Guest Post: Julia Goes to Denmark.
Today's guest post is from a fellow Clara Barton Camp alumni, Julia. She's spending some time studying abroad in Denmark, exploring her new surroundings with her insulin pump by her side. (Sidenote: Every time I've met Julia, she's been armed with a giant camera in her hands. My kind of PWD.)
This past semester, I decided to test out my survival skills and study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.
... okay so it wasn’t quite as dramatic as the Hunger Games-esque experience I was secretly hoping for, but I did have my fair share of diabetes moments that required some survival-of-the-fittest techniques (or as survival-of-the-fittest as a first world country can get). Prior to departure, I knew little about Copenhagen other than it has good pastries, lots of bicycles, free health care, and the largest number of happy people in the world. [Editor's note: Is this true? Are the Danish super happy?] All things I’m strongly in favor of – so why not?
I knew I would encounter some challenges with diabetes, so I tried to take as many precautionary measures as I could. The biggest one was ending my nearly two-year pump-break and going on a shots-hiatus. I reconnected ole yeller [Editor's note again: I'm going on the assumption that Ole Yeller is the pump.] back in July, about a month before leaving, while working at CBC, where I was surrounded by diabetes experts. This gave me time to readjust to pumpster and figure out some basals and ratios. I’m more in check with my diabetes while on shots, but I knew my life abroad would be hectic and I’d need some extra flexibility. Best. Decision. Ever.
For the most part, I feel like diabetes didn’t really impact my life in Copenhagen. I had an incredible time, and the majority of my daily life wasn’t too out of the ordinary. With the exclusion of:
- Weird carb counting (so this whole package weighs 534.7 grams and 100 grams has 29.8 carbs and each cookie feels like it weighs three billion grams soooo I guess I’ll just bolus for 12 carbs)
- Biking everywhere all the time (I love incognito exercise. Unless it’s 7:30 am and I need to bike 30 minutes to class and my blood sugar is 43)
- Living alone
The housing I chose gave me my own room, kitchenette, and bathroom. I lived basically completely alone for the first time. This was great because I secretly love being alone. But this also absolutely terrified me –What if I have a really bad low? What if I have a seizure? What if my pump breaks and then my back-up pump breaks and then my insulin all goes bad and I go into DKA and I’m too stubborn to tell anyone and then I slip into a coma? Thankfully, these things didn’t happen. I had my fair share of lows, but my dear friend Dexcom helped me catch them before they ever became too severe. And I had multiple run-ins with fairly massive ketones, but never to the point of needing medical attention. Phewf.
But my biggest dia-abroad-fail moment ended up costing me quite a hefty sum of money. One night, after leaving my meter and Dexcom in my apartment and with my pump was trickling on its last few drops, I lost my keys. My super intendant wasn’t answering his phone, so I couldn’t get the master key. So I coined some first world survival techniques and called a locksmith. But he ended up needing to drill through my lock, destroying it. Between the locksmith and the new lock, I ended up paying about 2500 Danish Kroner – around $500. Ouch.
This little fiasco was one of a few I’M GONNA DIE WHAT AM I DOING HERE moments. But they were always short-lived, thanks to this beautiful new thing called the Internet, where you can almost instantly talk across the globe to people with diabetes. I know my diabetes wasn’t as well managed as it has been in the past, and maybe I could have paid a smidgen more attention to diabetes. But looking back, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I didn’t let diabetes hold me back from biking everywhere or trying new foods or from traveling to seven different countries. I not only survived and avoided any real disaster, but I explored, learned, and grew; both as Julia-with-diabetes, and as just plain Julia.
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Julia Romano has had Type 1 diabetes since the ripe old age of twelve, and is currently a junior studying psychology and theater at Skidmore College. In the summer, Julia ventures to Massachusetts to play with dianuggets (“dianugget”: a wonderful and adorable child with diabetes) at Clara Barton Camp. Julia loves elephants, knitting, and fanny packs – hoping to someday knit a fanny pack for an elephant. She isn’t sure where her life will end up post-graduation, but she knows it will probably involve grad school, laughter, and children with chronic diseases.