As you know, any demanding physical activity with type 1 diabetes poses some sort of challenges, from regulating bolus rates, to basal rates to even maintaining energy levels- but with all things in life and diabetes, anything is possible with one key thing....preparation!
As a type 1 diabetic with..how shall I call it...not very cooperative blood sugars..when I do something out of my usual routine or comfort zone, I’ve got to practice and plan, so that I don’t fall into a diabetic coma and die- (dramatic, yet possible). This wasn’t the first time I have hiked a mountain- I am from the land of the Mourne Mountains in Co Down, Ireland after all- so my usual routine would be to reduce my basal rate by 50%- so this was going to be my plan! I also took spare pens with me in case my insulin pump decided to die on me in the cold.
Patagonia in general is cold, wet & windy- and if you are lucky..snowy! So, naturally insulin will stop working at a certain temperature, and even freeze. This was a definite possibility with -4 temperatures, so I used my trusted Frio bags to help regulate the temperature of my insulin- and they worked well! No insulin died.
Camping means you naturally have restricted access to sweets, sugary drinks etc for a hypo- and even though there are shops located throughout the W trail in Torres Del Paine, they are overpriced and expensive, and honestly just come prepared- but at least you know in an emergency you can find some sugar! I brought 3 bags of sweets with me, 3 juice cartons, 3 rolls of sweets & a packet of dextrose. I could have brought more, but I also didn’t want to weigh myself down the supplies which would ironically lead to more hypos...finding the balance is always a challenge. I think dextrose are fantastic hypo treatments because they are small, and you don’t need as many to get yourself out of one..but I can’t find them in South America..And I only had one pack left from the UK..so..yeah!
I won’t lie to you, it’s been over six weeks since I have been at the gym, all my hard fitness work was diminishing and when I first started this walk..I actually thought there was a possibility I would take a heart attack and die...and that was at the entrance hill. I constantly had a mental battle in my head of “You can do this, come on just keep going, it’s going to be worth it”...too...”OMG why are you doing this, you are going to die.” Bradley was finding this a source of entertainment because I was constantly swinging from one to the other within minutes. I was laughing and crying, then crying and laughing...but..If there is one thing that I like about myself...it’s my determination..I knew even when I felt at my weakest...I was still going to make it!
I set off with a blood sugar of 6.5 (super good- probably too good for this trek)...reduced my basal rate...and it took half an hour for my first hypo...YAY- I know the rule for a hypo is..wait 15-30 minutes for your body to recover...but I was on a time limit, so I kind of ignored that rule, chugged some sugar, and kept walking, which ultimately meant I took a little longer to get out of hypo...ps- being sweaty and warm from incline walking and then sweaty and warm from a hypo means a hell of a lot of sweat and warmth and just not a pretty picture.
All in all- I had 3 hypos that day...but that didn’t seem so bad to me for 5-6 hours walking.
4am start...blood sugar of 16 (noooooooo- WHY?) I think that was literally one of those moments were diabetes was trying to piss me off and make things more challenging- but hey ho- I got on with it, I was not taking any insulin because I knew I was climbing the steepest hill I have ever climbed. This climb was 1 hour, and we were trying to get there before sunrise to see the beautiful three Torres with the sunrise..I knew it was going to be a magical moment, but ¾ the way up, we could see daylight forming and literally huffing and puffing, thinking my legs couldn’t take anymore...we feared we wouldn’t make it. I was pissed- I did not want to have put myself though this hell if I didn’t get to see this picture perfect moment. But we pushed through, and we MADE IT, popped in our sleeping bags and watched the sunrise, and it was absolutely worth it, and probably the most beautiful scene I have witnessed. I checked my bloods and alas- 4.6, it was definitely a great idea that I didn’t take any insulin! No hypos on the way back down...so I can say that was a hypo free climb! Woo.
I am super proud for completing what is known as a hard challenge, and not to be limited by my type 1 diabetes. Dream Big & Travel Far.