I have been back from Haiti for about a week and just like last year my ability to share all the amazing things that happened have been hampered by a respiratory thing that knocked me out. Thankfully not feeling up to much more than just laying on the couch left me plenty of time to edit my 1400 pictures.
Unless there are any major objections, I will probably write a post about each day that I was there. I fear that any less would not do justice to everything I have seen or heard. There are a few other topics I would like to address first. The first I will cover here because I have been told that some others are curious about it the must have diabetes travel items.
I dont think there is anything (other than maybe being a fighter pilot) that I cant do with diabetes. I may have packed a little more than the rest of the people on my trip to ensure that I was prepared for every circumstance, but other than that there really wasnt a difference between me and the rest of the group.
So what was in my bag?
Test strips. Lots and lots of test strips. I actually also packed a few extra meters just in case. These were all in my carry-on 1) to protect against temperature changes in the cargo hold and 2) because it is very common for luggage to get lost on the way to Haiti. I did not need all the test strips that I brought with me this year (mostly because of my CGM), and knew I had boxes and boxes of them at home, so I was able to leave about 150 strips and a few meters for the on-site clinic to use.
Glucose tablets. Lots and lots of glucose tablets. I had two (10 pack) tubes in my carry on, a friend had a tube in her carry on, and I had a full jar in my checked bag. I work/play hard while I am there, and actually ran out of tablets last year so I was sure to over-pack” my supply this year. Perhaps I did too good of a job convincing people that glucose tablets arent that bad, because I ended up sharing them like candy while we waiting for our flight back to the US.
Snacks. Lots and lots of snacks (sense a theme?!). The easiest things for me to pack (and eat) quickly were granola bars and peanut butter crackers. There were a few times I ate a quick granola bar in the middle of working and a few nights I was glad I didnt have to get out of my bunk bed to keep my blood sugar steady. I wasn’t the only person on my team with snacks in their bag though, so I’m not sure these count as diabetes supplies.
Pump and/or CGM Supplies. If you are planning a trip, count out the number of reservoirs and infusion sets you will need based on the days of your trip and then double it. Seriously. Expect the unexpected. I also packed these supplies in my carry-on just in case.
Opsite Flexifix. This may just be the best tape product ever. I use the DexCom CGM 7+* but can almost always get more that seven days wear out of them. I put a new sensor in the day before we left for Haiti. I fully expected to only get seven days of wear from the sensor because of the conditions (extra perspiration, dirt, friction, high temperatures, etc). The only reason I pulled the sensor on day seven was because we were spending the day at the beach and I knew I couldnt wear the transmitter in the water for that long. That tape was stuck tight the whole time. After we got back from the beach, I put a new sensor on and am wearing it (with the same piece of tape) as I type 9 days later.
*with the DexCom you are not supposed to cover the gray transmitter so I have traced out the shape of the transmitter on a piece of cardstock (actually an old infusion set box recycling at its finest!) that I use to trace out on the roll of tape.
RoadID. In the States, I wear a very cute medical ID bracelet. The sparkly jewels may be cute here, but they are not appropriate for what we do there. Especially since the children we work with typically ask for every jewelry item we are wearing. Last year I bought a RoadID bracelet that I wore again this year. It is a simple black Velcro band that has my name, US location, and identifies me as a diabetic. Short, sweet, and to the point.
FRIO pack. If you are traveling for any length of time or traveling to a place with unknown refrigeration capabilities, this is a must. They really couldnt be easier to use. You just soak the pack in cold water for a few minutes, and the beads inside the pouch expand into more of a gel-like substance. The moisture evaporation process is what keeps the pack cool for days. Except for a few generator failures, I was able to keep my insulin refrigerated for my time in Haiti and only used the FRIO for travel. When I got the pack out of my bag at the end of my trip it was still somewhat cool from the first time I soaked it. I have no doubt that had I needed to use the FRIO the whole time, it would have been just as effective.
Aquapac. Ive written about it before. I love my Aquapac. I love water and I WILL NOT let diabetes stop me. I wore my pump in the Aquapac during our day at the beach and while snorkeling in the Caribbean. I also wore it the next day while I was climbing up the side of a waterfall overlooking the beautiful countryside. Charlie Sheen aside, that is WINNING.
I also had a load of random stuff. Batteries. Pair of scissors. Tape. Bandaids. Neosporin. Antiseptic wipes.
I think thats all the diabetes related supplies that I packed. As far as letting the rest of the team know about my diabetes, that is a complicated answer.
Obviously, they all know I am diabetic. However, I am not one of the types of people who like a ton of people knowing their business. I didnt want thirteen other people watching every meal I ate and waiting for signs of a low blood sugar. Instead, there were a (very) few members of the team that I shared knew what symptoms to look out for and what to do (give me sugar if you dont know what to do you cant really make it worse with sugar). I am VERY stubborn, so it was good to have that accountability especially when I didnt want to give myself enough time to recover after a low.
Congratulations if you have made it through this (unintentionally) epic novel. In the next few days I hope to write a little about the question I have been asked most often the past week.
Has anything changed in Haiti in the past year?