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Posts from the ‘Traveling’ Category

Airplane Site Changes: A Grost.

Earlier this week, I flew to San Diego to visit with the team at Tandem and brainstorm some plans for 2016.  It was a quick trip (managed to land right when that weird storm was picking up speed – made for a very exciting landing and also reinforced my hatred of flying), but a productive one.

On Tuesday morning, before leaving for the airport, I needed to change my pump site.  In the winter, my skin has a tendency to become scalier and more irritated than in the warmer months, so skin real estate is a real issue, and site rotation is important, yet it’s challenging to find a place that wasn’t already somewhat rotten.

Against my better judgement (and mostly because I was in a hurry), I made the mistake of inserting my infusion set onto the back of my hip.  Normally, this placement is awesome and totally out of the way, but that morning, I managed to stick the site exactly where my waistband was situated.  It was also exactly where I would put my hands when pulling my pants on or off, making it a high traffic site.  But whatever – I was in a hurry, the skin was good there, and I’d just be really, really careful when sitting / visiting the ladies room / getting dressed.

I made it about six hours before I ripped the site off completely.

This moment happened at the end of my five hour flight home from San Diego, as the plane was starting to land.  Thanks to a paranoia about blot clots (hat tip to that pesky Factor V Leiden bastard), I drink a lot of water on long flights and get up from my seat very often.  (Apologies to anyone who has ever sat next to me on a plane.)  I wanted to duck into the bathroom very quickly before the plane landed, and in my haste, ripped the pump site out with swift precision.

Blood streamed down the side of my hip. Not optimal.  In a panic, I looked at the bathroom walls and door to make sure my grossness was contained, and thankfully it was, except now I had bloody paper towels and the plane was descending quickly and fuck I needed a new site in a hurry.  After cleaning myself off (stuffing the bloody paper towels into my pocket because I didn’t want to throw them in the garbage), I went back to my seat and said a silent thank you to my always-over packed carry-on.  A large Ziploc plastic bag that carried snacks and glucose tabs was emptied out and became the medical waste bag.  As the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for landing, I grabbed my extra infusion set and stuck it into my stomach without anyone noticing.  A quick fill of the cannula and I was back in business.  My horrible paper towels and infusion set garbage were contained and concealed without issue.

THIS IS WHY I OVERPACK.  Every time.  I get some flack for keeping an infusion set in my purse all the time and for carrying insulin pens, too, because rarely, rarely is there an issue.  I could not have foreseen the need to change out my site at my seat on the plane (fuck you, Miss Manners), but when I ripped out my site, it was less jarring to discreetly change my site than to spend the next two hours driving home to Rhode Island from Boston without insulin.

The moral of this story?  Insulin is necessary on the ground and at 37,000 feet.  Be prepared when you travel.  And for crying out loud, bring back ups because Insets are only available in first class.

If I Knew Then: Traveling with Diabetes.

I wish I had known, years ago, that blaming diabetes for my lack of travel experiences was a stupid excuse.  Sure, I didn’t backpack around Europe after college for a dozen different reasons, with the need to work a structured job immediately after school was done so that I could have medical insurance to cover all my diabetes shit, but I could have figured it out.  I let the fear win on that one, allowing fear of flying and fear of debt and fear of trying something new keep me grounded.

I wish I had known that fear is good.  It’s good to be scared.  It’s good to step outside of my teeny little bubble of Rhode Island and explore the world.  It’s good to be scared of flying and still do it in pursuit of adventure and experience.  It’s good to see something outside of my own zip code, which is why I find myself on the move as often as possible.

I wish I had known that I had options when it came to traveling with diabetes.  It’s perfectly acceptable for me to put my insulin pump in my purse when I go through security.  It’s okay for me to wear it as I pass through the metal detector.  I can opt out of conventional screening and ask for a pat down.  I can also decide to buck the whole system and go back to injections while I travel.  The choice is MINE.  And it took me along time to realize my rights as a traveling PWD.

Same with decisions made while traveling!  I wish I had known that diabetes doesn’t always have to dictate.  Traveling for a formal event and the diabetes hardware simply doesn’t fit the way you want?  Ditch it.  And I also need to recognize that wearing my devices while traveling might afford some excellent advocacy opportunities.  It’s not all bad.

