During the last dog days of summer, Children's National Medical Center will host its first Diabetes Camp for a limited number of teens between the ages of 12 to 16. We were asked to sponsor the camp by hospital officials due to the dearth of diabetes camps in the area and to add to the already established Children's Brainy summer camps that work with children that have other chronic diseases (epilepsy, sickle cell disease, etc.). I reluctantly agreed (largely due to my intense dislike of bugs, camping, intense heat, sunburn, and rough living) to be the camp director due to peer pressure! I would rather camp out in a 4-star hotel! We are in the last stages of planning related to diabetes concerns. The staff who run the camp already have set up the camp activities, so our job is to ensure that all is safe and ready in terms of the diabetes-related issues.
During my career as a pediatric diabetologist, I have signed hundreds of camp forms documenting current insulin doses, blood glucose monitoring routines, dietary plans, etc., without much extra thought on the actual camp process and ultimate experience of both campers and counselors (as well as camp director and staff). This year my eyes have become wide open and a bit of anxiety has set in. In my past blogs, I have tried to educate children/teens and families about all facets of diabetes. I also have tried to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with the diagnosis, provide strategies for behavior management, insulin regimes, exercise, and multiple other diabetes related concerns. NOW, as the future camp director, I will be required to assume the role of one of the on-site "caregivers" and for 4 days and 3 nights feel only a fraction of the gravity of responsibility faced by parents/caregivers on a daily basis 24 hours/day/7 days a week/365 days per year. Yes, I am anxious.
Some of you may be surprised why I feel this anxiety. I have had the opportunity to discuss diabetes camp with many health professionals and all of them confirmed my suspicions: a wonderful and educational experience for the campers AND potentially lots of angst for the staffers. However, each camp staffer has immediately added how much the experience contributed to both personal and professional growth. LIVING with your children, of course, is very different than visiting with them professionally for 30 minutes every 3-4 months. Thus, I am preparing to be a parent/caregiver and a diabetes healthcare professional. What happens after the "forms" are all filled out and sent? What is necessary to provide your child with a safe fun-filled 4-day camp adventure? It turns out that there is a lot of planning many months before those forms are distributed.
1. Health forms:
a. Documentation of the exact insulin dose and regime prior to the start of camp. It is very likely, depending on the circumstances, that the dosage will be altered to account for diet and exercise and to most importantly avoid lows!