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Diabetes is a big deal. Most people living with diabetes can talk to that. But are there ways that we can reduce its impact in small ways that may just add up to something meaningful?

I was thinking about this when I saw Dana Lewis tweet an update from her most recent travels. She does this often – a photo and a comment as she has breezed through security, and I love that she does. Dispelling myths that travel with diabetes has to be a logistical nightmare involving routine strip searches and confiscation of devices is only a good thing, and hopefully will show that diabetes shouldn’t be a reason to delay a trip somewhere.

I’ve made it no big deal by never declaring that I have diabetes or that I am carrying diabetes kit, because why the hell draw attention to something unless necessary? If, for any reason, an alarm sounds, or I get asked about what I’m wearing or carrying, I have a clear, polite, stock standard response that usually does the trick.

That doesn’t mean that travel is never going to involve diabetes-related questions, but there are certainly ways that can minimise just how much of an issue it all is – or even stop it starting to begin with! Dozens and dozens of flights, more security check points than I care to think about … and the times there was an issue can be counted on one hand. No big deal.

The longer you live with diabetes, the better you are at finding shortcuts to make life easier. And reducing just how big a deal every day occurrences are is one way to do just that.

For example, being weighed at diabetes consultations (in fact, most consultations) is a no-no for me. I’ve made it clear to my endo why I don’t want to be, the circumstances under which I will agree to it, and why I find it difficult.

By the way – I know that being weighed is actually a big deal for a lot of people, me included. There’s a lot tied up in stepping on scales. I’m certainly not trying to minimise the minefield that is weight and being weighed. I am just trying to explain how I have been able to remove a lot of the angst just by doing something simple and being clear about my wishes.

Apart from a few times where I have had to repeat my position more than once, it’s never been a problem. It’s actually interesting how HCPs respond when you ask why they need to do something. ‘We need it for our records,’ is never a good enough reason for anything as far as I’m concerned – certainly not how much I weigh.

I get the position of privilege I am coming from here, by the way. I know that I am assertive enough to state what I want and expect, back it up if necessary, and having that confidence means I find it easier to navigate the often treacherous waters of diabetes and getting what I want. I am comfortable saying no and holding my ground, and I can’t remember the last time that wasn’t the case.

Diabetes is a huge deal, so working out ways to make things a little less big makes sense to me. I don’t have the time, inclination or energy to waste on things that really can be minimised. What is important and a big deal (or what isn’t) for me, will be different for others, but I do wonder if sometimes we make more out of things that we really don’t need to. Because, really, sometimes it’s good to shrug our shoulders and just think ‘no big deal’.

#TravelWithDiabetes – no big deal

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Last Thursday morning, still wracked (and wrecked) with jet lag from having just returned from ten days in Europe, I boarded a flight to Manila. I would be co-facilitating a workshop for people with diabetes from across the Philippines about how advocacy, community and engagement. If I’m completely honest, I had no idea what was in store for me.

I knew that the PWD who would be attending had all been through a diabetes camps program in the Philippines. They were all young and very eager to step up as advocates. They were the reason the workshop was happening – they realised it was time to elevate the PWD voice in advocacy efforts in their country and they wanted some help in doing just that.

And so, the idea of a workshop was conceived, and the two facilitators were flown in from opposite sides of the planet to pull it all together. Enter me and the Grumpy Pumper (who for once had to travel further than me and was more jet lagged than me).

As the facilitators, we were there to talk about some examples of effective grass roots advocacy, talk about how engagement with other stakeholders is important, and highlight just why the voice of those living with diabetes is critical when it comes to lobbying. We had an vague outline of just how we thought the workshop would run, but we really wanted to ensure that the attendees could shape it the way they wanted, asking relevant questions and walking away with information that would help them.

Once the workshop started, it was very, very quickly apparent that we already had a thriving, dynamic and enthusiastic community in the room. They just weren’t seeing themselves that way. Over the course of the workshop, we saw the ten PWD realise that their own stories and voices are important and have real currency, and they are an unstoppable force when they came together. If ever I needed a reminder of the power of community, I’d have found it there in that room in Manila!

There will be a lot more about the weekend workshop in coming days. I’m still getting my head around it all and am not really sure what to write just yet. It may take me some time. What I do know is that the DOC now has some new voices. Their perspectives will be different to those we often hear about, and that diversity is always good in a community.

So, while I’m getting my words together, get to know these amazing young advocates. They’re on Facebook here; Twitter here; and Instagram here.