I wish I had known the importance of packing smart.  I will bring enough socks and underwear to last me the duration of my travels, but I’ll pack enough diabetes supplies to cover any circumstance.  It seems like too much, but I bring pump supplies and insulin pens in case I want to go back to injections (or if my pump fails).  I always have glucose tabs and snacks.  My shoulder might ache from the weight of my carry-on, but I’m prepared for just about anything, diabetes-wise.

I wish I had known that my blood sugar would respond to my flight anxiety, and I needed to find ways to manage that anxiety in a healthy way.  I should have brought yarn on the plane with me years ago.  It does wonders for my mindset and now I have better blood sugars and a collection of wonky scarves to give away to flight attendants at the close of my flight.

I wish I had known to stick a slip or two of medical tape into my wallet when on the road.  You never know when you, or a loved PWD friend, might need a little sticky assistance.

I wish I had known how powerful sharing my CGM data would be when it came to traveling.  I am on the road quite a bit for work and flying solo, quite literally, with my support team at home.  Allowing Chris (and other loved ones) to see my data while I’m sleeping alone in hotel rooms can make all the difference in a night that’s good or tremendously bad.  (Sometimes you just have to have the sharing conversation to get that ball rolling.)

And I wish I had known that all the planning and careful thought can still result in bullshit moments, like the time my bag was accidentally run over while in Paris.  But again, going back to that fear thing, traveling is not about waiting for the bullshit moments to happen.  It’s about best planning practices to avoid them, but being able to roll on gracefully when aforementioned shit happens.

Because there’s a whole world to be seen.  And diabetes is not going to be what keeps me from seeing it.

These Boots Were Made For Talking.

At the airport two weeks ago, I was coming home from Washington and my flight to Rhode Island was delayed.  The wait in the cramped US Airways terminal was long and oddly warm for October, giving people a certain irritated twitch.  I was still dressed from my meeting, with a dress and tights and boots and not enough real estate in the dress itself to hide my insulin pump so eff the bullshit, I clipped my pump to the top of my boots.  (Like this.)  It felt comfortable and somewhat discreet.  A nice change of pace.

The other people on my flight and I kept close to the gate, watching the delay extend and hearing sighs from fellow travelers.  There was a thick tension to the air, one that even the smell from the Dunkin Donuts kiosk couldn’t cut through.

And then suddenly a fight broke out between these two random ladies, one of whom was heavily pregnant.  There was excitement and a scuffle and lots of “Oh no you did NOT” and the response of “But I DID.”  Security showed up around the same time as our plane, which added to the chaos.

“This was unexpected,” the man next to me said, shaking his head.

“Almost makes the plane delay tolerable,” I agreed.

He looked at me and then his eyes traveled to the top of my boot.

“Is that an insulin pump?” he asked, with a look on his face that indicated he knew exactly what it was.

And as I said, “Yes,” I realized that I meet people touched by diabetes everywhere.  In coffee shops, at Disney World, on planes, going through TSA, and now, watching a pregnant lady and another lady try to punch one another in the face while waiting for my delayed plane.  People with diabetes are everywhere, and I am lucky to find a lot of them.

… that, and it probably helps catalyze conversation, keeping my medical device clipped to my shoe.

“My daughter has type 1 diabetes,” he said.  “She was diagnosed when she was nine.  She’s 18 now and at college.  Volleyball player,” he added proudly.

“No kidding?  I’ve had it for 29 years, diagnosed when I was seven.”

“Yeah?  Wow, 29 years.”  He looked impressed, as if I had mentioned an ability to build functional spaceships out of pasta noodles instead of an inability to produce my own insulin.  “And you’re okay?”

I shrugged, thinking about the difficult last few months.  But I was okay.  I’d be okay.

“I’m not picking fights with pregnant people at the airport, so I’d say I’m pretty okay.”

He looked at me with those hourglass eyes that parents of children with diabetes often have, visibly fast-forwarding his own daughter’s life another two decades, wondering what her life would be like when she had lived with diabetes for almost thirty years.

