A week ago from today I left for Camp Conrad-Chinook, a summer camp in the mountains that is for Type I diabetic children. I volunteered as a dietetic student and spent 5 1/2 long days there helping out.
It was really beautiful and the cabins and facilities were actually all pretty nice for a camp.
This is my room that I shared with one of the dietitian students, Emily. It worked out nicely that all the nutrition students got to stay in the same cabin and we all became very close. They were all very sweet and probably my favorite part of the experience.
Emily, Adrianna, Christina, Me, & Celena (another girl Shannon was there too but was missing from this picture). Two of the girls, Emily & Christina, were Type I diabetics themselves so it was cool to be able to ask them some questions and learn more about it from them. We all got along really well and it was great to finally meet people from the nutrition major. We all instantly had that in common and they were also up for doing things like bike rides & running. If only they lived closer!!
Here is one with Shannon on the far right.
The first two days were probably the worst- they were super busy and hectic and we were trying to just figure out what we were supposed to be doing. Shannon and Christina had both been there before as nutrition volunteers so they helped fill us in, but it was strange that we didn’t really have a supervisor letting us know our clear tasks. Our jobs were to be the bridge between medical staff and kitchen staff and help both of them out, but it got difficult at times when they would collide either by overlapping or each having different ideas/wants.
After the first two days though, I got into the swing of things. All the days were pretty much the same following the same schedule just different meals & activities for the kids. Here’s what I did most days:
6:45: Wake up
7:15: Write Breakfast carbs on white boards around camp. Go to my two cabins that I was assigned and help the girl campers record their blood sugar levels & count the carbohydrates they were planning to eat at breakfast. (I didn’t have to actually test their sugars, they did it themselves, just wrote down the numbers. We had a menu each day we wrote up & delivered to the cabins saying the carb count & I helped kids calculate it and figure out what they want to eat)
The doctors would also be there and they would be helping give insulin or telling them how much to bolus.
Everyone would meet in the dining hall after they were done with me and the doctors. I’d eat at the tables with my girls and their counselors and switched off between my two cabins every meal. All of my girls were around 11-13 years old and were all very sweet. By the end, I knew all of their names and they all told me not to go.
8:40: Check the carbohydrate cards from each of my tables to make sure the kids filled out the carbs that they actually ate for breakfast.
9:00 All Staff meeting outside to discuss all issues related to camp. From camper behavioral problems, medical issues, and dietetic. At the end of each meeting the campers would come and ambush us with water balloons and guns and the staff would get into it and get them back. I ran back to my room every day to avoid getting wet!
10:00-11:00: Get mid-morning snack ready & write carbs on board. (Mostly a packaged snack like Cheez-Its or Teddy Grahams)
11:00-12:30: Do other tasks they needed us to do like make graham crackers with peanut butter in them & fruit juice (for when blood sugars dropped low)
12:30: Meet at cabins for lunch carb count & blood sugar testing
1:00: Lunch & check carb cards
2:00: Medical Staff meeting in infirmary discussing medical and dietary issues.
The infirmary was always open where kids could go anytime they were feeling too low, too high or just not feeling well. A nurse/doctor/medical student was on call 24 hours a day.
3:00: After the meetings, we’d transfer our carb cards from the meals of what the kid actually ate into a binder with their medical folders; comparing it to what they said they were going to eat. This is important because they give the insulin injection BEFORE they eat and take into account the amount of carbs they are going to eat. If they eat more or less grams of carbs that they said they were going to, they wanted it to be recorded so they could explain why they had either high or low blood sugar later on.
3:45: Afternoon Snack
4:00-5:15: This is the time where I could usually sneak off and take a nap (And always needed it at this point) I’d usually only sleep for about 20 minutes and then feel totally refreshed. It was basically our only “free time” during the day and when I got to do some fun stuff like go on a bike ride with the kids (which ended up being a disaster because my bike was stuck in first gear and I would peddle insanely fast and not move!), or we’d visit the arts and crafts center where I made a frame, some friendship bracelets, and fun kids crafts.
5:15-6:00: Dinner carb count & blood sugar testing
6:00: Dinner (check carb cards)
7:00-8:00: Would be busy with miscellaneous tasks or got to hang out with the nutrition girls and talk.
8:00-9:00: Return to kitchen to make la st snack of the day. This one was most hands-on and involved cooking, but nothing too hard. We made super pretzels, quesadillas, english muffins w/pb, etc. The only hard part was making 140 of them, putting out juice, graham crackers, etc. It was pretty involved.
9:00-10:00: Cabins would come in for blood sugar testing & to eat snack
10:00-10:30: Clean up snack & kitchen and lock up.
10:30-12:00: Sometimes relaxed and hung out with nutrition students, took a shower, called Chris/Mom. A few nights we played a game called “would you rather” which had a bunch of ridiculous questions. We played with some of the other staff in the cafeteria who were celebrating someone’s birthday with cupcakes (Yum! REAL sugar!!) We were told we were being too loud though so we had to call it quits by midnight which was fine since we had midnight rounds.
12:00: Midnight Rounds. We would go with a medical team to test blood sugars (I’d just record the numbers), and if the kids were too low (blood sugar below 100) we would give them juice or peanut butter crackers depending on what their sugars were. Then we’d have to wait 10-15 minutes and recheck them again. If they were still too low, we’d have to wake them up again to eat. Sometimes the kids woke up and tested themselves, other times the medical staff would just test them without waking them. I mostly held the flashlight, wrote down numbers, and woke kids up to test and/or eat.
12:30-1:00: Depending on how long midnight rounds took, go back to cabin and sleep until 6-6:45 the next morning.
So you can see why I was pretty exhausted when I got home on Sunday. I felt like I had been in a major whirlwind for 5 days and in some strange place.
Overall though, I am glad I went and definitely took stuff out of it. I learned a lot about diabetes and am thankful that my body produces insulin because I feel like I spend enough time as it is just preparing my food, let alone worrying about insulin, timing, injections, carb counting, etc. Then there were kids who had celiac disease (allergic to gluten in wheat, barley, and rye) so they could barely eat anything we had so we always had to make special things for them and be careful it wasn’t cross-contaminated with wheat. We also had some peanut allergies, milk allergies, and vegetarians so we always had to keep those kids in mind and prepare substitutes for them. Then there were the kids who were just picky and I didn’t blame them because I really didn’t want the meatloaf either :-/ Lucky for me they had a decent salad bar every night and I got to raid the fridge for fruit since I was on the dietetic team.
So I survived and even managed to have some fun. I still don’t know if I would go back, mostly do to how unorganized they were and we sometimes felt unappreciated for all the hard work we did. Here are some more pictures of the trip:
Skits & Campfire
The dietitian student’s “carb counting” session that went horribly since nobody wanted to listen.
The girls from Cabin 6 who were 13, my mom thought they were the dietetic students… do they look 21 or do I look 13?!
Twin Night: Cabin 6 gave me a t-shirt to match them for dinner
Girls from Cabin 5, slightly younger between 11-13
Nutrition Students with head cook, Sue (in yellow) and the camp owners Rocky & Debby (Debby in Red, Rocky in Gray)
The medical staff I worked with
Christina’s knee injury after she fell on our bike ride- she was a trooper and wanted to keep going but the tire was flat and chain had broken off the bike.
Me helping count their carbs before dinner at the craft table.
Group Photo of Camp
As I said, overall I had a good time. I’m glad I went for the experience and met some really nice people. I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t stoked to come back to my own bug-free bed, kitchen, family & Christopher.