Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Diabetes Camp



I'm feeling a bit lost this morning. Joseph's been at camp since Sunday afternoon, and I won't see him until Friday.

He's more than a hundred miles away right now.

You know, this would have been kind of tough for me even if he didn't have diabetes. After all, it's the first time he's been away for more than one night. His only other camp experience was at the school forest. And even then, his dad was one of the chaperones.

Some of you might wonder how he did when we left him. Was there anxiety about the fact that he wouldn't know a soul at camp? Had there been a long, tearful goodbye?

Well, not exactly.

During the drive to the camp site, Joseph, who had been quietly listening to Barenaked Ladies on his cd player for some time, suddenly interrupted Ryan and me as we talked about how wonderful this experience was going to be for him.

"Mom, I really wish we hadn't gone to the newly-diagnosed camp last October."

"Why is that, honey?" I asked, thinking "here it comes, finally, he's going to say something like 'then we wouldn't have found out about the summer camp'."

"Because then this would all be new."

Oh.

"Well darlin' there'll be plenty of new things. Many more kids. Many, many more activities. You'll get to actually SWIM in the lake instead of just looking at it. There's a mud pit, archery, kayaking, boating, climbing wall, campfires... tons of things."

"Yeah, it's gonna be great!" Joseph replied with gusto.

Who is this boy? This child who nursed for two years. The one who slept in our room for so long (and still does every so often when he's feeling scared).

Well, we'll see what happens when we get to camp.

So we got to camp, and he was high. Very high. Like 349. Yikes! And he hadn't even had lunch yet. Since we got there 30 minutes before check-in was to begin (a process that would take two hours), I figured we had time to bring him down. Half an hour after correcting, almost no change. The set had to come out. We'd just put it in before leaving for camp. Tubing looked good, but I couldn't take any chances. Even though I knew that the persistent high was more likely due to the sweet cereal he'd had at gramma's (where we'd spent the night, since she lives about 45 minutes from the camp site), and an adrenaline surge from all the excitement.

Joseph was not happy about being high. In fact, he was very angry about it. In a tearful voice he said "Mom, why did this have to happen? I don't want to be so high. Can I just rip out the set?" He seemed very self-conscious, scanning the crowd around us as he said these things.

"Don't worry. This will just take a couple of minutes." I don't think he was truly cognizant of the fact that the majority of the people waiting with us in that ungodly heat, huddled under the shade of a tree, would understand exactly what we were doing and why. There were a number of nods and knowing smiles as I ushered Joseph into a nearby camp building to wash our hands and change out the set.

Within the hour his sugar came down, and we embarked on our visit to each check-in station. Joseph was assigned to the "Explorers" cabin. He compared the experience to that of the students at Hogwarts being assigned to their "House" by the sorting hat in Harry Potter. "Cool," I thought.

Next up was a visit to the Health building to review Joseph's general health, then on to his cabin to unpack and to discuss the specifics of Joseph's diabetes care with the doctor assigned to "Explorers."

As we walked to his cabin, Ryan whispered "this is the meeting that is really going to put you at ease about all of this."

What? What did he mean by that? Then I realized that I'd been clenching my teeth at every station. I knew this would be great for him, but still, how could I leave my son in the care of strangers? Even the docs at his clinic deferred to my judgement about Joseph's bolus and basal rates. Often I made changes on the fly. By feel. How could they really take good care of him?

Ryan was right. Joseph and I sat in front of a doc and his assistant. Reviewed his basal rates and insulin-to-carb ratios (both of which I pulled back considerably given the high activity level at camp), discussed corrections, looked over his pump. That's when they told us that, for the camp duration, Animas, the maker of Joseph's pump, actually had a CDE and two reps on site. They also informed me that, in addition to the many checks throughout the day, blood sugars are checked at 12:30 am and 2:30 am. When the kids are in the water, there are a number of rescue boats with nurses on board there as well. Children need only raise their hand if feeling low, and they will be checked immediately.

This. Place. Is. AWESOME.

