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Posts tagged ‘travel’

Traveling with Diabetes.

Over on the Tandem website, there’s a new bit about traveling with diabetes (that I helped craft up), and that went live this morning.  You can read more here:

But it made me think about my travel experiences this past weekend (I was in Seattle for the ConnecT1D retreat – more on that in a few days, as I’m waiting for some input from the group out there), where diabetes was not at the top of my concern list, and yet I still spent some quality time with the TSA agents.

Most of the time, the issues at TSA screening points are minimal.  There are moments when discussions get a little combative or feel intrusive, but I’m not the most comfortable flyer, so it’s kind of par for the whole travel course.  (As in, everything makes me twitch.)  This past weekend, I was pulled at the Seattle airport for extra screening because my bag tested positive for explosives.

This resulted in having everything screened with an extra level of scrutiny, including but not limited to the TSA agent unfolding all of my dirty laundry (actual dirty laundry, not metaphorical) and inspecting it.  Made me feel weird that I folded all of my dirty clothes before packing them and also grateful that I didn’t accidentally bring something dodgy on my trip (waves giant exploding sex toy).  My bag kept flagging as an issue, to the point where they spent 20 extra minutes examining everything in it, from my laptop to my phone to the hair brush at the bottom of my backpack.  They even took a good look at my baby, who was kicking wildly at the inconvenience and making his presence visibly known.

“It might be your curling iron,” the TSA lady said, putting it in a bin and sending it through the x-ray screening for the second time.

“Maybe,” I said, wishing they’d give me my shoes back so I wasn’t toes’ing all over the highly trafficked airport floor.

“Your baby seems amused, though,” she said, watching my stomach undulate underneath my shirt.

“Yeah, he would prefer I visit the bathroom soon,” I said, while my son bounced around on my bladder.  “But he’s definitely amused.”

40 minutes later, the agents concluded that I was not a threat and that my items all cleared.  The agents barely looked at my pump and my CGM was a blip on their radar.  I was sent on my merry way, realizing after a few waddling steps that diabetes played a role of ZERO in my TSA hold-up.  Which was a weirdly nice change of pace from the “Excuse me, miss – is that a pancreas in your pocket?”

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.

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

I’m That Type.

Last night closed out a long week+ of travel, and it closed out with style at the JDRF TypeOneNation Texas event, where I was honored to be a presenter at the conference (talking about balancing diabetesHEY-O! – and getting the most out of your medical appointments).  More on those sessions once I dive into this basin of coffee, but I did want to share one of my favorite visuals from the conference:  this board –>

This was a board where people could write who they were at the conference in support of, and they could share their thoughts on the theme of the conference, which was “I’m the ______ type.”  Fill-in-the-blank sorts of things used to remind me of school, but now they remind me of some of my favorite #dsma chat nights, so watching this board fill up was eye-opening.

Perspectives (and hand writing) varied, but common threads were support and determination.

Mine was, “I’m the never let it define me type.”  But I could have filled that little blue circle out a dozen times with a dozen different answers.  What type are you?

 

 

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