To wrap up my write-up of the middle school Outdoor Education experience, I thought I’d tell you about our aquatic adventures. We had a great time out on the water. But I truly found that I was unprepared, that my regular daily-life experience was inadequate to deal with some of the challenges type 1 diabetes presents on the open ocean. I know that there are athletes with type 1 who kayak and snorkel, and I’m sure they have some awesome techniques, tips, and hints. I need to read about them!
I’m an old hat at monitoring James’ blood sugar at the beach and on hikes, and we did a lot of that while we were at camp. That part wasn’t too difficult for me. But the snorkeling and kayaking were logistically tricky. We needed to figure out how to keep our diabetes tech close by but also to keep it safe. Tech is a huge part of how I monitor James, and NONE OF IT WAS WATERPROOF! I was lucky that the other type 1 parent on the trip had a dry bag that I could put our devices into while we were kayaking. Since that parent and I were in the same kayak, I felt somewhat assured that my tools were still nearby. But it wasn’t easy to make absolutely certain that our kayak was stable and out of the way of waves before opening up the bag to use what we needed. I wasn’t in James’ kayak. So I had to try to watch him from across the water and, if need be, paddle toward him, dry off his finger, test him, and administer treatment.
One “tip” that I can share is that although tech devices are fussy around water, low blood sugar supplies are pretty impervious. Since I never go anywhere without juice, I stuck a juice pouch inside my life jacket just in case. James never went even remotely low, but the other kid on the trip with type 1 was feeling it. It was pretty easy to just reach down and whip out the juice. I can see the life jacket stash becoming a strategy the next time I go out on a kayak with James!
Snorkeling was even more complicated: no dry bag and no life jacket. Just James and me, completely immersed in water. The camp did provide a medic out in a kayak who had all of the diabetes devices in a special box. And James DID go low while we were snorkeling. I bet the lemonade juice box I gave him tasted better than all the salty water we were surrounded by way out there. I’m so, so thankful that James could feel that his blood sugar was low. That made his treatment much easier. Otherwise, snorkeling could have been a really complicated activity. I rely on the CGM (continuous glucose monitor; again, not waterproof) to monitor him between finger sticks, augmented by visual checks that he’s okay. Those checks are really hard to do when we’re both wearing full wetsuits and masks! I’m sure that seasoned snorkelers with diabetes have some cool methods and supplies to make sure they keep their blood sugar carefully monitored while in the ocean. James and I enjoyed ourselves so much that we might just have to read up about those so that we can do it more often!
All in all, camp was an amazing experience, though it was about as complicated as I imagined it would be. It was okay, because I was careful, I followed the proper protocol, and I checked James’ blood sugar a lot. Knowing that I can use my tools to help James gave me confidence. I know he had a great time!
He did still miss out on certain things, like being in a cabin with his buddies and doing camp ALONE without a parent. I do regret that and wish he could live completely unaffected by diabetes. But our reality now is that diabetes does affect his life, and it affected his camp experience. Thankfully, he could fully participate in every major activity. He came back safe and confident. It was a wonderful thing for him—well worth the effort it took to get him there and to keep him safe throughout.
Click here for information on the Lilly Camp Care Package, an initiative to provide diabetes camps across the country with educational resources to help children learn to manage their type 1 diabetes.
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.