Type 1 Travelling in New Zealand: Roadtripping, Skydiving and DKA

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For Paul Louis, T1D for 20 years and active member of the international diabetes community, New Zealand is the perfect travel destination. As a repeated French National Swimming Championships medalist, diabetes has never been the thing to hold him back. Naturally, hiking, swimming, and camping in the mountains are the kind of active holiday that makes him happy. When a DKA hit while he was camping, it was one of the scary life events, but he would do the trip all over again, with just one adjustment.

“My highlight of New Zealand is when I went skydiving,” says Paul Louis, “we chose to do it on top of a mountain, so we had a breathtaking view all around us. It was an amazing experience.”

 

One evening, when we were out camping, my blood sugar level was really high, even though I had been injecting a lot of insulin,” he recalls, “My body was not responding to it, and I started to feel very weak, nauseous, and unwell.” The group was unsure what to do. Paul-Louis had told the others a bit about his diabetes but how to deal with soaring high blood sugar when the insulin is not working?

Eventually, they decided to drive to the closest hospital, which turned out to be over one hour away. It was a good call: when they arrived there, Paul-Louis could not even walk anymore and was immediately admitted with diabetic ketoacidosis. A scary moment for everyone.

What does Paul-Louis suspect as having gone wrong? His insulin was definitely no longer potent. He responded immediately to new insulin in the hospital and the hospital staff asked him to throw out all of his insulin supply.

 

When he and his friends were travelling the country in a van for 3 weeks, he tried to keep his insulin refrigerated to make sure it wouldn’t spoil too fast in a cool box that they would fill up with ice whenever they got the chance. “I don’t know if it was because it had been too warm or too cold over time,” he says, “I don’t have any idea what was the temperature inside the cool box as I had no way to measure it.”

Paul Louis ended up staying in the hospital for two days until he was well enough to be discharged and continue his trip. He was handed a new prescription so that he could pick up a new stock to use during the rest of his trip. Thankfully, the insurance covered it all later, but he did have to pay upfront for new insulin himself. All is well than ends well, but it was an unnecessary disruption of the travel and the holidays did not turned out to be relaxing with a lot of stress for him and his friends.

“This is why I was immediately interested when I learned about MedAngel, since I had to learn the hard way that temperature can damages insulin. I’ve been using MedAngel sensor for two years now and really do think it’s great. It helps me to store my insulin the right way, the feedback from the app is really useful when travelling but also to store insulin in your fridge at home.

Now when I travel and I don’t have access to fridge I always find a way to keep my insulin in the best way possible. Sometimes I use some ice but I never store my insulin directly in contact with it. I always wrap it in a towel to protect it from freezing and I use the sensor to control the temperature. And when I cannot find ice I usually wrap my insulin in a wet towel to keep it as cold as possible.”

Keeping an eye on your insulin’s storage temperature is obviously just one part of the diabetes puzzle, but an important one. “I did have problems with hyperglycemia after my NZ trip again, but these were mainly because of catheter issues or others reasons, not because of the insulin.”

Did this stop him from travelling? Of course not! In fact, he just came back from Siberia and Mexico and he is currently planning a new trip through Mexico.  “In the end, it is all manageable but it requests a bit of preparation. MedAngel reduces my stress by always keeping an eye on my insulin. At any time I know what is happening and I can react if needed.“


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Tine Trommer
Dec 11, 2018
Tine Trommer
Living with type 1 diabetes herself. A Pop culture lover, blogger and patient advocate who is studying Japanese. Always has a filled fridge and too many new recipes in her pipeline.