Dealing with Type 1 diabetes makes children grow up a heck of a lot quicker than their classmates.
This would have been patently clear to any observer dropping in on the second annual Diabetes Camp hosted recently by the YMCA of South Collier (Marco).
or the most part, the discussions were technical and informative, and the children coping with Type 1 diabetes gave their rapt attention to them.
Understandable, considering that without insulin and its proper application, children’s lives are literally at stake.
But, remembering that these kids are just as fun loving as any others, the camp also provided plenty of fun and socially creative activities as well.
Among them were physical games, art projects, a chat by life coach Pam Huckle Wood and a soothing Tai Chi session by islander Jane Kiester.
“I’ve made friends with everybody,” camper Nicole Sutton said. “They look after you.”
Significantly, said Monica Ramos, an on-site nurse who is diabetic herself, “is that these children don’t feel alone. They share experiences of how they cope at home.”
“They have a sense of everybody being the same,” said Rene Couch, a camp volunteer who has a daughter of 22 with Type 1 diabetes.
“It’s amazing,” said camper Madison Good, who recently moved to the Naples area from Kansas. “I love it. It’s a really good experience.”
It was also a really good experience for nursing student Natasha Berci, who spent time at the camp.
“I’ve been observing how the kids self-manage,” Berci said. “Here (at the camp) you see it in real life, so you pay attention to all the details.”
Inevitably, any discussions with adult counselors and volunteers such as Rene Couch turn to the frightening realities of exorbitant insulin costs.
The monthly supply of insulin alone for her 22-year-old daughter Diane runs at $700.
“Then there are needle tip and test strips which are extra,” Couch said. “My daughter is on my insurance until she turns 26, but after that …” (she let her voice trail away).
Couch added it’s mentally hard for students.
“At high school, they worry about how they’ll be able to afford and get the stuff they need when they go to college. There was a news story about students rationing their insulin. Four actually died.”
Paul Thein of Core Health Partners (which teams with the Y and the Help A Diabetic Child Foundation) lamented the “constant battle” of price and the search for a cure.
Foundation co-founder Joe Balavage – who has a grown son with diabetes – said the Y camp has great value.
“They (the children) don’t have a community,” he said. “It’s not that they’re outcasts, but generally they don’t do anything together. This week gives them that opportunity.”
A fairly recent advancement that makes life easier for people with diabetes is a cell phone app that provides blood sugar numbers read-outs every five minutes from wearable continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).
Type 1 diabetes is described as a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Despite active research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.
The Foundation’s website is helpadiabeticchild.org.
For more on the Y’s wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.