Have you ever played the Diabetes Card? – by Helen May

There are very few advantages in having diabetes. It is a pest. Whilst it never stops me doing what I want, it often gets in the way or means things take longer, or I’m not able to enjoy them as much as I want.

Sure, I am lucky to get an annual (ish) health check and I feel I get my fair share back from taxes, but it is very rare that I get to take advantage of having diabetes. Actually, I have only taken advantage of my diabetes once and that was on a flight home recently.

Our flight had been diverted. Given I take at least ten flights each year, it is surprising that this was the first time I had experienced a diversion. But, instead of landing in Bristol, we landed in Bournemouth. The airline handled the disruption very well, keeping us informed and, eventually, got us back to Bristol. We were five hours late, but at least we were able to get home that day.

Five hours is a long delay at the best of times. But five hours without food is a very long time. We were travelling on a budget airline and had decided to have lunch once we landed. Unfortunately, there was no food option in Bournemouth airport … or, if there was, we never got to see it and it would not have provided enough food for the arrival of three unscheduled planes.

Once we landed, I knew we had at least another four hours before I saw food. I’m not obsessed by food, but I like my food and I am not a happy bunny when I am hungry. If I have not eaten for four hours, I am less like a happy bunny and more like the Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle. So, I knew I was going to have a problem and, if it wasn’t sorted, so would the people around me.

I surveyed my choices: I could walk to the nearest eatery, wherever that was, and make my own way back to my car at Bristol airport 70 miles away, with my luggage. Or, I could plead. I went for the latter option: I was going to plead. But I needed a bargaining chip. “Feed me or else I am going to get very grumpy” is not the best place to start. And I had a good idea there was not enough food for everyone on the plane, so I had to come up with something which made me unique and for which I would get some sympathy.

So I played my Diabetes Card.

I politely explained that I had diabetes and would struggle if I was not able to get any food in the next couple of hours.

This was perfectly true: I definitely have diabetes and I would definitely struggle if I didn’t eat soon. However, the two facts were not exactly related: I am able to manage my diabetes when I don’t eat; that’s the advantage of carb counting. But the lovely guy I spoke to did not know this and, to avoid having to deal with me later, provided a couple of muffins to tide me over whilst requesting I kept it quiet because there were not enough to go around.

Eventually, I got home with a tale to tell about my return trip and some thoughts about playing my Diabetes Card. I was definitely much happier than I would have been without that muffin, but was I right to play the Diabetes Card? Maybe. Had I taken advantage of the kind chap’s ignorance of diabetes? Definitely. Should the airline have provided food? Probably, but they had a difficult job to do as it was without worrying about feeding us all. What would someone else do in my position? I don’t know. What do you think?

Travel and diabetes


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