Brrrrr…. – By Helen May
I think we have started a new tradition: a city break in the winter. It started with London when our flight to New York was cancelled because there was too much snow at Heathrow. Since then, we have been to Berlin and Prague in December. The holidays follow the usual city break themes of lots of walking and eating with the odd tower to climb thrown in. The differences are 1) it is cold and 2) there are Christmas markets.
The typical way of combating the cold is some food or drink from the Christmas markets. As a vegaquarian (I eat vegetables and fish but not meat), I do not partake in the varieties of German sausage available at all markets but I have found some wonderful hot pastries, bread baked in a wood oven, hot chocolate and various hot wines (including some surprisingly scrumptious hot honey wine in Prague) to warm my hands and take off the chill.
However diabetes tends to add it’s own little challenges. If I am eating, I need some insulin. But, if I am cold, my flesh into which I need to inject is enclosed in multiple layers of clothing which I am loathed to part. But I have to so, sometimes, the hot chocolate and cake will be eaten inside a cafe and, sometimes, I will just find a little gap between my thermals.
As if looking after myself is not enough, I also have to look after the insulin as it should not get too cold. When I visit hot climes, I keep my insulin in my Frio bags. I was hoping the insulin these provided would also keep the insulin warm. Alas no: Frio bags work through condensation which is not very handy for warmth. One option would be to keep the insulin warm with body heat but women’s clothing designers all assume we store everything in handbags and give us no inside pockets. In the end, I fashioned an “insulin wrap” out of a spare scarf which seemed to work.
So, I have found a way to take insulin which I have found a way to ensure it does not get too cold. But I still need to check that I am taking the correct amount of insulin by taking a prick test. I cannot blame diabetes for my challenge here: I have inherited Reynaud’s syndrome/disease/phenomenon from my mother who inherited it from her mother. As it has always been around me, it is not something I worry about most of the time. My fingers go white through restricted blood flow when they get cold but, apart from looking odd, there’s little problem unless you need to get some blood out of your fingers to test blood sugar levels. Gloves help a bit to keep my hands warm but it doesn’t take long in the cold for the blood to start to disappear from my finger tips. I have no great solution as most hand warmers (including hot drinks when they are not encased in polystyrene) can lead to chill blaines which I remember getting as a child and finding painful.
Perhaps technology is the solution: an insulin pump will keep the insulin near my body and, if it has a remote control, I will not have to expose any flesh to dial up a dose. And a Continuous Glucose Meter will show me my blood sugar reading without pricking my bloodless fingers. Until I convince the NHS about the importance of gluwein for my mental health, I think I will need to stick with my scarf insulin insulator and warming cafes when I continue the tradition in 2014.