A while back you heard about Naomi’s exciting Trip to India . Today, we hear from another world traveler from Medtronic. Elisa Marchetti is a Principal Human Resources Generalist in the Diabetes business unit of Medtronic. But here at The LOOP she’s talking about how to travel without letting diabetes hold you back – from Costa Rica to China!
Summer vacations and trips can quickly turn into a nightmare when having diabetes. When you begin to include the extra baggage, airport security, different food, and the ultimate question…When you are wearing a swimsuit where does that darn pump go? Well, here’s a list of travel tips that I have discovered over the years that have helped me. Although we can never fully take a vacation from having diabetes these tips have really helped me ensure that diabetes never limits my dreams or R&R.
Most summer vacations include an ocean, pool, lake or other large body of water. Most of the time at the beach you can simply disconnect the pump while in the ocean and then reconnect back on sand. However, what do you do when you may not have the luxury of reconnecting? Our recent vacation to Costa Rica last summer included rapelling down 170 foot waterfalls. This means that we were going to be soaked, drenched, and definitely no time for reconnecting being that we were secluded in the Costa Rican jungle for 8 hours of the expedition. My first thought was to bolus extra and then disconnect entirely. After careful consideration that was truly not ideal since adrenaline mixed with extra bolus can create unpredictable blood sugars.
The second thought I had was to purposely run my blood sugar high because the scare of a low blood sugar is much harder to deal with. I decided that this was still not ideal since dealing with a high blood sugar can push back dinner plans and other activities. The best solution for me was to put the pump into a small wet bag that connected to my hip. Also, as a back-up plan I always suggest taking advantage of Medtronic’s Travel Loaner Program . I’m proud to say that, with some help from my CGM my blood sugars remained stable and we successfully rapelled down 170 foot waterfalls.
I grew up in Vail, Colorado and learned at the age of 4 how to ski. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes at age 8 this posed an interesting dilemma for our family ski outings. I was on shots at the time and my dad strapped me with a huge fanny pack with extra granola bars, blood meter, and even a juice box. As I got older and became a teenager the fanny pack was the quickest way to the nerd list so I ditched the fanny pack and kept Starburst in my pockets… much better solution. I’ve personally found the pump and CGM work well for me for this sport. Of course, I still need to come prepared and perform 4-6 fingersticks throughout the day. And I check the CGM on the chairlift and, if needed, make any adjustments.
Many countries are becoming hot vacation spots. In college I was part of study abroad program to China. It was a group of 9 selected students and we had a translator throughout the program. My insulin pump was by my side the entire trip. Although we learned minimal Mandarin I was not prepared for what lay ahead at Beijing International Airport.
We were late to our flight and were literally running through the airport. I had my pump strapped to my ankle using the pump strap. As we went through security the guard stopped me and pointed to my ankle. I knew from the guards face that they did not know English and I was not about to say “I am a diabetic” in Mandarin. I kept point to my ankle saying “medicine” and somehow I felt the louder I said it the more they would understand. They took me to a back room with a female guard who wanted to see where the tubing went. It was up my leg and the infusion set was attached at my abdomen. My fellow classmates were standing out front telling the other guards that I have diabetes and that it is fine. I’m not quite sure what finally convinced them, but they finally let us go and we made it to our gate just as the flight began to board, pheww, just in time!
My advice (which I learned the hard way when traveling to a foreign country where I didn’t know the language) is to always carry a prescription from your doctor for the pump. Also, prior to going, print out “I have diabetes and am wearing an insulin pump” in the language where you are traveling. You can do this in advance using free translator websites. I hope these tips were helpful and hope you all have wonderful summer vacations whether you are traveling with the pump or with someone who has a pump. Like many of you, I look forward to a day when we’ll get a vacation from having diabetes, as we see it today, and will have the technology and innovation of a cure. Until then, don’t let the betes hold you back!
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems. – Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.
Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps
– Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day. – Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.
Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems
– The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment. – Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected. Please visit www.medtronicdiabetes.com/about/safety.html  for complete safety information.