It was the summer of 1979 when I experienced diabetes camp for the first time. I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 1978, so it was all still pretty new. Like so many kids my age, I cried when I was dropped off for my first week of camp….. and then had so much fun that I cried again when I got picked up! Camp Sioux was part of my life every summer while I was growing up in North Dakota with diabetes. I remember one of my counselors very clearly. She was studying nursing and later became an RN. Kathy was a great example of living well. I knew I could do it too. I gave my own shot for the first time at camp and learned day to day management. More importantly, I had a great time! Everyone was doing the same things that I had to do and it was no big deal. It was not easy, it just was.
I now have the fortunate experience and responsibility to be on the other side of things as a volunteer physician at camp. I have been involved with Camp Needlepoint and Camp Daypoint since 2002. The setting is different. There are more kids and more staff. Diabetes management has certainly changed. Frequent blood glucose monitoring, multiple daily injections with newer insulins, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring, the changes have been fantastic. Better tools have definitely improved diabetes management. Unfortunately, the burden of the daily tasks involved with managing type 1 diabetes still remains and can be overwhelming at times. Somehow this is lessened at camp. Everyone is doing it. Again, it is not easy, it just is.
It has been 35 years since I checked in at Camp Sioux as a camper for the first time. In several weeks, I will be helping and overseeing the check in process at Camp Needlepoint and Camp Daypoint. It is a privilege to be involved with the American Diabetes Association in this endeavor. It is an honor that parents trust the staff and the process, knowing that their children will be safe at camp. Most importantly, it is awesome to see the kids show up with laughter and excitement, looking forward to seeing their friends from years before. Some of them may even be helping out a new kiddo with tears in their eyes like I had so many years ago. With all of the experiences that diabetes camp brings to young people, I know the campers of today will be talking about their time at camp with smiles on their faces for years to come. Just like me.
Amy B. Criego, M.D., M.S.
Department Chair Pediatric Endocrinology
Park Nicollet Clinic – International Diabetes Center