Skip to main content

Another First on Friday!

Breaking new Diabetes ground isn't that hard. You just have to show up, strap in, and figure out when to take your pump off.

Let me explain...

This week I traveled down to Ft. Rucker, AL for my altitude chamber certification. I brought my flight suit, boots, and a copy of my special issuance Class III FAA Medical along. Everything was smooth sailing until the doctor giving the brief mentioned that we shouldn't have any electronics on our person in the chamber. [For those that don't know, an altitude chamber simulates the pressure at various altitudes. On our "flight" we went to 25,000 ft, dropped our oxygen masks and determined our personal symptoms of hypoxia.]

"Crap," I thought. "I drove all the way down here, listened to this hour-long brief, just to get told at the last minute that I can't participate. Great."

So, I kept my fingers crossed and approached the doc at the end of the brief, as we were to make our way to the chamber. I explained that I had Type 1 Diabetes and administered insulin via insulin pump. We talked about possibly just unhooking, but after realizing the "flight" would be at least 45 minutes, if nothing went wrong, the doc just wasn't comfortable with me being insulin-less for that amount of time, or longer. [I was nervous that the decreased pressure at altitude might cause any trapped gas within the pump to expand and crack, or somehow damage the pump.]

We headed up to the Colonel's office, I was embarrassed to be such a pain. When we stepped in his office, he was excited! Yes, you read that right, excited! The doc with me explained the situation and the Colonel together with a by standing Major talked through a scenario that we all agreed would work. The Colonel mentioned that to his knowledge I was the first Type 1 Diabetic to ever go through their chamber. He then proceeded to explain how he never gets to work on "medical challenges" anymore, he even told the doc that they should write it up in the Army Aeromedical Journal following the chamber flight. I honestly have never seen three doctors so excited about my Diabetes! Usually they are trying anything in their power to ground me, but not today! 

So, I strapped in, pump and all and completed my 30 minutes of de-nitrogen in the chamber's "lock" area [similar to an air lock]. After that I took the pump off [only being insulin-less for approximately 20 minutes] took one big breath, unhooked my oxygen supply, held my breath and ran to my actual "chamber " seat. The men helping us inside the chamber made sure I was re-hooked and that was it. I was back to being just one of the guys [turns out I was the only girl, big surprise]. 

After the flight was over I reattached 'le pump and headed to the debrief [by the way, my hypoxia symptoms are euphoria, denial and hot/cold flashes in case anyone happens to be on a plane with me during a decompression!]. 

In my opinion, every little bit counts, even somewhat trivial procedures to allow a Type 1 Diabetic to experience the altitude chamber. We are getting there. Slowly but surely. 

Comments

Post a Comment

Who has two thumbs and loves comments? Nerdy April!!! Type one out and hit publish!

Popular posts from this blog

The road to curing Type 1 Diabetes

From the moment of diagnosis, the road is rough, the learning curve is steep and the stakes are literally life or death. The map is less-than-helpful - paths originating from virtually every corner, coalescing at a center point (aka "diagnosis") and bursting back outwards - some paths cross and wrap around each other but others are isolated. And even with all of these roads, most of the territory is uncharted - how did we all get here and how will we all exit? Where are the obstacles we haven't found yet? Which passage holds the key to unlocking the solution?

On any given day I feel pretty isolated with this disease - I'm the only T1D in my group at work, the only one in mission control, the only one in my family. I go through the logistics of calling insurance companies, ordering supplies, changing sites and troubleshooting malfunctions mostly on my own. Even those pesky carbs really only get counted in my brain, no group think for a meal bolus here. But there is b…

On 20 years with Type 1 Diabetes

I think it's finally time to hit 'publish' on this post, considering it's been sitting here for, oh you know, like 2 weeks now ;-) Sometimes I "April" about things too much (this is Chris's term), and with my dad here for Christmas I realized that it's definitely a trait passed down, haha, love you dad!


To be honest, I never thought the day would come when I would say, "I've had Type 1 Diabetes for 20 years."

20 years ago a cure was 'just on the horizon' and as an 11 year old kid I took that phrase to heart - I had to. My continued existence was based solely on whatever the endocrinologist said - pancreas, insulin, autoimmune, blood sugar, islet cells, shots. I didn't know what I didn't know at that point. I had never heard of an insulin pump or glucose meter. Ketones and hyperglycemia were just big, meaningless words. Carb ratios and counting might as well have been formulas for travelling at light speed. I wasn't ov…

Type 1 Diabetes - IT life.

Nine years ago (9 years ago?!), I was still waiting for the black-box-doctors at the FAA to clear my Class III medical certificate - a requirement for my then-job flying on experimental Army helicopters. To 'pump' up my diabetes-dejected ego (ha), Dave let me tag along with him for his MH-47G proficiency simulator runs. That tiny taste into helicopter flight dynamics gave me so much appreciation for him - hovering is literally the.hardest.thing, I was tense the entire time and constantly felt like I was one small cyclic movement away from losing control. Even though I knew in the back of my mind we were in a (moving) simulator, my senses got lost in the weight of the flight controls, the movement on the screens, and the hard thumps when I hovered right into the ground.

At the end of the runs I asked him how he has the stamina to pilot this monster of a helicopter for literally 15 hours straight (these special ops versions can mid-air refuel). He sort of laughed, but his answer…
01 09 10