Diabetes camps: Let the fun begin!

I love this time of year. There are trips to the pool with the kids. We spend nights cheering on our Greenville Drive while eating hot dogs and watching my son catch a foul ball before getting it signed. Summer is the best. Most of all, it is a time kids get to go to camps. All kinds of camps…soccer camp, baseball camp, football camp, acting camp, band camp, drum camp…and these are just a few. Choices have really expanded from when I was a kid and we just spent the night in the woods away from mom and dad for a week and had a blast, making friends and memories.

My favorite of all though is diabetes camps. You see, I am a pediatric endocrinologist, and I have the best job in the world. I get to spend my day working with families of children with diabetes. This is a condition that robs children of a vital hormone, insulin, that is necessary to keep their blood sugar normal. Believe me, your body really wants that hormone. Without it, the blood sugars rise, you get thirsty, urinate more frequently and get really hungry. When it gets really bad, they can get very sick and their very lives can be in jeopardy if we don’t give them insulin to get their blood sugars down. Seems easy to do on paper but come on…nothing is that simple. Children have to check their blood sugar 4-10 times per day and take their insulin by injection 4-6 times per day. The technology available now is amazing. Kids have insulin pumps, sensors that monitor their blood sugar every 5 minutes to make sure they are safe and doing well.  It is a 24/7 job.

Ask any parent of a child with type 1 diabetes. They struggle day to day for normal numbers, and diabetes always throws you a curve ball when you least expect. Most of the time, you are not even aware a child has this disease, but the children and parents can never forget or take a break…even at 3 in the morning when the child has a test the next day, mom or dad has the biggest meeting of their professional career. Guaranteed that is when the unpredictability of diabetes strikes with a vengeance. All they want is normalcy…an escape. They get it and learn it at diabetes camps.

Camps for children with diabetes are always staffed by care medical and non-medical volunteers whose mission is to provide an experience that let’s kids be kids…run, play, be safe, have some fun, make some friends and maybe learn a little something about how to care for their disease. The data is clear, diabetes camps improve the lives of the children who participate.  Their control is better, their outlook is better, their lives are enriched. What an escape! This year with the help of our community partners, Costco and Jarden, the Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System is hosting CAMP BUDDY, a day camp for children with diabetes age 6-12 on Aug 8-10. These youngsters will get to be together all with one mission…have the best time of the summer!  For those three days, the kids will get to swim, play, make crafts, do all the things we want kids to do and both the kids and parents get to forget for a few days they are battling this disease. We as a community get to come together, have some fun, and help these children learn to live with the disease and not lament what they miss because of it! Who could ask for anything more? Blessed…you bet I am. I get to be the medical director of this camp with the coolest job in the world.

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