 

DISCLOSURES

Novo Nordisk covered costs for the advocacy workshop. Grumps and I were invited to facilitate the workshop as part of our involvement in the Novo Nordisk DEEP Program. Novo covered by flights, accommodation and ground transfers.

I’m back on deck at work today after a whirlwind ten days in Europe for meetings and a conference. I started in Amsterdam, then flew to Florence and finally flew to Copenhagen (via Pisa). Those ten days were busy, long and interesting. And, perhaps best of all, packed full of others from the diabetes community.

Spending time with others living with or around diabetes is restorative. I know I get jaded at times, and burnout – in all its forms – takes its toll. I’ve been feeling a little advocacy burnout lately, and that has the tendency to make me feel that I need to step away from diabetes for a bit. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I could be bothered with the inevitable onslaught that comes when these sorts of activities happen.

Instead of hiding away (which is what I half wanted to do), I got on a crowded plane to Europe to spend almost two weeks ‘doing’ diabetes advocacy in different forms. By the time I got to Nijmegen – an hour and a half out of Amsterdam – for HypoRESOLVE I was already feeling better. I felt the darkness of burnout slip away as I sat in meetings, speaking up and providing PWD input into the project. And there, alongside me, were others living with diabetes. We leaned into each other, stepped back so another could take their turn, and supported each other to feel comfortable and relaxed. We reminded each other that there was a reason we were there – because people with diabetes must have a seat at the table and that we must be heard. We lived, breathed and ate ‘Nothing about us without us’ throughout that meeting and by the time I boarded a hideously early flight to Florence for the next meeting, I was raring to go – further boosted by a diabetes in the wild encounter.

Two days of meeting in Florence with friends and peers from the diabetes community talking about our experiences in the diabetes community continued to see my mojo return. We spoke about difficult topics, how the community works best and the place everyone has in there. I was reminded that the community ebbs and flows, and that it is not static. Sometimes, that rut that I find myself in means I forget that all communities change and grow and develop. This is actually a positive, because as it shifts, more people come in, some people step away (for good or just a bit), we reconfigure how it fits us, and diabetes makes sense in new ways.

Some much needed downtime meant that I could reconnect with peers and feel myself being completely and utterly filled up in a way that only comes when surrounded by people who get diabetes and this weird diabetes space. We don’t all have diabetes – we represent different corners of the community, but we know diabetes in a way that is particular to those who live close to or with it. Our dinner after the second day of the meeting saw us finally able to breathe and take some time out of diabetes speak, and instead revert to a steady flow of laughs (shrieks, actually).

The next day, a friend from Italy just happened to be in Florence. We met up and I met her family, including her son who has diabetes. As we drank coffee just over the Ponte Vecchio, diabetes was spoken about a bit, but mostly, I got to learn about this young man who is clearly going to take on the world. He is smart, funny, delightful and inquisitive. His questions about Loop were intelligent – far more so than anything I would have thought to ask before I started using the tech! I hugged his mum as we said good bye, noting that she had just introduced someone else to our tribe.

By the time I arrived in Copenhagen (at 2.30am thanks to high winds in Florence, a bus ride to Pisa to take a diverted flight and some first-rate Italian disorganisation), I was exhausted, but at the same time felt more enthusiastic about the diabetes space than I had in some time. The next morning when I arrived at the conference venue, I was ready for a packed day of speakers, and to do my own presentation in the afternoon. I looked around and saw that there were a number of people living with and around diabetes that I knew, as well as a whole lot of new faces in there. The event was for HCPs, but as always, those of us with a truly personal connection to diabetes searched each other out. I met members of a support group known as ‘Diabetes Dads’ who meet regularly to speak about their kids with diabetes. They were there to support their friend who was speaking about his Looping son.

At lunch, I sat at a table with two PWD I knew. Two other people joined us and we quickly found out they too have type 1 diabetes. The conversation flowed – we understood each other, and our shorthand of diabetes speak easily fitted into our stories. We nodded as we heard stories that sounded familiar, even though they were being told by someone from another country who, until we sat down with our overflowing lunch plates, we had never met before. One of the women at the table had asked during an earlier session about how to wear the devices required for Loop, and I pulled out my RileyLink and showed it to her. She held it and weighed it in her hands. She’d wanted to know how to wear it with a fitted dress and I was able to show just how easily I could tuck away everything, even with the straight dress I was wearing for the day.

We may have all been there because of an interest or curiosity in DIY diabetes, but there is far more than that to draw us together. Just like as at the earlier meetings. As always, diabetes brings us together, but it’s far more that keeps us that way.

