Thursday, November 13, 2014

Children With Type 1 Diabetes and Heroic Courage (Diabetes Awareness Month)

As a special treat for Diabetes Awareness Month, I am hosting my first guest blogger, Amanda from Erring on the Side of Love! I have been following Amanda's lovely blog for a while and was so delighted to receive an email from her a couple months ago. She was kind enough to give me some background on a camp for kids with diabetes where she had been employed and wondered if I had ever considered such a program for Aaron. I hadn't really, but was very interested in learning more. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Amanda agreed to write about some of her experiences for my readers and me! Thank you, Amanda, for contributing to Ordinary Lovely for the sake of diabetic children and for promoting diabetes awareness!

Children With Type 1 Diabetes and Heroic Courage

Years ago I went to a camp to staff, partially because I love working with kids and also because it was encouraged by a child development class I was taking for my degree. I was in college. Knew little about what all my role would entail, but knew that I would love it. The camp had an awesome reputation and I was excited to get to work with the kids.

Years ago I had no idea how these kids would impact me. How they would impress and inspire me. I had no idea how they would challenge me and make me want to be better. I was young, naive, had good intentions, and am so glad I took the steps to be a part of the two week stint I was there.

Years ago I spent two weeks at a Diabetic camp. I was on medical staff. I didn't expect to be, but, in the end, it made sense. I knew very little about Type 1 diabetes prior to arriving for my training, but you can believe that I left this camp knowing Type 1 Diabetes like the back of my hand. I had to! For the sake and care of the outstanding 9 and 10 year old girls that would share a glimpse of true heroism that I was not expecting.

During training, so many emotions flushed through me. Anxiety being the number one. I was afraid to have these kids under my care for the next few weeks. I was afraid that I wouldn't remember all the things I needed to to keep these kids healthy and able to fully enjoy, engage, and participate in something bigger than them that they wouldn't get to do otherwise.

When I met my campers, I was still so anxious. I knew that I knew my stuff. I knew that the medical staff, doctors, nurses, and dietitians were all present and available at the drop of the hat. But these kids...I worried, I cared, and wanted so much to do well by them so they could fully enjoy all. the. things!

After meeting them, talking to them, getting to know them, I have never felt more privileged and overwhelmed with so many other emotions for how incredibly amazing they were. Type 1 diabetes is so very involved! You have to check your blood sugar anywhere from 3+ times a day, know how much of which type of insulin you need to take based on that reading as well as the readings you take prior to your meals + calculating the foods you were about to eat during said meal and more! They were on all. the. time.

The girls in my group were from all walks. Maybe they would have never been friends if they met outside of camp. They had different interests and didn't mesh immediately. That is until we talked about the one thing they did have in common - diabetes. The walls were down and they met community. These little souls sounding like old souls because of a condition that rules their day. They embraced each other, were there for each other, encouraging and loving each other in such a beautiful way.

They shared the heartaches of other kids at school teasing them for having to poke themselves so many times. How hard it is to never get invited to a birthday party because other kids' parents don't want the risk, much less a sleepover. How hard it is to make friends. To always have to go to the nurses office. To always have to watch what you eat. How you snack. Day in and day out. All the ins and outs they have had to navigate in their short 9 years of life and all of them doing it beautifully. I assisted these girls a handful of times each/daily. I administered shots for only a couple of my girls because the others were so good and used to doing it themselves. They didn't need my assistance. The independence these young girls demonstrated was phenomenal.

I say all this to share three things on the courage  that still amazes me today. First, I appreciated what the camp gave to me but so much more appreciate how these kids were all able to get together and courageously share their experiences. So much vulnerability that lead to friendships, confidence, and a peace of knowing they are not alone.

Secondly, the way they boldly took care of their own needs that are so challenging and daunting exhibited way more courage than I think I have ever exhibited in my whole life! It was amazing. So very amazing! They were just 9 and 10 and able to do things that I know so many adults with Type 1 diabetes struggle with! These young kids courageously took responsibility for a condition they had and were living.

Lastly, one of the most beautiful things that I brought home with me is how much we all desire to be known; to be seen. Often these girls' trials were centered around not being seen past their diabetes. That's the girl with diabetes. That's the girl who pricks herself. That's the girl who can't go to birthday parties or ever eat cake or she'll die! While at camp, these girls weren't those girls anymore. They were girls conquering their hardship and so much more. The so much more was seen by others who were all too familiar with not being seen. In turn, allowing these girls to truly see each other and know each other. It takes courage to truly see someone. To see the person beyond the struggle, illness, weakness, condition, bad day, or what have you. It takes so much courage! A courage I pray I exhibit every time I meet a new soul and a courage I especially pray that I meet my family with.

Years ago I staffed a camp. I met these amazing campers that inspired me and opened my eyes to a strength I never knew such young souls could have. We talk of the saints and their bold goodness. Their fights. Their strengths. Their weaknesses. These kids, what they do, day in and day out to care for their bodies is nothing short of heroic.

Some may say that I'm exaggerating but I challenge you to experience a day in the life of a young child who has Type 1 Diabetes. There are so many responsibilities! These kids know their medicines, they know to check their blood sugar levels, and how many sugar cubes or sips of juice to help them when their low. They know what to eat for meals and how to balance it out with the correct amount of insulin to help keep their body well. They know and understand food in ways I'm still trying to learn as an adult!

Children with Type 1 Diabetes will forever have a special place in my heart because of the amazing grace they engage their days with, standing up to their suffering, and always moving along. They don't stop. These kids inspired me then and will forever have my respect and admiration. Their daily embrace of a weakness that builds them in ways they may not fully understand now takes courage. A heroic courage that is not weakness but strength filled with amazing grace.

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Amanda writes at her blog Erring on the Side of Love where she shares lovely thoughts on faith and family, musings on parenthood, delicious recipes, and photos of her precious boys.
Her writing reflects her love of the saints, and her thoughts on almost any topic from hosting parties, to keeping house, to raising kiddos, are dotted with the wisdom of holy men and women of God. Especially endearing is her post on finding beauty in the simple ritual of toddler snack time!
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  1. This was a thoughtful and informative post. It is truly a huge responsibility for kids. My college roommate had type 1 diabetes and we all witnessed her strength and were there to help her in the difficult times.

    1. Thank you, Christina! It really is so involved and does require such a strength.

  2. This is amazing! I knew my nephew was incredible, but to learn that other young kids are just as educated and aware of their diagnosis is awesome. Thank you for this inspiring and heartfelt post:). You and "ordinary lovely" seem to be cut from the same cloth!

    1. Thank you, Sarah! That is one of the nicest compliments! I've only known Theresa through her blog and emailing and feel such a kindredness to her! One of the many reasons I'm so glad I started blogging in the first place :) Your nephew is amazing and there are definitely so many other kids out there.

  3. I'm so glad, Elaine. It definitely so easy to fall into that trap. Had I never attended this camp, I would never have known otherwise. Such a gift God shared me in allowing me to have this experience!

  4. What a honor to have worked at a camp for children with Type 1 Diabetes! It is so easy for me, not having a child of my own with this diagnosis, to forget the daily cross that these children and their parents carry. I have only known 2 children with Type I Diabetes, and both have shown such amazing responsibility and maturity, beyond their years. It is truly edifying!


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