Welcome to La La Land!
So far on this trip we’ve been to a lot of airports. Gatwick, Dubai, Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch. There haven’t been any problems, and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to justify myself or our extensive medical gear. People are often intrigued by our insulin pumps, so will ask questions which I’m more than happy to answer. However, when leaving Fiji that all changed.
Security threatened to confiscate our insulin if I didn’t pay for plastic bags and empty the contents of our organised insulin (in clear Tupperware containers) into said plastic bags. When I explained that it was medicine, it was exempt from the fluid restriction laws, it wouldn’t fit in the plastic bags and that we had a medical letter, the response was, ‘it’s for your own safety, you can put the boxes into the bags and just leave them open at the top’.. Basically I refused. I refused to be frightened into buying plastic bags because of my diabetes. I refused to be frightened by the empty threat of confiscation and I tried really hard not to lose my temper. I won.
They let us through and then genuinely rolled their eyes at us when I then explained we couldn’t go through the scanners (‘what? BOTH of you?!’) a female security guard rolled her eyes at me again and she walked me to a room to be ‘searched’. She didn’t even look at my pump and half heartedly patted me down. Meanwhile Alex was being chatted up by the male security and I was defending his bag which had flagged up. For some reason, despite the fact that I had needles and the same cannulas in my bag, Alex’s bag flagged up and they wanted to inspect the cannulas. The whole bag of cannulas, not just one. I explained, again, that it was medical equipment and I had a medical letter explaining but they couldn’t be bothered so just waved us through. By the time we got to duty free I was fuming. Not just because of the lack of understanding, or the ignorance, or the cheek of trying to make us pay for bags but because their lacklustre attempt at security was pathetic! If you’re going to pull us up on the stuff we have, at least look convincing. It was a waste of everyone’s time and it made me really annoyed. I think it was the eye rolling that tipped me over the edge. Don’t eye roll the eye roll queen.
Anyway! We arrived in LA, 10.5hrs later, after seemingly going back in time (time zones blow my mind) and waited for over 2hrs to get through immigration. When we finally got through, we hired a car and headed for our Air BnB in Santa Monica! After we’d thrown our stuff down and got our bearings we headed out for dinner. I tested my blood and was at 18. Considering I’d eaten nothing on the flight, and increased my basal to 150% because flying slows everything down, I was pretty impressed my sugars were so high. I corrected. And we ate. I over shot for my food (taking into account jetlag and the fact my sugars were already high) and set my insulin over a couple of hours (I had a burger, slow release). I finally got my sugars down to 13 before bed, and I kept my temporary basal on to try and keep on top of them. I woke up at 6am (jet lag) and was at 16. I corrected (again), overriding my pump advice and went back to sleep. My temp basal was still on too. We woke up again at 11.30am (jet lag, oops), and headed out for brunch to IHOP. Please bare in mind that by this point I had not eaten anything in approx 15hrs – I had taken way more insulin than I should technically need AND I had a temporary basal going. My blood sugars had risen. Again. I was at 18. Before pancakes. Not a good place to be. I took 12 units. TWELVE! Before our food even came, and then another 10u to cover what we’d eaten. In theory I should’ve been so hypo, in reality my blood sugars were very stubbornly coming down. After what would appear as an insulin overdose on paper, my blood sugars seemed to continue to do whatever they wanted.
We headed to a mall after driving around Los Angeles for a little bit. Had a wander around, resisting any food in the hope that our sugars would eventually settle. After the mall we headed back to our Air Bnb for a couple of hours before deciding to venture out to Santa Monica pier before the sunset. We found a nice Mexican place and I had the most amazing fish. I chose something low(ish) carb because I didn’t want a repeat of the night before. I did my insulin as appropriate, and set it over an hour or so because of the size of the meal. We had a little walk around before seeing a Cheesecake Factory and deciding that it would be a great idea to eat cheesecake for dessert. The menu is extensive, and we were genuinely shocked with the amount of calories in each serving. Diabetes is so hard when in USA. Everything I want to eat is so tasty but packed with sugar/fat/carbs.
When I was still awake at 3am with ridiculously high blood sugars and feeling like absolute crap I realised that sometimes it’s just not worth it. I have a sweet tooth, and sometimes I argue internally because I feel like I am entitled to eat what I want and live like a normal person. But the cheesecake defeated me. It made me feel rubbish and feeling rubbish trumps that sugar craving that sometimes feels overwhelming. I took so much insulin in the first couple of days it made me grumpy. I swore that the following day I was gonna be more active and eat better.
We climbed to the Hollywood sign the next morning/afternoon, with my knees playing up without warning. My sugars behaved themselves and I didn’t hypo and it felt good to do some exercise. After our walk we found a little Greek/Turkish place and had chicken and hummus wraps. Whilst we were sat at the table the woman next to us was being interviewed by a guy. At first I thought she was an actress as she kept talking about being on set and filming. Turns out she’s an ‘adult industry actress’. Listening to her was fascinating and did make me feel a little bit uncomfortable at times. Never a dull day in Hollywood apparently.
