Diabetes and Outdoor Photography

Ten years have passed since my Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and as I get to know myself more as a person with diabetes, I have learned that to do what I’ve always loved to do and to try new things is possible, but both require more planning than in the past.

Managing diabetes requires me to regularly consider what I need to live every day regardless of what I am doing or where I am. I have to deliberate, prepare, and strategize before heading off into the woods and away from the safety of home and a comfortable routine. What did I forget? What if I my CGMS stops working? What if my insulin gets hot? What if I run out of glucose gels?

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diabetes, checklist, Wunderlist, screenshot
My diabetes check-list in Wunderlist.
For about a year and a half, I’ve worn the ACCU-CHEK insulin pump. It’s about the size of an old Blackberry pager (if you are old enough to remember what those looked like), along with a glucose meter about the same size, which acts as a remote control. The insulin pump is attached via plastic tubing to a small port inserted into my stomach. Every three days I change the plastic tubing and port location on my body, and every five or seven days I fill a new plastic cylinder with insulin and insert into the pump. I check my blood sugar on the glucose meter about six times a day.

Once I count and enter the number of carbohydrates I am going to eat; the glucose meter suggests a dosage (called a bolus) which I can accept or alter as needed. When I decide to be active, I can choose a higher or lower baseline insulin rate depending on my activity level (it’s all guesswork). This system functions as my personal external electronic pancreas, and it’s helped me to live a more flexible life than when I was on 4 to 6 shots a day.

Before I go into the woods to hike or take photos, I run through the list of things I would need. I’ve learned that the added exertion of walking in the woods or long walks around a large city causes me to burn glucose at a faster rate, and it takes me a while to get enough carbohydrates in my system to sustain my activity.

During one recent hike this past spring I downed two 22g glucose gels just to keep my blood sugar high enough to walk back to my car. I brought what I thought was enough glucose tabs to handle possible hypoglycemia and adjusted my insulin based on an estimate of excursion. 30 minutes into the hike and my blood glucose dropped, and the devices started beeping. I used up all the glucose tabs, and things did not improve. Thank goodness my friends had snacks.

The other thing I have to consider is that there is no cell signal out in the woods. If I have a hypoglycemic episode (undetectable without my bio-hardware) or a diabetes device failure, having someone with me provides added comfort in knowing there is someone who can help me if I need it.

T1 (autoimmune) diabetes is not something about which a patient can escape thinking. But over time I’ve developed a go-to checklist, with my medical supplies listed next to my photography essentials, diabetes no longer gets all the attention when I’m planning.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Author: Khürt Williams

a human, an application security architect, avid photographer, nature lover, and formula 1 fan who drinks beer.

5 thoughts on “Diabetes and Outdoor Photography”

  1. I take my husband (also diabetic) birding and he has a nasty habit of forgetting his glucose tabs and snacks. I can tell before he does that he is getting low. He uses an insulin pen.

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