Every summer for the past three years I have left my house, family, comfortable bed, pressurized showers, air conditioning, and life behind to return to my "Home Away From Home" at my sleep-away camp. I wait 11 months for the 1 month where I get to live with my best friends, not worry about anything, and have nothing but absolute genuine fun. Of course for me, there is an added concern that constantly sits at the back of my mind the entire time...type 1 diabetes.
You form indescribable bonds with someone when you're living in close quarters at a camp for a month. My camp friends and I can tell each other anything, and we completely accept each other for who we are.
Three years ago, I was new at camp. Almost the entire rest of my bunk had known each other for years already, and so, being the outsider, I was at first scared and shy. However, I knew that my diabetes was important, and that I needed to tell my bunk mates. Before camp started, my family and I had talked to the nurses and directors about diabetes, but on the first day of camp, I had to tell my counselors about diabetes. Then, on the first night of camp, I told my bunk mates about it. Since I didn't know anyone, I was scared to do this, but I knew it was necessary, and I knew it shouldn't change the way my new friends would treat me. Although at first I think everyone was a little bit confused, I explained what diabetes was and how I had to take care of it. I told them how they could help me manage it. Three years later, we are all best friends, and they helped me take care of my health everyday. Whether it's getting me ice if I have a headache, giving me their soda and sitting with me when my blood sugar is low, or simply walking with me to the nurse's office, they have always accepted me for who I am and helped me control my diabetes.
Day to day, the environment at camp is very fun and care-free. For me, however, I always had to be on my toes. I could not allow myself to ever be totally worry free, or else I knew I would slack on my diabetes management. I always kept my diabetes supplies organized and next to my bed. Every few days I would have to set aside free time to walk down to the nurse's office to talk about my blood sugars. I worked with the nurses and called my family at home to figure out the best ways to manage my health. Additionally, I always carried a bag with me that contained juice pouches, snacks, my glucometer, a glucagon shot, extra supplies, and water. Every morning, I checked the bag and restocked my supplies for the day.
During all of my activities such as swimming and basketball, I was always paying attention to how I felt and checked my blood sugars constantly. Also, I couldn't pick what I ate for every meal at camp, so I had to make sure to always add in my own snacks with protein and enough carbohydrates in order to stay healthy and maintain stable blood sugars!
Since I moved up an age division in camp this year, I went on a trip with my friends to Disney World and Universal Studios! For everyone in camp, it was a total vacation, and although I still had a lot of fun, it was most definitely not a vacation from diabetes for me! I had special protocol to follow in the airport and on the airplanes. In both amusement parks, I was walking the entire day in extreme heat, which is never good for my blood sugars. I constantly checked them and made sure I was ok. I remember that me and my mom were pretty nervous about me going so far away...what if something happened? What if I felt myself having a low blood sugar while on a ride? In the end, I was so on top of my health that I was able to take care of myself and prevent any catastrophes. Although it was a lot of work to manage my diabetes while away on vacation, I had the help of my friends and counselors, and I still had an amazing time!
Taking care of my diabetes while away on my own is a new challenge every year, but with the help of my friends, nurses, and counselors, I was still able to have an unforgettable time at camp this year! I can't wait for next year!
Hello everyone! I'm Hannah! I'm 16 years old and have been living a normal life with type 1 diabetes for 10 years! I'm so excited to share the journey of Penpals United with you through our blog!