A Pump Vacation
A white-water rafting adventure without wires.
By Kerri Sparling
July 2007 — The river raged around us, throwing spray into our faces and threatening to tip our raft at any moment. I was wearing a wetsuit, a lifejacket, a ridiculous looking yellow helmet that made me look like a lightbulb, and a bathing suit.
And for the first time in almost four years, I was not wearing an insulin pump.
When my fiance brought up the idea for a white-water rafting trip, I was excited. Cool! I've never been white-water rafting before and it sounded like a serious adrenaline rush. We booked a cabin in Maine and looked forward to our adventure.
Then it dawned on me – I was going to be out in the middle of the Kennebec River in upstate Maine (everything seems "upstate" in Maine). I could be tossed off the boat into the roaring river at any time. How exactly was I going to make the insulin pump part of this vacation?
After a whole lot of thought and firing some queries off into the blogosphere, I realized that I had plenty of options. I could, as one blog reader suggested, tuck my pump into an AquaPac and wear it on the raft. I heard from a few readers who had used some kind of waterproof pack to protect their devices and everything worked out fine.
I know my own limitations. I am the girl who falls over while standing still. I once tripped getting out of my car. If there is a tree root to catch my foot on, I take a tumble. If there is a glass vase to break, I knock it over with my purse. I'm not allowed into stores that display their glass wares in tall towers because I know better. These limitations are not diabetes-related, but more Kerri-centric. Awkward is awkward, whether my pancreas works or not. Wearing my $6,000 medical device in the middle of a large river of water didn't seem like a good idea to me.
So planning for our white-water rafting trip required more than just booking a cabin. I needed to plan for a "pump vacation," too.
Even though I have been on the pump for three plus years, I was on injections for over seventeen, so I knew my way around a syringe. I decided to revisit my old Lantus regimen for a few days prior to the trip and for the trip itself. I called my doctor for a prescription for the Lantus.
"Hello? This is Kerri Morrone. I wanted to know if you could write me a script for a bottle of Lantus."
"Hello Kerri. Sure, but aren't you on an insulin pump? Did your pump break?"
"No, everything is cool. I'm going white-water rafting and I didn't want to wear the pump."
I heard my doctor pause over the phone. I knew she was thinking about my medical history, which included dozens of cuts, bruises, and graceless injuries.
"Good idea. I'll call in the script now."
It was very odd to disconnect my pump and put it in the drawer of my bedside table, not intending to wear it again for seven days. It was stranger still to draw up a dose of Lantus and pinch up my skin for an injection. But my fingers remembered just how to hold the bottle steady and flick out the air bubbles. However, my skin also remembered how to bruise and sting from the injections, making me miss the convenience and painless insulin delivery of my pump.
After a few days, my sugars were holding steady and I felt ready for rafting. We drove up to Maine and I traveled heavy, armed with syringes, a vial of Lantus and one of Humalog, plenty of low blood sugar treaters, and a bevy of test strips. Our day on the river had me toting a pack with my Humalog pens, tubes of cake gel, a bottle of juice, granola bars, and my meter (packed tightly in plastic bags to keep them dry). It was a lot to carry, but I was safe and prepared for whatever happened.
The waves crashed against the raft. I wore that crazy yellow helmet and cut a path with my paddle through the rapids. When the boat lurched and almost tossed us all out, I screamed with fear, excitement, and that intense feeling of being ALIVE.
When those rapids were churning and we were paddling with all we had, I didn't think about diabetes. I didn't think about insulin doses or A1Cs. Those waves hit and I thought what everyone else on that boat thought – Paddle like hell!
I did it. Diabetes be damned.
Visit Kerri's website.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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