Where to Start…Our 12 Day Crazy Busy Trip to Peru…The Intro

I have heard this song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros off and on while listening to Songza.com for the past few years. Yes, the tune is catchy but the words hit the deepest chord within me.

What is Home?

The days my daughter Cayla and my son Kurtis were born I found my home. They were and still are the centre of my being and when they were little that was where I trusted I belonged. Where I felt beyond comfortable. I was in my realm. I always wanted to be a Mom. I knew I would protect them as best as I had in me to the death. They have been, still are and will always be a part of me and the core of my being.

Growing up my Mom was very fond of the story of Ruth and it seemed she quoted a verse in particular often and in a very fond way.  I didn’t understand the impact it would it have on my life until the past few years.  And so I also associate this Blog series on our trip to Pero to what Ruth says in Ruth 1:16.

Ruth 1:16 (ISV) | In Context | Whole Chapter

16 But Ruth answered, “Stop urging me to abandon you and to turn back from following you. Because wherever you go, I’ll go. Wherever you live, I’ll live. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.

Besides my children I have never trusted anyone so much in my entire life as I have my husband Steve.  Even early on in our relationship with the decisions I made, I felt he always had my best interest at heart.  I trust he will love and accept me, diabetes and all. Never once has he ever had to say to me “Trust Me.”.  My gut just says I should. One should never have to say “Trust me.” to make one believe they should.   Actions speak louder than words.

In our conversations in the past many years, aside from our trips, Steve has been to 42 countries.  A majority of them have been for pleasure, as well, some for business and missions.

Of these countries he often speaks fondly of Peru.   He tells me it is the most beautiful place on the earth.  Then I must go there!!!

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We are aware of ‘rumours’ that Machu Picchu may not be open to the travels Steve experienced years before.

So, when do we go?

Well, life is funny like that.  In 2014 both of my children announce that one is moving to Edmonton, Alberta and one is moving to Wellington, New Zealand.  They won’t be home for Christmas.

For all the Mommies out there I can hear and feel your overwhelming voice of sadness and “that sucks”.  YEP!  It really sucks.

In early Summer I say to Steve that I can not see a Christmas tree standing tall, all lit up with the kids ornaments for the past 23 years hung in all its glory and no kids.  I threaten fetal position in front of the tree.

And so I ask.  Can I please go away with you to the most beautiful place on earth.  And it is written in stone, so to speak.  We commit ourselves to a trip to Peru to experience Machu Picchu on Christmas Day and Plaza Des Armas in Cusco on New Years Eve. One of the top 10 places for New Years in the world!

I am excited but as I research and speak more to those who have been I get nervous.

Despite my nervousness and apprehensions based on others fear mongering, Steve reassures me I can overcome anything that comes our way while we vacation in Peru. Just like Vietnam and Cambodia.

We are a spontaneous pair.  Our Vietnam/Cambodia trip begain with “hey do you want to go to Montreal for a long weekend?” and 3 days before taking flight instead of Montreal, we book a flight with no plans except a hotel ‘base camp’ for Vietnam and Cambodia…for the same price.

There wasn’t a glitch in that whole experience  (except running out of underwear in which I realize I barely fit into even a large size of women’s Cambodian underwear!)  I look back on that trip and it was worth every minute. So much so, we both want to go back.  Despite all the low blood sugars from the heat and humidity as well as losing my beloved Continuous Glucose sensor because it just couldn’t adhere to my skin. (I know how to make that baby stick now!!!)

Despite our challenges and crazy, spontaneous trip while in Vietnam and Cambodia, I experience great apprehensions with Peru.  The two potential issues I am most concerned about are elevation sickness and keeping safe from gluten and wheat so as to avoid a reaction, at worst a severe one.  The stomach upset is one thing.  The hives are another.

I am proactive with elevation sickness and speak with my family physician.  He advises I don’t need anything, I’ll be fine. He was just there and all was good.  He tells me I will be okay. This gives me reassurance.

I admit, on this trip I am not fully proactive in my celiac disease as I should be.  I am still in a learning curve.  This is my first trip as a person living with Celiac disease.  We assume given the Peruvians very large crops of corn and potatoes…there would be very little wheat.

Not so.  Stay tuned.

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

March Break Travel Tips & Tricks

For those anxiously awaiting for March break…are you travelling away from home? How do you plan for travelling with diabetes?

Since 50% of our family had Type 1 diabetes, back in the day when my kids had March break, to keep organized and sane I created a standard packing list which also included everything imaginable for diabetes supplies. If we were going away for 1 week, I would pack double the supplies.

I gave both of my kids their own packing list. Kurtis’ list also included the diabetes supplies he needed. I would encourage him to pack it himself. I reviewed the list with him to make sure it was all in his suitcase and carry on, if flying.

A few tips:

1. If on an insulin pump, call the company and ask for a back up pump about 2 weeks earlier (or find out from the company how much notice they need)

2. If on an insulin pump, bring enough insulin, syringes or pen and pen tips to sustain you or your child for the entire vacation IF by chance your pump malfunctions and you have to go back on multiple insulin injections.

3. Make sure all medication are in its original containers.

4. Have your family doctor or diabetes specialist write a letter stating you have diabetes and the specific list of supplies you will carry with you. (Kurtis & I have been pulled over by Customs. We have had to pull the list out and go through the bag taking inventory with list in hand.)

5. Wear Medical Identification such as a bracelet, necklace or tattoo.

6. Pack a water proof container where sugar tablets can be placed for any activity that they may come in contact with water.

7. If packing insulin, make sure to keep the insulin between 2-8C when in transit. It can be exposed to temperatures between 15-25C for up to 28 days. The best product to use for travel to keep insulin safe to use is a http://www.frioinsulincoolingcase.com

8. Buy Travel Medical Insurance

9. Pack a Glucagon kit.

10. NEVER leave your diabetes supplies on the beach. (I had a young client I sold an insulin pump to just before he and his family went on vacation. Carefully folding his pump in his towel on the beach, upon his return from playing in the water to hook back up he realized it was gone!)

11. Bring an empty water bottle if you use needles. You can place them in the water bottle and safely bring them home for appropriate disposal. Make sure to put the bottle with sharps in your check in not the carry on.

12. Make copies of travel documents, doctors letter, and contact information. Give it to one or more of your family members and/or friends if you lose any of this information.

If you would like an example template of the packing list I have used and still use, let me know, I will post it.