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Diabetes Education for Iowa Kids

posted on November 20, 2009 at 11:36 AM

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Chronic conditions are not just occurring in the aging population.   It has been estimated that chronic health issues affect 10 to 30 percent of children - things such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity and diabetes.

Mike Tansey, M.D., Medical Staff: "They are here to have fun and they are here to be campers and they are here for canoeing and horseback riding and being in the pool, but these are also kids with diabetes." 

At Camp Hertko Hollow, young Iowans with diabetes not only have fun, they also take part in an extensive diabetes education program.  The goal is to help campers learn disease management skills that will enable them to lead long and productive lives.  This not-for-profit program was started in 1968 and is held at the YMCA Camp north of Boone in central Iowa.  More than 120 volunteers staff the camp.  That includes counselors, dietitians, nurses, pharmacists and physicians.     

Mike Tansey, M.D., Medical Staff: "Diabetes is becoming more common.  You know probably about one in four hundred children is diagnosed with Type I diabetes.  These children are dealing with a lot every day.  There's very few other illnesses where we ask children to do so much in terms of taking care of themselves, checking their blood sugars, taking their insulin shots, watching what they eat.  It's a lot of work that they have to do every day."

Vivien Murray, Camp Director: "They need to learn how to control their diabetes, how to control their blood sugars so they avoid the complications and the complications are heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and research has shown time and time again that by being educated and taking care of your diabetes you can lessen those complications."

Controlling the disease requires vigilance every moment of every day and imposes a demanding regimen of treatment.  Knowing their children are benefiting from expert medical supervision, parents of campers can take a break from the work and worry of caring for a child with diabetes. 

Julie & Delanie Norman, Parent & Camper: "Sometimes it's overwhelming the 24/7 of this disease and for us it was the one break that we had.  They're - there's no contact, which I thought was going to be horrible.  It was a godsend.  It was a weight lifted off our shoulders and a break for us that we don't get the rest of the year and for her I realize she never gets a break from this disease.  Camp is the best break she gets."

Brock Prusha, Parent of camper: "As a dad we're fixers.  Something is broken, we got to fix it.  We want to fix the lawn mower.  We want to fix the house.  Whatever it is that's Dad's do, but with your son and you can't fix him.  You know we, we don't have a cure.  We can't punch a - punch a needle in him and fix right now but we can teach him how to deal with it and that's what we need to do." 

Many of the counselors also have diabetes and serve as role models for the young campers.

Paul Taylor, Volunteer counselor: I believe that camp has improved my control of diabetes and - and instilled in me at early age that I'm responsible for my own diabetes. 

Abby Wunderlich, Counselor/Coordinator: "I don't know where I'd be without this camp.  I don't know where a lot of people would be without this camp.  I can honestly tell you it has saved a lot of people from falling off the track and it's helped them stay doing well and living well with diabetes."

Tags: children diabetes education health Iowa