Driving with Diabetes
It's all different with the baby on board.
By Kerri Sparling
February 2011 — My very first Generation D column for dLife was four years ago (holy moly!) and it dealt with the issue of driving with diabetes. But while I'm still driving around with a stash of glucose tabs in my glove compartment, so much has changed.
Because now there's a baby seat in my car. A baby seat with my daughter strapped safely inside.
Nothing makes you more paranoid about driving than putting an infant in the car. That first drive home when we left the hospital was a borderline panic attack, with my husband clutching the wheel and me in the backseat, eyes fixed on the baby to make sure she was still real. And since we were making an hour-long trek, we were in a heightened state of anxiety for what felt like forever.
Now that the baby is six months old, I'm a little less panicky about driving with BSparl (a.k.a. "Baby Sparling"), but no less attentive to my diabetes. Like I wrote almost four years ago, I'm testing before I drive, but now it's less of a routine and more of a haphazard hurricane of tasks.
Before the baby, I would test my blood sugar before leaving the house, letting me know exactly where I stood, diabetes-wise, before turning the key in the ignition. But now, I'm juggling more than just all my crap. I'm also trying to make sure I have all her food, diapers, extra outfits, pacifiers, toys, sugar caddy, waffles, etc. on hand. (Okay, I don't actually travel with a sugar caddy and waffles, but the baby bag is big enough to fit a full breakfast plus tea service. Trust me.)
The blood sugar check is done in the front seat of the car as it's warming up for the drive. If I'm low or high, I'm treating that blood sugar as quickly as I can before hitting the road. Used test strips are constantly being cleaned out from underneath my front seat, and glucose dust covers parts of the center console. I check to make sure I have my insulin pump on at the same time as I buckle my seat belt. I'm going through the diabetes motions, but at a breakneck speed these days.
What helps a lot is the continuous glucose monitor. I know it's not a substitute for a blood sugar check, but if I'm getting in the car half an hour after an actual blood sugar test, I feel confident that I'm on course just by looking at the CGM screen. It also gives me more confidence on long drives, because I know if my numbers start to tumble or rise, the CGM will start beeping madly, giving me a heads up for any potential problems.
Glucose tabs are now stashed absolutely everywhere in my car, instead of neatly tucked away in the glove compartment. Driving with my daughter means keeping my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel, so I can't risk distraction if I'm foraging for glucose. And if I'm rushing straight out of blood sugar range at a dangerous rate, I'm very quick to pull the car over and tend to diabetes business in a safe and controlled environment (a.k.a. not hurtling down the highway at 60 mph). I will admit to having driven low or high in the past. Not anymore. And definitely not when I know what precious cargo I'm now carrying. Diabetes is serious business, and I'm not about to put my daughter, or myself, at any extra risk because I feel the need to be on time for something. Our safety comes before punctuality these days.
It's all different now. Life before this baby arrived wasn't ever fast and loose, thanks to the constant planning and preparation required for life with type 1 diabetes, but now things are entirely reprioritized. I worry about lows behind the wheel not for my own well-being, but to protect my child. I remind myself to bring enough test strips or back-up insulin because I know that a diabetes glitch ultimately affects my child.
I used to take care of me for me, but now I take care of me for her.
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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