Last week I mentioned that I’d be traveling to Miami Beach for a work conference. Well, here I am. It’s Wednesday night and I’m sitting in a hotel room after two days of conferencing with one more to go. (Actually it’s only been one-and-a-half days of conferencing thus far. Tuesday’s convention was cut short by the large power outage that hit Florida in the afternoon).
For better or worse, I’m not in as much of a narrative mode about traveling with my diabetes as I thought I would be. Travel fatigue, I suppose. Here I was all set to provide you with some grand insight into what it was like for me as a first-time diabetic on an airline with my insulin pump and other diabetes accoutrement. But quite honestly, the first three days and nights here have been, thus far, rather boring.
So instead, how about a few musings in a nonnarrative fashion:
One of the things that traveling on an airline with an insulin pump has shown me is the difficulty in keeping yet one more thing straight when going to—and of course going through—the airport. My concern for getting through the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) checkpoint with my insulin pump—and with the vial of insulin in its requisite baggy—was directly responsible for my misplacing my ticket somewhere in my carry-on. This happened in a space of 25 feet. It wasn’t in my messenger bag or in the tray. After searching my shirt pocket and my front pocket and jacket, I finally found it in my back pocket.
The woman with the TSA who waved me through the metal detector gave me no grief whatsoever. At first she thought I’d been lazy about putting my cell phone in the doggy dish. “What’s that in your pocket?” she asked, motioning the wand toward the insulin pump lumping through my jeans pocket. “It’s an insulin pump,” I said. “Diabetes.” I took it out and showed it to her and not a second elapsed before she smiled and said “Oh, OK” and that some people try to sneak their cell phones through in their pockets.
Am I a being a bit hypochondriacal to worry so much about having to remove my shoes when going through the metal detector? I don’t exhibit any signs of neuropathy—not yet, and I hope not for a long time—but really, what nastiness must lurk on those carpets trod by thousands of others with unshod feet? Do I want to take that risk? Do I have a choice? Does it matter? Fungus. Infection. Stepping on something? Kinda eww, diabetes or no. But do we with diabetes have a legitimate gripe?
I do not have a large waist, yet still the airline seat didn’t want to accommodate both me and my pump comfortably. I wear the pump on my belt. It kept jackknifing into my hip because the armrest got in the way.
What happens to my blood glucose at 39,000 feet? Is insulin’s effectiveness altered? Does the absorption of carbohydrate change? Is it too small to notice? Have studies been done?
Although I’m attending the conference with a colleague who’s staying two floors above me, it’s odd being in a hotel room, alone, without my wife, and without the normal daily routine that precedes a night’s sleep. My life’s pretty low-key and quite measured in terms of what and when I eat and what my activities are and when I exercise. Traveling here on this trip, not only have I seen a difference in temperature of 50 to 60 degrees, but I’m also eating my meals at restaurants (a carbohydrate crapshoot if ever there was one) and then going to bed alone in a hotel room. So I’m erring on the higher side of a pre-bedtime blood glucose.
I’ve yet to have a severe hypoglycemic episode, so I can’t help but fixate (just a little) on what my reaction to such an episode would be: Would I wake up on the way down? Sure, I have a colleague two floors up on the other side of the hotel, but would I be coherent enough to call her if I woke up? Would I be coherent enough to dial the front desk? Would I even know where I was?
Next Monday when I’m back in Michigan I’m going to meet a DexCom representative and have a trial of their continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for a week. Yep, it’s time for me to try one out. I’ll share the details of that meeting and what I’ve experienced thus far.
Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)
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