A healthy Type 1 Diabetic is a prepared diabetic. There are a lot of supplies that come with being a Type 1 Diabetic and failing to have any one of these supplies within arms reach can prove to be disastrous.
Women have the luxury of carrying a purse or a bag but I honestly don’t know how male diabetics do it. I would be lost without my bag. In fact the prerequisite for me when buying a new bag is that is must be large enough to carry all my diabetic stuff. Cute little handbags are completely out of the question.
What’s In The Bag?
1. Blood Glucose Meter
My blood glucose meter is my lifeline as it is the only way to truly test my blood sugar. The glucose sensor is a great tool but the meter reading still reign supreme. I currently use the Livingo blood glucose meter as it is provided for free through my husband’s insurance. My meter needs to be charged regularly and I need to remember to carry a spare canister of test strips at all times. The worst feeling is going out for dinner and finding that you only have one test strip left or that your meter is out of battery.
I actually forgot my meter once on my way to a picnic and stopped at Walgreens to buy a small meter because the fear of being without a meter was far too much for me to handle.
2. Glucose Tablets
Glucose tablets are basically gigantic smarties. Each tablet contains 4 grams of carbohydrates and these little dudes are pure sugar. Your seven year old self would have been so happy if these were handed out for Halloween. There is no nutritional value to them but they will do the trick if you need to see your blood sugars rise quickly. They will also cause your dentist to have a heart attack and can leave little inflamed tastebuds on your tongue if you eat too many.
3. Graham Crackers and Snacks
Long ago I discovered this little container which perfectly fits a stack of graham crackers squares. This little container has been traveling across the country with me always ready to provide a quick but much needed snack. A whole graham cracker is 12g of carbs, therefore each small rectangular quarter is 3g of carbs. That is food math at its finest!! Two things I’ve learned about caring graham crackers with you.
- Your children will eat your graham crackers but they will not always tell you when they take the last one. You may open your little container to find that a very cute little critter has eaten your last cracker.
- The longer a graham cracker stays in your container the less it will resemble a cracker. Eventually, after rattling around in your bag and bumping into the sides of the continuer your crackers will become crumbs, which will inevitably spill on your lap the next time you open them in your car.
In addition to my crackers I always have granola bars or fruit snacks in my bag. An important life lesson can be learned here. If you are ever starving on a desert island, look for a diabetic as they assuredly have snacks. Whether they will share them with you is another story. We are a bit possessive of our food.
In winter I carry granola bars with chocolate in them because chocolate is delicious and I live in Wisconsin and there is no fear of the chocolate melting. In the summer months I advise you to steer clear of anything that can melt.
Let me paint you a picture. You’re at the beach and your blood sugar is dropping and you need a snack. You pull out your chocolate chip granola bar and open the wrapper only to find that the bar is soft and crumbling and at least 80% of it is stuck to the wrapper. Your blood sugar doesn’t care, it still wants food. So now on a busy beach or even worse in the middle of a meeting for work, you have to choose. Let your blood sugar drop or lick the wrapper and end up with chocolate on your face and bits of chocolate covered granola on your pants. Lesson learned, don’t carry snacks that will make you a spectacle in front of people who love and respect you.
4. Glucagon Emergency Kit
This is the equivalent of an Epi-Pen for people with allergic reactions. If a diabetic’s blood sugar drops to a dangerously low level they will pass out. and many scary things will begin to happen in their body. At this time the only way to bring them back while waiting for the ambulance to come is to give them this shot. It has blood sugar raising power far beyond sugar. A Glucagon kit comes in a little red plastic case and contains a syringe, saline, and a vial with powder in it. It is fairly simple to use. Mix the saline with the powder in the vial and shoot it into the diabetic. Then pray and wait for the ambulance. I hate the thought of this and knock on wood, cross my fingers, rub my lucky penny, I have never had to use this and pray I never will.
These have a shelf life of one year and need to be thrown out when expired. One idea I recently saw was to let your spouse practice using the expired one before throwing it out. Obviously don’t practice shooting it into anyone but at least practicing the assembly could be helpful in a moment of panic.
5. Insulin Pump Supply Pouch
I carry a small pouch that is jam packed with odds and ends needed to keep my insulin pump up and running. Below is a list of the things in this magical little pouch.
- Infusion Site
- Insulin Cartridge
- Vial of Insulin
- Alcohol and Skin Tac Wipes (Skin Tac is a miracle product that makes your skin sticky like a sticker so when you apply a new pump site it is like sticking a sticker to another sticker. Especially needed when swimming, sweating or wearing sunscreen.)
- Lithium battery – my pump runs on battery and lithium lasts a whole lot longer than an alkaline
- Pump Belt Clip – the clip has a little bump on it that is used to open the battery case on my pump. A coin also works but not as well.
- Syringes – I carry three syringes in my ppuch in the scary case that my pump stops working and I need to give myself insulin. After being on the pump for so long this really is like stepping back into the dark ages for me and I usually forget how to measure out a dose.
6. My Phone
My phone comes with me everywhere and not because I need to look at it every five seconds. My phone is my life line. My phone is the security I have that if something were to happen, I could get help. My phone also has the “Find my iPhone” app on it which is typically used in case my phone was stolen. In my case I prefer to have this app on my phone because I know that at anytime my husband can look at his phone and see where I am. On a long run I know that he can check and see that the little dot is still moving.
Over the summer I like to run around town on Saturday mornings. Anyone who runs long distances knows the collection of places where you can stop to got to the bathroom or grab a drink without feeling obligated to buy anything. Well, the local hospital is one of these places on my route. They have bathrooms very close to main doors, its never busy and the bubbler (drinking fountain for anyone not from WI) is ice cold. Whenever I stop there I always ponder what would happen if Tim checked his phone right at that moment and saw my little dot stopped at the hospital. I made it a point to tell him why I stop there when I got back.
So that’s what’s in my bag and it is likely pretty similar to most diabetics bags. On the outside our bags may look stylish or like another bag but inside these bags is eveyting we need to safely leave our house and have the peace of mind that whatever comes up in our day we will be prepared. That said there is one main, unshakable rule about a diabetics bag.
Don’t mess with it.
Whenever I go through security checks at a stadium or the airport I watch my bag like a hawk. Once at Yankee Stadium the security guard tried to tell me that I couldn’t take my bag in. I stayed calm and said “I am a diabetic.” He promptly waved me through, no questions asked. (I also had a large sub sandwich buried in my bag that we were planning to split for lunch during the game, but that is neither here nor there. There were glucose tablets and insulin in my bag too.)
Don’t mess with the bag, and no I won’t share my snacks.