I still feel like my mind is all a-mush after being mostly off-line for nearly a whole month while traveling in Europe. Yowza. Our vacation was relaxing, for sure, if a bit hectic in spots with all the packing and re-packing and boarding and disembarking we did. My BG levels have been admirable, mostly, with a few hiccups here and there. I pride myself on being an organized person, and yet I’m not the best traveler, I’ll admit. Excuse my penchant for covering stuff in list form, but here are ten things that happened that I just wasn’t expecting:
1. That really nasty BG low one night in Holland. All five of us were sleeping on mattresses at my girlfriend’s house in Breda (she married a Dutch doctor, and lives there now with her two young boys and sweet old jack russell terrier). I woke with my heart pounding, in a dark room that I just couldn’t navigate under the circumstances. I sat up, sweating, and even before I started groping for my bag to locate my meter and glucose tabs, I felt panicky. Absolutely helpless and panicked. I never pack a glucose emergency kit. Why the hell not? What is WRONG with me?! Tonight my husband is lying here beside me, so I could shake him awake if I need to, but tomorrow night I’m scheduled to be alone with the kids! I clocked in at 39, but was able to treat right away. Still, it took several hours for the feeling of panic to go away. Needless to say, we’re working on a DTEP (diabetes travel emergency plan) of sorts.
2. The “goofy American” feeling that came with special dietary needs. To be blunt, I just felt like an idiot asking waiters what was in the Schnitzel (“do you make it with flour? No, wheat flour, I mean…”) and trying to get my hands on artificial sweetener in dozens of cafés where sugar is served up in dainty little stick-like packets that appear to be part of the ambiance. This was exacerbated during our three days in France, where between the two of us, my husband and I can only speak three words, including yes and no. (“Non-shu-gar?? Do you have that? Do you have breakfast with no wheat – Non-wheat??!) I never felt goofier than when I had to sneak crumbling potato chips into a fine French restaurant so that I’d have something resembling bread with which to enjoy my cheese. Note to self: chip crumbs are hardest to hide on your best little black dress.
3. Running out of glucose tabs. Jelly beans. Jingle.
On the whole I overpacked. But not enough pure glucose products, it seems. I ended up filling two of those plastic tab tubes with jelly beans (on sale here special during “American Week” in the supermarket). Man, those beans make a lot of noise bouncing around inside a plastic glucose-tab tube! Some people looked at me like I might have a purse full of magic jumping beans. Sure felt like I did.
4. German pharmacies. I hate them. Actually, I should know that by now. Like many things German, they feel narrow and too deliberately businesslike in a provincial sort of way — despite the colorful Pharma-issue placards picturing smiling patients (which actually seem even sillier here). Oh, and German medicines, which surprisingly seem very ineffective to me. I have gulped down countless pills and smeared on dozens of salves here that never seemed to have any effect, in stark contrast to all the great painkillers, decongestants, disinfectants, etc., etc. that you can buy over the counter in any drugstore in America. (A new form of medical patriotism? *sigh*)
5. Catching a bad cold. You should see the virtual pharmacy I carried with me, for diabetes and every related ailment I ever encountered. But very little for a cold and cough. My very sweet father-in-law and sister-in-law, who both happen to be doctors, loaded me up with gel tabs and lozenges. Errr, see number 3, above. Luckily, taking large doses of Vitamin C always seems to help me lose a cold. But it’s tough on the GI system, I find.
6. Fun with a bladder infection. NOT. This only happened in the last few days. I understand now that alcohol is a bladder irritant. Somebody should have told me that before we downed four bottles of wine per day while in France. (OK, we also drank our fare share in Germany.) Anyway, it turns out antibiotics work pretty much the same the world over. Thank you, thank you, champions of modern medicine!
7. Frio love. Why did access to a refrigerator used to seem so important? I just kept my Frio pack nicely moist, and it kept my Apidra vials in fine form wherever we went. I guess didn’t trust my Frio enough on journeys past.
8. Prying eyes — and how much they bothered me. Family and friends mean well. They do. And in my case, a bunch of them are in the medical profession and are genuinely curious about the workings of my diabetes. But if another of them leaned over to watch me test, and simply had to know, “what was the number?” I was going to lose it for sure. When this became clear to me, I actually told my mother-in-law so. Would you believe? Testament to what a great lady she is that she nodded and let it go. She never so much as peered at my equipment since. To wit, I started testing in the bathroom a lot more. (Did I mention that German bathrooms don’t have countertop space? Yeah, I know – right?)
9. Pod pride. On the other hand, I didn’t care much at all that my insulin pod was hanging right there on my thigh a number of times when we went swimming. (They have loads of fantastic indoor pool complexes in Germany – highly recommended for family fun.) There I was, with this white plastic box pasted to my leg. “Let them look,” I thought. If my daughters caught somebody looking too long, they’d say in English, “didn’t your mother teach you not to stare?“, which never caused anything but a blank-face reaction. Then we all cracked up. Have pod, will travel.
10. The avalanche of responsibilities known as ‘coming home.’ You should have seen the heaping bin of mail waiting for us at the post office, and we don’t even engage in ‘snail mail’ ourselves these days. What’s more, it isn’t even coming home this year. We now live in a hotel!! Officially. All five of us plus the cat. For the next four months at least while our house is being renovated. (Gotta DIY – who can afford to move these days?) I promise to share that experience with you all a bit more frequently, in real-time. I am sure there will be at least 10 things I didn’t prepare for in this new chapter of life…
Travel was wonderful, despite any inconveniences. And it’s nice to be home, too.