Skittles On a Plane

Somebody once made a movie about Snakes On a Plane.

Nobody has decided that Diabetes on a Plane is script-worthy, but I'd like to put that invitation out there to any budding screenwriters who'd care to toss their ideas into the hat. It may not be the most suspenseful and dramatic movie, but I'm sure it would be appealing to some of us who are always finding something of an adventure when it comes to Traveling With Diabetes On a Plane.

In my case, I'd offer a D-version of a substitute for those snakes: Skittles.

On my recent travels to the Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum in Los Angeles, the travels to the D-conference started out early - to the tune of making a 6 a.m. flight out of Indy. Getting to the airport without any coffee in my veins because of the early hour, it's nothing short of a miracle that the TSA didn't give me any hassle. Decided to not bother with declaring my medical devices, so just took them off and stuffed them in my carry-on laptop bag and went on through without any fuss. (Note: This later came up at the Forum, and I was told you're apparently not supposed to send pump or CGM through X-ray... so don't do as I do without consulting your device manufacturer info first.)

Indy to Chicago was nothing worth writing home about (or blogging to the world). Except that I finally got my first cup of coffee. Same uneventfulness on the flights back, going through Dallas/Ft. Worth to get back to Indy. Uneventful and hassle-free.

But the four hour flight to LA was the interesting, on the diabetes front.

I had an aisle seat, thanks to some advanced planning to avoid getting a dreaded middle seat.

Of course, my pre-planning turned out to not be very effective - actually it was counter-productive - thanks to my being on the aisle where my left arm was adjacent to the aisle, giving fellow passengers walking by and the beverage cart perfect access to my CGM arm site. That arm must have been hit a dozen times, and at least a couple by the beverage cart, yet someone the arm site managed to stay attached. (Not that it mattered, though, as you'll soon see...)

As one might expect, as soon as we got into the air my BGs dropped and caused my Dex to start freaking out. The sensor failed, and despite trying to reconnect it wouldn't re-connect. And then, that much-fun message ERR 1 flashed on the screen, all as I wasn't feeling exactly "in range." A pair of tests confirmed I was batting about 54 mg/dL - and probably still dropping.

So, a few handfuls of the Skittles from my laptop bag came to the rescue.

That needed sugar-boost brought my senses back and put me back in the mood to carry on a conversation with the woman next to me, who had been quietly watching some of my BG testing, insulin pump/CGM button-pushing, and candy-inhaling. Plus my eating a few crackers I had in my bag.

Middle Seat Lady: "Do you have diabetes?"

Me: "I do. Type 1."

Lady: "Oh, my father-in-law is diabetic. I'm not really sure what type. And my husband, he's a... a... 'pre-diabetic' in denial."

"Seems like we all have a connection to some degree," I offered. "Does your father-in-law take insulin shots or some other type of medication?"

Lady: "He takes pills every day. Or at least he's supposed to."

"I know how that goes. I take insulin through a pump, but there's a lot I should do that I don't."

That led to a chat about the different types of diabetes and D-Living in general. We also fell into a fascinating conversation about what was taking us all to LA - she visiting an older sister with her other sis, my going to a D-conference. We talked about her job in the recycling business, which was pretty enlightening and informative as she told me about the industry's evolution in the past 20 years.

After we talked for a while and the conversation drifted off, I decided it might be time to check my blood sugar again - since we were a couple hours into the flight and I was starting to feel low again. I tested and was back into the 60s, and decided it would be good to get some substance in me. Traveled back to the stewardess sitting area and snagged a sandwich, then made my way back to the aisle seat. Before digging into that, I opted to inhale a few Skittles just to boost me up a bit. I'm a fan of the colorful candy, and probably would have been passed out from a Low without having these on hand.

So, it was my pleasure to be able to grab the last handful from the bag to do the job. And mid-chew of those half dozen Skittles, that's when I felt it - a CRUNCH. The sound and feeling you experience of a breaking tooth.

Son of a...

A filling had broken off. So, I then found myself navigating four days of careful eating before being able to getting back to my dentist at home. Navigating the plane ride while low, without wanting to eat more Skittles or the thick sandwich, gave me a fun balance between not wanting to keep dropping lower and not eat anything that might further damage the tooth.

Suspended the pump, then set a temp basal and got an orange juice from the beverage cart (which again came by about an hour before we landed and tried to take out my still-failed CGM sensor). That kept me in the 110-125 range, a victory in my world.

As we ventured the landing into LAX, the Middle Seat Lady and I started saying goodbye. She mentioned again that maybe her father-in-law would start taking better care of himself, if even just testing his blood sugar more often to know where he's at. But he, just like her husband, weren't very happy about having to live with diabetes and seemed to be resisting.

Earlier in the flight, I'd been flipping through a book that friend, fellow advocate and diabetes journalist Riva Greenberg had sent me not long ago. I was navigating a rough patch and she sent her book, The ABCs of Loving Yourself With Diabetes. I had a few books to read on my smartphone, such as Beyond Fingersticks by Wil Dubois and A Lovely, Indecent Departure by D-Dad Steven Lee Gilbert. But having a hard-copy of a book to read is something I always prefer to have, too. So it was Riva's book that was with me on this trip out. Loving the book and knowing how much it can help, I grabbed it from my bag and offered it to the woman as something to share with her father-in-law and husband.

"I think they need this more than I do, and besides - we're all in this together. Give my best to them both, and let them know they can do it."

She was very thankful and seemed like she wanted to flip through it right there on the spot.

We shared for a few more minutes as we landed and sat through the waiting as the rest of the plane's rows de-boarded, before it was finally our turn. And with that, we made our way into LAX and the rest of the trip ahead.

(Disclosure: Medtronic paid my way and put a roof over my head. But all advocacy on this plane ride was my own. And I purchased my own Skittles and $10 cobb salad sandwich on the flight. Just so you know.)

Diabetes Advocacy on a plane. And Skittles. Better than snakes, any day.


Kim said…
Oh my gosh! I didn't realize you'd chipped a tooth! No wonder you were so quiet at breakfast. Glad to hear of the d-connection, though. :)
Unknown said…
Oh wow! You were right there with me the whole trip and you didn't say a word about your tooth! ((HUGS))

That was so good of you to share your book with your travel companion. :-)
Joanne said…
What a great story... excpet for the tooth. I live a mere 10 minutes from DFW, I bet I could see your plane land from my backyard!
Anonymous said…
Breaking a tooth always seems to happen at a bad time. That is great that you had the book with you and met someone on the plane that could really use it.
Kate Cornell said…
Ugh, breaking teeth totally sucks! I broke a molar on a month-long road trip a couple of years ago. I was so lucky that it didn't pain me at all.

Mike, you are the bomb for giving that book to your seat-mate! What a great gift....for both of you!
Kelly said…
What a thoughtful gesture on your part to provide that extra touch by gifting that book to someone in need! Hope your tooth is feeling better this day.
1) I too happened to have skittles with me on the recent plane rides!

2) What a bummer about your filling! That had to have sucked!

3) I think it is pretty cool of you to offer your book to that family. A gesture that may help them turn the corner in their diabetes care.

Great to see you again Mike, and hope it's not too long until the next time.
shannon said…
hope your tooth is feeling better now! i love that you gave that lady your book for her family to read. so lovely.

ps there was a diabetes on a plane movie, remember con air? ;P

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