#Diabetes Tech and #Download2016 – out the other side!

With this week being Diabetes Week 2016 (I know we are trying to raise awareness of Diabetes, but sometimes I think that Diabetes Week, Diabetes Day and Diabetes Month is perhaps overkill) and with me in the hiatus between two festival trips, I thought now would be an ideal opportunity to write a brief description of taking my gear to festivals. Or as I prefer to call them, mudbaths.

Having spent the weekend at Download in the Leicestershire countryside, and possibly the wettest and muddiest conditions I think I’ve ever experienced at a festival, and somehow come out of it alive, not looking like a pig wallowing and not having lost or broken any of the Diabetes kit I took with me, it was clearly a positive experience.

You may not have noticed, but there was rather a lot of rain over the weekend. And this meant that conditions for festival going in the heart of the midlands were less than ideal.

To give you some idea:

Friday Afternoon:

Saturday afternoon:

Sunday afternoon:

What you might notice is the consistent theme of “MUD” and the capital letters are all necessary. And of course, to get to the MUD you need rain, and plenty of it… Well there was a great deal of that too:


As you can hear, it was loud enough to hear above the sound of the main stage. It was so heavy that on the Friday afternoon, in the Pink Campsite, a river appeared, and went through tents:
Yes, this was a wet and muddy festival. Truly Drownload 2016. So there’s the context of it. The question is, you’re a type one diabetic. How do you get on?
Ignoring the “what do you take” question, because I am going to assume you are going to take everything you need, the next one is “What do I do with it when I am there?”.
Well, it depends on how you elect to go. Having camped last year, and decided that the best thing was to carry pens and blood tester with me at all times, with spares in the car, we elected to hire a campervan this year. I can’t overstate how great an idea this was, given the state of the weather. Somewhere lockable and dry to leave all your gear. Fabulous. And it had a fridge so that I could leave stuff in the cool. Even better.
This year was also my first festival with a pump, so I was interested to see how I felt with it and it stood up to the rigours of the weekend.
The simple answer is that everything stood up incredibly well. I was able to do a set and reservoir change on the Friday morning before getting into the festival, and took the decision that I’d prolong the life of the set until Monday afternoon when I knew I’d have had the chance to have a shower. an extra six hours is not worth worrying about in my book. The pump really made life easier throughout the weekend, and in my view reduced dramatically the amount of stuff I ended up carrying around.
The other major change this year was that I decided to take my xDrip rig and persist with the Dex sensor that was coming to end of life that I’d been wearing for the previous 22 days. Initially I was concerned about about getting the set-up wet, but a swift trip to amazon for some of these:
And I was reassured that my real time monitoring solution would be fine. The Sony Smartwatch 3 also stood up to the rain with no issues. Due to signal issues on site, I turned off the mobile data and wlan functions on the phone, and quadrupled the battery life. I don’t need NightScout for the three days I was there, so it seemed to make sense to do this.
This was the other benefit of the campervan. Any recharging could easily be done overnight with next to no impact on the van battery. Through the rain and the mud, this stood up beautifully, and I simply blood tested twice a day to calibrate the thing and worked off the dex readings for the entire day. Insulin, food and drinking were all managed off what the watch said, and I’d say successfully so.
The onsite lockers do offer charging capabilities and I’d used them the previous year. The best option in that case is to take a charging brick, recharge it overnight and use it on your devices during the day. That’s also a successful strategy for keeping all that technology going.
Over the seven day period including the festival, I managed a mean of 6.0 mmol/l and a standard deviation of 1.72 mmol/l, 29%. During the festival, despite drinking rather more beer, cider, lager and wine than is perhaps sensible (it is a festival after all) I managed to keep below 10mmol/l (which is more than I normally max at, but for a festival, where I know I don’t want to be getting awkward hypos, suits me) and very much in range. In many ways, allowing myself to transgress to this level made keeping the levels in line easier, but that’s for a different post. This is a massive win and driven by sugar surfing as I went along, aided by the pump.
As I mentioned on twitter, the two critical pieces of kit all good T1s should have when they go to a festival are:
Clearly the horn is critical for taking on board cider when heading low, but the pump is also useful…! As you might notice, one of the few spots in the weekend when waterproofs were not required wearing.
But coming back to surviving, what would I say worked well?
  1. Having a pump – much less faff in terms of giving oneself insulin. It’s also waterproof so works in the rain. No need to carry pen needles around with you all the time and perhaps more importantly, the pump is on a “lead” so if you drop it, it might pull a bit, but it isn’t landing in all that mud. Very much a huge improvement on taking pens.
  2. Using CGM whilst parading around the festival. Sugar surfing really works well in this kind of environment. Whilst I know that Dexcom say don’t bolus from the CGM, it worked very well for me over the weekend and the calibrations revealed that it was never more than 1.0 mmol/l from my capillary blood levels.
  3. Excellent carb guessing skills. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it paid off on this occasion. Amounts and timings of insulin, were, for the most part, really good.
  4. Using experience to handle drinking successfully. I’d say moderation, but it was moderation only in as much as not getting so drunk that you can’t stand up, remember anything or finding myself being ill.
  5. Taking a campervan – warm, dry, a fridge and charging points. Fantastic.


What didn’t work so well? There isn’t a list, because not a lot really. possibly only the need to keep charge in devices and as a result, turning off uploaders. Otherwise, I’d say I had a really successful festival in diabetes terms.
But as always, the festival is about the music and experience and not about the diabetes, and for me that’s exactly what it was. If the diabetes is affecting the festival, then as far as I am concerned I am doing something wrong. I’m pleased to say that I think I got it right!


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