This is Diabetes Blog Week. Always fun but a little overwhelming (not just writing but trying to read all the great posts)! Today’s prompt is “I Can…”
In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…” that participants found wonderfully empowering. So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes. What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could? Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of? Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life? (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)
Send my young child with type 1 diabetes to regular overnight camp. For a month. If you’re reading this and you don’t have T1D in your family, you probably just shrugged, but I heard that gasp from the diabetes community.
Sending kids to diabetes overnight camp is a big deal for many parents. It often represents the first time a child has been away from home for a few hours, let alone a week or two. There are endocrinologists, diabetes educators and much of the staff has type 1 diabetes. These people know what they’re doing.
Regular sleep-away camp is different. They have medical staff, but no one specializes in T1D. Many of these people have never seen a pump before and, even if they have, chances are they’ve never changed a site or filled a cartridge. There’s no box on the camp health forms for “type 1 diabetes.”
But, camp is a family tradition for us. My dad went. So did I, my sister and my husband . Different camps but all for six to eight weeks every summer. Camp taught me to be independent, to find out more about who I am away from my parents, and how to take a really quick shower. I still remember the wheel of chores in the cabins and the chants and cheers of color war.
My daughter was the first to continue that tradition. Every year she’d come home and tell her little brother how amazing Camp C is, always adding, “You can come with me when you’re eight.” I never really thought we’d do it. I couldn’t imagine how. But when he turned eight he wanted to go. I tell him diabetes won’t stop him. How could I let it hold him back in this?
It wasn’t easy and it’s still not simple. That first year I started working with the camp in January. They sent me the menu and I provided all the carb counts. We worked out a system for him to check in with the (excellent) medical staff. An Animas rep with T1D even did an education session. We still go up a day early and meet with his counselors and the nurses. I am amazed and appreciative of the effort that goes into making this a great, safe experience for my son.
There are two older boys at this camp with T1D and at least one counselor (I only know about her because I spotted the Omnipod during a camp video). I like knowing we’re not the only ones, but Benny, as a rising third grader that first year, is still their youngest T1D camper. He does every site change and every blood sugar check while he’s there. He’s learned that there’s a lot of ignorance about T1D, like the nurse last summer who asked him what his A1C was before letting him have ice cream! He’s also learning how to handle those kinds of situations politely (unlike his mother who might have asked that nurse her weight & cholesterol before letting HER have ice cream).
Do I worry? Of course. I call a couple of times that first week. I wake up in the middle of the night and decide this is the dumbest thing we’ve ever done and vow to bring him home the next day. But then I how much he loves it. That first year when we picked him up, he said he didn’t want to leave. I also remember that his endocrinologist and the staff at diabetes camp encourage us to do this. Their support helps give me the confidence to let my son go off and gain his own.
Just last week a mom of a boy who goes to camp with Benny called me up. He was just diagnosed with type 1. “Can he still go to Camp C.?” she asked. I’m so glad I was able to say…