Before the move, I’d had some reservations about living abroad because I was unsure of the kind of care we’d receive here for Carson’s T1D. I was well accustomed to our endocrinologist department at Rady Children’s, and the way things are done back home.
Was I ever in for a pleasant surprise!
Diabeter Kliniks (“beter” means “better” in Dutch; what a great name!), of which there are several here in The Netherlands, are dedicated exclusively to diabetes, the large majority of their patients having Type 1. Our first appointment, just a few days after our arrival, was at the Klinik in Rotterdam, a quick 25 minute train ride. (After this initial appointment we’d be seen at the Schiphol location, much closer to our home right in Amsterdam). At first I balked at having to travel to another city for his first appointment (typical spoiled American!), but boy, was I happy we ended up going!
First of all, Rotterdam is an amazing city. When we stepped out of the train station it felt as if we were on another planet. Some quick history— Rotterdam was essentially decimated during WW2, and the city center and the port were entirely rebuilt, so everything is very new, especially compared to most European cities whose buildings date back to the 1800s.
The industrious Dutch not only rebuilt, but did so in style! In the last few decades, some of the most modernistic architects placed their dramatic work right in the center of the city, creating a futuristic looking downtown that feels like you’re in a movie set.
Diabeter is inside one of the uber-modern office buildings, and when we entered, it was like nothing I’d ever seen! Bright colors filled the lobby; books, toys and jumbo sized games were spread throughout the waiting room for children to play while waiting for their appointments. One of the brightly colored walls is covered with photos of patients; children and young adults doing all kinds of things. The “wall of fame” illustrates how many activities these young people with T1D are involved in!
Carson started a game of mega-sized Connect 4 with a 10-year-old boy from Curacao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, whose family had moved to Holland in order to receive better care for him.
Once I had filled out our paperwork, his name was called and we had a typical endocrinologist appointment, they asked Carson lots of questions and he was exceedingly bored, as with most of his endo appointments. With two-plus years under his belt, his endocrinologist appointments have become a necessary bore (aside from finding out his A1C, which he is always trying to lower— today’s was 6.6. He was a bit disappointed, as his last one was 6.5; I of course I was quite pleased). I, on the other hand, was fascinated!
One interesting thing is, which I had learned from following diabetes Instagram accounts worldwide, is that in Europe, blood sugar is measured in millimoles (whatever those are!) per litre, vs. the U.S. milligrams per decilitre. The conversion is their measurement times 18, so what we read as a bg of 120 would be a 6.7 for Europeans. We won’t be switching to this measurement as all of our testers read in mg/dc, but it’s cool to know how to make the conversion and how diabetics in other parts of the world read their glucose levels.
Speaking of other diabetics… Blake and Carson took a trip back up to Rotterdam about a week after the Diabeter appointment to get haircuts at the infamous Schorem barber shop, who, coincidentally, Blake is involved with on a business level. They have an edgy, hipster barber shop where people wait hours to get haircuts. Pierced, tattooed barbers who don’t allow women into the shop during business hours. A real “mans’ man” experience and they had a blast. Well, turns out Carson’s barber also has Type 1, as well as the coolest diabetes tattoo I’ve ever seen.
(Incidentally, kids are technically allowed to get tattoos at the age of ten here with their parent’s permission… a T1 tattoo for Carson? I’m not tempted one bit… or am I?)
Next up… school is in for the 2018/19 year! Carson will be the first T1 student to attend this sweet little international school. How will we navigate this new setting…?
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. Dove, her husband Blake and their son Carson have left the friendly confines of San Diego to live for a year in Europe and she will be sharing their adventures and challenges of managing T1D in their new home country of Holland.