Four Factors that Impacted my Diabetes in Las Vegas

Recently, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas with my best friends in the universe. It was awesome to take a vacation with them, especially in a place that’s virtually a playground for adults.

Before I went on the trip, I knew to expect some sort of disruption with my diabetes care and management routine. I did as much as I could to prepare myself for every potential scenario, from packing extra snacks and supplies, to asking the DOC how I should account for a sudden change in time.

While my preparation really did help, I still encountered the unexpected when it came to my diabetes on the trip. Four factors in particular come to mind…

  1. The heat – At first glance, this is a no-brainer. I’ve been to many hot climates on vacation, so it isn’t news to me that intense sun can make blood sugar go low quickly. We were literally in the middle of the desert, so I knew it would be important for me to watch my numbers closely, as well as keep myself hydrated. But I think the fear of going low all the time was a little too strong, which meant that I was running a bit higher than I’d normally like for most of the vacation. My paranoia about drinking plenty of water, though, was not a joke. I pride myself on being good about staying hydrated, but I struggled to keep up with the dry desert heat. I can’t help but wonder: If I’d been better about drinking water, would it have benefited me during some of the stickier high blood sugars? Speculation can only get me so far now; however, all signs are pointing to probably yes.
  2. The strip – The Las Vegas strip is less than five miles in length, but the whole stretch of it, marked by hotels, stores, casinos, and ginormous flashing lights, feels incredibly long. Nevertheless, my friends and I naively believed that we could skip taking taxis and walk all over the place. For the most part, we could, but it was definitely dicey when we walked nearly a mile and a half from the Cosmopolitan to the Rio one evening. It influenced my blood sugar in a positive way – the exercise brought my levels down to a nice and stable place – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t scary to walk practically on the highway at nighttime.
  3. The alcohol – I’m well aware of the fact that different kinds of alcohol can have different affects on blood sugar. To minimize blood sugar swings, I stuck with the less-sugary options as much as I could (i.e., opting to order a rum or whiskey with diet coke), only getting fancier drinks when I was consuming fewer carbs at mealtime. For the most part, this strategy worked well and proved to me that a little extra thought can go a long way when it comes to deciding how to treat yourself. But it also reminded me why I don’t have weekends like this often – it’s exhausting enough to take care of myself on a daily basis without alcohol being a factor. Throw it into the mix and I’m watching my blood sugar so carefully that my CGM’s battery is drained in half the time it normally takes to zap it.
  4. The pizza – The scientific answer to the reason why pizza is tough on blood sugar involves the glycemic index and some fairly complex calculations…boring! All you really need to know is that it takes a long time for pizza to have an affect on blood sugar due to its high fat-to-carb ratio. As a result, it tends to be a “treat” food for me that I only indulge in every once in a while. But when in Vegas…you have as much of it as possible. Pizza was one of the quickest and easiest food options for me and my girlfriends throughout our trip, so we ate it multiple times. I don’t regret a single cheesy, delicious bite…but I am slightly remorseful for not doing a better job bolusing for it. The first time we had pizza, I didn’t give myself enough insulin. The second time, I gave myself too much and went low, though that may have happened because I didn’t finish both slices like I thought it would. The bottom line? I didn’t realize that pizza would be a dietary staple on this vacation, and I’ll probably refrain from eating so much of it on future vacations.
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A slice a day does not quite keep blood sugar at bay. But it’s tasty as hell.

Despite the diabetes curveballs I encountered, I enjoyed my trip to the fabulous Las Vegas. I managed the challenges as best as I could without letting them interfere too much with what I wanted to do. Plus, it helped that my best friends were with me the entire time. I have to give them credit for making the most of my diabetes difficulties, too. For instance, I felt badly about sidelining them in the Bellagio on our last night there due to a low blood sugar that crept up on me after walking (the strip!) and over-bolusing (the pizza!), but they really rolled with the punches and made the most of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure they experienced their favorite people-watching moments while we sat and waited for my sugar to come up (I got a kick out of the weird people coming in and out of the lobby, too, but was slightly more focused on raising my number).

Thank you, Kortney and Roshani, for accompanying me on an incredible girls’ trip and for being my best friends in the world. Maybe Las Vegas 2020 needs to happen – now that we know to expect, perhaps my diabetes will be a more cooperative travel companion the next time around!

Traveling with T1D

In a few days, I’ll be jetting off to Washington, D.C. for a week! I’m always filled with a nervous excitement in anticipation of all kinds of trips. Whether they’re to a faraway place or close to home, just a few days long or two weeks, there’s a certain level of preparation I need to do that involves more than picking out a few outfits.

Yep, you guessed it – I’ve got to prepare for apocalypse.

Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic. But not really, because I’ve got to think of every possible diabetes scenario that could happen when I’m away. I could experience multiple pod failures, the batteries might go on my PDM, I could lose the charge on my Dexcom or Verio IQ meter, I might run out of insulin – the list of possibilities goes on and on. How the heck do I go about making sure I have everything I could need on a trip, and backups, to boot?

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A peek inside my (barely packed) suitcase. Note: The pods/backup supplies will go into my carryon…whenever I get around to packing it…!

Here’s a walkthrough of the steps I take to prepare myself for a trip of any length:

  • 7 Days Before I Leave – I come up with a good, old-fashioned and handwritten list of supplies that I’ll need. This includes (but is not limited to): spare pods, alcohol swabs, skin-tac wipes, Humalog vials, backup Lantus vial, backup Humalog pen, Glucagon kit, backup syringes/pen needles, extra lancets, chargers for my meter and Dexcom, extra batteries for my PDM, a bottle of Glucose tablets, extra low snacks.
  • 3-4 Days Before I Leave – I begin to take items out that don’t need refrigeration or special attention. I’ll add them to my carry-on – NOT my suitcase, because that’s not a good idea (what if I got separated from it somehow?) – in a clear gallon-sized ziplock bag. That way, if for any reason I need to take these items out of my carry-on, I don’t have to rifle through it in order to quickly locate them.
  • 1 Day Before I Leave – I charge all of my devices completely. I also double check my PDM to ensure that the battery in it is relatively full. I also run through my handy dandy list from a few days ago to see if I’m missing anything.
  • 4-6 Hours Before I Leave – This is when I’m about to leave the house to head to the airport, and I’m trying to finish up with the last-minute packing. I add my insulin to the clear baggie in my carry-on and check to see that I’ve got extra snacks in both the carry-on and my purse.
  • Just Before I Leave – One of the last things I do before heading over to the airport is check my blood sugar. I have a Dexcom, but it’s not always accurate, so I like to take that extra step of obtaining a fresh reading from my meter.

Bear in mind, these are all of the steps I take before I leave for a trip – there are many more in the during and after phases! Stay tuned for my follow-ups on what it’s like for a PWD during the actual travel part, and what it’s like upon arriving to the destination.