“That’s a plus,” he said.

And all at once, I wanted to give him a run-down of my life, telling him everything that I had still done and would still do, despite or because of diabetes.  I wanted to show him pictures of my daughter.  I wanted tell him about how Chris takes care of me without smothering me.  I wanted to tell him how my mom and I are immeasurably close through diabetes.  I wanted to tell him it would be okay and his kid would be okay.

And then I wanted him to tell me I would be okay, and that the people I love who have diabetes would also be okay.

The gate attendants called for people to start boarding our flight.  We shook hands and did the “Nice to meet you; good luck with everything” send off.

But there was a moment that hung between us, one of understanding and connection that only people who really understand this life can share.  He knew my life and I knew his, to a certain extent, yet we’d walk away from the conversation without sharing our names.  Which, strangeness aside, was really comforting.

Reaching the Summit.

Last week, I was in Sweden for work, for the fourth annual blogger summit that Animas hosts during the EASD conference.  (Here’s a look at the first summit, and the second one, and last year. And here’s a look at my disclosures, as my work with Animas is what brings me to these different places.)  I’m in the process of downloading my brain on conversations that took place over the last week, in search of a few thousand words to express what I’ve learned, but in the meantime, isn’t there a thing about pictures saying a thousand words? 

If so, I’m cashing that concept in for this blog post.

EU Blogger Summit

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

More Sweden.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Stockholm. #nofilter #latergram

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Old City. #latergram

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Me and my Bird, checking out Stockholm Old City.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And, in unrelated news, I have discovered a new favorite writer. That person is whoever the genius is behind the Iceland Air in-flight menu copy.

@icelandair, you are fun.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Traffic Jam.

Last week, I was up in Boston visiting with Ed Damiano to hear some updates on the bionic pancreas (now known as the iLet – more on that later meeting this week), and our meeting ended late in the afternoon.

Which means I climbed into my car to make the drive home on Route 93 south towards Rhode Island at 6 pm.

For anyone who lives in New England, you know this is a recipe for sitting in the car in maddening traffic for hours.  The drive in and out of Boston is abysmal and unforgiving.  Sitting in traffic for hours on end trying to get to one stupid exit only to have to sit in traffic again for another long while is a waste of time and makes me endlessly grateful for my short commute.

But dude … I was on an iLet high, excited after hearing about how this new technology might help keep me healthy while freeing up brain space previously assigned to diabetes management.  Unfortunately, after peeking at my Dexcom, I was also on a bit of a blood sugar high.

212 mg/dL with an arrow pointing straight up, to be more precise.

“Gosh darn it,” is what I would have said if Birdy was in the car with me.  I was already in traffic.  It was going to be a long, needing-to-pee-because-hyperglycemia.  Time to bolus.

Several boops and beeps later, the correction bolus was en route.

Except – OCCLUSION ALARM OMG

“Oh for pete’s sake,” is another thing I would have said if Birdy was in the car.

I looked at the pump.  I haven’t had an occlusion alarm in ages, so I wasn’t sure what would happen next.  After confirming that none of the insulin had been delivered, I tried it again.

OCCLUSION ALARM OMG STOP TRYING

Well okay then.  Time for Plan B.

Plan B is always an option because I am painfully prepared for all kinds of crap things to happen at the most crap of times.  (Except that one time.)  My family mocks me for my giant purse, but when someone needs a bandaid or an insulin set or a t-shirt or a 3 lb bag of coffee or a brick or a small (small) weasel, I am their go-to girl.

Which explains why the contents of my purse often paint me as some kind of drug lord, because I thankfully had a syringe in my meter bag and a back-up insulin pen in my purse, just for moments like these when I’m in Boston traffic and need to shoot up quickly.  I disconnected my pump, uncapped my pen, and took my correction bolus old school style.  Nineteen and a half hours (read: two) later, I was back in my diabetes supply closet safety zone, where I could swap for a new pump set up.

This is exactly why I carry an insulin pen with me at all times. Even when it seems like overkill.

Which also reminds me – I need to update my stash of small (small) weasels.

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