Diabetes and Camp: The Counselor Letter

I'm putting in the hours this week to ensure some free time the next. The kids are going to camp! The YMCA I work for has a camp, and this camp, we learned, accommodates kids with diabetes. We are so grateful.

Many notes and charts will be drawn up for the nurse and health officer, but I was also asked to write a general letter to his counselor, who will accompany him throughout each day 'til he returns at suppertime. I provide it here as a blueprint for others; feel free to adapt it for sitters, schools or anyone who needs a general rundown of what diabetes management looks like.

Dear Camp Staff,

When our family attended the camp open house this spring, we never expected that our son would be able to attend. We figured we’d check the place out and call it a day, assuming that Theo’s medical needs are too much to accommodate.

We can’t tell you how wonderful it is to know that Theo can go to camp, and how reassuring it is to know you have careful structures in place to manage diabetes. We’ve heard so many good things from other parents in the same boat!

That said, we can’t help but worry when sending our son away from us. So here are a few really basic pointers about Theo and his diabetes to help all of us next week.

People with type 1 diabetes don’t make their own insulin, or enough of it, to help their bodies use food for energy. Theo needs a shot of insulin for anything he eats that is more than 5 carbs. We count all the carbs in Theo’s meal before he eats, and then do some heavy math to determine the dose of the shot. There is lots more to it, but it’s important to know that unless his blood sugar is low, he can’t eat without a shot. And he has to eat everything that’s been accounted for; no sharing! Other than needing a shot, there are no restrictions on Theo’s eating beyond what’s healthy for anyone.

Eating too many sweets does not cause Type 1 diabetes. It’s not contagious. And unlike type 2 diabetes, which makes the news a lot, it’s not curable. Yet.

Diabetes must be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Blood sugar levels can drop or spike without warning, and low blood sugar levels can be life threatening. Food, exercise, and insulin all are factors in the management of diabetes; because camp is new to Theo, we will have to watch him carefully to see how his blood sugar reacts to all the fun activities and the different meal times.

Theo usually can feel a low blood sugar. At those times, he can check himself with the meter and supplies, and you can reference the chart and call us. He should not be left alone when he’s feeling low. An adult should accompany him until the low is remedied by a fast-acting sugar.

Though it’s never happened before, there’s a chance he could pass out before recognizing a low. Because of this, never assume that Theo is just slouching in a corner because he’s tired from play. Please check on him.

Any cuts must be cared for immediately, as diabetics have a greater chance of infection.

We will send all supplies in a cooler, as the sun and heat can ruin the medications. Please be sure to keep the supplies in the cooler and out of the sun. If the cooler doesn’t seem to be keeping things cool enough, let us know right away.

Call Amy or Greg any time, but especially if he has low blood sugar or vomits even just once.

Big brother is attending camp the same week, too, and he’s very familiar with procedures and very helpful. Feel free to ask his assistance. Theo, too, is quite open about all this and happy to talk about it. Sometimes it makes him sad, especially when he has to miss out on food or opportunities, but he’s a good-spirited kid.

Thanks again for everything. We appreciate you very much.

Greg and Amy Scheer


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