This Is What We Plan For

Anyone who reads the news will know that here in Australia, we are having a rather extreme summer. We are having some of the worst bush fires in recorded history, burning areas of bush larger than some small countries. And part of the reason for these fires is the extreme drought that Australia has been having for the last years, exacerbated by extreme temperatures.

Yesterday here in Melbourne, which is at the bottom, right section of Australia, we were having a day of extreme temperatures, in the order of 42C or 43C. For the sake of people in the USA, this is around 106 to 109F. It was hot and sticky.

I left work at the normal time for the normal trip home. When I got to the train station I knew something wasn’t right, so I slipped seamlessly into alert mode. After 20 years of doing this train routine, you learn to recognise the signs of an abnormal trip about to happen. But yesterday took the cake for unexpected.

In the end I walked through my front door at home after 3 and 1/2 hours of minor mayhem, that was outside anybody’s control. Signals were failing, tracks were buckling, trains were breaking down and buses were over heating. And all of this was being done by the wrath of Mother Nature, outside of any mere mortal’s control.

While sitting on the 3rd train of the trip, as we edged our way forward towards our ultimate destination, I considered my situation in the broader context and started doing some “what if” scenarios in my head. I currently had the benefit of a seat so, as I was now in “endurance mode”, I considered that this was an opportunity to take some necessary preventative action. I opened up my backpack, the same one that many people have commented on over the years with questions such as “What do you carry in there?” and “Why do you have so much food in there?” and “Don’t you think that’s a bit over the top?” and rummaged around.

Now I must add at this juncture that in addition to the T1D, I also live with coeliacs disease, ie. “gluten free”.

So while mentally doing the arithmetic and juggling act for how long I had available to me until our next possible expulsion from this particular train, I pulled out my biscuits (cookies for North Americans) and started eating. I had one – no, certainly not enough. I had two – I’ll be running out of time soon and who knows what lays ahead, so I had a third. This was a good helping of carbohydrate, essential for my survival as a person with T1D, and enough to carry me for a couple of hours if I was at home in front of the TV, but maybe less than an hour if I was confronted with physical exertion and hot, sweaty conditions.

And in my present situation I had no idea what was about to happen. As it turns out, I had a lot more “excitement” to come.

Another part of the 60 x 24 x 365 management routine we live with was that I needed to keep my wife informed about the situation I was now in. When everything is normal, I waltz in the front door at approximately the same time each day and 30 minutes later I’m eating my evening meal. But when things go off the rails – sorry, I couldn’t stop that pun from coming out – I am obliged from years of experience to let my wife know. This covers things from the simple, like don’t start cooking yet, to the extreme, like I am going to need an ambulance.

And yesterday, all of the years of planning and “what if”ing paid off. Because just after I had those biscuits and sent my wife the message, I lost most opportunity to take any other action.

I was now on a bus, crushed in with a multitude of other sweating commuters, rushing through the traffic towards our next unknown destination. I didn’t have a seat and it was all that I could do just to stay on my feet. I had no opportunity to rummage in my backpack for more food and no opportunity to message my wife. I just clung on and hoped for the best.

But at least I had those biscuits under my belt – another necessary pun.

Leaving out the Keystone Kops episodes that followed on that eventful journey, I finally walked in the door over an hour and a half late, way past the normal time for my first evening injection and my evening meal. But at least I was home and could now start the management and adjustment processes needed to bring my T1D back under my control, not the control of the extreme weather that Australia is experiencing this long, hot, dry and dangerous summer.

That is T1D as I have lived it ……… yesterday.

Marathon des Sables – A Type 1 Diabetes Adventure

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