Guest Post: From Pumping to Pens and Back Again.
Today I'm happy to host a guest post from fellow Clara Barton Camp alum Abby. Abby helped orchestrate my visit to CBC this past summer, and I'm thrilled that she didn't mind telling some of her overseas travel stories here on SUM. This post touches on that delicate dance between insulin pumping and pens ... and back again. (And what the hell is in blood pudding, anyway??)
This past August, I traveled to Scotland with my family, and no matter how hard I tried to leave it behind, my diabetes tagged along. I’ve traveled overseas before, but not since I was 15 and then I was more concerned about which lip gloss to bring than how to best manage my blood sugars. I had a lot of thinking to do this time. Working at CBC the six weeks before my trip really helped me figure things out.
I finally decided to take a pump break and use Lantus and Humalog pens for a few reasons:
- Call me crazy, but it makes me really uncomfortable to be wanded down by random strangers in blue suits because I have a pump in my pocket.
- We decided to only bring carry-ons since we didn’t want to hassle with luggage at the airport (or pay the ridiculous fee to check a bag) and pump supplies take up a lot more space than a few extra pens and some needles.
- I was concerned about re-arranging my basal rates to fit my new wake/sleep cycle and figured Lantus would give me a steady basal, and slightly less tight control; a sacrifice.
- I was getting ready for a pump break anyway (I tend to take one every year or so, it’s nice to have your pants fit the way they should without a plastic lump in your pocket!)
Hurdle #2: For some reason, ever since I was a tiny human, I’ve always taken Lantus in my left leg (big fan of alliteration, I suppose). This meant revealing my thigh on an airplane full of strangers while flying over a very large ocean. Awesome. Final decisions before boarding the plane: wear yoga pants for easy thigh access, give three other people in my family a bag with insulin pens and glucose tabs, and have the note from my doctor clipped in my passport at all times. Oh and don’t talk to strangers. Land of tea and scones here I come!
My blood sugars were high on the plane (sitting around for six hours made me stuck in the 300s for a while (awesome) and then the sleep deprivation caught up to me and decided I should be in the 60s until we ate dinner … or lunch … except it was 9am in Scotland. (Oh silly time differences.) Everything was going just swimmingly, until we went out to eat the first time … time to put those years of carb guessing - I mean counting - to work.
The food in Europe is, well, lets just say different than food here in the States. I ordered a ham and cheese toasted sandwich (nope, not a grilled ham and cheese) and hot chocolate, figuring I could fairly accurately carb count the bread and typically hot chocolate is either with or without milk. Oh boy, was I wrong. The bread had butter on both sides, I’d never tasted cheese like that before, and I’m still not quite sure what was in that mug of steaming brown liquid. Forty-five minutes later, in the 300s again. Sweet. (At least this gave me a good reason to pass up a sample of blood pudding, especially after the waitress couldn’t tell me what was in it because it was “just a mix of everything” … no thanks).
My family is very into trying the food at different places when we travel, and I’m totally down with that idea, but about three days after these uncountable meals and bouncing from 50-350 every few hours left me feeling like a slug and packing my own PB&J sandwiches whenever we went out to eat (I do have to give some credit to their equivalent of the FDA, because the carbs were counted on packaged food down the the 0.1g … If only my Humalog pen could accommodate!)
After a few days of diabetes interrupting my trip we came to an understanding and my blood sugars leveled out enough for me to enjoy my time in Scotland. My family was awesome and understood that we couldn’t eat out as much (which saved us a bunch of money too) and we had a fairly routine schedule the whole trip which really helped. I only forgot my Lantus once, and remembered about three hours later, which worked out alright. Will I take a pump break when traveling overseas again? Most likely not. I rely far too heavily on my active-insulin feature and my CGM sensor. But I don’t regret trying it this way, and things worked out just swell.
So after some minor ups and downs and a big fat fail at carb-counting, the trip was still a success. And even though I rarely use diabetes as an excuse, I sure didn’t mind saying no to the mysterious substance known as blood pudding.
Thanks, Abby!! If you've taken a pump vacation, how did it fare for you?