Friday, November 11, 2011

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.