Hiking. Fishing. Citizenship. Chess. Reading and Writing. Outdoorsman. Readyman. Handyman. Swimming. Fitness. These are the names of just some of the awards that James received at a scouting meeting last night. Go James! I think it is perfect proof of what kids with type 1 diabetes can do with a few small tweaks. I made a brief list of these tweaks that might help any potential scout (and scout parent).
The first thing we had to figure out was how to handle the evening meeting itself. I feel like this is a good place to start, because our meetings were only an hour long. This type of activity is a good length for a family new to diabetes. The short duration means that I can test James before the activity and have a fairly good idea of what his blood sugar will do while he is there. Some meetings are pretty active, so I make sure that I talk to scout leaders ahead of time so I can give extra carbs if needed.
Next, we needed to be able to handle a variety of outdoor activities. These were perhaps the simplest tweaks. All we needed to do for the Hiking, Fishing and Bicycling award activities was to make sure James carried his meter, a juice box, and glucose tabs with him. We tested carefully before he began and made sure that his blood sugar was at the high end of the range his doctor recommended. Later we were able to incorporate his continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system, which gave all of us an extra bit of confidence that he was doing well. The key here was pockets for a couple of extra supplies and a regular regimen of testing and treating blood sugars.
Some of the other awards were even easier than Hiking and Fishing. The Chess, Reading and Writing, and Citizenship awards were accomplished mostly at home without any extra modifications. Others, like Swimming, were more difficult. We handled this one by, again, testing frequently and making sure to have adequate low blood sugar supplies. I learned the hard way that mint hard candies (which James normally loves) don’t make the best supplies when he’s in the pool (they take FOREVER to eat). Instead, I find juice to be particularly effective in this situation.
Our biggest challenge was unquestionably day camp. James attended this five-full-day event for three separate years. Each time, it got a little easier for all of us.
His first year was actually pretty tough. He had a nice leader that week, but I had to visit the day camp twice each day to test James’ blood sugar and also to give insulin to cover his lunch. I tried to make the day a little sweeter by “kidnapping” him during lunch and taking him out. Sometimes D-kids deserve little perks like that! But really, this was pretty hard. Thankfully, it got better.
The second year, my friend was the day camp leader. And James was getting pretty good about counting carbs and testing. Throughout the day, my friend and I would keep in touch. If I felt like James needed to test, she’d have him do it, and she’d text me his results. If the camp offered treats, she’d text me a picture of them, and I’d text her back the carb count. It worked great. In fact, I didn’t think it could get better.
Until our last and final year. This year James’ day camp leader had a husband with type 1 diabetes. While I made sure she contacted me with any questions, this leader, armed with access to James’ CGM, kept him nicely in range throughout the whole long, busy outdoor day. I felt like it was quite extraordinary, as that kind of exercise, sun, and excitement is sometimes hard even for me to manage.
It has been amazing to watch James progress through the ranks of the scouting program. I’m SO proud of him. I see a marvelous confident scout. Although at times it was difficult, I’m glad that we made the tweaks necessary for him to fully participate with all of the other boys. It was so worth it!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.