Friday, December 3, 2010

"This one time, at band camp..."

Camp. You're either a camp person, or you're not. Simple. Non-camp people usually hate on camp people, such as myself. They don't get why we wear stupid hats, make total fools of ourselves, give up a week or two of our Summer, and want to live in a bunkhouse, and not in our warm comfy beds at home. Every summer, as I drive through those gates, leaving camp after the session ends, I bawl like a baby. I crank up Journey's "Don't Stop Believing", roll my windows down, start sobbing and leave that special place in the Hill Country that I love so.
When I was diagnosed, my pedi-endo insisted that I attend a summer camp for kiddos with diabetes. It sounded totally frightening to my 9 year old self, so my parents signed me up! I was a newbie, and had only been on insulin for 4 months when I arrived. As I swallowed back my tears, and said bye to my parents, I took a deep breath, and got in line to have my sugar checked and get my insulin before dinner. "Here ya go!", I stared at the syringe as my med staff held it out in front of me. "uhhhhhhhh", was all I could muster. "Well it ain't gunna give itself", she said in her East Texas twang. "Arrrghhhuhhhummmm IIIII uhhhhhh", I protested. "Girl, you gotta take it, or you just ain't gunna get it"....she then demonstrated proper insulin administration technique (she, too, had the 'betes), and handed the orange tipped syringe to me. I pinched up my non-existant fat on my leg (I was still emaciated from pre-diagnosis), looked at my med staff, who nodded her head in encourgaement, and I took the plunge. Hmmmph. Not bad, not bad at all! And that my friends, is how I became the boss of my 'betes.
So once I became a nurse and joined the endocrine world, I wondered if I could give to camp, what it had given to me. That first summer at diabetes camp was like no other experieince in my entire life. I was placed in charge of 5 diabetic boys, ages 10-11, and they were MY responsibliity! Ahhhhh! What if I did something wrong? What if I lost one? What if one fell down and hit his head? What if I missed their insulin dose? It was nerve wracking! But those boys were hilarious....they were discovering girls for the first time, asking questions about their bodies and diabetes, and had an obsession with spraying Axe body spray....EVERYWHERE. If I am ever diagnosed with lung cancer, I'm sure it will be traced back that the summer of 2005, where my lungs were over exposed to Axe clouds in the bunkhouses. I learned alot that summer. I learned that kids are resilient. I learned that many families don't have access to diabetes educators, or even endocrinologists in some cases. I learned that some kids are fed some crazy shit about their ' Mom told her son that he was given diabetes by God because he was not well behaved. Seriously, lady? These kids are like sponges!! They thirst for knowledge about themselves and this wacky disease. I have such great pride in knowing that my job as an educator at camp, literally, helps change some of these kiddo's lives.
One of my favorite camp stories occurred in the infirmary a few years ago. We have a long table, surrounded by chairs, that the kids come in and sit around to change their pump sites. We had a group of about 9 kids that required site changes that first night at camp, so they were all chit chatting at the table, discussing which boys/girls were hot, who they planned on asking to the dance, the rumor that they were getting ice cream for a snack...all the good stuff. When suddenly, a blonde headed little boy, I would guess he was about 9, exclaimed "DID YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE AT THIS CAMP HAS DIABETES??? MY MOM DIDN'T TELL ME THAT! COOOOOOL!!"......***silence*** as the other med staff and I coped with the realization that this kid was dropped off at "summer camp" and his mom just failed to mention that it was summer camp for kids with diabetes. That moment still makes me laugh to this day.....
Diabetes camp is don't sleep, you have to wear stupid headlamps at night for midnight blood sugar checks, you have to constantly be aware of bloodsugar cues for 200+ children, know where you are supposed to be and when and whether or not you are supposed to have the emergency backpack, or wait, weren't you supposed to pick up the snacks?? Ahhhhhhh! The super cool thing about diabetes camp, though, is that alot of the med staff has diabetes themselves. Kids like knowing that they are going to grow up and be normal...they like seeing that a grownup is wearing the same type of pump that they have, parents like hearing our success stories...that we have gone on to lead productive, healthy lives, that we have children and college degrees...and that we aren't blind and on dialysis.
I was a bad teenager. BAD. I don't know how I survived, and I definetly don't know how my parents dealt with me. My A1c was 16% when I was 16...I had to be hospitalized for DKA, my pedi-endo fired me for continued non-compliance (he is now one of my most esteemed and respected colleagues, and at times,he even uses my story when speaking to patients ) and I just didn't give a crap about anything. Except boys and my friends. Once I got to college I had an "aha!" moment and realized that good sugars = feeling good (Duh). So I kept a closer watch on things, and my endo was great with working me and making sure I knew how to adjust my insulin doses when I went to the bar or out to eat. Once in nursing school, I had THE wake up call. Seeing diabetics in the hospital for amputations, laser eye surgery and dialysis made me want to puke (Not from DKA, don't worry). It was then that I decided to join the pump world. And I have never been happier with a decision in my life. It has allowed me to do what I want, when I want, eat whatever, and most importantly, become a mother (see previous post).So, I like sharing my story with families...letting them know that sometimes, non-compliance is just a stage, and that you can grow out of it, learn from it, and go on to do great things with your life and disease.
Even if you aren't medical, you can still volunteer your time at diabetes camps. I encourage you to look into it. And if you are going to ignore me (I don't recommend this avenue) then donate some CASH MONEY to your local diabetes camp...many of these kiddos get to go for free, and at no expense to the family, so help us continue to provide that service, and don't be a stingy a-hole.
Thats all I gots for today :)


  1. Totally loved this.........It took me back to when I was 7 and my mom dropped me off........what a SCARY thing.......but totally loved it!! Came out of there with a better understanding, self confindene and many friendships!!!! Your AWESOME Kelley keep up the GREAT work!!!

    K Lazo

  2. As the "pedi endo" who fired you, I affirm that I recite your story often, both in public and in private conversations. You are the reason I tell docs and parents is that there CAN be a light at the end of the tunnel that is NOT AN ONCOMING TRAIN! So many parents fear the risk of complications with just a few high BG's much less the years of highs some of us endure. It's reassuring that it's never too late to choose another path. I love your thoughts and perspectives, plus the way in which you spin them together! Great work, Kelley!

  3. Kelley: I would like to hear your thoughts on marrying an endocrinologist with diabetes. It's got to be very unusual. Do you know of any other couples like that? I also wonder what Dr. Freud was say about that? LOL

  4. your blog is a great thing! very great! lol i just wanted to say thanks for shaing! i found this when i was having a crappy day and it has made me smile... i have alot to look forward to hopefully more good than bad ( my sugars have been high lately) my attitude has been bad and well cake has been good! but thanks again for your insight :) ~sincerely, T1 since 2010