El Niño Abroad – Team El Niño Sets Up Life in Amsterdam

One year ago almost to the day, my husband and I decided to pursue our years-long dream of living abroad for one year with my son (his stepson), Carson. We’d considered Italy, or Spain, somewhere we’d learn a language & all that… and then we visited Amsterdam for our first time.  This magical city (where we won’t learn a language because everyone speaks English), who seemed to call to us, “choose me!” … and we did.

Moving to another country for a year is complicated enough. Add that to the fact that Carson has T1D.  Which, if you’re reading this, you probably already know is insanely complicated in itself.  Managing his T1D in a foreign country?  Was I crazy??  But we plowed on, getting cold feet but never enough to back out, and suddenly… here we are.  Join us on our journey of figuring out how to stay on top of T1D while traveling and living abroad.

Now— obviously, a year ago when deciding whether to make this move, Carson’s care was a top priority. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I’d had any reservations about the quality and availability of his medical team.  So, I started doing my research, and was pleased to learn that the Netherlands is one of only six of JDRF international partners.  So, on a return “due diligence” trip to the city, I met with the founder and the CEO of the Netherlands chapter.  The founder started the chapter three years after his son’s diagnosis 10 years ago, and hired the CEO to run it.  My conversation with them was one of the most fascinating I’ve ever had.  Boy, did I feel silly even giving one thought to whether or not we’d be able to find acceptable care for Carson— the way they do things here blew my mind!  There’s not just an endocrinology department in a big hospital— there are entire clinics devoted to nothing but diabetes, the large majority of their clients having T1D.  Teams of endocrinologists, nurses, dietitians and researchers work under one roof in every one of the five clinics in the Netherlands, we found one close to us and made our first appointment, which I actually began to quite look forward to!  They seemed so advanced over here, I couldn’t wait to see what it was going to be like.

Carson’s endocrinologist in San Diego was wonderful enough to prescribe three months worth of supplies for us, to be sure we had enough to last until he was being seen by someone in Holland. So, packing for this trip was, as you can imagine, overwhelming.  Carson was diagnosed over two years ago, and we’ve traveled quite a bit since, but never did I need to bring so many supplies or worry about keeping so much insulin refrigerated, and for such a long flight!  I didn’t know if the airline would let me keep it in their fridge, or if my Nordic Ice packs were going to make the 11 hour flight.

Fortunately, although our flight attendant wasn’t able to refrigerate the insulin due to liability (of course), he was kind enough to come around throughout the duration of the flight and add dry ice to my little insulated cooler with the Nordic Ice in it, and by the time we landed, everything was still nice and cold— the Nordic ice packs had barely even softened, I highly recommend them! (Amazon, of course.)

Now we’ve gotten in and are beginning to feel settled. The next step, Carson’s first appointment at the clinic!  Stay tuned!

Dove Braunstein is Carson’s mom and Team Captain of Team El Niño, winner of the JDRF 2017 Top Gun Trophy as #1 San Diego Walk Team with over $62,000 raised for T1D Research.