Monday 23 January 2012

One Small Step for Dylan, One Giant Leap for Mom

This week marks perhaps the single biggest step towards independence that we have taken since Dylan was diagnosed with diabetes over 6 years ago. And while it's not a huge deal for him, it is a colossal step for me, as I am trusting him explicitly to monitor his own diabetes care for 5 full days!

We are very fortunate to live in and attend a school district that owns a 200 acre outdoor learning facility, known as "Outdoor School." All students in the district visit Outdoor School twice in their elementary years: for 3 days/2 nights in grade 3 and for 5 days/4 nights in grade 6. Classroom teachers accompany the students, and are assisted by high school students who volunteer as camp counsellors.

The experience itself is incredible. Students sleep in cabins and eat all meals in a common room, and then go out on "field studies" twice each day; once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Field study topics include a working farm, a pond study, salmon hatchery, and forest study, among others, and students also play cooperative games, sing campfire songs, and perform skits. It is an experience that stays with them for years, not only because it is such an amazing learning opportunity, but because of the bonds it strengthens between friends and the memories it creates.

For most parents it is an opportunity for children to grow and gain some independence. But for the parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, it is much more complicated than that. It means 5 days and 4 nights of Dylan being responsible for his own testing and bolusing. The first aid attendant will remind him to test at every meal and snack, and help him with carb counting, but otherwise he's pretty much on his own. Outdoor School involves a LOT of activity and excitement, so the pockets of his coat are loaded with a tester, a juice box, a 50 bottle of dex tabs, and a granola bar. He then has another 1/2 dozen juice boxes and granola bars in his suitcase to refill his pockets as needed, and treat nighttime lows and the first aid attendant had a big bag of extra supplies.

Dylan has been pumping for over 4 years now and is very confident and capable with bolusing. He's also become quite good at recognizing lows as they first start, and treating them accordingly. He has his 2 closest friends with him all the time for extra help, too, as they know what his low symptoms are and can tell the nearest adult if necessary. There is a first aid attendant there during the day and evening and another one on call at night. They are trained in administering glucagon and have my cell number handy should they need to speak with me. Finally, there is a clinic 10 minutes from the site and a hospital 20 minutes away.

Each night after his evening snack, Dylan will call me and read me all the day's data from his pump. Then depending on the numbers we will adjust basals for night time. If the day's blood sugar numbers are good, we will leave his overnight basals as usual; if he has been running low through the day, we will do a temp basal overnight. Then on Wednesday I will drive up to the site (about 90 minutes from my house) and change his infusion set.

All in all, this is a big step for us. Not only does it allow Dylan to demonstrate his maturity and independence, but it forces me to step back and let go of the reigns a little bit.

Whether I make it through the week without going crazy with worry is another story...

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