Doing it Your Way—Packing Diabetes Supplies
Being connected to the online type 1 community puts a lot of information in front of you. As a disease that seems to pick and choose when it wants to throw you for a loop, seeing the details of others’ experiences as they happen allows us to make more informed decisions when a new obstacle comes our way. What people are carrying around with them on ventures or in everyday life is something that has popped up on every media space out there for me. I’ve seen articles with distributor and price comparisons and how that determines what ends up on your pantry shelves, statuses on Facebook about extra diabetes backpacks and how to pack them, and rants on Instagram about getting your things through TSA at airports. In the beginning, these posts made me question myself. Their bags always seemed more packed than mine. They had more supplies—more duplicates in preparation for failure. Maybe twenty-two years in, I was still doing this all wrong? I sat back with my setup and didn’t share the thought behind it because it didn’t seem to fit the code.
All it took was my diabetes and climbing gear all splayed out before me to make me grab my camera and have my head start churning. There are probably a handful of you who will enjoy seeing confirmation that you’re not doing it wrong just because you’re doing it differently. Others of you might want to change how your supply situation looks, but don’t have a reference point to start. Maybe you’re a parent who has been in charge of packing your kid’s gear their entire lives and with them growing, it will be good to see that setups that look very different than the ones you create can still support a healthy, thriving type 1 young adult. Regardless, here it is all laid out. Let me show you what’s inside.
- My pump sites are for the most part taken out of their original packaging and put together in a ziplock bag, with a few in their original casing. I have some tape/sticky patches to keep a wonky site stuck on, but don’t use that unless I need it. Reservoirs are there, but I definitely refill them plenty of times before getting rid of one. Also, if you lose the blue part or plunger, a syringe does a perfectly fine job at refilling your reservoir.
- I have three different meters based solely on the fact that that’s what I got my hands on from different pharmacies and insurance wanting me to switch. You can find glucometers at pharmacies around the world, so if I run out of strips for these tests before going back to the United States, I just fill up on a new kind when I run out. I change the needle in my lancing device super rarely. To be honest, most of those lancets will be used to test my friend’s fingers when they want to have a go at it. I have two prickers though, because losing that is a drag if you don’t want to buy a new meter.
- I have a ton of insulin right now, most of which came from a pharmacy when I was visiting Mexico. It’s cheaper there than anywhere else I’ve been. There are different types that I change back and forth between. I had taken Humalog for 15 years and my insurance decided they then only wanted to cover Novolog, so now I’m not picky about sticking to one insulin. I have a bag of syringes in case I want to switch to them for a while. If I go on shots full time, I can grab syringes for pennies without a prescription at most pharmacies (except in the USA or Canada).
- Glucagon rounds out the setup. Remember, it only makes sense to carry around if the people you are with know where it is and how to use it. Easy to use nasal and auto-injectable forms of glucagon are now available.
So that’s it. That’s everything I have for diabetes. This isn’t set away for a finite trip or only showing the variety of supplies and hiding all of the duplicates. This is everything. It sits together in a gallon ziplock bag in my backpack. The little purple and blue bag is what goes with me absolutely everywhere. It holds my test, strips, pricker, sugar, syringe and Lantus. In face-to-face conversations with people about this, there have been plenty of “what ifs.” Considering worst case scenarios is important and something I haven’t dismissed in my preparations. I can say with confidence that as long as you have a needle and some insulin, you can handle worst case. I have heard the frantic quadruple beep of a motor error alarm from my pump while roped into the side of a cliff, with no plans or feasible way to go back down to the ground until much later that day. I did a shot of Lantus and then turned off my pump and used my reservoir as a vial for the rest of my time on the wall. It was no problem. I have been caught on the wrong side of raging rivers for days at a time, had bags lost on airplanes and lived without walls in a rainy season, making sure that not a single device I want to stick to my body will do so easily. With all of this, my system doesn’t change. An important thing to remember here is that in explaining my list, there are numerous instances where I talk about what I can get at local pharmacies. This is a practice that you must be comfortable with, especially if you are spending extended periods of time in a country that is not where you grew up or have medical insurance. It’s a system that is flawed almost everywhere, but each place can be understood if you put in the effort (my article “The Boy on the Bus” goes into this more).
In recent months I have left my job of two years, spent two months in the United States, came back to Panama, settled into my favorite mountain town for a few months, and there are big South America plans in my future. The movement involved in living this style of life is never-ending. Having type 1 ensures that there is always something to be putting thought into and getting better at. Having the supplies aspect of it down is a big relief. The other day, knowing I needed to move all of my stuff up to a friend’s because I was house sitting for a week, I planned on grabbing a taxi since the trail to get there takes you through town, across a river and back up into the mountains. In the end, it felt right to ditch the taxi plan and hike. There is something quite powerful about walking up a trail with everything you own on your back, especially with confidence in how much medical gear is along for the ride.
If you have questions about any of this or just want to talk about it more, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
Read Never Stop Exploring by Carter Clark.