Why should you care about diabetes camp?

May 26, 2010

First, a little announcement/disclaimer from me: I have recently been hired as the Camp Director for the Harrisburg Diabetic Youth Camp. I am thrilled about it and excited to make camp successful for many years to come. This post is directly dealing with camp and why I think it is important so I just wanted to put that out there so you all know the perspective I’m coming from now. I’ve always been very pro-camp and have always done whatever I could to promote but it is kind of my job now. However, I’d be writing this post no matter what and this post has absolutely nothing to do with me being camp director. Ok, now that that’s out of the way…

Since it’s Spring, and almost Summer, and camp is sneaking up on us, and since there has been a few mentions of diabetes camping thanks to Bret Michaels’s appearance on Celebrity Apprentice, I thought I’d write a post about WHY diabetes camp is important. I know a lot of people might not think that it is. I know that a lot of people might equate diabetes camp to some other kind of camp like basketball or drama or girl scout camp. They think it’s just a grouping of kids who have something in common, and it’s not a huge deal.

Our mission at HDYC has always been to give kids a normal camp experience. Our founders wanted to give kids with diabetes the opportunity to have the same camping adventures that their non-diabetic peers were having. Since then, however, camp has evolved into something far more important than just a campfire and a sing-along (although those are clearly important to the whole experience).

To put it simply, diabetes camp is extremely beneficial to children with diabetes. There have been many studies done to prove this including on in Turkey, one at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and one that Setebaid Services (the organization that runs my camp) has participated in. Kids who attend diabetes camp learn more about diabetes management and how to independently care for themselves. Kids who have attended camp have a better knowledge of their own care.

How and why does diabetes camp make such a positive impact on kids? Well, for many reasons. As we all know, people with diabetes have a much higher risk of developing depression than people who don’t have diabetes. The stress involved with dealing with this 24/7/365 disease can make anyone feel pretty awful, especially if a person has no outlet. Isolation is a huge problem when it comes to diabetes. People with diabetes often feel like they are all alone and no one understands them. This can make caring for the diabetic body even more stressful and difficult. Camp helps resolve this problem. When you come to camp, you meet all kinds of people with diabetes who are willing to talk about anything and everything involved with diabetes. Most campers and staff members keep in touch year-round, especially now that things like email and Facebook exist.

These people are also a fantastic resource for any problems you might be having. From where to try a new infusion site to how to bolus for something crazy to “OMG I ran out of test strips and can’t get anymore,” there is almost always someone to help you out. Some of the people at camp have had diabetes for decades, and can offer the best advice you could ever ask for. Most kids with diabetes see an endocrinologist and some see a diabetes educator, but there is nothing like learning from someone who lives with diabetes everyday.

I like to think that one of the major reasons I am so healthy today is because of camp. It has kept me sane through nearly 21 years of living with diabetes. I met one of my best friends at diabetes camp. My whole life has really been better because I went to camp. I know a lot of people don’t  have quite this much of an attachment to camp, but most are very positively influenced by it and would probably say it changed their lives for the better. In fact, I’ve gotten in contact (thanks to Facebook) with several of our HDYC alumni, and they all still talk about how much they loved camp.

If you or your kiddo hasn’t been to camp, please think about going! And you don’t have to be a camper to go to camp! Being a counselor is just as rewarding. Check out the Diabetes Education and Camping (DECA) website to find a camp near you.

And if you’re looking for a diabetes-related cause to support other than the big ones, please consider donating to your local diabetes camp! It may not sound as important as research for a cure, but it really truly helps keep people alive and healthy!


Why I’m so upset about Bret Michaels

May 3, 2010

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook already know that when I heard about Bret Michaels’s brain hemorrhage, I was pretty upset about it. I’m also guessing that a lot of you might not quite understand why so I thought I’d explain myself a bit.

First off, when something awful like this happens to someone with diabetes it really upsets me. The first thought that pops in my head is “Did diabetes do this?” Hearing about other peoples’ diabetes complications is always difficult. It is a painful reminder of what could happen. On the other hand, it’s also kind of a motivator. It drives me to focus on my self-management to keep me healthy and ward off those complications.

It turns out that Bret’s hemorrhage likely is not caused by his diabetes. So why am I still so worried and upset?

Like you my know from a few mentions here and there in previous posts, I have been going to diabetes camp since I was 7. My camp is called the Harrisburg Diabetic Youth Camp (HDYC). We are a very tight knit family, many of us having been there for over 5 years. A few of the people there have literally watched me grow up. Some of them are also some of my best friends. They are my crutch when it comes to diabetes. When I need to talk to someone who just understands, they are there for me. When something happens to a member of that family, whether we personally know them or not, it is pretty devastating. It’s like losing a family member. The picture at the top of this post is our wishing well from our closing ceremonies. Every cabin brings a candle and a penny and makes a wish into the well. The well is also adorned with members of our camp family that are no longer with us. Some of them have succombed to diabetes related complications and some of them have died of other causes. It’s a horrible feeling to add names to that well. Really. It sucks.

