Transatlantic Sunset Tour: Day 8 ~ Paradigm Shift

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Goodbye Caribbean…hello massive ocean…

After another amazing day in the Caribbean(which was now about an hour away), we thought we’d try and relax with a spot of sunbathing. This meant trying the almost impossible task of finding not 1…but 2, empty sun loungers.

A view of the ocean from the rear of the ship, overlooking the sunbathing area at the bottom of the shot

Fantastic! We found 2 together, no way. But…pretty much after placing our towels onto the sun loungers, Sarah’s “Paradigm” insulin pump started alarming!!

“That’s not the usual alarm” I said as Sarah was trying to read the tiny screen in the super bright sun. “I can’t quite make out what it’s saying, but it’s not something i’ve seen before, i need to go back to the cabin and use the magnifier”. The pump continued it’s piercing alarm all the way to the cabin!

Back in the cabin..

Once back, and using our video magnifier, the error message on the screen said “A button has been continually pressed for more than three minutes. to clear press ESC, then ACT”.

Sarah said “That’s weird, my pump’s been nowhere near anything that would press the buttons, but it sounds easy enough, i can finally stop this annoying alarm”. After hearing a few clicks, then a few more, the pump was still alarming. “It’s not working” “What do you mean, are the buttons not responding?”. “No, it won’t clear the error message, can you have a go”. I tried, and still nothing except the error message and the alarm!

We both knew we didn’t have long as the pump has now stopped delivering insulin, as Sarah needs a continual small dose, as not only does Sarah have type 1, but a brittle form, and she is also slightly allergic to insulin! 

After taking the battery out, waiting 10 minutes before replacing…the alarm and message were still there! After trying it again, I said “Should we take it to the doctors in the hospital on Deck 3?” “They won’t know anything about insulin pumps, it’s specialised equipment, which is why it’s carefully monitored, and finely tuned by the diabetic clinic”. After a few more desperate tries to cancel the alarm, and running out of options, we had no choice, and headed down to deck 3.

The Hospital…

Reaching the bottom of the stairs to Deck 3, we were greeted with a couple of corridors and lots of doors. We could hear voices coming from an open door on the right, so we headed there. We found the doctor who was sounding very concerned whilst talking to a couple of very poorly sounding people, who had deep growly coughs. I said “Let’s wait out here”. A man dressed in a white suit approached us and asked if we were ok? After explaining what had happened, he looked at the pump, took it, and asked us to wait in the waiting room.

He returned with the doctor(a female with quite an aggressive manner), she explained that the pump was broken, and we needed to get a new one. But for now she needed to work out how much insulin Sarah’s body ran on. We said the pump gives a small amount of Humalog every 1-2 hours continuously, but all of the information is programmed in the pump that has now locked itself. This didn’t impress her! Between us, we had to try and calculate how much insulin Sarah took each day, by adding up the dosage at meal times, and adding a little more to compensate for the pumps continuous injections in the background. 

After a couple more hours of stressful calculations, the doctor gave Sarah some old school syringes and told us to keep a record of insulin taken, time of insulin taken and food eaten etc. We returned to our cabin worried about how we were going to cope for the rest of the holiday, and did we have enough Humalog insulin in the fridge, as the hospital on-board didn’t use it, or stock it.

The Phone Call…

We went up to reception on Deck 8(lots of stairs, lol)  to see if we could phone Medtronic(the makers of the insulin pump) as they are an American company, and would still be open. We couldn’t phone the UK diabetic clinic as they were 5 hours in front, and it would be about midnight! 

After a long drawn out discussion with the receptionist, asking if there was a way to call out from a ship, as we have a medical disaster, as Sarah knows her body reacts badly to injections etc, and really does need the continued small amounts 24 hours a day.  So we really needed to call Medtronic to see if there is any way of saving the pump! Eventually we managed to phone Medtronic, and after a £52 phone call…he told us “the pump was broken!!”. Sarah has been on an insulin pump for about 15 years, and they have never broken. But 1 hour from Antigua, sailing at sea for 5 days…it breaks! 😦 

Trying to relax…

As the realisation was setting in of trying to manage with injections, and Sarah’s blood sugar was still on the rise after the first injection. We were getting a little worried on how this was all going to play out. We decided to stay in the room and just figure out a game plan for the rest of the holiday. We then managed to figure out how to turn on the TV, i thought a film might help Sarah try and relax after the trauma of the day. 

After a while when Sarah spoke again, i instantly knew we were in trouble! The slightly slurring sound of Sarah’s voice told me her blood sugar had suddenly shot down and it was very low! “Oh no,” i said as i jumped into survival mode. Sarah was still conscious so i knew i had a little time. I went straight to the fridge and got the bottle of orange lucozade that usually works if Sarah is still able to drink. 

After about 10 minutes Sarah was slipping away, so i ran to my bag and got the Gluco Gel and squirted it into Sarahs mouth. Gluco gel is fantastic and absorbs into gums etc, and after a while(a nervous while) Sarah was back with us. “Phew” i said as relief was pulling me out of survival mode. Sarah said “I’ve had a hypo havn’t i?! These injections really aren’t going to work, my body just goes erratic and messes up”. 

After a sleepless night of trying to stabilise a yo-yoing blood sugar, we were not really enjoying our first day at sea. But we decided to go and have a nice strong coffee at our fave place, as we’ve probably got another sleepless night tonight too. I said “It’s hard to imagine that not even a day ago we were riding on horseback across that beautiful beach”. 🙂 

Sarah has to check her blood sugar every 2 hours, day and night, for the rest of the holiday, as without the pumps continuous feed, we are left with just fast acting insulin, and lots of prayers.

This is becoming quite an adventure!!! 

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