By the time I boarded the Dreamliner at Heathrow, all traces of burnout, and questions about how to manage in the sometimes tricky maze of diabetes community had completely subsided and were replaced with the reminder that when we find out tribe and surround ourselves with them, the burnout is replaced by feeling supported. And that’s how and why we show up. We do what we do, we show up, we speak up and we try to get stuff done. Ten days of that and I feel so much better. Which is good. Because as it turns out, those ten days are just the start …

DISCLOSURES

My flights to Amsterdam and accommodation while in the Netherlands was covered by HypoRESOLVE. I am on the Patient Advisory Committee for this project. My flight to Florence and two nights’ accommodation were covered by Lilly. I was in Florence for a DOCLab Advisory Meeting. My accommodation in, and flight home from Copenhagen was covered by the Danish Diabetes Academy. The Academy invited me to speak at their Diabetes DIY Movement conference.

I never thought I’d be one to think about back-up plans the way I do now. A few years ago, I remember being extraordinarily proud of myself as I wrote this post about my diabetes spares bag. And then a couple of years ago, I thought I was remarkable and quite brilliant at being able to easily manage when I got to work and realised my insulin pump hadn’t made it with me. I thought I had every contingency sorted and was fabulously good at diabetes. Give me a medal, please.

But in the last six months or so, I’ve come to see I’m not quite as prepared as I thought. I probably should point the finger right now at David ‘Bionic Wookiee’ Burren for this. He has highlighted holes in what I thought was a well-planned strategy a number of times (‘What’s your RileyLink Bluetooth address, Renza? You don’t know? You should.’), shaming me into wanting to do better, and really making me question all my life choices at the same time.

Back-up planning has been covered in both the Australian and European Social Media Summits hosted by Ascensia (disclosure at the end of this post) and it is interesting to see that the level of organisation and preparation varies so much in those of us living with diabetes.

Some people have thought out every possible contingency and have a plan for each one. Others have a fixed idea about what might go wrong and have made accommodations for those (that’s me). And others figure that it will all work out and the diabetes gods will sort it out.

I guess that personality type comes into how well-equipped we all may be. Some of us have a far more lackadaisical approach to planning for the apocalypse than others. But I do agree that it never hurts to be prepared or to consider things that may never have entered your mind before.

So here are some things that I have learnt in recent times that have completely changed the way that I think about my back-up planning.

It’s not just about kit (1). It’s all very well to have back up for what happens if (for example) your pump dies, but if that means returning to MDI until a replacement can be delivered, actually knowing how to do MDI is important. (Bless my endo who always asks if I need any long acting insulin ‘just in case’. She gave me some in-date long acting insulin and we had a discussion about what doses would look like after I proclaimed ‘It’s been 18 years since I gave myself a dose of long acting insulin. And it was Protophane. I have no idea what I am doing.’Lovely endo didn’t even roll her eyes at me when she walked me through exactly what I’d need to do to ensure my basal dose was right and the timing of the injections.)

It’s not just about kit (2). Look – my back up plan to my pump dying is another pump. I have a couple in the diabetes spares cupboard and always travel with one. But I don’t carry one around with me on a day-to-day basis. If I was a couple of hours from home and my pump died, I’d need to know what to do in the meantime. Again – it’s been 18 years since I was on MDI, but I always have a spare syringe and insulin with me so I can bolus until I get hooked up again to a working pump. My injection technique is scratchy – very scratchy, but in a pinch, I can manage it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for some re-education on something for which you may be a little out of practise.

Apparently my long-held belief that the DOC is my back-up plan is not actually adequate, because who is going to be able to provide me with insulin/pump consumables/spare pump/battery/RileyLink at 3am when things like to go wrong. (This is despite the success of the whole Pumpless in Vienna story.)

Equally, having a neighbour with type 1 diabetes two doors down is great when I need a Dexcom sensor at breakfast time. But it would probably stretch and test the neighbourly spirit if I woke her and her family in the middle of the night because I desperately wanted my loop to turn back to green and needed a sensor to do that.

I need a back-up of EVERYTHING I use if I want to be able to seamlessly manage any issue that comes up. With Loop that means a spare Loopable pump, a spare Riley Link, a spare G5 transmitter as well as all the necessary consumables. That takes expense as well as organisation.

CABLES!! They need to be part of my back up plan. I was at a conference last year somewhere (can’t remember where) and remembered as I was about to sleep that I’d forgotten the charger to my RileyLink. And just last month didn’t charge it overnight, meaning that my Loop turned red while I was at work and I was unable to do anything until I got home. Carrying the right charging equipment for all devices is important.

But! If I don’t have all these things, I need to ensure that I have a suitable, easy and fully ready-to-go option that will get me through until I can assemble all required to return to normal service.

