.  Even the 13 year old asked me, “Tell me about diabetes, I don’t know anything about it but I hear the word on the news all the time.”  They know it’s a big deal and many themselves are concerned about their own health.  Also, people are smarter than we give them credit for.

I found a great way to get diabetes in the conversation, too.  Just check blood sugar while sitting next to someone.  I only did it because I needed to but it sure worked to spark an interest in the subject.  And of course, instead of lick the blood off my finger I used a wipe.  Except for in the case of the 13 year old.  I did my usual routine and he thought it was pretty cool that I just “recycled the blood back in”.  Kids say the darnest things.

Travelling with Diabetes…and other Health Issues

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I haven’t travelled by plane too much in my life.  I’ve been to visit relatives in Venezuela, gone to Aruba with my pump (would have loved the Omnipod for that trip), went to Mexico for business and my honeymoon, and just this past week, Kansas City for A1c Champions training.

For this trip, I was so nervous about forgetting my insulin that I instead forgot my anxiety and allergy medications.  So not only did I not have my anxiety relief, I endured awful withdrawal symptoms like nausea, extreme anxiety, sweating, insomnia, and dizziness.  And since I didn’t have allergy relief, I got a sinus headache, sore throat, and swollen limph nodes.  Thank goodness the training and the people there were all splendid because without all that going well I would have cried the entire time.

Thanks to that anxiety I was having, my adrenaline sent my blood sugars skyrocketing.  Oh and plane rides seem to make my blood pressure drop, too.  I was almost sure I was going to pass out a few times and since I had forgotten my medic alert bracelet (another genius move), I had to write type 1 diabetes on my wrist with a permanent marker.  Geez, diabetes, how I’d love to leave you at home.

I’m better now and very equipped with information on how to not forget things when I travel again next month (aka, make a travel check list!)  Fingers crossed for a better travel experience.

Any tips for dealing with low blood pressure and motion sickness on planes?  I’m going to be travelling more and could really use some advice on what helps.  Asking the stewardess for a vomit bag does not make the poor soul next to me feel very comfortable.

By the way, if you’re curious about the A1c Champions program, it’s AMAZING.  Seriously, AMAZING.  You can learn more here: A1cChampions.com

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