Every once in a while even a normally well-prepared PWD has an "oh ****" moment. Here's one of mine...
Nappanee, Ontario. Birthplace of Avril Lavigne, who at the time was still somewhat popular. I was driving with my dad and a friend from Montreal to Toronto, nearing the halfway point of the trip. It was around lunchtime and, since no one in the car had eaten breakfast, we decided to hop off Highway 401 in Avril's hometown for a quick meal at Tim Horton's. (Ahh, poutine... ) "I need to go do my shot. Be right back." I left Pop and my friend to collect our orders and headed to the bathroom. (Why I preferred to "shoot up" in the facilities I don't recall; nowadays I just poke away at the table.) I recoiled in horror at the conditions inside. Clearly Mr. Horton needed to review his cleaning staff's work. To avoid touching any surfaces, I balanced my diabetes kit carefully on my leg. The kit was new, as I recall, and I still hadn't figured out how to keep my insulin bottles from rolling around inside. Nobody thought to add extra loops or velcro straps back then, in the pre-Stick Me Designs era. I tested, did a Humalog shot for my lunch, then proceeded to juggle things a bit to get my daily Lantus shot ready.
Lantus bottles always strike me as delicate. I cradle them carefully, like rare and wonderful bugs, afraid to let them so much as touch a hard surface. Such thin glass surrounding such vital fluid. Really, how could the Germans be so careless? (;-) Especially when other vials like Humalog, by comparison, take such a licking and keep on ticking? I've all but driven over Lily's various vessels, and have yet to crack one. The mystery continues... But in the Tim Horton's bathroom in southern Ontario on a cold November afternoon, I was about to discover what happens when suddenly faced with the inevitable collision between the fragile and the unyielding.
"Oh, shit." The Lantus bottle rolled out of my case and, in slow motion, fell to the floor. I bent over and picked it up, and the smell hit me--freshly opened Band-Aids. Oh, no. "Dammit!" I shouted to no one in particular. Given the string of obscenities that followed, I'm glad the room was empty. Avril herself might have been proud. There it was--a crack the size of Gibraltar in the bottom of the bottle. Bits of glass were scattered on the floor, and hardly a drop was left. Worse, I realized, too late, I didn't have a spare. This vial was brand new, and I hadn't thought to pack for an emergency. I was only going to be gone for a few days and hey, didn't they invent insulin in Canada? It never occurred to me there might be a snafu. Or that my previously perfect trip would go astray. (Note to self and reader: The Boy Scouts know one thing...always be prepared!)
Crisis operations were now in order. I sat down calmly next to my party and began to eat. After a moment I stopped and made my announcement. Oh boy...."OK, so I don't want you guys to panic, but I have a little problem." (Another note: Never say this, especially to a parent. When you have type 1, there are no "little" problems. And even saying the word "panic" guarantees there will be some...) Dad, unfortunately, flipped out. You would think I was 12 years old again from his reaction, poor man, but this had never happened before. My friend really had no idea what was going on so she kept quiet, but I could tell she was upset too. It was going to be a long day. I laid out my plan. We would stop at the nearest pharmacy to get another bottle. I would call my doctor and find out how to manage in the interim--surely I wouldn't keel over in the 2 or 3 hours it might take to find long-acting insulin. The answering service took my message, and we set off asking strangers how to get drugs in this little town.
Nappanee may have its charms, but a pharmacy open on Sunday was not one of them. After an hour of fruitless searching we got back on the road and continued our drive. I called the places I could think of in Toronto, assuming someone would have Lantus. In the pre-PDA, ante-wireless era, the only database I had was in my own head. I burned through precious roaming minutes on my cell phone. Toronto General Hospital was finally the one to break the news to me: Lantus was not yet available in Canada. This was when I panicked.
What would I do? Dad wanted to head to the airport and sit at the Air Canada counter until we could return home. My friend noted that we had already made plans to visit another friend the next day, trying to hide the disappointment in her voice. I weighed the thought of having my brother FedEx a bottle to me, but the cost of such an adventure quickly outranked its viability. I pondered as the endless ribbon of featureless grey pavement stretched out before us. Finally the doctor's office called. The on-call physician didn't know me and sounded annoyed at first. He didn't have my insulin management schedule, he said, and could offer little beyond what I already guessed (frequent testing and dosing of Humalog every few hours). Then he casually mentioned, "Do you still have any old Lente insulin with you? You could use that temporarily."
The lightbulb went off in my head. Lente! Yes! My old friend, responsible for more rollercoaster highs and lows than I cared to remember. Lantus was new to me then, and luckily I still had my old Lente numbers written down somewhere. Then I ran up against another roadblock. Not only did I not have any with me, I wasn't sure I could get it in Canada. Did I need a prescription? Toronto General Hospital wasn't sure, but I wasn't out of ideas yet. Thanking the doctor I pursued my last idea: Wal-Mart. Yes, they may be evil, but they have a pharmacy. And diabetes supplies. Crossing my fingers I picked up the phone and tried my luck.
"Hello, how may I help you?"
In the next few moments I learned a few wonderful things: 1) Some Wal-Mart employees are actually helpful; 2) Insulin is available without a prescripton in Canada; 3) A bottle of Lente costs only $18.00 in Ontario. No tax. And, 4) Wal-Mart is pretty much the only place open on Sundays in Ontario. Hallelujah! One hitch: the pharmacy would be closed by the time we got there. "But it's no problem," said the helpful voice. "I'll just put it in an insulated bag and leave it at the manager's desk. We'll make sure you get your medicine."
Suddenly the sense of impending doom lifted. Dad breathed a sigh of relief, no doubt at the fine prospect of salvation. (I figured he was probably happy to avoid some hefty airline ticket change fees as well.) My friend relaxed a little, still unaware of the true depth of my drama. Me, I kicked myself hard and well mentally until the bottle of Lente, its milky white liquid cold in my hands, was safely in my possession. I learned a valuable lesson about being prepared, but more importantly, I was able to get through the rest of my trip without incident. Sure, I had a couple of highs and lows, but when I stepped off the plane back home I knew I'd been lucky. And I also knew that never again would I ever want to see, hear or recall anything to do with Nappanee, Ontario. So sorry, Avril, but for me you'll always suck. Wal-Mart, not so much.
Next time on "Oh **** Moments", find out what happens when you run out of test strips far from home--Ireland (:-O