The German exchange trip – Amy nails it

On Tuesday Amy, now 14, started her exchange trip with her school to another school in Germany, somewhere. As a parent I should actually know where she is but I guess I’m a bit more relaxed about this trip than I realised.
This blog was meant to be just about the trip but it’s turned into a congratulatory one for Amy, who’s doing really well managing by herself. I’ll kind of apologise for this but at the same time I’m incredibly proud of how she’s managing.

The trip

Amy’s been studying German at school for a year or so and on the face of it she is very good, getting A and A* results in exams. She’s staying for a week with a lovely family whose daughter will be staying with us in a couple of weeks and luckily she is very good at English as I know no German.
The school have organised all this, along with the host school organising a week long set of activities and fun events.

Never a doubt

There was never a doubt whether Amy would go on this trip or not, diabetes was not given a passing thought from our side, nor Amy’s, nor the school’s. It’s so refreshing to look back and realise it was never a thing, especially after hearing horror stories of kids not being allowed to go on school trips, some only being told at the last minute.

The Type 1 worries

Whilst Type 1 never featured in the decision making process about going on the trip, Amy, Jane and I felt that we should ask the school to see if any of the German kids have Type 1 and would like to stay with a family who were used to living with Type 1. Amy is more than capable than managing her diabetes on a day to day basis and she thought she could help any of the German Type 1 students if they were worried about coming to England and going it alone themselves. It was a lovely touch from Amy but we’re glad the German school has no kids with Type 1.
We did wonder if Amy’s host family would be worried at all but they raised no concerns once they found out about Amy having Type 1. I think they’re happy that their daughter is coming here as she has daily injections to do and the family will know we’ll be okay with helping her.

Helping other Type 1 kids

Of the English kids going there’s a boy who Amy doesn’t really know, let’s call him Harry*, who’s also Type 1, much more recently diagnosed than Amy. Amy thought Harry would prefer to stay with a Type 1 German family so whilst setting out to find out if there was a German student with Type 1 she was always going offer that family to Harry first. Another nice touch.
At the one and only meeting about the trip we stayed behind to discuss a few Type 1 things with the organiser and heard Harry’s mum nervously asking questions about the trip, worried about how her son would cope if anything went wrong. We’d never met the mum before, Amy didn’t really know Harry either, but she jumped up and said, “It’s okay I’ll give my mobile number to Harry and he can call me if he needs help in Germany”. She then explained that she was confident with carb counting, adjustments and day to day management and that the mum needn’t worry. Proud Dad moment.

So how’s it all going, glucose wise?

Amy uses CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) on and off and is using it in Germany, on top of that we use xDrip and Nightscout for night time. We had decided to use it for Germany so that I could help Amy with her recent-ever-changing-basal-requirements but between lack of WiFi, phone 3G problems and being relaxed we’ve not actually worried about it. It was Amy who got it set up in the end and it was two days before I actually looked at the data so it was pleasing to see how well she is doing, without asking for advice or worrying or letting it stop her.

Germany NightscoutNightscout graph sample over 36 hours

From the 36 hour trace above, Amy’s averaging 6mmol/l, with maximum of 10.8 and a couple of hypos of 3.0 and 2.9. Not bad considering she was at a theme park and estimating carbs has been a challenge at times.

* some names have been changed to protect the innocent 😉

Alton Towers tweetup – 29th June 2013

Alton Towers

Day two at Alton Towers

Our first day at Alton Towers was a great success, albeit slightly damp from the rain. Today was going to be different on many ways: it was sunny; it was the weekend, so queues would be longer; we were meeting other people from the #DOC.
Us Winchcombes were in a bit of a rush to meet Derek’s family, forcing us to have a speedy breakfast all in a fluster and running out of the room to meet them in time.

