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Diabetes in the Altitude

Andy Stuckey

March 9, 2007

I spent the last week in Crested Butte, Colorado, for what has now become an annual family ski trip. The place we were staying was at an elevation of 7,000-something feet. Of course, my mom told us to drink plenty of water and take saltwater nose drops to flush the system out. All of this is fine and dandy, but I wondered what, if any, effect does altitude have on diabetes?

I know that my lungs were working a bit harder to adapt to the drier air. I was out of breath after climbing two sets of stairs. I also found that I needed a snack every couple of hours on the slopes, but this makes sense, as snow skiing is a workout. I would leave the condo every morning with my glucometer, NovoLog FlexPen, needles, and about four granola bars to eat on the lifts in between runs in case I felt a little low. The tricky part here was that it was more of a guessing game, because my glucometer could easily get too cold at the top of the mountain to check my blood glucose. Anyone have any tips on checking your blood glucose outside in really cold weather?

This year had exceptionally good weather for spring skiing and we celebrated my niece Sara Reeves’s fifth birthday. I really enjoy spending time with her and watching her grow up. We skied together and she followed right in my tracks. There is nothing cuter than a five-year-old with pigtails on skis. After a long day on the slopes, we got in the hot tub with everyone for a few minutes and she felt like a big girl.

One morning, before breakfast, I was in the kitchen drawing up my insulin, and she was at the bar having cereal. I asked her if she wanted to give me a shot, and she said no. Then she said something that surprised me. She said one of her best friends, Molly, has diabetes.

Maybe it’s just that it was coming from an adorable five-year-old, but I thought it was the cutest thing ever. There is something about the way kids pronounce “diabetes” that makes it seem harmless. Especially of you get them to say it again.

I was glad that I had something in common with her friend, I’m sure she will tell Molly that her silly uncle has diabetes. If that makes Molly feel a little more normal for just a moment, it’s worth it.

Another highlight, or should I say lowlight, of the trip was the goatee-off between my brother and me. I conceded victory to Curt, as his goatee actually connected, whereas mine appeared to be split up by some nice beachfront property—a.k.a. the area right underneath the corners of my mouth where hair has never and likely will never grow. After losing the goatee-off, I proceeded to do what any man would do—I shaved it down to a really nice moustache.

It was my first ever ’stache, and I felt like a true champion cruising the slopes with a it. I jokingly told my family that the ski patrol pulled me over to tell me that they had not seen such a beautiful moustache since 1984.

Well, I’m off to play in Baltimore this Saturday. If you have any friends in the area, send them to Frazier’s on the Avenue.



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