Type One Nation
Every two years our JDRF chapter is part of a statewide summit. Three chapters take over a hotel in the middle of North Carolina. 700 people, all touched by type 1 diabetes. It’s a blast.
This year there seemed to be a significant amount of newly diagnosed families. I met a few people who’d been told their children have T1D just a month or a few weeks prior. For me, the shock hadn’t worn off that soon. One month after Benny was diagnosed, I was still logging every bit of food that went into that kid’s mouth (including ketchup and green peas. Really). I’m not sure I would’ve been up for traveling overnight to a hotel with “strange” food.
But they were there and it was great. My son made friends almost immediately with a boy one year older who’d been diagnosed not quite a month ago. They were able to bond over Minecraft and played in the pool until late at night. Benny showed him his gear, but mostly they didn’t talk about diabetes. When you’re with someone who understands you, you don’t have to explain much. Even if that understanding is more about computer games than basal and bolus rates.
I gave the welcome presentation, speaking about the importance of those personal connections and helped out the following day with a TSA session on travel. The TSA ladies didn’t say anything more than what’s on their website (link: ) but it was good to meet them. Especially because they train the screeners at my local airport (you bet I’m saving their contact info). http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/passengers-diabetes.
It’s incredible to spend two days with people who just get it. We don’t all manage T1D the same way, but at a diabetes conference, it’s almost like the air is different. You see kids checking BG in the hallways, parents comparing notes and carb counts on every table. If you need to treat a low, you’re surrounded by options and people who won’t say, “But I thought you couldn’t have sugar?!”
This is why I’m so passionate about diabetes connections and why I give a whole presentation on why they’re so important. Conferences like this bring together hundreds of people touched by T1D all feeling, finally, like they’re part of something. It’s a chance to make an emotional connection through a chronic condition that day to day can be isolating. Who else knows what it’s like to fumble in the dark at 2am to check a blood sugar? Who else can understand that bittersweet pride when your child changes an inset or gives a shot for the first time?
We were some of the last people to leave, staying late just to stretch it out as much as we could. One of Benny’s friends from diabetes camp and a counselor were at the pool, so we got changed and jumped back in.
There’s a spa attached to the pool at this hotel. I imagine the patrons were thrilled to exit the luxury of their seaweed wrap massage treatment to find a gaggle of kids splashing around. But instead of raising an eyebrow, one of the spa ladies smiled at us and said, “Everyone seems to be having a great time! Is this a party?”
I explained why we are there and as I did so, I realized a family diabetes conference is a sort of party. It’s a celebration of finding each other. Let’s reach out, beyond these conferences. Let’s connect. Let’s keep the party going.