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Weathering the Storm

By Anne-Marie Mills , ,

Anne-Marie Wills

I have always said that managing type 1 diabetes is as easy as riding a bicycle—if I were blindfolded, had both hands tied behind my back, and was riding across a tightrope lit on fire. And that’s under normal circumstances. How about throwing a potentially catastrophic hurricane into the mix?

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence approached the Carolina coast as a category 5 storm, and Carolina Beach officials issued a mandatory evacuation. My evacuation zone was drastically reduced due to how far I can go in a subcompact car carrying my parents and a person with type 1 diabetes—me—who has neuropathy, a frequent need to stop for bathroom breaks, and a load of diabetes supplies: insulin, test strips, insulin pump infusion sets, continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensors, alcohol and prep pads, and adhesive remover.

When I packed  the car, I made it  very clear that all passengers would hold supplies on their laps. Any arguing would result in the supplies riding shotgun and the parents in the trunk.

After two hotels canceled reservations due to flooding, my parents, my supplies, and I ended up in a shelter. The other inhabitants must have thought a celebrity had arrived when my parents and I, along with several volunteers and an armed deputy loaded with diabetes-related supplies, trooped down the halls. My stuff occupied an entire cot.

After the hurricane passed, our shelter started flooding and the generator died, so I decided to start back home with hopes of the mandatory evacuation being lifted. No such luck. Mom, Dad, my supplies, and I all spent the night in my car, parked in a shopping center parking lot with no power and no bathroom. The next day, I finally made it home with a new appreciation for electricity, comfy beds, and restrooms.

I discovered many things on my adventure: I can change an infusion set and a CGM sensor under a blanket without a flashlight. And a beeping insulin pump sounds amazingly similar to a weather alert from The Weather Channel.

I also learned I can survive a hurricane and flooding, as well as everything diabetes tries to put me through. It may not be as easy as riding a bike, but I’m capable of managing my diabetes even in the worst of conditions.

Anne-Marie Mills, a retired business services coordinator for the University  of North Carolina at Charlotte Urban Institute, is enjoying her second career as a beach bum in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4.


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