Changing My Mind: Traveling with a Back Up Insulin Pump

Before I left for our trip, I put a lot of thought into whether I wanted to travel with a back up insulin pump. I considered it from all angles, and made a logical decision not to bring a back up—I even wrote about it here explaining my logic.

While on this trip, my insulin pump has actually failed twice. That’s right – twice!

The first time was while I was on a tour at Machu Picchu. I heard a loud, consistent beep, and when I checked, my insulin pump screen simply said “PDM Error.” No amount of button pushing or restarting fixed the issue. Customer support said the pump had to be replaced, but that they could not ship to Peru. After much stress, frustration and worry (plus a few tears), the pump magically started working again after the batteries had been removed for a longer period of time. I wrote about the whole thing here.

While I was extremely grateful that the insulin pump started working again, I also realized that carrying a back up insulin pump is not a logical choice. Or even a luggage/space saving choice. For me, having a back up pump is a huge level of comfort that means that I can continue my diabetes care in2015-12-12_Cambodia_Sihanoukville_PumpFail-1 the way I see best for myself in any country I’m in.

So three months into our trip (during a stopover in the US), I added a back up insulin pump to my luggage.

And then (of course!), nine months into our trip, my insulin pump failed again. This time we were in Sihanoukville, Cambodia in a tiny beach town. I got the same white screen stating there was a “PDM Error,” but this time there was no panic. I simply showed my husband what happened, and started setting up the back up insulin pump.

With the back up in place, the pump failing was barely a blip on the radar; there was no worry about shipping or switching to multiple daily injections or pharmacies. Just a simple two-minute change-over process. And that is definitely worth creating the space in my luggage for it!

** Note: Some countries are much easier to ship a back up insulin pump replacement to. For instance, I had a pump fail in Jamaica a few years ago, and the replacement could be shipped there overnight. In the instance above, it could not be shipped to Peru. If you’re considering whether to have a back up while traveling, I’d suggest contacting your pump company to ask if they can ship to your particular country of travel. 

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