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Travelling and managing diabetes: Ted's story

Ted's story

Ted Lamb

Found out he had type 1 diabetes when he was aged 16

"The highs and lows still happen, whether that's with blood sugar readings or emotionally, but having the condition keeps me focused on making sure I'm making the most out of anything that I do."

Intrepid traveller and photographer Ted tells us how he doesn't let his diabetes get in the way of his passions. He also shares how the coronavirus outbreak impacted his outlook on travel.

Life with diabetes

Travel and managing diabetes

Life changed fairly drastically for me at the beginning of lockdown, as I was living and working in the mountains of Whistler, British Columbia for several months. But with the health risks of the coronavirus pandemic I had to come back to the UK to be closer to my family in case anything went wrong. It’s been a challenging change of pace, but to be honest I've really enjoyed having the time to work on projects and ideas that I haven't had the chance to previously. My blood glucose numbers have been about the same, just maybe slightly more consistent with the new routines.

I’m excited about the prospect of travelling again and I'm hoping to be able to start taking some smaller trips around Europe in the new year.

I think travel is one of the best things people can do to build confidence in themselves. I think everyone should travel as much as possible. I’m not nervous as I think as long as you take the correct precautions and keep yourself up to date with any new travel safety advice, then it shouldn't cause any extra worry. I have a rule in that if I don't feel entirely sure, or confident, in going somewhere then I ask myself why and try to either educate myself further, or choose somewhere else to travel to, and I think this is more important now than ever.

Being someone with type 1 means there are a host of precautions I usually take with travelling. First and foremost, I'll usually try to discuss the trip with my doctor or nurses if I'm going somewhere for an extended amount of time, making sure that I have all the supplies I'll need. Research is definitely key, so I spend as much time as I can looking at things such as local healthcare, common foods, travel times, and of course any required paperwork. Things such as the cost of and availability of insulin in the destination is also very good to know. 

I think while some countries are still heavily affected by the virus, my precautions will mean doing far more research with regards to my potential destinations. I'll be avoiding places too far from home for a while, and ensuring that I check all of the relevant government websites and local healthcare options before booking a ticket anywhere. I would also definitely take extra face masks and hand sanitizer for traveling in airports and keeping my social distancing up in foreign destinations. Some people may see this as over the top, but I feel like it's better to be safe than sorry.

Preparation is key. The less you have to worry about your diabetes when you travel, the easier it becomes, and likewise, the less you have to stress about the travel the easier the diabetes management becomes.

I always do my best to mentally prepare myself for a trip, and I usually pack and repack my bag with my medical supplies several times before I'm confident that I have everything that I need! It's also really important that you know your own limits, and know when to take time to rest, or when to say “Thanks but no thanks” to an experience that can put you at risk. Travel is fantastic for building your confidence and helping you get out of your comfort zone, but it's very important to know when something might be too much. 

The best advice I can give to others with type 1 would be to make sure you are prepared and have confidence in your own abilities. Also, if it is your first time travelling with the condition, consider keeping the trip simple. At the beginning of the year, I started offering a consultation service Type One Travel, for anyone who wishes to travel with type 1 and feels that they could use some help.

I've always followed the Diabetes UK social media channels and checked the website fairly regularly. I often check the latest diabetes related news, and I'm really hoping to be doing some fundraising for you in the near future!


Being diagnosed and getting treatment

I was diagnosed with type 1 in July 2005, right at the end of school when I was 16. I think I went through a fairly standard set of problems before diagnosis, a few days of severe lethargy and thirst (with the constating peeing associated with that!) and I lost a lot of weight very quickly, which for several months afterwards was a big problem for me with the consistent high blood sugar. I didn't notice it so much at the time but looking at old pictures you can see how sick I was! I was definitely confused when I first found out I had diabetes. I didn't understand how or why I'd been stuck with what I thought was such a raw deal considering none of my family have it. I felt fairly isolated from my friends as they weren't going through the same thing at the age of 16.

The initial treatment was from the team at the Bournemouth Hospital Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, and still is 15 years later! I was given the Novorapid and Lantus pens, as well as my first BG meter and a whole host of info leaflets and a couple of books to help me out. The team in Bournemouth have always been amazing and so supportive.

To be honest, I feel the treatment I receive now is fairly similar to when I was first diagnosed. However, the fact that I can email my healthcare team if I have any problems and get a really quick response is a really big difference compared to when I was first diagnosed. I feel there is a lot of information online that you can take advantage of if you feel like you need the help.

I think as tough as type 1 can be, it's also made me far more resilient than I would be without it. The highs and lows still happen, whether that's with blood sugar readings or emotionally, but having the condition keeps me focussed on making sure I'm making the most out of anything that I do, because you never know when your health can change for the worse. I take the condition day by day and I don't worry if I have a bad day, because you can always make the next day better, be realistic about what you can do because of the condition but also stay positive because it could always be worse.

My friends and family, especially my mum, have been amazing. They definitely understand the dangers of the condition but they have always been incredibly supportive.

They understand the physical effects and know what I need to do in most situations, or even if not exactly why, they know to take it seriously when I tell them something is wrong or if I'm not acting myself because of a hypo. I think my girlfriend is the only one who really knows how much of a mental drain it is sometimes though.

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