Travelling with My Pharmacy

DBB Huchay Cusco Blog

There will a few posts/Blogs about my travels to and within Peru.

BUT..

I feel this post in particular is a huge one and is pressing upon me to prioritize even though it’s not in order.

We spent Christmas Eve in Agues Calientes. We planned to climb Machu Picchu Christmas Day.

I became very ill with a very high fever and ultimately sinus congestion, sore throat, fatigue among other things.

I am proud of the way the situation turned out as I recovered very quickly compared to most times I experience this. My husband questioned if I should take part in the venture to Machu Picchu but I insisted despite feeling down and out I would not miss such an amazing opportunity. This is a chance in a lifetime!!! And so we did.

With that being said, after we returned to Cusco a few days later we made plans to take part in a two day trek up the Andes mountains, through the Peruvian Tundra. We would then be hosted by a family overnight before descending back down the next day to another town a few hours away from our starting point.

We reach an elevation of 15,100 feet. Understanding that breathing would be a challenge at the best of times, I am overly concerned that with my congestion and swollen throat it would present greater issues.

On our way to the drop off point 1 1/2 hours away by jeep, I ask our guide to stop at a pharmacy to buy cold medication to help keep the symptoms from being too overwhelming throughout the climb.

As I walk into the pharmacy I take note this is the very first lesson I learn.  Never assume I can go away for 2 weeks and be healthy the whole time. I usually pack cold medications, gravol etc for those ‘just in case’ moments.

This is the first time I didn’t take my personal pharmacy with me. Sigh.

Our guide Henry takes me into the pharmacy in Cusco. I tell Henry in English that I need an anti-histamine/anti-inflammatory. I expect something along the lines of Advil Sinus & Cold or Buckley’s.

After the Pharmacist asks Henry a few more questions in Spanish….”Is it altitude sickness?”…”No, I had a very high fever, sore throat and sinus congestion.”…He recommends a product.

I take a ticket to the cash booth/dispensary at the front of the store. She gives me the box of medication. I am so relieved I will have the meds to help with the congestion, I don’t consider that I didn’t tell the pharmacist I have T1 diabetes OR that I took time to read the ingredients.   At this point I don’t make the connection that Dexametasona (in English “Dexamethasone”) is a steroid!!! I mean, come on, I am a Nurse. I should know the 5 R’s!!

AND I can’t buy a steroid over the counter in Canada! For good reason!

I am told to take one pill now (it is 7:30am) and again at supper. I can take it twice a day for a few days.

Within an hour I can feel the relief. I am overjoyed….until…

Fast forward to that evening and into the overnight…AND the next day…my blood sugars begin to climb…and climb…and climb.

I take insulin corrections like drinking water with no change. Not even a flicker in my Continuous Glucose monitor display. My finger pokes confirm all is not right within my diabetes world.

I reflect back on when we arrived in Cusco. Within a day I was setting temporary basal rates on my insulin pump for low blood sugars and now??? I am insulin resistant in the Andes Mountains??

I play scenarios in my mind. Is it the altitude? Is it dehydration? Is it the anaerobic feedback from the intense activity which leads us to experiencing burning leg muscles, shortness of breathe so bad our lungs are burning?

When I work out at the gym and do intense heavy weights my sugars spike. When I do hill training when I run I get the same effect. Is this the same?

At this point I haven’t made the connection yet that the cold meds contain steroids.

I do think that in part, the intensity of the climb did cause an adrenalin surge that did cause my need for more insulin….pair it with an exogenous steroid in my cold meds and here is a recipe for blood sugar disaster.

My key take away?

Bring my own cold meds and pharmacy.

If ever in an emergency that I require medications while in another country, make sure to tell them I have diabetes.

If and when I decide to ascend to 15,100 feet (or higher), take note and act that if it feels anaerobic, increase my insulin rates to accommodate to it.

No doubt it is a tough balance to achieve but I wouldn’t want to throw my hands in the air and not keep playing the game. Next time I want to improve on this experience. I accept my sugars will never be perfect in these situations especially, but, I will do my best.DBB Dexalor

Setting Goals

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Setting Goals

About 12 years ago I decided to take up a new sport. I joined a Karate club & started to take Kickboxing. It was hard! BUT, I loved kicking the bag & throwing punches. Within a few months I decided I wanted to transfer from Kickboxing to Karate. I wanted to measure my progress. This could be done by achieving each colour belt. Several years later & a lot of hard work, I received my Purple belt.

When I started, one of the many exercises I couldn’t do was a push up on my knees! Not one! Next thing I knew I was strong enough to do one on my toes. Before I knew it I was doing all the push ups on my toes. Each time I increased in the number or changed my technique, I celebrated. By the time I earned my Purple Belt I was in a push up competition against higher belts & guys, no offence guys! ;P. I was pushing long after they had given up. I had a final goal & several smaller ones to get to the big one. I could see my shoulders & arms changing, becoming defined. I was pushing 100 at a time on my toes!! I felt SO good about myself, physically, mentally, emotionally!

Why do I share this? Pick an exercise. Pick one you don’t think you can do. Research it. Have someone spot you if you need to. Start small. Baby steps. Can only do one repetition? It’s a start! Measure your progress. Revamp your goal as needed. Celebrate little & big accomplishments! Before you know it, you will look back and see that you have accomplished the goal you set for yourself! Be aware of the feelings & the changes within you & physically as you progress! What a great feeling!

“The secret of …

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“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock

In today’s society we are encouraged to break out, be stimulated, think outside the box.  We are told the less routine we adhere to the more abundant our life will become.  Becoming comfortable is to lose the opportunity to become a better person, to grow and expand our mind and soul.

In many aspects, breaking routine is without doubt a great thing.  Spontaneity can break one out of the doldrums, keep the mind sharp and create excitement.  

With respect to living with diabetes, having routine is essential.  It is proven that testing your blood sugars, taking your medications and insulin injections at the same time each day will increase your chances of success.  

To take it further, creating a routine with regards to healthy eating, meal and snack times is also of great benefit.  By pairing your medication or insulin routine with your meals and snacks, you will notice an increase in well being…once you are settled into your routine, ironing out the wrinkles.  After all, we are very personal in our diabetes.  Although we live with the same diagnosis, we are all unique in how we adapt to certain routines.

One last commitment which needs to be incorporated as part of your daily diabetes routine is physical activity.  The benefits of physical activity are as great as adhering to a routine with your medication, insulin and eating.  

The Centre of Disease Control cites the following as benefits to physical activity: 

By creating and committing to a routine, I hope this will enable you to live life with Diabetes Beyond Borders.