Last year in Vienna at the EASD conference, I heard Doctor Stefano Genovese from Milan, Italy speak about one of his patients who was embarking on a very exciting adventure. Claudio Pelizzeni, who lives with type 1 diabetes, was planning to spend 1000 days traveling the globe. Sounds fun! The spin here is that Claudio will not by flying anywhere, instead relying on all other forms of transportation to get around.
Claudio has had type 1 diabetes for about 25 years. He has always travelled, but wanted to do something a little different. When he spoke with Doctor Genovese, he knew that he would not be faced with any ridiculous ‘you-can’t-do-that-you-have-type-diabetes’ sort of commentary. Instead, they discussed how it would work. Together, they developed a plan for managing type 1 diabetes throughout the big adventure!
Claudio set off from Milan last year and has so far travelled through Europe and Asia, arriving in Australia this week. How did he get here? On a cargo ship from Hong Kong, of course! He is spending a few weeks in Australia – a country that he tells me he absolutely loves! – before spending 29 days at sea on a cargo ship to Vancouver.
From there, he will make his way to Boston for the American Diabetes Associate conference.
I really hoped to meet Claudio when he arrived in Australia because there was so much I wanted to ask him. For example, how many months of supplies was he carrying with him? And when he was running low on insulin or BGL strips what did he do? I wanted to know how his diabetes was behaving and how he was managing with different foods.
I’ve kept in touch with Claudio since I first heard about him and was thrilled when he touched base last week to say he would be arriving soon in Australia. We organised a day that would work for us to meet in Melbourne. All our contact was via Twitter.
As it turned out, it was day 300 when Claudio came to visit. He spent some time in at DA-Vic before I took him to Carlton for lunch. (I know, I know, kinda crazy taking an Italian to an Italian restaurant for lunch, but he assured me that he was missing authentic Italian food, and I knew just the place to address that!)
Over lunch I asked him all my questions. When he left Milan he had about 10 months of insulin with him and uses a cool pack to keep it at temperature. He also had consumables for about the same length of time. He has been very fortunate to use the Abbott Libre (yet to be released in Australia, but you can read about it here) and I was very impressed (read: jealous) as he ‘scanned’ himself before he started on his bowl of pasta. (I also felt very old school as I jabbed a (blunt) lancet into my fingers to check my BGL.)
Claudio said that his diabetes has been really well managed during his trip because he actually has time to ‘keep an eye on it’. I guess that’s part of the luxury of travelling. I know that when I am not swamped with the daily things that take up so much time I too have more time to dedicate to keeping on top of my diabetes tasks.
This week we were also really fortunate to host a team of diabetes clinicians from Turkey who were in Australia on a Rotary-sponsored trip. They were interested to hear about our information and support programs for people living with and at risk of diabetes. They have headed back to Turkey after a whirlwind trip to plan a diabetes conference for healthcare professionals from Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania.
Hearing about how people from around the globe live with diabetes is always fascinating and definitely a favourite part of my job.
As I was speaking with Claudio yesterday and he told me about treating a low the day before with a piece of cake from a bakery in St Kilda. I smiled at his story – because it could have been mine. Any excuse to eat cake!
I am always amazed at how different things can be. But even more so, how similar.
Renza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at DA–Vic. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1998. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her occasional blogs are her own.