Travels with my kitbag… by Lee Calladine, DRWF (UK)

Lee has Type 1 diabetes and works for the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation. This article had been reproduced from the Diabetes Wellness News. He travels with a Desang kitbag.

No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rest his head on his old, familiar pillow – so said Chinese writer Lin Yutang!

Travelling to a foreign country is one thing, travelling to a foreign country when you have diabetes is quite another. We have all heard it said that ‘half the fun is travelling is getting there’. While this is true for the most part, for people with diabetes things become a little bit more complicated and preparing to travel turns into something akin to organising a major project, perhaps even more so when you have type 1 diabetes.

I recently went on a holiday to Spain to visit some family and had to begin my preparations weeks in advance. Not only did I have all the normal decisions to make, like whether to take the blue Bermuda shorts with the Hula-Hula girls, or the red ones with the Japanese goldfish on, but I had to work my way through a list of important things, that was as long as my arm … let me demonstrate.

• Do I have my letter from the doctor saying that I need to carry medication and needles on the plane?
• Have I got my up-to-date E111 card?
• Have I organised adequate insurance cover?
• Have I put in a prescription for extra supplies?
• Have I got enough needles, lancets and test strips to last me for the duration of the holiday and longer if I can’t get home?
• Have I got a spare battery for my blood-glucose test meter?
• Have I got a spare insulin delivery pen in case the one I use breaks?
• Have I got a good supply of dextrose and chocolate to last me, both in my case and as carry-on?
• Have I got a sharps container with me?
• Have I got my cool bag to keep my insulin cool whist travelling?
• Have I got enough insulin to last me for the holiday and longer and how am I going to keep it cool when I get there?
• Have I got my SOS bracelet or some ID that says I have diabetes?
• Have I forgotten something??

Don’t forget to ask how long your journey is going to be and will you have adequate access to something to eat? What if your flight is delayed and you are stuck at the airport? I got stuck in Detroit airport once for eight hours and none of the eateries or cafes was open. I had to survive with half a packet of dry salted peanuts and a bottle of diet Dr Pepper!

What time zones will you be travelling through, how will they affect your meal times and how you take your medication? What sort of meals will be served on the plane and do you need to inform the airline company about your dietary requirements. How will being out of routine affect your blood-glucose levels? Will there be a major change in food and diet in the country that you are visiting? What will you do if you are ill will while abroad? How will the heat affect you and your insulin levels? As well as this myriad of brain-swirling, paranoia-inducing, diabetes overload of planning you will also need to consider the fact that airports now have new stringent security rules on what can be carried in your hand luggage. During this trip, for the first time ever, I was asked to produce my letter from my doctor confirming why I need to carry needles and sugar source in my hand luggage.

Having overcome this first hurdle I approached passport control and the x-ray machine with some trepidation, knowing all too well what was going to happen. I was asked to empty my kitbag of all it’s contents and dismantle my injector pens. The kitbag and contents were then x-rayed with a hand-held device. Once airport security was happy, they let me continue on to the departure lounge where my friends and a welcome cuppa and a croissant were waiting. Got there! It may seem daunting, but forethought and good advance planning makes it well worth it in the end!

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