In the evening we went to The Getty, to a new exhibition opening. Alex’s uncle is curator there and he got us on the invite list to the opening. We felt super special when giving our names, and I actually really enjoyed the art. It’s inspired us to travel more of Europe. Venice is next on our list after this trip and I may have already looked at flights.
We checked out of our lovely air bnb the following morning. We headed to a place recommended by google for breakfast and it was amaaaazing. However, again I took the appropriate amount of insulin and ended up high. I think the sugar fairies run riot over here. In the afternoon we drove over to Alex’s uncles place where we’d been invited to stay for the rest of our time in LA. My sensor scanner had arrived safely (yay!) so I went straight ahead and put a sensor in. I was so excited to have one on again, but guess what? My reading have huge discrepancies again. An average difference of 3mmols, but up to 5mmols difference. Really, really not what I was hoping for. Alex put a sensor in aswell and his is absolutely spot on. I’m beginning to think that it might be me that’s broken and it’s making me really sad/angry/frustrated. I sent some tweets to Abbott, but as usual they offered little to no help, just telling me to call customer services. Guess I’ll just stick to testing then.
In the afternoon we ventured down to Venice beach. I don’t think I was really prepared for the experience. There are some reallllyyyy interesting people down there and the smell of weed is sometimes overwhelming! The beach itself if really picturesque, vast and pretty much empty! We saw some people pumping iron at Muscle Beach and I managed to avoid buying any tack. Success. Afterwards, we went to refuel on caffeine at a trendy cafe called Urth Caffe, where I tried pumpkin pie for the first time. I didn’t like it, which is probably just as well considering how fat I’m getting on this trip. That night we went out for food with Alex’s family and oh wow, the food was amazing. We went to a place on Santa Monica pier called The Lobster, we had an amazing table by the window so we could watch the sun go down and I had the best Tuna I’ve ever eaten with the most incredible Parmesan truffle fries. We talked politics, but mainly healthcare and I went to bed worrying about the future of our NHS.
I pretty much worry every single day about the future of our healthcare system not from a professional point of view but a selfish personal one. My diabetes management is pretty good. I am able to use a high tech insulin pump, free of charge. If my pump fails, it’s replaced, with no extra cost to me. The kit I need for my pump? No cost. A call or visit to my GP? Free. An appointment with my specialist multidisciplinary team? No cost to me. I am lucky enough to live in a country where I am not financially penalised because I have an autoimmune disease. Nothing I have done or could do would have prevented my diagnosis. I don’t have to think about how much my treatment costs, whether I can afford it, or whether I’m going to have to battle with an insurance company because I’ve used more insulin this month compared to last. I am absolutely terrified that our health secretary is determined to turn our NHS into a business. Making profit from people being ill does not sit well with me. Now, please know that I recognise there are problems with our system but I fiercely believe that the solution is not to privatise it so that normal people struggle to have access to the top notch care we provide. To walk into an urgent care centre here is $80. Imagine having to decide whether you should see a doctor or put food on the table this week. It worries me that soon this might be a reality for people in the UK.
We got a relatively early night because the following morning we went to DISNEYLAND! I was super excited and Alex was playing it cool. I was like a little kid walking into the park. It’s so magical and everyone is so happy. After breakfast, we went to an information kiosk to enquire about possibly queue jumps because of diabetes. In the UK at major theme parks like Alton Towers, if you’re a pump user you’re able to get a special access card, meaning that instead of queuing, you’re issued with a return time for the ride. They allow this because the magnetic fields on many rides have the potential to interfere with the calibration of the pumps. The lady who helped us was an absolute babe and gave us special access, no questions asked, after I explained our situation. She also explained about fast passes, which basically meant we didn’t have to wait in line for anything. Amazing. Come on, there’s gotta be some perks to having this condition!
We had a really great day at Disney. But by 6pm we were ready to call it a day. Being so excited is exhausting. We started walking to the edge of the park when Alex started patting his pockets anxiously. The car keys had gone. In a split second a day can go from being absolutely awesome to awful. We went to lost and found. Nothing. Guest services. Nothing. We called every single ride we’d been on. Nothing. It was dark by this time and I was trying not to panic. We had stuff in the car. My insulin was low. How were we gonna get back? What were we gonna do? After hours waiting on the phone and no keys turning up we had to be towed to the nearest airport to drop the car and collect a replacement rental car. After that it was a 2hr drive back to Santa Monica. We got home after midnight and we were totally exhausted. What an absolute nightmare. We slept like the dead and were woken up the next morning by Alex’s phone ringing. Disney. They’d found our keys. We phoned the rental company again, as Disney had offered to post the keys back to them, but they insisted that we drive to collect the keys ourselves. Another 4hr trip, security check and Disney music and fingers crossed were all sorted. Again, never a dull day. Oh! And they confiscated my selfie stick! Gutted.
Our next stop is Costa Rica and I feel like this is where the real backpacking is going to start. I’m nervous about it as I think this is where the most challenges will arise in terms of diabetes. Anyway, it’s been an interesting, exciting and somewhat stressful stop in LA. Let’s hope there’s minimal drama on the next leg. I’m gonna channel my inner sloth (it’s not hard, they’re basically my spirit animal).