MY friend Adam Pedersen is diabetic.
I remember so clearly the first time I realized what this means for him.
He has Type 1 diabetes, and was diagnosed when he was 14 months old.
His pancreas is unable to produce insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood.
Approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes.
One of the signs of the disease is extreme thirst.
When his grandmother was caring for him and noticed that he was greedily drinking his bathwater, she suggested a trip to the doctor.
What I knew about his diabetes was that he would need to receive regular injections of insulin and needed to watch his diet carefully.
When he was 2½ years old he and his mom Glennys travelled from North Vancouver to visit us in western Quebec. It was a hectic day of travel.
When they arrived at our home Adam was excited to see my children and they all began to play. Glennys and I were in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up on the news when Adam walked in.
He was chalk-white, his eyes were glassy, and he had sweat droplets popping out on his forehead. It had happened in mere moments.
"He needs the fastest sugar you have," his mom told me. I had no idea about the speed of sugar so she suggested grape juice, which I gave to my young friend. Then I was asked to give him some protein.
With the juice and protein he immediately pinked up, his eyes cleared and he was back to his typical healthy self. The change was nothing short of miraculous. The trip, the time change and the excitement had caused mayhem with his metabolism and he needed a knowledgeable person to help him over the hump.
Glennys told me that when he was diagnosed she felt isolated. Everyone she knew had healthy kids; she had one who needed constant attention.
Then she discovered Camp Kakhamela. This is a camp for type 1 diabetics and they also have family camp. Both Adam and his mother Glennys rave about camp.
I have a lot of admiration for Glennys. From the beginning, she knew that it was Adam who was diabetic. Many parents almost take on the disease as something they personally need to deal with, but Glennys says that she and Adam worked as a team. When he was younger, she handled his diabetes but she was careful to give him ownership as he grew and matured, and it was hard work for both of them. Often friends and family don't really understand what you are dealing with, but at camp it was different. At camp, Adam was typical. It was his non-diabetic brother who was different.
At camp they could relax. They didn't need to explain anything. The kids all received their injections together, and the meals and snacks were designed for diabetics. The parents could let the kids out of their sight because they knew that everyone around the children understood diabetes and would know how to react if there was a problem.
Many of the counsellors also had diabetes, and the modeling of these older children had enormous impact on young campers like Adam. Because diabetes was the "norm" it was also OK to take the pressure off by joking about it. The kids referred to a diabetic reaction as the "funky chicken."
It was watching the other kids inject themselves that motivated Adam to take on the task of giving himself his own injections when he was about eight years old.
This year the camp is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The celebration is being held on Sept. 15, at the Richmond Olympic Oval from 11: 30 am to 4 p.m. Information and registration is available at www.campk50. ca.
Adam is now a healthy 33-year-old diabetic, is married and is a father.
It took his mother's insistence that Adam learn how to handle his diabetes independently, and that's harder than it sounds for a mother. It also took the camp experience to give him a sense of belonging to a community of other kids and families, which has contributed to his positive state of health as an adult.
As his mom says, "Camp is such a gift."
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. Website: www. parentingtoday.ca.
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