When my insulin froze under the burning Greek sun

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This week we are sharing a traveling story from Cathy. She has type 1 diabetes and lives in Belgium with her two daughters and two dogs. She loves traveling around the world with her family and sharing her experiences. This is not a story about the scares on the road, but about well-deserved peace of mind.

It’s 2010. I haven’t had diabetes for that long, although my insulin pens do show some use traces here and there. I’ve traveled a lot with my family in the past years and this time we’re going to Greece. All suitcases are packed and I have enough supplies with me to last throughout the entire vacation and even longer. I’ve double-checked everything: needles, fast-acting insulin, long-acting insulin, enough test strips, a glucometer, a ketone meter and even an extra pen and a new insulin prescription. Greece is promising amazing weather and I can’t wait to enjoy the sun and the beach with my family.

Once we arrive at the hotel, we get our own bungalow. It’s spacious and cool and the kids are already picking out their bed. There is a small fridge in the kitchen where I put all my insulin. I’m all set and I don’t even need the Frio bag anymore. We set off to enjoy our first day in Greece and at some point in the evening I open the fridge to grab a new insulin vial for the following day.

I open the door and I’m shocked… The fridge is not cold, no… it’s completely frozen! How is this even possible?! This is the one thing I haven’t anticipated, nor prepared for: all of my insulin is frozen. Frozen as in: I can’t use it anymore.

Don’t panic, I say to myself, you have your prescription with you! Just go to the pharmacy to replace the ruined supplies and continue enjoying your vacation. However, the pharmacist there has bad news for me: They don’t have the insulin I use on that island. It’s Friday morning and she assures me she can order it and have it delivered by Monday, Tuesday at the latest.

I look at her in all seriousness and tell her that I have Type 1 Diabetes and that I am fully dependent on that insulin, that it’s vital and life-saving for me.

She understands the situation and starts calling other pharmacists on the neighbouring islands. They don’t have my insulin either but can get me pens with another type of rapid-acting insulin. I’ve never used that one before and I don’t know how my body would react to another type of insulin but it seems like the best possible option at the moment. I continue using my long-acting insulin and wait for the fast-acting one to arrive on Monday.

I still remember that vacation as a stressful one, but I figured, this could happen to anyone. It was a couple of years later when I discovered that this frustrating incident doesn’t actually have to happen.

Forward to 2017: Only 14 days left and we can finally enjoy the Florida sun! It’s been a couple more (diabetes) years since our Greece vacation and in that time I have learned a lot about traveling and especially about traveling with diabetes. You have to be prepared for anything. In America, every place has air-conditioning and a big fridge. Where we’re staying, there is a big double door fridge that is much colder than the one we have at home. This is something my MedAngel is aware of and warns me about. That’s how I knew I had to thoroughly adjust that fridge’s settings before I put my insulin in it last year.

We all know the prices of insulin in the U.S. and I really don’t want to have my supplies ruined. We also know how hot the sun in Florida can be. Do you know how fast an insulin vial can warm up in the sun? I didn’t know that until recently but I can assure you: it happens very fast. This is why I put another MedAngel sensor in the bag where I keep my glucometer. The more peace of mind, the better!

A passionate T1D advocate herself, Cathy loves cooking and baking and regularly shares stories and best recipes on her blog (in Dutch). Follow her on Instagram for food inspiration and all things diabetes! The original version of her post can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Laura
Sep 26, 2018
Laura
Pharmaceutical sciences, now solving problems around meds and temperature.