Monthly Archives: October 2013

October Post… FROM KAKAMEGA KENYA!!!

Wow, I can’t believe how remiss I have been about posting since getting to Kenya!! The entire concept of “Kenyan time” is clearly affecting me, seeing as it doesn’t feel possible that it has already been 4 weeks since I arrived in Nairobi. I am now in rural northwestern Kenya, near a town called Kakamega. This experience so far has been amazing—my eyes are open to so many brand new things, I feel that I am learning a lot and my views are changing.

But… as this is a blog on health and diabetes, I probably should not get on my soapbox about all things social and public health… or at least not until I get my update on diabetes done!

So, here we go. Things with my blood sugars have been pretty good considering all the changes- it is much hotter here than I am used to, meaning that I sweat more, so I have to keep focused on rehydrating! I have used Gatorade powder that I brought from the States, and on the couple of days that I have felt very under hydrated, they have helped restore water content and salt (both of which is lost through sweat). The food is also very different here, I eat a lot of maize (similar to corn) and grains, some vegetables, and occasionally fruit. This is a shift from my diet that has a lot of fruit in the US… but I’ve found that even though I am eating more grain here, my blood sugars seem more stable. I attribute this to the lack of processing—most things here are pretty fresh! And in general, I need less insulin for things like bread… the only thing I’m finding that causes me consistent challenges is corn flakes! A surprise to me! Lunch time is usually getheryi, a mixture of maize and beans, with some vegetable (recently, it has been kales!), which ends up being a pretty big bolus for me during the day (around 6-8 units, depending on amount and the day’s activity).

Another surprise was that I had a lot of middle-of-the-night low blood sugars, causing me to change my basal rate (which I haven’t made any significant changes to for about 2 years)… this fixed the problem, and I usually wake up around 100 if my blood sugar is doing well the night before.

Like Eugenie said in her interview, it has been pretty easy to find local snacks to treat low blood sugar, from juice boxes to local candies… so this hasn’t been an issue. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find that certain chemists (pharmacies) in Nairobi carried Humalog in addition to several other types of insulin (several that I had never heard about), so I have a pretty local backup plan in case of any insulin emergency. But for now, the 20 bottles are keeping chilled in my FRIO packs, a product that I will happily recommend to anyone doing any traveling or needing a way to keep insulin cold when on the move!

I think that is all for now, beyond the general encouragement I would like to offer to any yearning travelers… don’t be afraid, having an amazing adventure despite T1 is totally possible with the right preparation. So go, be brave, have adventure, and look forward to learning about the world around you and yourself!

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KENYA!

It is my 5th day in Kenya, and my final day in Nairobi—tomorrow, I will head northwest to the town of Kakamega. Spending my first few days in Nairobi with the director’s family has been very helpful in acclimating me to a very new environment and culture. Likewise, being in the capitol city for the first few days in a new country has given me some peace of mind, as it is in Nairobi that I will have the greatest access to extra insulin supplies should I have any issues with what I packed.

From my last post, you know that I was nervous about Kenyan customs having a problem with the amount of needles and other “drug” supplies I was bringing into the country… upon arrival, I was relieved to see that my checked bags looked to be about the same size as they were in the US, and taking the advice of an older friend who has traveled in and out of Kenya many times, I made it through customs just fine by smiling and making light small talk! In fact, the only thing they asked me about was the rectangular shape in one of my checked bags, which was the board game Sorry! After asking me a few questions about this (what is this? – a child’s board game… how much is it worth?—probably 5 American dollars, it is used… used?—yes sir, I used it as I grew up), the security guard nodded, and let me on my way.

Upon arriving at the home I am staying at for my time in Nairobi, I took a minute to myself to check the bags for my supplies, and confirmed that nothing appeared to me missing! Huzzah! Storing my extra supplies of insulin in the fridge, I proceeded to enjoy my time getting to know the director and her family, going around Nairobi, and visiting the Giraffe Home and getting a giraffe kiss!! Wonderful!

Reflections from Istanbul (9.28.13)

Sitting in the Istanbul airport awaiting my third and final flight to Nairobi, I have a spare moment to reflect. The last few weeks have been spent pulling together all the little final threads to prepare for Kenya—malaria pills; new labels for the malaria pills as my name was spelled incorrectly; a yellow fever vaccination; a last refill of insulin, test strips and needles; ordering extra clothing- reordering, when some items didn’t fit as I wanted them to; finally receiving the backpack I had been waiting on, reminding my dad to bring home a green canvas sailing bag I planned to pack into that was on his jobsite; the constant organization and reorganization of a growing pile of items to take; buying Frisbees for the girls I will work with; sorting through board games from my youth to donate to the girls’ home; catching a coffee break, breakfast, lunch, dinner or walk with loved ones; finishing up my final summer job; washing the costume I wore at that job (a dirndl) and returning it to the restaurant… it was busy, to say the least.

 

But, here I am, sitting in a new country (alright, I won’t count it as “visited” yet as I don’t have the time to leave the airport, but it’s now on the “to-visit” list!), awaiting the final flight that will bring me to my home for the next 9 months. Getting through security with a lot of insulin and test strip supplies so far has been a breeze—I think my previous experience with travel helps this fluidity of taking out the laptop and insulin, shoes off, showing my pump before walking into the body scanner, being scanned, being pulled aside, then showing my pump, touching it with both hands, and my hands being wiped with a cloth that is then analyzed for any explosive materials. I will say I am worried about getting through Kenyan customs, and hoping that nothing gets taken out of my bags while out of my sight. I am sure it will make for an interesting post!! Some precautionary actions against things being taken out include placing copies of my doctors travel letter and prescriptions in each bag. Based on sheer quantity, I had to put the majority of my pump supplies, needles and extra meters in my checked luggage. I am carrying with me all my insulin and strips, my malaria pills, my thyroid medicine, and a meter—it makes for a somewhat bulky and hefty carryon! But, as I repackaged all my strips and pump supplies into gallon sized ziplock bags, my carryon is still within the limit! Ahhh, my flight is being called, so off I must go! Onward with this adventure!