When we all think of Hawaii, we think of paradise. Beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees, and the great memories that can be made in the state of Hawaii. However, to me, Hawaii ended up being the place I learned the most valuable lesson ever in terms of living (and surviving) with Type 1 Diabetes.
Back in 2015, my family and I took our summer vacation in the beautiful island of Honolulu/Maui in Hawaii. Now, if you know me, you know that I am obsessed with all things tropical and beach related, so you already know I was extremely excited to be visiting Hawaii. Ever since I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, traveling has always been a major stressor for me as I am never too sure what Diabetes supplies I should pack, how much I should bring, or what could happen as I travel with T1D. The good thing is that my family is always with me, so if anything were to go wrong, they always have my back. Well, that was exactly the case on this very trip.
I remember packing everything the night before our flight and I had a separate backpack with all my Diabetes supplies, except for my Insulin, as it needed to be in the refrigerator when not being used, so I decided to grab it out of the fridge the morning of as we were heading out the door to the airport. The thing is, I completely forgot to get it out of the fridge that morning. If you’re not Diabetic, you should know that Insulin is the most IMPORTANT part of managing T1D as it is essentially what keeps you alive. It’s like taking a fish out of the water. Can’t live without it. I hadn’t realized that I forgot my Insulin back home until we were at the airport (about 1-2 hours away from my house) and our flight was about to board soon, so we didn’t have time to drive back home or to the nearest pharmacy. I can remember being in a complete state of panic and shock as I had just processed in my mind how I am so far away from the medication I absolutely need in order to stay alive, and to be honest, I was pretty disappointed in myself at that very moment. I quickly let my parents know and they too were full of fear and concern as we had never been in a situation like that since my diagnosis.
Luckily, as mentioned, I had my family with me, who always have my back, so thankfully, my mom knew exactly what to do. She immediately dropped everything and called my Endocrinologist and pharmacy and told them of the situation. They were ever so kind as to help us out and recommend what we should do in this emergency. They advised that they put in a new order for me at the pharmacy in Hawaii once we arrived and be picked up at the closest possible pharmacy (which was actually very close to our hotel), so that is exactly what we did.
Thankfully, I wear an Insulin pump and had just changed out my site the night before and filled a new reservoir with Insulin that could last me for three days before it runs out, so I was safe to fly for about 5 hours from California to Hawaii and then go pick up my Insulin. Had I not been wearing a pump at that point in my life, I really don’t know what I would have done in that case. I owe it all to the advanced technology that is provided for us Diabetics these days.
Once we resolved the whole Insulin fiasco, what else could go wrong? Am I right? Actually, something else did go wrong. My Insulin pump completely broke and shut down on day one of my trip in Hawaii. Great. I honestly don’t know what the cause of it breaking was, it could have been a glitch or an error in which the pump simply just died on me (which is rare, but can happen). SO, again on the phone with the pump supplier company and explained the whole situation, in which they knew of the seriousness and inconvenience of having my pump shut down on me during vacation, so they rushed a replacement pump to the hotel right away, which I then received halfway through the trip. In the meantime, it was back to the basics… syringes. Yes, Insulin syringes. I had almost forgotten how to use them as I had been on the pump for so long, that I practically lost some knowledge on the proper way to inject myself with a syringe, but sure enough, I got the concept down again and figured it all out. Were my blood sugars out of the ordinary in that time being? Of course. However, I was in Hawaii, so I was not about to let ANYTHING slow me down or prevent me from having the time of my life, so that’s what I did.
A few days later, my new pump had arrived, I obviously had my new insulin by then, and all was good again.
The reason this trip was so meaningful to me was because I truly learned the most valuable lesson I could ever learn as a Type 1 Diabetic. Insulin is key, no matter what. Now, when I travel, I always make a note in big letters that says “INSULIN” on it and put it on top of my travel bags as a reminder to grab the Insulin out of the fridge on my way out for any trip I may be going on. I also learned to never go anywhere far, even if it’s a day trip, without a vile of Insulin and a few syringes. You never know when you’ll be in a situation when your pump breaks down or you are having a severely high blood sugar due to a bad pump site, in which you will need to either change out your site or take an injection for a guaranteed dose of Insulin. I now feel safer when traveling as I am always prepared. I highly recommend always having a small emergency bag with you 24/7, when you are out on the go, just for unexpected emergencies like mine.
Though it is very stressful and annoying, I feel that it is important that we all face some type of emergency to learn from. Each ounce of chaos, big or small, will teach us something we can learn and apply to our situation the next time we are faced with a challenge. Diabetes is no joke and should never be taken lightly. There are some serious consequences that can result in lack of care and attention towards our Diabetes if not cared for properly. Though it was slightly my fault that I forgot my Insulin, I feel as though I needed something like that to happen to me, as I definitely learned a valuable lesson. We’re humans. We make mistakes and we forget things, but we have to keep moving forward and learn from the past.
Bottom line, in an emergency, no matter what the case, remain calm. Tell someone about the situation if circumstances allow so you don’t have to deal with it alone, and always know, wherever you are, however far you are, Insulin, pumps, meters, and glucose can be found/sent to your location ASAP. Diabetes is a well-known disease, even if people (non-Diabetics) seem uneducated or not sure of the situation, someone is always around to lend a helping hand in times of trouble and fear. Know your limits, know your body, and listen to your heart. Always have a backup plan, an emergency plan of action, and all together, live with confidence!
Stay focused, always be prepared, and learn along the way. T1D is tough, but you are BRAVE.