When your back up plan becomes someone else’s back up plan, you need to do something about it. Case in point: at the DOCDAY event at ATTD, a friend leaned across the table and asked me if I had a spare battery for her Loopable pump. Of course I did, because there is always at least one in my spares bag. I handed it to her and made a mental note to pick up some more AAA batteries next time I passed a convenience store. Of course, I forgot all about it until Loop started complaining and that the battery was running low. Down to 4% battery and starting to feel a little nervous, I found a tiny little store in a backstreet in Brussels, crossing my fingers as I walked in that there would be a stash somewhere of what I needed. There was and I changed the battery just as my Loop app was showing 0% battery.

Beating ourselves up about our perceived or real lack of planning is unnecessary. As Sophie, one of the participants at #ATTDDSMS, said: ‘Life gets in the way.’ And it does. I challenge anyone not living with diabetes to do their normal life, live with diabetes and not only think about all the ‘just-in-case’ scenarios, but also prepare for each and every one of them.

But mostly, what I have come to see is that the point of a back-up plan is for it to be smooth and simple, with as little disruption to our day as possible. A plan that requires a cast of thousands, hours of travel, is insanely complex and relies on a number of external factors that are potentially beyond our control is not really going to make executing our plan all that easy, or give us peace of mind. And that’s a big part of what this is all about – feeling confident that we can manage whatever gets thrown at us.

That is, after all, the nature of this condition we live with.

DISLCOSURE

I attended the ATTD conference in Berlin. My (economy) airfare and part of my accommodation was covered by DOCLab (I attended an advisory group meeting for DOCLab), and other nights’ accommodation was covered by Roche Global (I attended the Roche Blogger MeetUp). While my travel and accommodation costs have been covered, my words remain all my own and I have not been asked by DOCLab or Roche Global to write about my attendance at their events or any other aspect of the conference. 

I was invited by Ascensia to co-chair the Diabetes Social Media Summit at ATTD (#ATTDDSMS). I did not receive any payment or in-kind support from them for accepting their invitation. I have co-written a piece for the blog, however this was not edited (apart from inevitable jet-lag-induced typos) and all words are those of mine and the piece’s co-author. You can read that piece here.  

Let me tell you what is worse than jet lag. Jet lag combined with food poisoning. These are the two extra circles of hell Dante forgot about.

While I am recovering and trying to get my body to accept coffee again, here are some photos from last week’s ATTD conference which was in equal measure amazing, overwhelming, frustrating, intimidating, brilliant and exhausting. I’ll explain more in coming posts, but for now, enjoy the images.

How to deal with jet lag when arriving in Europe #1: night time walk to major tourist site and be amazed.

How to deal with jet lag when arriving in Europe #2: find (half) decent coffee.

How to deal with jet lag when arriving in Europe #2.1: drink all the coffee.

And then drink some more.

#docday is always a highlight. Little dogs called Jamaica make it even better. (Jamaica on the left; Bastian on the right.)

Hello Solo… New pumps headed our way.

MySugr is ALWAYS on message.

Flavour of the conference #1: DIYAPS

Flavour of the conference #2: Time in Range

Vegetables. I craved them.

Because there were so, so, so many dense carbs!

Not that I was complaining. (Especially when mini doughnuts came in Diabetogenic colours!)

Oh – did I say that #SpareARose was mentioned? A lot?

Such as at #docday. (Grumps looking especially grumpy because I’d just announced #SpareAFrown.)

And then? Then there was the smile-a-thon, as we smashed through target after target.

Next week, I’ll go into detail about some of the different sessions, highlights and satellite events I attended. It was a frantic few days – so worthwhile in every possible way. And as always at these conferences, finding those who live diabetes – themselves or with a loved one – provided the necessary grounding throughout the conference. This year, that support was even more pronounced with every single person who was asked to step up to promote #SpareARose doing so in spades. This is all the community. That is what it is all about…

DISLCOSURE

I attended the ATTD conference in Berlin. My (economy) airfare and part of my accommodation was covered by DOCLab (I attended an advisory group meeting for DOCLab), and other nights’ accommodation was covered by Roche Global (I attended the Roche Blogger MeetUp). While my travel and accommodation costs have been covered, my words remain all my own and I have not been asked by DOCLab or Roche Global to write about my attendance at their events or any other aspect of the conference. 

So, I’m here:

And I’m spending my time doing this:

And sometimes this:

Oh, and eating these:

And lunching on things like this:

And cleaning plates like this:

I’m also doing a lot of this:

So you might expect there would be a lot of this:

But there’s not.