Guest Services: to wait or not to wait

Pulling into the car park there were cars everywhere, far more than the day before…and to think we thought we were early. It took ages to get to the park entrance and by the time the we reached Guest Services there was a queue of 20 or 30 people there.
Although the Guest Services queue was long we knew that time spent here, getting the ‘special access’ pass for the people with diabetes, would be time well spent, minimising queueing time at all the rides.
Philippa and James met us in the queue and we chatted like we were old friends, not like people who had never met each other outside of Twitter before. Philippa also has Type 1 Diabetes and needed to get herself a ‘special access’ wristband.
Derek and I had been tweeting with Vanessa-Louise who was running behind time so we said we’d meet for lunch time, or sometime afterwards.

Straight to The Smiler

We headed straight to The Smiler, with the kids running, but kid-like James failed to appreciate an uneven path and tumbled head-over-heels denting more than just his pride. Philippa took him to get fixed up whilst we queued for The Smiler. It was only my family which went in, Derek’s stayed behind and unfortunately it took us ages to get through. However this “ages” was only 40 minutes and the real queue was already 2hrs long. Luckily our Smiler ride was brilliant and the ride worked well; more on this later.
By the time we met up with Derek’s family they’d managed to ride Obvlivion twice using Chloe’s special access pass.

Rides before lunch

Some of us went into Hex before we headed off to Thirteen, where the main queues were getting big already, but luckily our fast passes got us on in no time. We all loved this ride, it’s kinda cool.
It was great to chat with Philippa and James, so nice to put faces to names and they’re such a lovely couple.

Lunch time and the much-awaited BG test

We had lunch over in the Forbidden Valley (where Air and Nemesis are) with all 11 of us sat around a table.
Amy did her blood test and was 16mmol. SIXTEEN! This was her highest lunch time result on a pump and we had no idea why. We felt embarrassed as her new insulin pump was meant to stop things like this happening.
The mystery was solved a week later when I found out by looking at her pump’s data (on Diasend) that she never took any insulin to cover breakfast time.

Forbidden Valley

tweet, going on Air

Forbidden Valley has got to be one of the better areas of Alton Towers, with Nemesis and Air which we all really liked. After doing Air again we met up with Vanessa-Louise and partner who told us the The Smiler had got stuck, with 16 people stuck at the top of the vertical incline. Rumours were about that they were there for 30 minutes, luckily facing up not down, and I felt my desire to ride this coaster again disappear.
The Smiler - stuck - again

A rather wet Log Flume

Off to the Log Flume and the 11 of us were split across three ‘logs’ – which actually turned out to be shaped like baths, which was more apt than we knew at that point. The ride was really long and there were ample opportunities to get soaked, as Derek found out to his cost. Watch the video to see it, at about 2 minutes 56 seconds in.

A soaked Derek and me

Sonic Spinball

The kids really wanted to go on Sonic Spinball which they’d not been on before so off went Chloe, Amy, Charlotte and Martin.

The SmilerGate incident

Stuck on the Smiler

For the last ride we all did The Smiler, something I was a little worried about after it getting stuck during the day; but that couldn’t happen twice in a day right? Wrong!
Derek, Philippa and James went first; then Chloe, Clare, Charlotte and Martin; then my lot. The queue seemed to take forever but we knew that some people had been in the queue for 3 hours so we could hardly complain about 30-45 minutes.
Whilst waiting in the final boarding zone the ride broke down. It didn’t take Amy long to realise that Chloe was on the ride and broke into tears worried that she might be stuck up the top, without any dextrose or blood glucose meter. Eventually the ride got going again and Chloe etc returned looking not too shaken.
The ride was tested again and again and again before they were happy for people to go back on it.
Then it was our turn. It couldn’t break down a third time could it? Wrong!
Going up the first 45 degree incline and the ride stopped again.
This time Emilia got upset, worried that even if it got going again we’d get stuck at the 100% vertical lift.
After 10 minutes the ride got going and we were happy to get off.
Amy did a blood test, she’d shot up to 17mmol. No surprise there!

A brilliant couple of days

SmilerGate aside it had been a brilliant couple of days. We’d all had a lovely time and enjoyed our tweetup.
More over all the people with diabetes felt great about their special access passes and the benefits they brought.