Bret Michaels is also one of the major reasons why HDYC even exists. His mom is one of our founders from the original JDF committee. She wanted a camp for Bret to go to where diabetes was not a worry. She also served as our camp director for many years. She was the director my first year at camp! I have always considered Marge and Tommie (one of our other founders) to be heroes and role models.

I guess that explains most of it. It’s definitely one of those things that’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually been to camp. I’ve seen grown men weep at our closing ceremonies. It just has such a profound affect on everyone who attends. Losing one of our alumni and family members would be very sad.

All things considered though, it sounds like Bret is doing pretty well in recovery. His people seem pretty optimistic in his recovery. I am so relieved to hear all of the positive reports that have come out in the past few days. I know that everyone from HDYC is hoping and praying for Bret to get better and continue doing great work and sending kids to camp all over the country!

(Just a side note: If you didn’t know already, Bret has raised $140,000 for camperships through the ADA on Celebrity Apprentice so far!!! That’s enough to send at least 140 kids to camp!!)

The day has finally come…

January 6, 2010

Today is finally the day! After years of anticipation and hope, I am FINALLY connected to a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System!!!

Waking up today was like Christmas morning. I could hardly contain my excitement! We had to take Jovi to the vet this morning which is probably good because it kept me from bouncing around the house all day. Turns out she has worms in her tummy. Poor little baby. I guess it’s not that unusual for a shelter cat to get worms. We just had to give her one dose of dewormer today and she’ll get another one tomorrow. Hopefully this will help her feel better so she can start becoming more comfortable in our house!

So once we got back I started frantically straightening up the house and trying to be busy to pass the time more quickly. Luckily my trainer, Michelle, called way earlier than I expected her to. She was only two minutes from our house! I did a little happy dance and gathered everything up on our kitchen table.

She started by having me turn off my the connection between my One Touch UltraLink Meter and my pump. Which I still don’t understand why they have it programmed the way it is. It forces you to manually enter all your blood sugars which is fairly irritating seeing as the pump doesn’t have number buttons. Buuuuut whatever. We got all the alarms set up. It was really helpful to have her input because I had completely different ideas of what numbers to set my alarms at than what they actually SHOULD be set at.

While we were doing this Michelle kept telling me how amazed she was that I already knew how to do everything. Apparently a lot of people don’t even look at the instructions before they meet with the trainer? And she was even worried that I might not have tried to charge the transmitter. I informed her that she definitely did not have to worry about any of that with me because I’ve been so anxious to get a CGM on that I kind of know everything there is to know about it without actually wearing one.

So, then we get to the only part I was a little nervous about. Insertion! I’ve always described the Sen-Serter insertion device as being just like the Sil-Serter device for the silhouette infusion set. This, in my head, made it seem like no big deal. But then I started thinking about how much I have bled in the past when I insert a silhouette. Needless to say I was a bit concerned. But again, it was great to have Michelle there to literally show me how to do it properly. She used the inserter on my skin to show me the best possible angles and the best possible sites. And eventually I pushed the button! I didn’t feel a thing! I do have a little bit of blood, but apparently that’s not a big deal.

Once you start a new sensor you have to wait 2 hours to actually get the thing working and to start getting numbers. So I said goodbye to Michelle and began another wait! I swear it was the longest 2 hours of my life! But eventually I checked with a fingerstick. 130. Awesome. So now I was officially getting continuous numbers!

Not long after that I started feeling weird. Like low weird. The pump said I was 84. I checked… 60. I thought “Hmm little off but not too bad” and treated the low and went about my business. About two hours later I felt low AGAIN but my pump said 82. I did a fingerstick… 46!!! Aaahh! The sensor screen didn’t even have arrows on it to tell me my BG was dropping or anything. So I got a little upset and was almost in tears thinking that my CGM wasn’t going to accurately tell me when I’m low. I was all sorts of depressed.

Luckily, thanks to my years of diabetes camp I have the advantage of having instant contact with other diabetics. So I sent a text message to Sara (She’s my best friend from camp. No really. We’ve been friends since we were like 11 and even lived together in college). She’s been on the CGM for awhile now and she told me not to worry that the first day is usually not as accurate! So I calmed down. A lot. Michelle also called to check on me and I explained the problem and she explained that the sensor can kind of get a rush of “other stuff” at the site of insertion because your body is trying to heal the little wound you just made. So after a little while it’ll be a little more accurate. So far since the low it has been pretty spot on within 10-20 mg/dl. Hurray!

All in all it’s been an exciting day, and I’m *SO* excited to see some results from this thing!!!!