Adventures in Overseas Travel: Lesson One

Having spent a recent night on Concourse C at O'Hare airport in Chicago, I am reminded of the trials of my last international trip. That's not to say the trip wasn't amazing, but the logistics of it all left much to be desired, especially as it wouldn't have been nearly as bad if I had been healthy. And since 'tis the season for overseas travel, here is a series that will hopefully inspire you not to do what I did.

Oh, for the love of tape -- always overpack your medical supplies

The first time I went to the Caribbean, I was totally unprepared. The functionality of my medical equipment depends in large part on whether it actually sticks to my body. The problem with the Caribbean is that the humidity does its best to make sure that doesn’t happen. The breeze feels great, but doesn't really help with that. I had packed plenty of infusion sets (where an insulin pump sticks to you) for the week I was going to be there. That is, for normal usage. About an hour after I arrived, I realized that it might not be enough. By about half.

I started looking for my usual options. Waterproof sports tape (to replace the adhesive on the set) was first on my list. Surely everywhere had some equivalent of CVS. No. The drug stores on the island were tiny, like the old time mom and pop places that existed mainly to fill prescriptions, as opposed to selling convenience store supplies. They were also mostly closed, as it was Sunday. Even the ones that were open were closed for a few hours over the lunch hour. If they even had tape.

The second option was calling the medical supply company to see if they could deliver some extra supplies. But there was no outlet to do that on this island. It would take three days to deliver to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then they would have to fly it over. I was only staying for a week, so scratch that.

There was no option three. Well, except $1,000 ticket home. I didn't have $1,000.

I am generally a pretty laid back person, even a fairly relaxed traveler. I have always been blessed with the ability to fall asleep on takeoff and wake up upon landing. That is, except when I run out of something medical. As soon as I realize it, I immediately feel backed into a corner. This time was no different. As the situation progressed, I began to feel more and more panicky. What would happen if I ran out of supplies halfway through? I wasn’t sure I had enough needles to spend a week on emergency measures.

In the end we returned to option one. We drove around and around the island until we found an open drug store, where the pharmacist had to help us figure out what was waterproof. Not how I would have preferred to spend my first hours ever on a tropical island.

The second visit to this island I brought plenty of tape and needles. I thought about what I had before and doubled it. Then doubled it again. Same with the infusion sets. Good thing, too, since I would need them all.

To be continued . . .