Alton Towers tweetup – 28th June 2013

Alton Towers

It’s teacher training day

For the first time in years both my kids were in the same school this year and we’d promised that we’d take them to Alton Towers on the first summer-ish teacher training day. So way back in November I booked up a hotel nearby for a couple of nights. I say hotel, it’s a Travelodge, which many of you will baulk at but it was clean, had a bed as was £20 per night for a family of four.

Talking about a tweetup

In December or January some #DOC (diabetes online community) people on Twitter were talking about meeting up somewhere like Alton Towers, perfect for me, as long as they wanted to meet up on the 28th or 29th June. I mentioned that I would already be there and a few people said they’d try to come too, with Derek and his family (Clare and Chloe) committing themselves and booking up the same hotel for the same two nights.
Many people started saying they would come and I got a little worried about how doing all the rollercoasters would work, but eventually our tweetup group dwindled to what became a perfect number for hanging out together. I would have preferred to have met more people but it could have meant we got to do a lot less rides.
In the end my family and Derek’s family were there for two days and we were joined by Philippa/James for the whole of Saturday, and met Vanessa-Louise and partner briefly on Saturday too. The next article talks about 29th June 2013 when Philippa and Vanessa-Louise were there too.

tweet, off to Alton Towers

Friday 28th June starts with a long drive

Both Derek and I had circa 3 hour drives to get to Alton Towers but we arrived within minutes of each other.
Derek’s daughter Chloe has Type 1 Diabetes as does my daughter Amy and they’d been texting each other during the journeys so they were very pleased to see each other again. Chloe’s cousins Charlotte and Martin had come along too to enjoy Alton Towers with us.
Once there we headed straight to Guest Services to arrange the ‘special access’ wristbands that Derek’s daughter Chloe and my daughter Amy were eligible for, both having type 1 diabetes. Here’s more information about Alton Towers’s special access wristbands and fast tracking rides.

tweet, at the front of the smiler

The Smiler: it’s time to be corrected

The Smiler is Alton Towers’s newest and biggest ride, with a world-first 14 inversions. It’s mad, it’s really made. Here’s a video of it.
We entered the disabled queue, which seemed odd, but as by that time the main queue was 120 minutes long we were happy to gain quick access to the ride, “just keep your head down, don’t look them in the eyes” 🙂
My family went first, Derek’s behind and after only 10 minutes or so we were waiting to board The Smiler.
Strictly speaking we were meant to be in the back row on the 4 row coaster as that’s where people with ‘special access’ wristbands are meant to sit, but I didn’t know it, so pleaded with the attendant to let us on the front. He agreed.
So our first ride of the day was Alton Towers’s biggest ride and we were at the front.
Wow.
OMG.
Awesome.

Rides, lunch, more rides

The special wristband enabled us to do so many rides: before lunch we’d managed to do The Smiler, Oblivion, Submission, Rita (twice) and some smaller rides, all within two hours which was the length of the normal queue for The Smiler. Amy needed to disconnect her pump for many of the rides, which is advised due to the G forces on the big rides and ridiculously strong magnets employed by them.

Baited breath for the lunchtime BG result

Lunchtime came and we waited with baited breath to see what Amy’s blood glucose level would: 6.5 phew!
Talking about BG levels Amy’s were good for the whole day: 5.0, 6.5, 7.2, 3.6, 13.7, 7.2. Only the 13.7 was massively out of range and that was because she’d had too big a hypo-cure 30 minutes before, easily done. I’d call those figures a win.

Ride after ride

After lunch we rode, Thirteen, Air (twice), Nemesis, Blade and finally the Congo River Rapids.
I think there was no doubt that The Smiler and Air were the two best loved rides for the group.
It was interesting for me as I’d done Air four years ago, paying to fast-pass it but still waiting 45 minutes to ride it at the front; I didn’t think much of it, but today I loved it. Top tip: it is not worth riding Air at the front as you’re looking down most of the time.
But that time we were already soaked from the light rain, it was a good job considering what happened next on the Congo River Rapids ride; take a look.

