Travel Trouble

A couple of weeks ago, we took our final trip of the summer.  It began with a familiar journey of four and a half hours to grandma and grandpa's house.  We would spend a night there and then travel another hour and a half with them to a cabin on a pond in the woods.  We make this trip once or twice each summer, and I mistakenly believed I could easily pack what we needed without the extra concentration required for, say, our trip to Florida earlier in the year. 

The bad omen came three quarters of the way there, when there was a thunk and a subsequent dragging sound.  Sadly it was not from a nearby vehicle, but from our own.  The muffler had come loose and was dragging down the highway.  My husband heroically secured the muffler to the car with a bungee cord and we traveled slowly but steadily to our destination.

We enjoyed a pleasant supper and researched the hours of nearby muffler places for what we hoped would be a quick fix before continuing on our way in the morning.  The only other piece of business for the evening was a site change.  Which would require insulin.  Which I realized, with a sinking feeling, was at home, four and a half hours away. 

Hoping against hope, I peered into my in-laws' fridge. Because we visit often, we leave vials of lantus and novalog there for just such a circumstance.  Sadly, my memory was correct that the last time we visited, we discovered the insulin to be near its expiration date and brought it home to use and to replace upon our next visit. 

It was 7:45 p.m. If we wanted to enjoy the rest of our vacation, we needed a source of insulin by the time the muffler was fixed in the morning. Our other options were heading home, or visiting the local hospital by evening. 

As much as I'm a supporter of small local businesses, this night is why we use a national pharmacy chain.  The pharmacist found my daughter's name quickly in the computer system and submitted the request for a refill.  Their pharmacy would be open until 10. 

Then, "Did you just refill this prescription last week?"

"Yes, but I'm visiting family here and am 250 miles from home.  I left the insulin at home."

"I'm sorry, but it's not going through on your insurance."

" much would it be out of pocket?"

"Let me see...Oh's a lot.  It's $169."

"Hmm...that is a lot." 

Funny how fast your mind can work in these moments.  I was considering the obviously higher value of my daughter's life, but also the comparative cost of traveling back home to get the insulin and the immeasurable cost of losing out on a vacation when the pharmacist offered, "Let me call your insurance for you.  I see they're still open.  Sometimes they will override the cost in an emergency.  I'll call you back within the hour to let you know."

Twenty long minutes later, the phone rang.  Our insurance would pay for it, and it would be waiting for me to pick up in a few minutes.

Site change waited until morning, but was easily done while my husband went to the muffler shop.  We very carefully packed the rest of the insulin vial into our significantly quieter car and hit the road.  The subsequent discovery of the forgotten water toys, and the need to re-wear the same shorts a few times were issues which seemed trivial compared to the trip's beginning.

Too many people pay $169 every time they need a vial of insulin.  Lots of  people end up at the hospital because they cannot afford that $169.  Countless people have advocated for insurance companies to cover the cost of insulin, even for people dense enough to leave it at home on vacation. 

While it was a stressful start to a vacation, the experience made me grateful for what our family has, and for those who make sure we have it.  It was a reminder that there's more to do out there to ensure everyone has access to basic diabetes care.

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