Are Remote Vacations Possible with a Diabetic Child?

Mary Kate Cary Health Guide
  • After five years of Annie’s diabetes, we’re trying something for the first time: a vacation in a truly remote location. When she was first diagnosed, I thought we’d never be able to go on vacation again, much less to a place like this. We’re in western Colorado, in a small town called Crawford, at a dude ranch for the week. You fly in to a small town called Montrose and drive an hour from there.

    I was worried, in case something should happen with Annie and we’d need to get her medical attention quickly. But here are the questions we asked of the ranch hands, which may help you in deciding if you ever want to do the same thing (hopefully you will!):
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    1. Is there cell phone access from all points on the property? If yes, you’re fine. If no, ask if the staff is able to communicate with each other by radio from all points. In our case, there were radios, but there are occasional dead spots. So we’re bringing a satellite phone (about $150 for the week) for us to carry when we’re away from the lodge. Anyone who is with Annie when we’re not with her will carry it too. That way we can call 911 from anywhere.
    2. Is there a hospital in the nearest town? If not, how far away is the closest hospital? In our case, the hospital is 35 minutes away by ambulance.
    3. Key question: how fast can the ambulance get to us? If the answer was 35 minutes, (meaning, if the ambulance had to start out at that hospital and make a round trip) we would have said no deal. But there’s an ambulance in the nearby national forest ranger’s facility, which can get to us in 10 minutes.
    4. Is there a helicopter service available for life-threatening situations? Most of these Western towns seem to have a contract with helicopter services nearby, so that they can rescue hikers and skiers and the like. In our case, the helicopter can be there in less than 10 minutes.

    Two tips: along with all her usual diabetes supplies and backups, we’ve brought a case of SweetTarts with us so Annie can have a stash in her pockets at all times, as can everyone else. Juice boxes are too bulky and can fry in the sun, and we’ve found SweetTarts work quickly and are much easier.

    Second, remember that if your child’s blood sugar were to drop so low that they’d need medical help, they probably won’t have to go to the hospital and get admitted – they’ll just need an IV of sugar until they are stabilized again. This means you need access to trained EMTs and an ambulance – which in our case is only 10 minutes away. Chances are you won’t need the hospital or the helicopter, but it gives you a great deal of peace of mind to know what you’re walking into. Even if you didn’t have a child with diabetes, you’d want to know what all the options are in an emergency. Hope this helps.
Published On: August 23, 2006