Traveling with diabetes may be a challenging task for even the most experienced PWDs (persons with diabetes).
Can I pack sufficient needles? Is my insulin safe? Got prescriptions that were backup only? Are there doctors where I’m going if need be who’ll accept my insurance?
Yup, traveling to an unfamiliar country can be especially challenging with diabetes…
These days, we’re pleased to introduce Stephanie Bradford from central Pennsylvania, a freelance author and marketing consultant who’s been living with type 1 because her diagnosis in age 7 back in 1976. She maintains tight control with Lantus and Humalog shots, but on a emergency visit to France she ran to some supply shortages and had to require the country healthcare system. Here Is What Stephanie encountered:
A Guest Post by Stephanie Bradford
Syringes have consistently been a sticking point, while I travel.
As a teenager, I went with my Girl Scout troop on a two-day hiking and camping trip. My mom asked me about a dozen times if I had my insulin. “Yes!” I replied, every time shifting my eyes a little more.
It was only when we’d set up camp, and began dinner prep, that I realized I’d forgotten my syringes. 1 two-mile hike (with the ever-patient leader) and also a pay phone call to Mom later, and the issue was solved.
I popped over to New York City to get a weekend of eating, drinking, walking and sight-seeing. Part of the “fun” involved negotiating with the local pharmacy for syringes; I’d arrived at the resort with only the standard three which I take in my purse, not the 10 I would need for the weekend, plus the extras that I consistently package.
While my prescription was useless since it was out-of-state (there went the insurance policy coverage) I managed to buy a few over-the-counter.
Most lately: the sequel to it and my emergency-trip-to-France. My emergency demand for test strips and syringes came about as soon as the trip was extended by eight days.
I was in France since my mom had gone through emergency intestinal surgery in the American Hospital of Paris in Neuilly sur Seine.
The estimate, when I abandoned the U.S., was that Mom will be in the hospital for about a week, and then require another week of in-country retrieval until she could travel back home.
I packaged tossing packs of syringes on and my little luggage, and then an extra 10 package, just in case. I took test strips for me.
Eight days into the trip it was clear that I was stuck in France for more than the originally planned two weeks.
It was also obvious that frequent blood testing (due to extensive walking, bizarre programs, jet lag, and carbohydrate counting unfamiliar foods) had depleted my supply of test strips.
In France, pharmacies have green crosses over the doorways, and appear to have “themes” such as “maternity” or “beauty.” Having no idea that to select, I walked to the pharmacy closest my resort.
Two things happened that made me need to import the entire French medical system. The pharmacist listened to me clarify my difficulty, in English: I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic, and I’m in France on a crisis basis, I’m running out of test strips. She explained that, yes, I really could buy test strips – great! But language differences interfered.
A FreeStyle Lite meter is used by me. She recognized the meter, also brought out strips which were FreeStyle, but they had been called “Papillon Easy” maybe not “Lite.”
A part of my mind fired up and I recalled that a butterfly was on my test strips. And, papillon is French for butterfly. I showed her strips, particularly the butterfly, and she then opened the package of French test strips and we contrasted. I was pretty certain it was a game, the pharmacist. She called the organization. A two-minute conversation was and voila! The strips were exactly the same.
Oh, except for the cost. I paid approximately $40. U.S. to get 100 strips. That’s less than half what it would have cost me in the states. That’s the next thing which makes me believe the U.S. medical system may learn a great deal from France.
A couple of days later, to unpack, I started in my set of accommodations.
Note to self: don’t travel to Europe on a crisis basis. Finding somewhere to stay will probably be impossible.
While unpacking I noticed I was down to three packs of syringes, plus the couple in my handbag. I relied times; I counted syringes. With two shots of Lantus and three or four of Humalog a day, even if I re-used syringes (I know, it is frowned upon by BD and most physicians, but all of us do it…) I would only have six syringes for me through the last travel day.
1 flight delay and I was hosed.
So, back out to the pharmacy… Though it was a hike from my new location, I returned to the one where I’d bought my test strips.
I remembered me, and that I’d love to the excellent service criteria in the French industry. However, more likely it is because they’d spent almost an hour with me the very first time I’d been in the shop. I might have been slightly high in the time on small and stress cups of coffee.
Syringes? No Problem. Exact match? Well, all of the amounts (that, even on American syringes are metric) were exactly the exact same and the package was marked “insuline.” I figured they would work, so I bought a package of ten. They cost me around $4.50 U.S.
I’d ask the liaison although I did not require any this trip. It turns out that you need a prescription, exactly like in your home. Additionally, I asked how I would handle urgent, but non-life threatening, situations?
“I think for something minor, like strep throat, possibly the best option (in Paris) is to call SOS Medecins – their operator will ask some questions and may actually have a physician at your house in half an hour or so.
Plus it only costs around â’¬70… (Approximately $100. U.S.)?!
“Frequently, they may provide you enough medication to tide you over for a couple hours till you can get to a pharmacy,” the official added.
Wow, who knew that the French could be so accommodating?
This trip was not, by any stretch of the imagination, my most enjoyed or best planned trip to France. However, it was one of those learning experiences.
But for the part in which I calculated that for every mile walked, I could consume almost a quarter of a baguette. That part I would do again.
Wow is right, Stephanie. So glad the health care system in France was so helpful. We hope your mom is doing! Shows the importance of getting an on-the-ground support system if traveling with diabetes.
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