The first time I learned about diabetes camp – there is such a thing? – was right after our daughter was diagnosed. Hannah was 8 years old, and we were at our first appointment with the Certified Diabetes Educator aka The Angel. After reviewing everything that we learned in the hospital (“Wait, we have to carry this red glucagon thing with us all the time?”), The Angel gave us a postcard showing kids canoeing, ziplining and all having the best time ever, ALL WITH DIABETES. Latching onto this possibly positive aspect of a life-threatening disease, we promised Hannah she could go to Camp Colorado, which happens to be practically in our backyard. If you are not familiar with one of the nationwide American Diabetes Association camps, do your kiddo a favor and give it some thoughtful consideration.
First, know that these camps are POPULAR. I know now that registration for camp in July opens up at the end of March and mark my calendar accordingly. We actually missed the first sign up that first year Hannah was diagnosed and she never made it off the waiting list. Now I know …. and she reminds me as well.
Second, there is a serious amount of online paperwork you will have to fill out. These people take the fact that they are caring for your child very seriously, and you’ll need doctors’ information, A1C results, permission from a CDE or endocrinologist, pump serial numbers, type of insulin …. the list goes on. The neat thing is that you can set up an online account and a lot of information is saved year to year. When it comes down to it, you want the camp staff to know everything about your kid.
Third, diabetes camp is affordable. Although the actual cost per camper is very expensive – due to having physicians and nurses on staff – a lot of the cost is underwritten by fabulous donors and sponsors so that the cost to you is in line with a typical week at camp.
Fourth, this is one of the few times that you as a parent can take a breather from diabetes. Not only can you voice any questions you have during a conference call ahead of time, but every minute of your child’s day at camp is monitored, from the line up of blood sugar checks before meals, to the nightly Juice Fairy visits, to the adjustments in insulin to compensate for the amount of activity they’re doing. And when you pick up your camper, one of their counselors will review their blood sugar log with you.
Fifth, this is an amazing learning experience for your child. Do you long for the times before the diabetes diagnoses when your son or daughter was like everyone else? At camp, they are like everyone else. Everyone checks their blood sugar. Everyone has lows and highs. Everyone gets a shot or a pump bolus. Many kids have to eat gluten-free. And the camaraderie encourages kids to try a new injection site, or to wear their CGM.
And finally, if you have a long drive home, prepare for non-stop chatter about how much fun your child had, and about terrific counselors, and making new friends, and things like the Blob and the Vomitron. And about next year.