Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Diabetes and Hunting; Journal Episode 3

Well, I’ve talked about going through the discovery period and the changes it created in my everyday life. Now I’ll give you a little insight into what I go through with my outdoor activities.

First and foremost; have an emergency plan. For a local hunt or a trip far away, an emergency plan should be in place….just in case. The first part of the plan is to make sure someone knows where you’re going and where you’ll be. Provide them with a time table of what to expect. Even when I’m hunting the public land just down the road, my wife knows that I’ll be out of the tree at dark, it’s about a mile walk and 5 minutes driving. She also knows that I will call her if I’m running late unless I’m stuck in the woods waiting for game to clear out… then I’ll call her. When I went to Colorado for a hunt, I mapped out the travel plan, contact numbers for my hunting buddy, the local Sheriff, Police, State Trooper contact number and the local Hospital(s). Does it sound a little intensive getting all this information? Yup, but every minute counts and since I know were I’m going to be, if something happens, I might need to be found. Once I’ve established the hunt plan information the next step is to make sure my hunting partner (if any) knows what to do and what to look for. I make sure he/she has a bit of candy or something to eat that is mostly simple sugars in case my glucose drops to low. I then tell them what to do if my glucose is too high. I tell them the signs to look for, like changes in moods or disorientation and the shakes, or exhaustion/tiredness. Hearing or understanding problems or problems regulating my temperature could be signs of diabetic emergency. Even if I seem to be using the “facilities” too much is a sign that something might be wrong. I make sure they understand they might need to be patient with me incase I’m having problems but don’t realize it and if I realize it things need to happen immediately. An example is my recent trip to the ATA. I made sure everyone in the group knew I was diabetic and what I would need to pay attention to throughout the day. I warned them that if we got busy on the floor with interviews and such I might forget to eat lunch which could be very bad. I also appraised them of when I had taken my insulin shot and what I would need to do to make sure my glucose did not drop too low.

So, the first step is to provide an emergency plan. The second step is to communicate with those around me. The third step, a plan for myself.

This is the plan that will do the most work to keep me enjoying the outdoors for many years to come. First, I need to figure out if I have the right gear. Choosing the right gear is very important. For a diabetic, the wrong gear is not necessarily a mistake that can cause discomfort but one that could cause injury or even death. With diabetes I start with my feet. My feet are the farthest part from my senses and can easily cause a great deal of problems. I need to make sure I have socks that not only cushion and allow air circulation, but also socks that provide the right level of warmth or coolness. Over the socks go boots and the right kind of boots are vital to a successful time in the outdoors. If I went on my Colorado trip with a poorly fitting pair of boots, unlike most hunters that might get blisters or sores on their ankles/heals, diabetics could develop infections. Infections could quickly lead to life threatening damage to your feet and then to your internal organs as the infection spreads through your circulatory system. Have you ever jumped off a stump or ledge and bruised your foot? What happens to a diabetic if they bruise their foot and it causes a decrease in an already poor blood flow through your toes? How about a possibility of loosing your toes or foot, yikes! So a good boot is critical and a good broken in boot is vital for any long range hunting. Take care of your feet, they need to carry you back out of the woods and mountains.

Next, I need to make sure I have the right clothing for the adventure. It can be hot or cold and I need to make sure the cloths I plan on are adequate for the trip. Overheating can tax the body and being too cold can really cause organ problems as the body gathers heat from your extremities and shuts down. Cloths need to be comfortable too, don’t wear cloths that constrict too much and watch out for buckles and straps that might cause bruising. This includes your packs too. Watch out for straps and make sure the weight is balanced and not prone to cause rubbing or abrasions. I’ve found that as a diabetic, injuries are very slow to heal and scaring is very common from the littlest of things.

Now, it’s time for the “what if” game. What if I get cut? What if I fall down and sprain or break a bone? What if I….get the idea? When I plan my medical kit it’s always a little more comprehensive than most. I make sure I have extra syringes, bandages, needle and thread (sutures). Do I have any other medications I might need? I make sure I have matches and a lighter for fires, an emergency blanket, compass and gps. Lots of water! Diabetics can dehydrate very easily so water is extra important and so is the right food. I love the newest gadgets that make my life easier in the outdoors but I always make sure I have the means to provide my safety at the most basic level within easy reach. The toughest part of writing this journal is trying to remember all the things I’ve trained myself to do without thinking about it. Those are the things that can make your adventure a great adventure. I will probably update this journal as I remember those “things” . For those with diabetes, I hope you take care of your health and have a safe and successful outdoors adventure. For those who don’t or those who hunt with someone that does, I hope you’ve learned a little bit more of what diabetes means to a hunter and outdoors person.

Is my pack a little heavier than normal? Yup. Do I put more work in to planning a hunt? Yup. I figure it’s a small price to pay to make sure a hunt of a lifetime doesn’t turn into a memorial on a stone.

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