Because along for the trip is Loop, and as soon as we start our days, I hit the workout glucose target (which is set to 7.0mmol/l instead of 5.0mmol/l) and that has been pretty much taking care of things.

I have these in my bag (because: back up plan) and have needed a couple of them now and then.

But really, diabetes has been pretty boring. Which is great. Because Rome is anything but boring, and not having to deal with constant lows means that I get to just keep doing this sort of thing:

I am having a family holiday for a couple of weeks before heading to EASD in Berlin, so I may be a little quiet around here until I get to the conference. Our days are long and lazy and I am trying to not open my computer all that much. (I’m also really bad at being on holidays (the 1am teleconference last night is a good example of that!), but I really am going to try my best to take some real time away. 

I’m back from a very busy week in London and Copenhagen. I arrived back in the door at home exactly two minutes after Harry and Meghan got hitched, so I missed the whole happy occasion. If only we had some sort of magical way to see photos and videos and relive beautiful experiences like that. Oh well, never mind.

The main reason for my trip was for the kick-off meeting for Hypo-RESOLVE, a new four-year project focusing on better understanding hypoglycaemia. I’m there as part of the Patient Advisory Committee (PAC), which is made up of advocates from across Europe. Obviously, it is now legislated that an Australian also be included in any European diabetes advocate activities. I believe it’s called the Eurovision Law.

The project is made up of eight work packages, each led and staffed by leading European diabetes researchers and clinicians, and after seeing just who was going to be in the room, I suddenly was struck down by the worst case of Imposter Syndrome I have ever experienced. This didn’t get any better when I was told that the presentation I had been asked to give was not only for the PAC. No – it would be in front of all eighty project participants. I looked at the list of who I would be standing up and speaking to, and cursed the meme- and photo-filled presentation I had prepared, wondering if I could pretend to understand statistics and graphs, and add some to my slide deck to at least try to sound smart.

I decided to stick with what I knew (memes, cartoons, photos of weird hypo tales), and left the slide deck as it was, hoping against all hope that I would manage to keep myself nice, and sound as though I understood what I was speaking about.

I was asked to give a talk about the real life experiences of hypoglycaemia. Fortunately I have kept a pretty good record of the literal lows of my diabetes (which, incidentally, was the title of my talk). Thanks to the search function on Diabetogenic, I was able to easily pull together a number of stories about the lows I’ve had. This proved to be more useful than I realised because these days, lows are few and far between. Since I started Looping, I’ve not had the sort of low that has made me want to write about it and try to analyse what it all means in my diabetes life. In fact, I’ve not had any lows that have required anything more than a mouthful of juice or a couple of fruit pastilles to treat.

Reading back through my blog posts was actually really quite confronting, and I found myself getting emotional as I read details of terribly scary lows and how they had impacted on me – in the moment, and in the days following. As I read, I remembered the anxieties I felt about something happening while low that would seriously affect my family.

I’ve not asked them, but I wonder if the fact that I have so few hypos these days makes Aaron and the kidlet feel calmer about my diabetes. They still see me sucking on a juice box every now and then, but it is done without urgency, and without the look in my eyes that betrays the calm I used to try (and fail) to convey.

In my talk, I really tried to express just how significant hypos have been in my life with diabetes. I tried to explain that even once a low is ‘fixed’ there are often residual effects – effects far beyond just trying to work out what my glucose levels would do after playing the how-low-can-you-go-hypo-limbo.

I spoke about how the emotional fallout after a nasty hypo can be crippling, leading me to second guess every diabetes decision I made, wondering what I had done to cause the low in the first place – because that is the ongoing narrative of diabetes….we did something wrong to cause the hypo (or the complication, or the high, or the technology failure). And I really tried to explain how sometimes there are no answers, no matter how hard we look, or how desperate we are to find something to blame.

Of course I spoke about the language of lows and how the words we use impact on the way that hypos are considered. There is no doubt that ‘severe’ hypos are serious and need urgent attention and investigation, but so-called ‘mild’ hypos can be just as burdensome.

Obviously, everyone’s hypo stories will be different and I took great pains to clarify that I was speaking of my own experiences only. In the past, hypos have terrified, paralysed and alarmed me. I was afraid to sleep, I was afraid of lows when awake. I was scared I would have a particularly nasty low around my daughter and scare her. I am fortunate that my deliberate non-compliance has resulted in almost no lows, and feeling safer that I have ever felt before. My fear of hypoglycaemia is manageable these days, yet I don’t take for granted that it will always be like this. I still carry hypo food around with me – there is no point tempting the hypo gods by not being prepared!

