Re: Diabetic Scout
Kim Hannemann (khannemann@WORLDBANK.ORG)
Mon, 11 Nov 1996 17:30:38 +0000
Mark and Josh,
Take heart, it is probably a big change for Josh, but it is not
nearly as bad as you think. You can do whatever you want to do; you
are a healthy person who happens to have diabetes.
I am a type II diabetic (adult-onset, could control with diet but I
take a pill because I have less self-control than I would like). My
pancreas still produces insulin, but it is insufficient or
inefficiently used. Two of my three children are Type I
(insulin-dependent); the islet cells in their pancreases (plural of
pancreas = pancrei?) are essentially shot. They test their blood
sugar 3+ times a day; one takes two insulin injections daily and the
other takes 3. The older, Chris, is now 12 - he was diagnosed when he
was 8. Vicky is 9 and has had diabetes since she was 7. They both do
their own testing, and draw and inject their own insulin. We "look
over their shoulders" frequently and watch their diets, though both
have had extensive nutritional counseling. Because of his age I
assume Josh is also the less common Type I.
Chris went to Scout camp as a Webelos scout when he was 9 and 10, and
as a Boy Scout at 11. I was along as a leader and I kept a pretty
close eye on him. At camp and on weekend Scout outings, as well as
with an active sports agenda, we found that the biggest problem in
these settings is *not* avoiding sugar (excess carbohydrates), but
getting enough to eat and otherwise avoiding insulin shock (too much
insulin for exercise level). We had two episodes of insulin shock at
camp the second year - we were misled by a lack of problems the first
year. Now we know to drastically lower insulin dosages and make sure
they always carry sugar (glucose tablets), even in their tents at
night (and to heck with raccoon visits).
Vicky was off to GS camp within a week of her diagnosis, at age 7,
without one of us along! With the help of Chris's example and her own
training, she taught the counselors a lot about diabetes. And she
taught us a lot about what kids are capable of doing. I am
continually amazed and proud of their chutzpah.
I don't think you have to worry about changing your troop's diet or
cooking styles to suit Josh's diabetes. He can even have some of that
choco-cherrybomb cake stuff. He can't have unlimited amounts - he has
to count his carbs and trade off a little cake for a potentially
larger serving of something with fewer carbs. If he knows the cake is
coming, he can adjust his insulin (see * below) or play Capture the
Flag with a little more vigor!
For the short-term weekend camps and even week-long residential camps
your biggest problem, as I noted, is the danger of insulin shock.
Keeping the blood sugar a little high during these active periods is
more safe than sorry. Josh will, however, be concerned about keeping
his blood sugar lower *over the long term* to avoid potential
problems with his sight, extremities and internal organs as I'm sure
his doctor will explain. Knowledge is power, and knowledge about
diabetes and nutritition will be Josh's best asset for control.
Chris and Vicky have both been called upon many times to explain
diabetes to their friends and classmates, and demonstrate blood sugar
monitoring and injections. This teaching enhances their own knowledge
as well as their friends', and in Chris's case his friends/classmates
have more than once helped him when he went "low". You might ask Josh
if he would make a presentation to the Troop. He may be nervous at
first, but after he draws blood to test his sugar and then injects
himself - he can use a sterile solution, or just use a syringe
without any injection - I'm sure he will gain the respect of even
your most senior scouts. A good time to do this might be at camp
where he would have injected anyway.
I am not a doctor and I strongly suggest that Josh and his family
review all of this with his doctor, who should make specific
suggestions relevant to Josh and his situation. However, I can state
with confidence that Josh can still enjoy Scouting pretty much as he
has come to know it, and that your troop can keep its traditional
You or Josh's family should feel free to call me at my home number
below to get more information or just to talk with a family who has
been through it.
* Most diabetics inject insulin 30 minutes before a meal, so if the
meal is late - this never happens on a campout, right? - the insulin
can start to lower blood sugar too soon. Chris is trying a new
insulin which works so fast he doesn't inject it until after he
begins eating. This is combined with a slower acting, longer lasting
insulin to try to match what his own pancreas would have done, had it
still been producing insulin.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City