I think it is important to keep posting stuff. Its amazing how much better I feel when I get people that feel the same way about my words!

So, My last post I talked about not being able to work because of diabetes. Well, I am going to expand on this.

"You sure travel alot, you are so lucky!!!"

Sure I do travel, for work, which I admit I love. It has actually taken a job/industry that I had gotten bored with and made it always new, exciting, and interesting. In the past year I have worked in the remote jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Island paradise of Papua New Guinea, the -46 C winter of Canada, and of course Lovely Norway. I actually had to leave Congo because my health department no longer wanted to be liable for diabetics in the jungle. For good reason too because I eventually got cholera and lost a bunch of weigh (and never could eat enough to make my blood sugar high). Papua New Guinea Airport Security wanted me to pour all of my insulin into a cup or zip-lock so they can inspect and seal it. Canada was accepting of my diabetes but I felt like I was low all the time (maybe from shivering so much and burning sugar?). Norway, I will always be thankful for this countries strong respect for health even in the workplace, which put a fire under my ass to start taking my diabetes seriously. Plus it was very easy to find healthy low carb meals.

So, where am I now? I am in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Its East Africa, which is Africa's version of the American Wild West. Not as much random genocide as Sierra Leone or that area, but it can be dangerous being so close to Somalia. This is where the world goes to go on Safari. But sadly there is no time for Safari for me. I did fill up on Tanzanite presents and even knocked out most of my Christmas shopping (IT OCTOBER!!!). People are pretty understanding of Diabetes (even if they don't understand the term). Usually they think I am dying and they are really sincere and touchy feely. Which I love this despite how awkward it can be coming from some guy who has probably had a worse life than me. They do have a big problem in this area with pirates (especially Kenya/Somalia). Note, they usually just kidnap you and ransom your govt/corporation.

Where is this going? Well I feel I have some knowledge on remote traveling with diabetes. so here is my list which I think applies to a trip to disneyland as much as a trip Africa as well as non-diabetics.

1. Leave the pharmacy labels on your drugs and keep the box the insulin comes in. It helps when trying to convince people this drug is for you and you are not trying to do something illegal.

2. If you have anything you absolute need to survive, bring two, over pack that suitcase with your 'needs'. For us with diabetes, meters etc, I usually have three because my compact plus twins are fickle sometimes. Have some changes of clothes, insertion sets, meter strips, etc on your carry on. You never know when Paris is going to loose your luggage (which they will) and you will be stuck in Pointe Noire wearing the same set of clothing you had on the trip over for a week (with no toiletries). Remember, you can have an additional 'diabetics' carry on on most airlines. I have my little soft side lunch box (easily stuffed in places) with icepacks that contain insulin vials, glucagon shot, pen insulin, meter, strips, and some glucose. My carry-on has a mini toiletry kit with things to keep me civil. One thing to never forget on a 20 hr plus flight, baby wipes, or as I call them, the closest thing to a shower in a can. Try to do this and still have light bags...

3. If you think you are going somewhere for two weeks, and you have a insulin pump or a kid or something that needs product x that you may not find where you are going. Bring enough extra for the worst case scenario. If I am going somewhere for a month, I bring two months worth of everything.

4. Ensure before hand that those you will be with in your new location understand your special needs or conditions and that things are already set up to properly support you. This is a general way of saying, make sure my boss gets me a hotel room with a fridge for my massive insulin supply.

5. Remember that new conditions and environments effect everyone different. I remember burning through sugar like never before in some of these crazy places, almost to the point that I thought I was cured of my diabetes by some local witch doctor. Conversely, respect those around you and recognize that they might be having a harder time adapting. Be sure to watch out for the guy would might be going through a divorce or bad situation and his moral is further complicated by constant gastronomical complications. Try to help those around you if you can.

As a last bit, I wanted to talk about legals and employers limiting you working somewhere because you have a disease or disability. They have to make a reasonable effort to make a work place adaptable for people with certain special needs. But be reasonable, I don't try for a job building something by hand when I don't have hands. So where do you draw the line with diabetes and remote/hostile environment working. Well, I feel there is no line. And my employer has supported me in working many places. But the health and safety department has to cover their asses. They worry about the corporate liability of sending a Diabetic to the jungle. Well let me tell you that the government laws of Norway have kept me from working there while my corporate rullings have kept me from working in the Congo. I feel there is nothing a hospital can do for me if I have a low or some type of daily issues. I feel I take good enough care of my self that coma, or long term organ issues are not likely (and my endocrinologist backs that opinion). Congo had a reasonably good french hospitol. Norway has better medical facilities than America in alot of ways. So I think both organizations are wrong. But I know they are just covering their ass right? Well whatever. The key part is that these decisions were all made based on HbA1c figures. Which if you go to the ADA site or any site on diabetes they will tell you that although doctors use HbA1c to give a good estimate of average blood sugar for the past 6 months or so. It does not give the doctor any idea about how controled your disease is. This is a mentality that is outdated and no longer used in most communities. But the fact is, most corporations and govts are slow to adopt anything that will swell their liability risk. None of HbA1c gives employers an idea of what threat to the work place you might be or what threat your diabetes has to your personal health. It helps develop the picture along with other data.


All you need to do, is document evidence proving the opposite. I provided evidence of how often I meter, whether or not I had been hospitalized, how long I have had the disease, and etc.


Produce a case and don't get hostile. Don't take these things personal. Take it like a legal case. Do your homework.

Don't be afraid to be adventurous.

Views: 78

Tags: Africa, Congo, Guinea, New, Norway, Papua, Tanzania

Comment by Trudy on October 29, 2011 at 1:17pm
Hi Don. Thanks for writing such a fascinating blog. I can't think of any adventure in my future to match yours!


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