I’ll be writing more about Hypo-RESOLVE in coming days. I’m so pleased to be involved in such an exciting and interesting project; I’m honoured to have been selected for the PAC. I’m beyond thrilled that PWD are included in the DNA of the project – right from the kick-off, not brought in at the last minute for comment when all the decisions have been made. And mostly, I am grateful that hypoglycaemia is being given the attention it deserves. I honesty hope that one day no one ever needs to feel the panic and fear that so many of us have come to know.

Kicking off the kick-off meeting (Click for source)

You can read all about Hypo-RESOLVE in the Innovative Medicines Initiative media release from last week announcing the launch of the project. My flights and accommodation to attend the Hypo-RESOLVE kick off meetings were funded from within the project. PAC members are volunteers on this project.

There is an indescribable feeling I have following a diabetes conference. Swirled in amongst the exhaustion, information overload, jet lag (because conferences are always in ridiculous time zones that are not AET), and memories, I come back galvanised in a way that can only happen when spending time with those in my tribe: others living with diabetes.

I returned from three days in Vienna bone-achingly exhausted. After being reunited with my family and not being able to stop hugging them, a few days of not-great-but-okay sleep and bucket-loads of Melbourne coffee under my belt, and time to process and write about what I learnt, I find myself recalibrated and ready for what’s next.

The hours of travel is a memory, the conference sits comfortably alongside all the others I’ve been too, my conference name badge is hanging in my office with all the others, and I’ve plans already underway from successful meetings.

In a lot of ways, the status quo has been restored and I am back to my real life after a few days of conference life.

But what is not the same is the level of vitality I now have, my veins pounding with the vigour that comes only from spending time with the people who are working to and for the same things because they get it at a personal level that is only apparent to those of us whose very DNA is affected by this condition.

I came to realise a few years ago that I have an invisible jar in my mind, and how empty or full that jar is depends on the time I’ve spent with likeminded diabetes friends. When the jar is nearing empty, I find it difficult to focus my energies on the advocacy and support issues that often are front and centre of my mind. I feel myself flailing and falling short because I don’t have the support of those I need to boost me up.

Of course, I am lucky enough to have others with diabetes around me even when I am in Melbourne (hello neighbour!), but it is those I see at these sorts of conferences – the ones whose minds and hearts are full of similar ideas, similar frustrations and find similar reasons to celebrate– that fill that jar right up. It is when I can simply turn to someone because they are sitting right there, have an animated conversation and high five each other with our enthusiasm that I feel capable and able to take on the world.

Those people who share my pancreatically-challenged existence, who breathe the same health condition, and struggle, celebrate and despair in similar ways to me, are the ones who fill up the jar ways to sustain me until the next time. My motivation is high, the momentum fast, my mind is working overtime. And my jar is overflowing right now with those people who may have beta cells that don’t work, but they make up for it in ways you couldn’t even begin to imagine.

Tine – who inspires me every time we speak.

Three days in Vienna is never going to be enough, and neither were three days at ATTD. But mother guilt is a very strong motivator for getting back home as quickly as possible.

This is the second ATTD conference I attended. Last year, I returned a little bewildered because it was such a different diabetes conference to what I was used to. But this year, knowing what to expect, I was ready and hit the ground running.

There will be more to come – this is the initial brain dump! But come back from more in coming weeks. Also, if you emailed me, shot me a text, Facebooked me, Tweeted me or sent me a owl last week, I’ll get back to you soon. I promise. Long days, and long nights made me a little inaccessible last week, but the 3am wake up thanks to jet lag is certainly helping me catch up!

So, some standouts for me:

DIY

The conversation shift in 12 months around DIY systems was significant. While last year it was mentioned occasionally, 2018 could have been called the ATTD of DIY APS! Which means that clearly, HCPs cannot afford to think about DIY systems as simply a fringe idea being considered by only a few.

And if anyone thinks the whole DIY thing is a passing phase and will soon go away, the announcement from Roche that they would support JDRF’s call for open protocols should set in stone that it’s not. DANA has already made this call. And smaller pump developers such as Ypsomed are making noises about doing the same. So surely, this begs to the question: Medtronic, as market leaders, where are you in this?

It was fantastic to see true patient-led innovation so firmly planted on the program  over and over and over again at ATTD. After my talk at ADATS last year – and the way it was received – it’s clear that it’s time for Australian HCPs to step up and start to speak about this sensibly instead of with fear.

