Wow, 3 years already; it’s gone very quick, it’s no time compared to those who’ve lived with this condition for decades, but it’s long enough to appreciate how difficult things can be. The multiple daily finger pricks, the injections, the night-time hypo’s, the guesstimating of carbohydrates; it’s all par for the course.
Although it feels like I’ve lived with Diabetes forever (I can’t remember what it’s like to simply grab a bite to eat without so much as injecting myself) I realise I’m still really just a novice. Support on social media, when needed, is beyond great and I can’t really fault the NHS in the UK. However, in less than 3 months I’ll be leaving the comfort of the UK for countries with less than great medical facilities. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been given advice about certain countries on how easy or difficult it may be to access health care when needed and it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s not as easy as it is here. I don’t need constant medical care, but I do need certain things.
This is what I’ll lose:
#1 A consultant appointment twice a year. This is typically a 15 minute chat about how I’m controlling my blood sugar levels, discussing any changes in behaviour, and any questions or worries I may have. I’ve been lucky enough so far that these have gone quite well and my blood sugar levels are under control.
#2 An eye test once a year. This isn’t a typical visionary test but a Diabetic Retinopathy test; basically bad control of blood sugar levels can cause cell damage in the retina which can lead to impaired vision and eventually blindness if left untreated. It’s quite an uncomfortable process; you have drops put in causing dilation, you then wait for a few minutes before having photos taken of the back of your eyes. You genuinely leave the surgery feeling like someone is shining a torch in your eyes…for hours. I won’t be missing this but it is important.
#3 A foot test once a year. This is to test for Diabetic Neuropathy; lack of blood sugar control can lead to nerve damage in your feet or hands, which left untreated can lead to amputation (in extreme cases). I can take or leave this and don’t find it overly important just yet (mainly because I can see/feel the symptoms).
#4 Supplies. I can’t live without insulin; if I don’t inject insulin quite regularly I will die if left untreated. This is not a dramatic shock statement but is the truth. Roughly 90% of the meals I eat require an insulin injection; I need insulin pens, test strips (to test my blood sugar levels), a blood glucose test meter, disposable micro-needles and lancets. I need to top up my supplies roughly once every 6 weeks; I cannot live without these supplies and therefore this is my biggest worry. However, supplies will be easier to find in some countries than others and hopefully I’ll be able to source at least a few places before I leave (I’m currently slightly over-prescribing so I have a fair amount to take with me to get started).
#5 Support. I think as a diabetic you need some sort of support and reassurance. Of course no one can understand what it’s like living with diabetes if they don’t have it, even if they think they do. I’ll be meeting many people on my travels and, though they may show their concern and interest, they may not fully appreciate or understand how difficult it can be, not at first anyway.
On the whole it’s a new adventure I’m heading out on…and it’s both daunting and exciting. I’m not leaving for a couple of months where I would be able to skip the odd appointment here and there; I’ll be out and about for potentially years. Sure, I’ll be able to get hold of supplies one way or another (though they won’t be free) and I may be able to make arrangements for appointments here and there, but it won’t compare to being back home where everything is accessible most of the time. I’m not overly worried about losing the above, well 4 of them anyway, as I’m pretty confident with my diabetes and have it under control, for now at least.
I’ve named this post #1 because I’ll be updating when I’m out there on how I’m coping, or not coping, without 4 of the above things.
Does anyone else have a condition that may affect their travels? Or any medical worries?
–Type 1 Traveller