Lots of people love to travel – seeing new sights and trying new experiences can be both thrilling and rejuvenating. Stacey Divone, a.k.a. The Girl with the Portable Pancreas, shares this passion. Since she has been living with type 1 diabetes for 31 years and now takes at least one trip abroad each year, I thought she might have some valuable learnings to share, specific to flying while living with diabetes.
Most recently Stacey traveled with her husband to Costa Rica. When flying, she recommends having identification with you that declares you have diabetes. She also knows people who carry a letter from their physicians, stating that they have diabetes, and are required to have specific supplies with them.
“I keep my medical alert bracelet on at all times. In addition to that, I carry a medical ID card that states that I’m a diabetic,” she said.
“On our trip coming home from Costa Rica, my insulin pump set off the metal detector,” Stacey remembered. “When they were doing the pat-down, the female agent felt the pump and she asked what it was. I wasn’t sure if she would understand what an insulin pump was, so I pointed to my medical alert bracelet and said it’s medical. She actually understood and said ‘insulina,’ which is Spanish for ‘insulin.’”
Given this experience, Stacey suggests learning words related to diabetes in other languages, especially when traveling to foreign countries.
Since some airports have instituted the use of body scanners, Stacey has opted out of passing through them, choosing instead to go through a pat-down security check. “I’ve heard from numerous diabetes device companies that that’s probably the best route to take,” she said.
Stacey prepares for her trips by bringing an abundance of supplies. “We typically go away for maybe six days, but I bring enough supplies to last me for about a month,” she explained. “The supplies take up a lot of room but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Just imagine if your flights are delayed and you’re stuck there an extra day or more. It’s so reassuring to have more than you may otherwise need.” Another way Stacey plans for the unexpected is by packing a back-up pump.
Stacey also monitors her blood sugar frequently while in the air. “The longer the flight, the longer I’m sitting, and that may play a part in my blood sugar level,” she said. “I may need to make adjustments if I know I’m going to be on the plane for additional time. If my blood sugar does rise while in the air, I can correct as needed, and see if the corrections work.”
Despite the added precautions, Stacey remains a strong advocate for traveling while living with diabetes. “Try not to let packing and preparing for a vacation with diabetes stress you out,” she advises. “Don’t let it keep you from traveling if possible because if you are able, it’s so worth it.”
Seems to me that Stacey’s tips may be very helpful as you think about your next air travel adventure. Regarding the abundance of supplies, I have also heard DOC members speak about packing them across multiple bags in the event one of your bags is lost or stolen. I am greatly appreciative of Stacey for taking the time to share her air travel experiences with us.
All the best,
Disclosure: Stacey Divone received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.