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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.)

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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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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.

Julia in Denmark!! 

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.


Awesome! :)

Glad to hear she got into her apartment finally! Sounds like she's having an amazing time and that diabetes isn't stopping her from anything!

I have heard before that the Danish are among the happiest in the world (next to the Icelanders, all 300,000 of them). I've always wondered about this, since almost all of the Danish movies I've seen are hugely depressing. (e.g., anything by Lars von Trier or Suzanne Bier, especially "Brothers," of which an American version was made a couple of years ago, but without some of the most depressing parts, I suspect)

You're so cool. Can't wait to play with the dianuggets this summer! Love you!

Yahoo! So proud! Also can't wait to play with dianuggets all summer :)

Julia, you are a pretty amazing you lady! What a great role model for the dianuggets!

Julia is a great inspiring role model for dianuggets! I know from personal experience! She was my councilor at camp at winter camp at CBC. It was so much fun!!! She definitely Inspired me. I am currently thinking about plans for college and I would like to go abroad, with all the tips I learn at at CBC I definitely think I can do it!

-Gabriella dxd 9-26-97
Age 17

My little dianugget says "Hello Julia! I was in Shangra-la and do you remember when we had to go in the basement for the tornado watch and I was in the shower?!!! You calmed us all down and you're really nice. Glad I got to see you again even if it's your picture!" Jennifer H

This Dane is pretty happy :-) Whether we're really the happiest people of the world, I don't know, but these studies always get media attention here - I guess we like to know that we're in the top, especially if it's for something good :-)

Julia, I'm glad you enjoyed your stay in Cph, Denmark. I work in a research lab in Odense where we always have many visitors from around the world, and like you, most of them are really surprised about the extent and efficiency of bike riding in DK. Currently my bike rides of 13 km (approximately 8 miles) in each direction to and from work are my primary source of exercise, despite there currently being 5 cm of snow everywhere and sub-zero temperatures (Celcius - equaling 14-23 degrees Fahrenheit).

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