I have two sides to my personality, one that likes to fly free, moving on every whim of desire and taking every opportunity as soon as it presents itself, and the other, which is my practical side. It’s my practical side that likes to prepare and research and plan for every possible obstacle. Single-handed sailing through the Florida Keys this February will provide a place for both sides of my personality to work together as one unit. While at sea all alone, I will be free to change course, to get a closer look at an island that catches my eye, to slow down and follow a manatee eating lunch, to find the craziest, out-of-the-way dive bar to grab some hot food and recharge my batteries (both my actual batteries- cell phone, laptop, GPS, and my more figurative batteries-, a friendly face, stable ground, and a warm meal). But because of my diabetes, I will need to do a great deal of behind the scenes planning and preparation before I ever set foot on that boat.
One of my latest preparations is writing my own emergency manual, my Plan B Book. For the non-diabetic world this might consist of a first aid manual and the number of the Coast Guard. For me, it is a thirty page book organized from the most extreme emergency to the least. If I need major medical care (short of a call to the Coast Guard to bring in the helicopters and rescue divers), I will need to get myself to a hospital, which is easier said than done. If I were on a typical road trip, I wouldn’t even bother to find the names of any hospitals along the way. The amazing 911 system takes the hard work out of it. Simply call, tell them where you are and in a few minutes you’re safe. On a boat, it is a whole new game. You can’t exactly pull the boat up into the hospital parking lot and jump out to find a nice orderly waiting with a wheelchair. Thus, my creation of the Plan B Book. The first pages are for every hospital and emergency medical center in the Florida Keys. Each page includes a map of the hospital and at least three docks nearby. For each dock, I need the longitude and latitude, address to give to the ambulance driver, the phone number of the dock master so he knows why I am crashing at his dock, and in case I can’t contact an ambulance, the path I would walk to get to the hospital.
After that follows the plans for the mishaps. The “I forgot to pack my Symlin,” or the “Oh crap. I just dumped all of my test strips into the ocean,” or the “I never even thought of what the Florida heat would do to my insulin” mumbled as I roll the insulin bottle around in my hands and notice that the once clear liquid is now chunky and white. So in the next few pages are the addresses and phone numbers of every pharmacy in the Keys, all five pages of them, divided by region. And just in case there is not a single one who will transfer my prescription (which of course I have every one listed with the prescription number and phone number of each pharmacy who holds the prescription), I have the number of the only endocrinologist in the Keys in case she might take pity on me and give me one of those free samples of insulin or strips or whatever it was that I ruined, or lost, or forgot.
My preparation goes far beyond the Plan B Book, too. It covers knowing that things happen, airlines lose luggage, I lose my mind and forget to pack things, electrical systems on a boat can break and leave my fridge as nothing more than a cheap cooler without any ice packs to keep it cool. So I pack multiples of everything I need and I pack them in multiple locations and in multiple contraptions. I pack four blood glucose meters, one in each backpack, one in a waterproof Otterbox below deck and one in my ditch bag, just in case. I bring six vials of insulin, enough to keep me alive for five months, and hide it in all of the same spots and two more in the fridge. I pack my insulin pump, my old insulin pump, a loaner insulin pump from Minimed, and even needles (which I have not used to inject insulin in the thirteen years I’ve been pumping) in case all three pumps break. I bring Nick, my preferred CGMS with his extra sensors, and Johnny, my back up CGMS system, with his extra sensors. My bags will be so full with back up diabetes supplies, I will only be able to fit one swimsuit and one pair of shorts into the remaining spaces. Looks like shirts will have to wait for another trip.
After spending countless hours thinking of everything that can go wrong, and five ways to fix each problem, after packing and repacking to get all the extra equipment, equipment that I will probably never even use, to fit into my two bags, and after spending time typing up and printing my Plan B Book, I can shut down the practical side to my personality and fully embrace my footloose and fancy free side because I know all of my bases have been covered, and a few extra ones at that. I will be able to fully focus on the beauty in front of me, and the one hundred miles I have to cover, and the diabetes that I will be conquering by not letting it stop me from living my dreams.