The Problem of Diabetic Supplies

Well, at this time in exactly one month, I should be wandering the streets of Mumbai. Hopefully everything will go smoothly up to that point, it has done so far. My visa has been granted, my hostel bookings confirmed, and train journeys booked. But there’s one last thing that I’ve yet to finalise: the amount  of diabetic supplies I’m going to be taking with me.

Advice

A month or so ago I was a little concerned about how I’d be able to get hold of supplies in India and beyond but, after reading a few other blogs about travelling through the country (albeit only for a couple of weeks), I realised I was worrying slightly too much. Some diabetic supplies I can buy over the counter, others I can’t; it’s just knowing where to go to find them. However, knowing that I needed a little bit more assurance than other people’s experiences, I decided to make an appointment with my Diabetes Nurse and Dietician; both of which were very excited for my travels and any information I could pass on to them whilst I’m away.

When the appointment finally came around I was very surprised at the amount of information they managed to come up with: amongst other things they had journals, overseas hyper treatments, and a rough list of places that provide the type of insulin I need.

This list wasn’t exhaustive, so they advised me to contact the manufacturer of my insulin pen in order to find out a better list of stockists/pharmacies that keep my pen in. They also advised me that I could actually apply for 3 months worth of diabetic supplies (only on the NHS) to take on my travels just to get me started; this isn’t something I thought I could do, but I was assured that if there were any problems, they’d intervene and help me out. I’d actually already been slightly over-prescribing every month in order to build up a bit of a stockpile, so this extra amount of supplies would be a great help and would keep me going for a few extra worry-free months.

They also gave me a few extra supplies whilst I was there, including an extra blood glucose meter (apparently they should be updated every 2 years; who knew?). Anyway, I left the hospital feeling a lot more relaxed than I had been in a while, as finding supplies was always in the back of my mind and a major worry. If I’m honest, I always thought that if I did have a month or so struggling with supplies that I’d cut down on the amount I ate per meal, or actually cut down on the amount of meals I ate in general or, alternatively, check my blood sugars half the amount of times I normally would (I’ve done this before and it can be a double edged sword).

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Imagine the above x 2. As you can see, this will take up a fair amount of room in my backpack, which means that I’ll have to sacrifice some other items….but that’s for another post.

Coping with Blood Sugars

To the majority of people, blood sugars aren’t an issue; the body corrects itself accordingly whether you’re high or low, even in harsh conditions. However, as a diabetic heading to a warmer climate, my blood sugars can act a little out of the ordinary; my nurse and dietician both told me that in warmer conditions I’d require less insulin per meal (as insulin gets into the body quicker)and that I may have a few spikes here and there.

I’m used to having around 1 unit of insulin per 10g of carbohydrates but I’ve been informed that whilst away it’ll be like starting from scratch. This was not good news; 5 out of my last 6 trips abroad have been to colder places than the UK, and so my insulin intake has been pretty much the same as usual, so getting used to new units will prove to be another learning curve in managing my blood sugars.

It’s not all bad though; the less insulin I use, the longer my supplies will last and the less I have to worry about. Of course, this will all change when I head onto colder places, but I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it.

What if I lose my supplies?

Well, this is the tricky part. There is the possibility that something may happen and most, if not all of my supplies will be gone. I could get mugged, my things could get swept down a river, or I could stupidly leave my backpack on a bus somewhere, who knows. The point is that it could happen. So I think I’ve found few easy solutions:

1. Never leave them all in once place. This is a simple solution that doesn’t really take a lot of thinking about. I could split my supplies up and store them in different places in my clothes and bags, that way I’ll always have a few supplies if anything happens (unless I get mugged by some sort of insulin fiend). I tend to do this back un the UK anyway, just in case.

2. Split them with friends. Chances are I’ll meet many people on my travels, some I’ll get along with, and some I wont. Hopefully I’ll meet a few who I may eventually trust and spend time travelling with. So, if I split my supplies with a couple of people, I’ll surely never lose it all? (Unless we’re all stupid enough to leave our bags behind somewhere).

3. Stay smart. I think this goes for travelling as a whole. Like most other valuable things I’ll be carrying with me, like visas and a passport, staying smart and just taking the time to actually think about what I’m doing could save me a lot of stress and hassle if anything does go wrong. If something out of my control did happen and I lost everything, at least I wouldn’t be overcome with the guilt at having done something stupid (such as leaving my bag behind).

Of course, we all do stupid things: how many times do you leave the house without your keys? However, given that my backpack will be with me pretty much all the time, I need to be a little more careful.

Keeping it Cool

I’m talking about insulin here, not my temperament (though I will have to keep it cool from time to time I’m sure). Insulin, whether in use or not, needs to be kept at certain temperatures in order to stay effective. There are many products out there that keep insulin cool in one way or another but, given that I’m taking a stock of supplies with me, some of the insulin may spoil and become useless (though I did recently accidentally inject my self with a hugely out of date pen and it seemed to work fine).
Keeping insulin cool wouldn’t be a problem if I were staying in hostels for long periods of time or if travelling between places only take a few hours but, even before I’ve left, I know that some of my journeys will be 24hrs+. This isn’t too long for some of my insulin, but I can’t keep all of it cool; this is something I’m going to try and figure out.

So, that about covers how far I’ve got with my diabetic supplies so far. As you can see; there’s a lot of things to think about just in terms of supplies, let alone everything else! If anyone does know of any tips or great products that may help me on my way, please drop a comment below, it’d be much appreciated.

More news as it happens…

 

Type 1 Traveller

 

4 thoughts on “The Problem of Diabetic Supplies

  1. Hello Type 1 Traveller!

    Great read. In response to your issue of keeping your insulin cool, check out Frio Insulin Cooling Cases http://www.frioinsulincoolingcase.com/. They fit 2 pens each and are activated by just soaking the sleeve in water and keep your insulin cool for about 3 – 5 days at a time before you have to dry them out and reactivate. Also a small cooler with ice packs can be handy if you have a place to freeze them. Check out my recent post about packing and planning for my surf trip to Costa Rica, https://travelbetic.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/preparing-for-a-month-long-surf-trip-with-type-1-diabetes-what-to-pack-and-tips-for-managing-blood-sugar-levels/ hopefully you will find some useful info there. I look forward to following your travels!

    Cheers!

    • Thanks Zach! I think I will be going down the Frio Pack route; my only issue is that I don’t think I’ll be able to keep all of my insulin cool during the length of my trip (which is indefinite). I think if I do settle for a good period of time then I’ll invest in a small cooler so I keep things cool for the long term. Enjoy your surfing trip! Thanks!

  2. Hi Loui,
    My supplies actually get ordered from India!. There is great healthcare there so you could probably get a list of pharmacies that stock what you need from an Endo from one of the private hospitals (just email them, no appointments). That’s what I did for Tanzania so that I know where to go, wherever I am. I am somewhere fairly remote, and it is amazing how resourceful pharmacists can be. The sad silver lining for us of the type 2 epidemic in developing countries is that at least meters and strips are available everywhere. http://elisabeth4t.blogspot.com/p/t1-tips-for-living-in-developing-country.html

    I went to Mumbai last year and it is incredible! Such an assault on the senses and the food is incredible. Enjoy! Look forward to reading about your trip. Elisabeth

    • Hi Elisabeth
      It’s surprising where you can find supplies. Since writing this post I think I’m pretty much covered; I think it’s the initial ‘oh crap, where am I going to got supplies from’ that worries a lot of people. Are you in Tanzania permanently?

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