Diabetes and fast tracking rides at theme parks…and free tickets

Did you know…

…that someone with Type 1 Diabetes can avoid queueing for ages at some theme parks?

Fast tracking rides at Alton Towers

A couple of days ago I blogged about how to get a ‘special access’ ride pass at Alton Towers for people with Type 1 Diabetes.
That article has quite simply broken all records with regards to views, it’s been so popular, so it’s obviously a subject dear to many peoples hearts.

That’s fine but I want to go to a different theme park

From responses to that blog and elsewhere I’ve decided to write another article to include some other theme parks.
I’ll list a few of the other theme parks people have mentioned, here in this article.
Please note that I’ve not tried these myself (yet!) so please just this information as a pointer and check out the park’s own web site for the current situation.
If you feel any of the information is wrong or if you know of any other theme parks let me know too.

But first…FREE TICKETS…(for kids)!

Merlin, who own several UK theme parks (Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Chessington), has set up the Merlin’s Magic Wand charity to put “the magic back into the childhoods of seriously ill, disabled and disadvantaged children”.
In simple terms you apply for tickets and if you’re lucky you get some.
This is a great idea but to be honest I’ll never apply as I’d prefer all available tickets to be used by people from families who can’t afford to take their kids to theme parks occasionally. I can, so we won’t apply.
Offical web site: http://www.merlinsmagicwand.org

Alton Towers, Staffordshire, England

It’s all detailed here but in summary:
Name of offer: Special access ride pass
Number of people: eligible person + 3 carers – although you can get away with at least one more
Offical web site: Alton Towers

Chessington World of Adventures

I would presume that being owned by Merlin (as is Alton Towers) that Chessington’s ride access pass would be similar but details seem sketchy and I’ve not heard of anyone trying it.
It seems though that cheaper entry tickets may be able to be obtained you will pay the full rate for your Park entry ticket; also one helper will be admitted free of charge and one at a concessionary rate, providing the second is required to assist you on to specific rides and attractions.
However they state that you must apply online, at least 24 hours before visiting the park and take photographic identification too when they visit.
Name of offer: Ride access pass
Number of people: (seems to be) eligible person and 1 carer (for people with type 1 diabetes)
Official web site: http://www.chessington.com/

Legoland Windsor Resort, Berkshire, England

Someone told me that they did something similar at Legoland a couple of weeks ago saying “it really made a difference to our day”.
I presume that this was using Legoland’s ‘Ride Access Pass‘ which allows an eligible person and three others to avoid queues for up to 10 rides during their visit.
Name of offer: Ride Access Pass
Number of people: eligible person and three carers.
Official web site http://www.legoland.co.uk/

Thorpe Park, Surrey, England

Thorpe Park is also owned by Merlin yet their offer is not as good, only allowing 1 helper, not 3. This must make it pretty tricky for families with just one parent as the helper has to be 14 or over.
Name of offer: Ride access pass
Number of people: eligible person and 1 helper
Official web site: http://www.thorpepark.com/

..and further afield…

Disneyworld, Florida

Angela from Texas let me know that her daughter went to Florida on a school trip and managed to get a fast pass.
Here’s what she wrote:
Re Disney, my eldest has just been to Florida on her school trip. I emailed prior to her going, gave the booking details etc and got a reply from customer relations which I printed off and gave to her.
On her first day, inside the first park she went to the customer service/assistance desk and showed them her pump. They gave her a customer assistance card with her name on + 3 others. This card could be used in any of the theme parks at Disney.
It didn’t put her right at the front, but it let her use the ‘assistance required access, which was a quarter of the waiting time..she regularly passed teachers and school mates standing in the long queues!!

Importantly she also added:
diabetes is quickly being removed as a reason for these passes, as they do not consider it a reason good enough. The best way to go is to mention that you are insulin dependent, and as such find if difficult to stand in queues without food etc which may result in a possible seizures.. Seizure is a good word that they don’t like!