Saturday, February 28, 2015

Life in The Bahamas as a T1D Pharmacist and CCDE

A few weeks ago I dropped in at Freeport, in The Bahamas when going on a short cruise for abit of R&R (escape from Old Man Winter ... like many Canadians do at this time of the year).  It was to finally meet up with Christine Snisky who is a pharmacist and CCDE (Caribbean Certified Diabetes Educator) and in her free time she also runs The Grand Bahamas Diabetes Education group on Facebook. She is a Super D Woman in my eyes!!!! Able to leap tall buildings in one leap!!!

Ahhh, there's nothing like life in The Bahamas
My main goal in meeting up with Christine was to present her officially with the blue circle pin, as part of the Pin a Personality Campaign that was started last year by IDF for World Diabetes Day (held every year on November 14th).  Even though I think she thought I was silly saying that she's “a personality”, I still think anyone who works in the public doing what she does.... is a personality in my eyes.  I felt very honoured to have meet her and knowing how valuable she is to the community in educating diabetes.

She herself has Type 1 diabetes, which she feels was brought on by her autoimmune system being compromised by drugs that she had to take for a condition called Recurrent Respiratory Papillomas (RPP). She had numerous surgeries to remove the tumors from her respiratory tract (leaving her with a whispery sexy voice  ... or at least that’s my take on it <lol>).  If she hadn't had the surgeries, she would have died of suffocation. The good thing though is that she is one of the lucky ones, having been in remission for a long time.  And of all days, as I post this blog, on February 28th … it is the RareDisease Day celebrated all over the world to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients' lives. 

Before meeting up with Christine though, since she was working until 1:00 that day, I sauntered around some of the ports shops outside the port, talking to some of the locals.  This is the best part of travelling for me, speaking to locals, finding out what makes them tick, and sometimes finding some of the best deals that the locals go to (and not the tourists).  What became clear to me, and more so after meeting up with Christine.  Bahamas is in dire need of proper education in the diabetes sector.

I was talking to one shop owner, and of course, in my excitement I told her I was meeting up with Christine later that day and that I had had Type 1 diabetes since 1967 (I am such a blurter out person about my diabetes aren't I?)

She told me that she was a Type 2 diabetic, but after speaking with her, clearly to my unmedical eyes/ears, she was a Type 1.  She'd basically been put on insulin right from the start.  The scary part was she didn't know how to use her insulin, or what it exactly does.  She relayed the story of having a 400 mg/dl (22 mmol/l) blood sugar reading the day before, and “being oh so ever thirsty” and that she’d drank orange juice (OJ)!!!  I told her that OJ has sugar in it, and it would only make matters worse.  She seemed to understand this, but to make her feel not so bad, , I said she could always have put a dash of OJ in the water, to make it taste less boring than just plain water, but to try to drink just plain water and to give some fast acting insulin. 

My DH in the back listening to Christine and I yaaking about diabetes and life in The Bahamas 
Fast acting insulin? She did she not know how to correct her blood sugar with fast acting insulin or really what it was (I explained to how I gave one insulin for food, and another type of insulin for just keeping my blood sugars level).   I could see this was beyond her comprehension but the good thing is she told me she wished she knew these things.  That's when I told her that the same day I was visiting, a meeting at the hospital was taking place, that Christine runs every Tuesday at 7:00, and that if she could – she might want to attend.  She had heard about these meetings, and said she would go. I left hoping she did.

As I went around, I came across others with similar stories.  One store owner, an American who had married a Bahamian, knew about this lady having the high blood sugar and like myself, knew that treating it with orange juice was a no no.
Crikey, she's driving on the WRONG side of the road :)
Finally it was time to meet up Christine (I was worried we wouldn't meet since I had had no data or mobile since we’d left Miami a few days prior).  Luckily, Freeport isn't that big and I was wearing my smoking cat t-shirt as promised so she could spot me in a crowd. Just when I’d sent my darling husband (DH) to scout the public parking lot, who zooms up in their car but Christine!!!  She came out of her car, and I was soooo excited.  We hugged each like we'd known each other for ever!!!  Oh, I’m such an emotional twit aren't I?

Sock Monkey sampling the local brew of The Bahamas - what a trooper
She drove us to a nice quiet area of the island, far away from the floating city folks that were on the boat with us ... and we just chilled out and talked about diabetic education in the islands.  One thing that really got to me,  as of January 1st - VAT (ValueAdded Tax) is now placed on drugs in The Bahamas.  The minimum wage on the islands is barely enough to pay rent and purchase drugs.  Plus most do not have a private insurance like Americans do or a government plan - but that is in the works - but when it will happen who knows.  So, with the 7.5% VAT added, for some people, balancing their income to purchase insulin, etc. is difficult.  

Luckily, the cost of insulin though is not as highly overpriced as it is in the USA; the islands seem to sell their insulin and other medical supplies similar to how we have it set up here in Canada.  Maybe this is due to Bahamas and Canada being an independent Commonwealth realm (we both retain Queen Elizabeth's II as our monarch) - so we follow somewhat same government, but I'm no expert in this area.

Presenting Christine with the blue circle pin which one day will hopefully be the universally recognized symbol of diabetes awareness (I mean who doesn't love blue?). 
So, over a few beers (Christine is gluten free - so she had unsweetened ice tea) - we had a good time planning adventures for educating within The Bahamas ... and hopefully meeting up at the IDF World Diabetes Congress  in Vancouver this November where I'll be working as a volunteer again and cracking the brains of doctors / researchers / you name it I'll delve into many subjects! 

The only one drawback of the whole meeting?  Time flew by way too fast.  Before we knew it, we were speeding off to get back to the port to catch our cruise ship that was going to the next port (Nassau).  Quick hugs, running to the gates to get back on the ship (we were about 10 minutes late for passengers to get back on) - what a rush!!!  For the first time, we were part of the entertainment for folks watching us from the ship, being the last passengers on (hmmm, wonder if they paged our names a few times)!!!  Thank goodness I can run like a crazed woman when I have to ... with Sock Monkey screaming in my ear - go go go!!  Of course,forgetting what I educate other diabetics I mentor, I did not bring any spare insulin with me, etc. but then, if I'd been stranded on the island ... I had Superwoman Pharmacist Christine to help me out for my legal drugs ;) 

Till we meet again Christine and the folks in The Bahamas!!!  Who knows, maybe that dream of living in the islands will be coming faster than planned ... we can be the Team D Crusaders - sailing to various islands in the Exumas / Abacos...  have insulin ... will travel!!!


You can view more of my blogs at Diabetes1.org ... my first blog on this recent R&R can be found at this link ... thanks for reading my fluff (Sock Monkey made me say this).

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