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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

No Pumps On Board

I don't know if I would call myself a regular airport attendee, but between work and spending money that my bank would rather I didn't on holidays, I have developed a well-versed diabetes travel routine. It doesn't give me optimal control all the time, but I do the best I can. Travel days are always going to be something that throws me, because they throw my body out. Different wake and sleep times, less activity, more sitting and the food routine and diet changes wreck havoc on my best-laid plans.

Travel with a medical condition like diabetes can be scary, exhausting, busy and burdening. Plane journeys are uncomfortable enough without the added feelings of a low or high blood sugar or having airport security fussing over your medical condition.

Before any travel (especially international), I always make sure I am well-stocked with supplies and that they are packed in an easy to reach place on my onboard luggage. I never put any diabetes supplies below in checked luggage because I can't guarantee I will get my bag on the other side or that nothing will happen to my bag (such as sudden temperature changes or rough handling). If I'm travelling international I split my supplies between my husband and myself. I take about 30% more supplies than what I need as a precaution. Last time we went to Japan (In 2013) that 30% extra insulin probably saved me a trip to a pharmacy to get more bottles of life because the heat in Japan was causing my insulin to expire every 1.5 days.

I bought some of those packing cubes a while ago, and I found that the smaller ones are perfect to put all my supplies in. It makes it super easy at security and on the plane/travelling around if everything you need is in one spot.

NO PUMPS ON BOARD: Saw this on my recent flight to Sapporo on the flight safety card. The 'not permitted' symbol seems to include an insulin pump. ???

As well as supplies, my number one recommended thing to take with me is my scripts and a letter from my doctor, explaining what each item that I carry is and what it is used for. I also make sure the doctor's note explains why my pump cant go through any screening such as MRI, CT or X-Ray. I have used this letter in Japan every time without fail as Insulin pumps are not common in Japan. In Sapporo, they were insistent that I turn my back-up pump on to make sure it wasn't an explosive device. I had to unscrew the battery compartment to show them that it wasn't possible for me to turn it on, if there was nothing to power it and then they ran the bomb swab over the pump which was fine. In Cairns I whipped out my trusty letter to avoid the full body scanner, which I went through last time by removing my pump, but was not possible this time because of the newly inserted CGM taped securely to my arm.

I don't usually display my pump, and will normally hide it underneath my jumper, to avoid unnecessary questions from security. The few times that I have had it out, it has caused issues. Luckily, my Medtronic pump does not set off the metal detectors, so hiding the pump beneath my clothes is easy.

For domestic flights, I can take juice or other liquids through security, but for International, I try to stock up on glucose tabs in case of a hypo in the security line. I always buy a sugary drink once through security, but in some countries like Indonesia, they actually make you throw out any liquids before you can board the plane, so anything purchased after clearing security is a waste.

At take-off and landing, I disconnect my pump, otherwise changes in air pressure push extra insulin through my cannula and I get very low, very fast.

Most recently, I have been disobeying the rules regarding transmitter devices on planes, and have kept my CGM on during all my flights for the past year (over 20 flights). The plane hasn't crashed, or lost its course, and my pump hasn't exploded. Its made flying so much easier, especially on long-haul flights, where my husband can now just check my pump to see what my BGLs are doing instead of waking me up. I can also see any problems I am having and fix them up far quicker than if I had the CGM turned off and was only doing manual checks once every 2 or 3 hours. Especially when landing, I can see if I need to have some sugar to avoid a baggage claim low.

All of these preparations means that the biggest issue I have with travelling with diabetes, is that I have diabetes. Today, for example, I got on a plane to Sydney at 9am in the morning. Then I got on the return flight home at 3pm in the afternoon. One flight went well for my diabetes, one flight did not. I did the same thing on both flights. The morning flight went well because I had been able to follow a similar routine to my normal day. I ate breakfast, got on the morning flight (when I would normally be sitting at my desk) and BGLs tracked between 4 - 6. The afternoon flight did not go so well because I had missed my 20 minute lunchtime walk, missed morning tea, delayed lunch by 2 hours, and eaten different food to normal for lunch. If only I could have left diabetes at home by itself for the day.

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