Nasal glucagon

Possibly one of the most brilliant things I attended was a talk about nasal glucagon, and if diabetes was a game, this would be a game changer! Alas, diabetes is not a game, but nasal glucagon is going to be huge. And long overdue.

Some things to consider here: Current glucagon ‘rescue therapy’ involves 8 steps before deliver. Not only that, but there are a lot of limitations to injectable glucagon.

Nasal glucagon takes about 30 seconds to deliver and is far easier to administer and most hypos resolved within 30 minutes of administration. There have been pivotal and real world studies and both show similar results and safety. Watch this space!

Time in Range

Another significant shift in focus is the move towards time in range as a measure of glucose management rather than just A1c. Alleluia that this is being acknowledged more and more as a useful tool, and the limitations of A1c recognised. Of course, increasing CGM availability is critical if more people are going to be able to tap into this data – this was certainly conceded as an issue.

I think that it’s really important to credit the diaTribe team for continuing to push the TIR agenda. Well done, folks!

BITS AND PIECES

MedAngel again reminded us how their simple sensor product really should become a part of everyone’s kit if they take insulin. This little slide shows the invisible problem within our invisible illness

Affordability was not left out of the discussion and thank goodness because as we were sitting there hearing about the absolute latest and greatest tech advantages, we must never forget that there are still people not able to afford the basics to keep them alive. This was a real challenge for me at ATTD last year, and as technologies become better and better that gap between those able to access emerging technology and those unable to afford insulin seems to widening. We cannot allow that to happen.

Hello T-Slim! The rumours are true – Tandem is heading outside the US with official announcements at ATTD that they will be supplying to Scandinavia and Italy in coming months. There are very, very, very loud rumours about an Australian launch soon but as my source on this is unofficial, best not to add to the conjecture.

How’s this for a soundbite:

GOLD STARS GO TO….

Massive congrats to the ATTD team on their outstanding SoMe engagement throughout the conference. Not a single ‘No cameras’ sign to be seen, instead attendees were encouraged to share information in every space at the meeting.

Aaron Kowalski from JDRF gave an inspired and inspiring talk in the Access to Novel Technologies session where he focused on the significant role PWD have in increasing access to new treatments and his absolute focus on the person with diabetes had me fist pumping with glee!

Ascensia Diabetes packed away The Grumpy Pumper into their conference bag and sent him into the conference to write and share what he learnt. Great to see another group stepping into this space and providing the means for an advocate and writer to attend the meetings and report back. You can read Grumps’ stream of consciousness here.

Dr Pratik Choudhary from the UK was my favourite HCP at ATTD with this little gem of #LangaugeMatters. Nice work, Pratik!

ANY DISAPPOINTMENTS?

Well, yes. I am still disappointed that there were no PWD speaking as PWD on the program. This is a continued source of frustration for me, especially in sessions that claim to be about ‘patient empowerment’. Also, considering that there was so much talk about ‘patient-led innovation’, it may be useful to have some of those ‘patient leaders’ on the stage talking about their motivations for the whole #WeAreNotWaiting business and where we feel we’re being let down.

I will not stop saying #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs until I feel that we are well and truly part of the planning, coordination and delivery of conferences about the health condition that affects us far more personally that any HCP, industry rep or other organisation.

DISCLOSURE

Roche Diabetes Care (Global) covered my travel and accommodation costs to attend their #DiabetesMeetup Blogger event at #ATTD2018 (more to come on that). They also assisted with providing me press registration to attend all areas of ATTD2018. As always, my agreement to attend their blogger day does not include any commitment from me, or expectation from them, to write about them, the event or their products. It is, however, worth noting that they are doing a stellar job engaging with people with diabetes, and you bet I want to say thank you to them and acknowledge them for doing so in such a meaningful way.

This week has been brutal. I arrived home from the IDF Congress very late on Saturday night after a very long journey from Abu Dhabi and since then, my body clock has had no idea where I am, despite my actual body being very much in the midst of Melbourne’s sometimes sweltering summer. My mind is all over the shop, sleep is something that happens if it wants (which it doesn’t really) and, for some inexplicable reason, I’m off coffee.

So, yes, I am a delight to be around right now. Want to hang out?

My time at the Congress, however, was one of those weeks that makes me feel so fortunate and privileged to do the job I do and have afforded to me the opportunities that come with it. Apart from a very full schedule of outstanding talks from leaders in the diabetes world, the congress was packed with advocates from around the world. I was totally with my tribe.

That’s me talking about diabetes and peer support!

