Review: 2009 annual Children With Diabetes Conference

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • Coverage From Friday's Children With Diabetes Conference

    Friday was the last day of education programming and exhibition at the 2009 annual Children With Diabetes Conference, running from July 8 to July 12 in Orlando, Florida. As with Thursday, I nearly was overwhelmed trying to choose which session I should attend. If I had my way, I would have gone to all of them (well, maybe not the Dad's Discussion Group).


    I started with a presentation by Dr. David Harlan, MD, who updated conference attendees on what is on the horizon at NIH (National Institutes of Health) in regards to diabetes research. Dr. Harlan is the Chief, Islet and Autoimmunity Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at NIH. Echoing what I heard elsewhere at the conference, Dr. Harlan indicated that there has been success in slowing, but not stopping, the onset in newly diagnosed diabetes. Dr. Harlan indicated that "public enemy #1" in the fight against diabetes is the immune system, and much of the success of treatments will be based on how well research can determine a way to overcome the immune system, without causing greater problems for the patient, to stop the destruction of beta cells.

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    I attended the session "Family Teamwork in Diabetes Management," delivered Dr. Barbara Anderson. Living with a Type 1 teen, I am always searching for ways to bring peace and to resolve conflict at our house. Dr. Anderson, who is the Senior Psychologist at the Diabetes Care Center at Texas Children's Hospital, opened with the insight that although intensive insulin management strategies and new technologies have led to significantly better diabetes management, they likewise have resulted in increased burdens on the child, the families, the caregivers, and the schools.


    Calling this the paradox of progress and saying that this comes at a price to the child and parents, Anderson recommend that parents may need additional classes or counseling to best manage it all. Too, she advised on watching out for, and dealing with, the sticking points of the parent-adolescent relationship, which are: miscarried (or misguided) helping, diabetes burnout and diabetes conflict.


    Joe Soloweijczyck, family counselor and diabetes therapist with Lifescan, kept me laughing through much of his discussion on living with diabetes beyond the BG numbers. Yet, no matter how funny each of his points were, the power of his message stood clear: "As a diabetic, you don't have to like it [diabetes], you just have to do it [the diabetes care]." Soloweijczyck has been diabetic for 48 years and pulls no punches when he says he hates it. He recommended that diabetics need to be honest with themselves, and to know when they have been "beat" by their diabetes and then to seek help from their support group.


    I did manage to squeeze in a couple of minutes pounding the exhibit floor, and stumbled across some additional cool finds. Eli Lilly was distributing glucagon demo kits that parents can use as an aid when training others, like babysitters or school staff, on how to use a glucagon injection pen. The kit comes with a training DVD as well. I also found out more about the Diabetes Education and Camping Association (DECA)

  • (, which was the charity that I had given to on Wednesday evening at the Global Diabetes Hand project. DECA works with camps around the world to provide high quality diabetes camping and educational experiences.

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    I ended my day with an opportunity to talk with a few of the athletes who have been so giving of their time and have come to present at the conference. Each of them has an amazing story, yet every one that I had the chance to speak with humbly did not admit to the fantastic accomplishments that they had attainted - diabetic or not. Take Jen Alexander, the Canadian open water swimmer who is attempting to swim the English Channel next year. Imagine trying to tread water and test your blood in choppy seas!


    I also chatted briefly with Sebastian Sasseville who was the first Canadian diabetic to summit Mount Everest. Sasseville now has turned his attentions on a new challenge: preparing for the Arizona Ironman Triathlon in November. And then there was Ryan DeGroff, a collegiate football and baseball player from New England who has battled misconceptions and bias from coaches as well as his medical team about balancing athletics and diabetes management. DeGroff figured out his own strategies, admitting he made some not so great choices, and is now sharing his story and advice with other young athletes on what to do, and what not to do, when it comes to managing Type 1 and team athletics.


    No more diabetes educations seminars on Saturday ... we are off to the Magic Kingdom.


Published On: July 11, 2009