Traveling with Diabetes – revisited

Posted on January 3, 2012


We have now been 6 months on the road – via Southern Africa, to Montreal crossing the USA and driving through Central America we have reached Bogota, Colombia.

My balance has been unproblematic and traveling has not caused extra complications. As a matter of fact, possible due to less food and more healthy eating with few extras (we very frequently visit local markets and eat what the locals eat –  mostly local staple food) my daily doses of insulin has been reduced about 20%. Throughout the trip and whenever possible, I have made daily exercise by running, walking or swimming – usually accompanied by some of the other family members  eager to get some physical activity.

Exercising at camping site outside Guadalajara

Exercising at camping site outside Guadalajara

Frankly, the only problem occurred when the backpack containing my pump-supply backup (alcohol strips, pump-change, 2 back-up pens, batteries and a blood sugar monitor) was lost or stolen in Panama. Fortunately, since we had distributed back-up material, insulin/pens and a reserve blood sugar monitor and strips in my children’s backpacks, this did not cause serious problems. Fortunately, our back-up system worked perfectly and to a great relieve as we at the very moment were embarking to sail from Portobello, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia!

With reference to the equipment needed to travel with diabetes in warmer climates such as the refrigerator installed in the car and/or the cool bags, all has functioned as intended. We have also been very positively surprised how well the insulin has been able to cope with changes in storage temperatures without so far loosing its quality. Naturally, we have done our best to keep the insulin cold, but for practical reasons, for instance during extended excursions in high temperatures, the storage temperature has not always been exactly as recommended by the manufacturer. However, so far so good and the insulin keeps working normally.

While in California, we had a very pleasant meeting with representatives of Medtronic and toured their facilities. Questioned regarding the design of the pump, I expressed that for me personally, the only important matter is reliability, size and weight – in few words as small and reliable as possible. And, actually an almost identical criteria is valid for blood sugar monitoring equipment – a maximum operating temperature range, reliability and not bigger than it comfortably may fit in a pocket.

With my current equipment: a Medtronic Paradigm insulin pump with a back-up pump and supplies to the  pump generously offered by Medtronic, Novo Rapid flexpens, (green and red) as backup, some No-sting skin-prep mediswaps and a One Touch Ultra Mini blood sugar monitor with a backup, I feel unstoppable. The only equipment that I have missed so far (something I simply forgot to pack), has been a watertight box or bag for the pump (I ended up borrowing one from a collaborative co-passenger) to enable me to swim with the pump from the sailboat to shore while visiting the San Blas islands.

In conclusion, I emphasize once again the importance of thinking through and planning for the worst case situation – the case of a technical breakdown of the insulin pump or the blood sugar monitor, robbery or simply that something may gets lost or forgotten. We diabetics are humans – we make errors as everyone else – but in our case we need a back-up for these most unthinkable situations. In these cases, being accompanied by someone – in my case supportive family-members – is a true blessing.

Enjoying the relative privacy of a church to refill the insulin-pump

Enjoying the relative privacy of a church to refill the insulin-pump

As we continue our adventure, my sincere thoughts of appreciation go to our sponsors, friends and ever supportive family members – thank you for making our tour possible.

I’ll keep you posted on new developments.

Oyvin – 02.01.2012

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