With check-in complete, Joseph immediately introduced himself to his bunk mate (a boy who, his parents confided, did not want to even get in their van that morning because he wouldn't know anyone at camp).

"Hey, you wanna play catch?" Joseph asked. As they tossed the ball to each other in the common room, a third boy shyly walked over. Joseph stepped back and said "we have room for three." Then he asked both boys, "Do you play baseball? Any little league?" He told one of them "hey, you throw like a pitcher, I bet that was your position."

I asked Ryan, "Should we go now?"

"I guess so."

Just as we were leaving, the three boys had abandoned their indoor game of catch and were now pouring over a large container of toys. I called out "Hey Joseph, we're going now."

He looked up from the floor and said "Okay. Bye mom." Then continued yuckin' it up with his new friends. I looked at Ryan, and just stood there a moment, at a loss. Then, as I turned to leave, I suddenly felt Joseph's arms wrapped around my waist. He smiled up at me and quickly said "I love you mom. And I'm fine. This hug's for you." Then he ran back to his buddies.

We haven't spoken since. I miss him very much. But I am trying to enjoy this break from diabetes management. It's so strange. I never realized just how much I thought about his diabetes care until now. Yesterday I went on a 20-mile bike ride with Evan. We rode along a creek, then a large lake. Stopped to watch a duck and her charges cross a river; sat and talked about fish and birds. Then we had lunch, and never pulled out the Calorie King, never thought about the timing of the meal, the postprandial sugar...

It was wonderful.

And because it was so nice, it makes me sad to think that, until a cure is found, Joseph will never have a break like this. Never be able to just eat without thinking about the carbs. Not be wary of the possible high or low.

But you know, he does have this camp. It's probably the closest thing to a real break he'll have for a while. And it is pretty damn fantastic.

Needless to say, I'm already thinking about camp for next year...

7 comments:

mytime79 said...

Wow. I have to say it's very interesting to hear your perspective as a mother, makes me think of the things my mom most likely thought of daily.

Sounds like your son is going to have a great time. I actually went to sleepaway camp for 9 summers and before my 6th summer I was diagnosed. My poor parents... they of course made me be on a first name basis w/ the nurse. You should feel some comfort that Joseph is in a diabetes camp.

Hope he has fun and hope you are able to enjoy the rest of the week diabetes management free.

Shannon said...

"And because it was so nice, it makes me sad to think that, until a cure is found, Joseph will never have a break like this."

I often think of that when Brendon is out with Jeff and I have the other two at home. I think about how nice it is to give them a snack without dosing, etc.

It's great that Joseph is doing so great. I can't wait until Brendon is old enough to go to camp. From what I heard from my neighbor whose daughter goes to diabetes camp every year, they really do keep great care of the kids. And the kids really enjoy themselves.

From the sounds of it, it sounds like you and Ryan are great parents. Reading about how Joseph was talking to the boy shows what a great job you both are doing.

Violet said...

Sandra, you know me and so you will know this is not meant at all in the slightest creepy or inappropriate way: I'm a little bit in love with your kid. Damn, what character. That goes for his mom as well.

Sandra Miller said...

Mytime,
Yes, I do feel much comfort that Joseph is at a diabetes camp. I can't imagine what it must have been like going to an away-camp that was not set up to handle diabetes care...

Shannon,
When Brendon is able to go to camp I'm sure it will be great for all of you. It takes a bit of getting used to though, this not thinking about Joseph's blood sugar (where it is now, where it will be in 2 hours, etc..). Now, I just miss the heck out of him. We pick him up tomorrow, and I can't wait!

And Violet,
Your sentiment is not taken as creepy or inappropriate in the slightest. In fact, if you were a bit younger, and Joseph were older, I would encourage the match!

terrilynn said...

I have tears in my eyes reading your post. I so want Liam to have the experience of camp (he'll be old enough next year), not the least reason being so he will be surrounded by other children who "get it" in a way that his other friends just can't.

At the same time, I still occasionally have an absolutely visceral reaction that my child and yours have to deal with this damned disease at all.

I hope that Joseph has a wonderful week and that you do, too.

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