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Posts tagged ‘traveling’

Weak Away.

I accidentally took a week off from blogging, but there are reasons.  And they involve dinosaurs.  Bullet list, because that’s the only way to organize what’s swirling in my brain?  Yeah, let’s do that.

  • Last week started strong – a good visit to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Tuesday to confirm a strong and healthy growing boy.  More on the third trimester of this pregnancy in a bit, but for now, I’m holding very steadily without any blood pressure issues, no swelling, no protein spilling in my urine, and a baby of a healthy and normal size.
  • I think my son has the same nose as my daughter, which is weird to notice in an ultrasound.  And he definitely has my husband’s dance moves, which contributes to his cuteness.
  • The next day, I took a flight out to Salt Lake City (after putting Birdzone on the bus) and then drove out to Vernal, Utah for a diabetes event with the Tri County Health department.
  • Per my daughter’s request, I wore a bracelet she made me while presenting. It is as important as my medical alert bracelet, to be honest.

  • The people in Vernal are nice.  Super nice.  And there was a lady whose due date was the day before mine, so we had the chance to bond over babies.  (Hi, lady!)
  • The drive from Salt Lake City to Vernal is also nice, but extremely rural.  Like there’s one rest stop on the three hour journey on Route 40.  I saw lots of red rock formations.  And Strawberry Reservoir.  The drive through the mountains was beautiful.  If I didn’t have to pee every 25 minutes, this would have been a truly relaxing drive.
  • My cell phone didn’t work perfectly throughout the duration of the drive, so it felt weird to be tooling around in a state I’m unfamiliar with, in a car that’s not mine, entirely by myself, save for the seven month along fetus that was dancing while I drove.  There was a vulnerability to being out and alone that I liked and feared, simultaneously.
  • I did meet Dinah the Dinosaur upon my arrival in Vernal, which was a highlight.  Sending this picture home to Birdy earned me some mom points.

  • I found a dinosaur. #travelbetes

    A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

  • After presenting in Vernal and having the chance to connect with folks at the dinner, I went to bed and then made the three hour trek back to Salt Lake City for my flight out the next day.
  • Note:  I wore compression socks while driving.  Yep, I’m that old lady with the paranoia.
  • Second note:  The socks at least had a decent pattern, so at least it wasn’t a total loss.
  • Last sock note:  I neglected to remove said socks before going into to grab a snack at a rest stop.  Was also wearing a skirt.  May have looked a little off.  Do not care.
  • Then it was off to San Antonio, Texas for the TCOYD conference, where I rolled around like a hamster in one of those plastic hamster balls.  Only I was the hamster ball.
  • We talked about the emotions of diabetes-related complications, with the conversation tipping in favor of emotions related to diabetes on the whole.  The group attending the session was diverse in age, diagnosis length, and emotional response, which made for a very engrossing discussion.  As always, I learned a lot from my peers.
  • And at the end of the session, I saw people exchanging contact information, helping extend the conference bond beyond the moment.  Damn, that is my favorite part of any diabetes conference: the connection with peers.
  • After the conference, I crashed hard (sure, I may have watched three episodes of OITNB back-to-back before bed – don’t judge).
  • Sunday – Father’s Day – I was back at the airport to make the flight home to Rhode Island.
  • “Did you take a direct flight home?”
  • “The flight home to Rhode Island” isn’t ever direct, unless I’m coming from Chicago, Baltimore, or DC.  Every other location takes a ridiculously long time to get back from.  It took six hours of flying time to get home from Texas.  America, you sizable.
  • And on the first leg of the flight home, a PWD (T1D) in the back of the plane struggled with a serious low blood sugar, causing a bit of controlled chaos on the plane.  Thankfully, there were some smart and capable folks on board who were able to step in and assist, but it was unnerving to recognize that the good samaritan running to the back of the plane had that familiar orange case of glucagon in her hand.
  • Then it was home.  Beautiful, quiet home for a few days before the next leg of travel kicks in.  (See you in Seattle?)

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.

Airport Connections.

The plane from Cincinnati to Washington, DC was a petite one, leaving little room for carry-on luggage and even less for calm.  After ferreting out my medication bag from my suitcase, I checked it at the gate and ended up second-to-last to board the plane.

“Smells like … something, doesn’t it?”  The gentleman behind me asked casually.  I wasn’t sure if he was addressing me, but I answered anyway.

“It does.  Like a ham sandwich.  Or Bad Thanksgiving,” I replied, noticing that the plane had a “stale cold cuts” smell to it.

We boarded the small plane and took our seats at the back of it.  Turns out the scent-sitive man who boarded behind me was also my seatmate.

We chatted briefly for a few moments about what we did for work – he worked for a surgical medical device company, I told him I was a writer – and then the discussion turned specifically to medical devices.

“I’m familiar, to a certain extent, with some medical devices.  I wear a few for diabetes management,” I said.  “Going through TSA is always interesting.”

He looked at me for a minute.  “Diabetes?  Type 1?”

“Yes.  Since I was seven years old.”

“My daughter is nine.  She also has type 1.”

And over the course of our flight to Washington, DC on the plane that smelled like spoiled lunch, this kind man and I compared notes on life with type 1 diabetes from our different perspectives.  It wasn’t a life-changing moment or a pivotal interaction, but served to confirm once again, how diabetes becomes a common thread that brings strangers together.

Even on a stinky plane.


Best Intentions Need to Stick.

Yesterday, my bag was packed with all kinds of good intentions.  My CGM sensor was only three day old, on a bright and shiny Toughpad to prevent adhesive rash!  The Dexcom receiver was fully charged!  My CGM in the Cloud rig was all charged up and ready to send my data into the cloud so that I would have a safety net while traveling to Washington, DC for the night.  Extra test strips and a fully charged Verio Sync meter?  I’M ON IT.  My wallet even had a few slips of Opsite Flexifix tape cut into band-aid sized strips and wedged into the change purse, ready to help hold down a wilting sensor.

Much best!  So intentioned!

… which did me zero good when I arrived in DC and my receiver threw a SENSOR FAILED error message after I went to the gym, forcing me to reboot before dinner.  Which meant I went to dinner without a CGM graph, which made me feel like I was sort of flying blind, but then I realized I left my glucose meter in my hotel room so I was actually flying blind without any way to check my blood sugar or calibrate my CGM during the meal.

… and then, sometime during the night, the sensor came loose and fell off my thigh.

All these good intentions? They need to STICK.


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