There is lots to write about the Congress and I’ll do so in bits and pieces over the coming few weeks, but there were some stand out moments that I wanted to touch on and thought I’d try to do that now. (I’ve already started this blog post about four thousand, three hundred and twenty-eight times, so who knows how we’ll go here…)

Dot points – because they seem to take less energy and mental bandwidth…

  • This is the only diabetes conference primarily aimed at healthcare professionals that has a stream completely and utterly dedicated to ‘living with diabetes’ (LWD). This is, in equal measure, brilliant and problematic. It’s brilliant because it means that there is a real opportunity for people with diabetes to be on the speaker program, have their accommodation, travel and registration funded, and be part of the conversation at the actual meeting. But it can be problematic because it means that often, there are not all that many HCPs in attendance at the LWD sessions. I believe that one way to improve this situation is to include PWD in other sessions as well as have an exclusive stream. More on that another time, perhaps.

Click image to see tweet.

  • So with that in mind, if your HCP was at the Congress, I’d be asking them which LWD stream sessions they saw and have a stern talking to them if they reply with ‘not a one…’ Hopefully they will be more like UK Consultant Diabetologist, Reza Zaidi who not only attended a number of the LWD sessions, but also tweeted throughout them and asked questions.

(Click image to see tweet)

  • I patted a falcon (not a euphemism). There were falcons at the Congress. I am not sure why they were there. But obviously, I was terrified. I tried to overcome my fear of birds by being brave and patting one. I am still scared of birds.

  • There was a language session in the LWD stream (of course), but it was clear that a few of the exhibitors, presenters and those putting together posters for presentation could do with a refresher course on not using the word ‘compliant’. Call me, folks. I can help.
  • There was a fascinating discussion during the language session when it was explained by someone asking a question that the word for ‘diabetes’ in Japanese is literally translated as Sugar Urine Disease. And yes – you bet that adds to the stigma of diabetes…
  • And one final language point. There was a lot of talk about needing to ‘battle’, ‘fight’, ‘combat’ and ‘challenge’ diabetes as though this is a war. I’m not sure that this is a particularly useful way to think about it all.

Click image to see tweet.

  • Getting a break from the Congress proved almost impossible. So I was so grateful to the diaTribe Foundation for forcing us out of the conference centre and into an Art Gallery with one of their Art Walk series events. We got a guided tour of the brand new (as in, open for less than a month) Abu Dhabi Louvre. Stunning!

The amazing Abu Dhabi Louvre at sunset

  • For some reason, the IDF put me up in the middle of nowhere on a golf course. Perhaps they were hoping I would take walks. Or improve my swing. I did neither of these things.
  • I am more than used to getting asked about the ‘thing’ on my arm. My Dexcom sensor and transmitter are quite obvious and people are curious. I almost have come to expect it and I am happy to answer questions as long as they are asked respectfully. I don’t, however, expect this at at a diabetes conference. And yet, that happened over a dozen times. But possibly, the most surreal experience was stepping onto the Dexcom stand in the exhibition hall and having a few of the sales reps nearly tripping over themselves to ask what it was, how it worked, what it felt like and why it was on my arm. And then they wanted to see the iPhone and Apple Watch app and ask more questions, suggesting that Congress attendees visiting the stand ask questions of me and another person sporting one of their devices. Obviously, I should be on commission…
  • Diabetes conference exhibition halls can be confusing places. There are stands offering products that seem to be so far removed from diabetes that surely the exhibitors have accidentally turned up the wrong week for the wrong conference. I’m still confused by what the fluffy dolphin (pictured here with Annie, Georgie, Grumps and me) has to do with diabetes or what was happening on this stand.

Dolphins and diabetes… join the dots.

  • The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) might look like pretty much every other conference and exhibition centre I’ve ever been to (they all do), but jeez, it was certainly the largest I’ve ever been to. It was, in fact, quite cavernous and a lot of the time seemed quite empty, despite there being over 8,000 attendees. All that space, and still nowhere to get a decent coffee.
  • I chaired a really important session about diabetes complications. It was great to have an open, frank and honest discussion about living with complications and how they impact on the lives of people with diabetes. (Although, I could have done without the clip from Steel Magnolias to introduce the session on complications in pregnancy.)
  • Finally, it was so lovely to see the wonderful Wim Wienjen’s legacy on show during the hypoglycaemia talk. The book he authored alongside Daniela Rojas Jimenez is due for publication soon.

That’s it in dot points for today. I’ll be back soon writing more about the Congress. (I guess four thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine is a charm….)

Disclosure

I was the Deputy Lead for the Living with Diabetes Stream, and an invited speaker at the 2017 IDF Congress. The International Diabetes Federation covered by travel and accommodation costs and provided me with registration to attend the Congress. 

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