It was a rainy and warm Fall weekend, and the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Convention Center was the home of CWD's Focus on Technology conference, held September 26-28, 2008. Of the 300+ participants, more than 75% were first-timers to a CWD conference. And, while regional CWD conferences generally are truly 'regional' in the sense that lots of the participants live within a couple hours drive from the venue – this conference drew participants from as far away as the UK and Australia! It was a wonderful mix of age groups and families.
The conference began on Friday evening, as registration and the Exhibit area opened with a wonderful reception and social evening. Representatives from the various sponsor and exhibitor companies spent the weekend with CWD families, discussing their insulin pumps, products, and continuous sensor systems, demonstrating new meters and data management systems, and generally keeping conference participants up to date on the newest and best diabetes management tools available. Several companies also offered pump and continuous sensor trials for conference participants. Sponsors included Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care (specifically sponsoring the TrialNet participation), DexCom, Insulet Corporation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, Pelikan Technologies, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, and Smiths Medical MD, Inc..
Many thanks to Lisa Anstine and Mary Podjasek for staffing registration and getting everyone pedometers and the correct t-shirt sizes once they arrived, and to Nabil Elarbi for serving as the official First Timer Hospitality Coordinator throughout the weekend!
The conference was divided into several tracks for Saturday and Sunday, with the teens, tweens, and elementary aged children all heading off to their own separate areas, the little ones going to childcare, and the adults having both general sessions as well as breakout sessions more specific to individual interests.
Dr. Henry Anhalt opened the conference with an informative, thoughtful, and sometimes humorous perspective on Pumps and Sensors: Why Do We Use Them. As with every conference at which Dr. Anhalt joins us as faculty, families commented how much they appreciated his enthusiasm for helping kids and families with diabetes in a practical way. Dr. Anhalt is a very strong advocate for kids of any age using the technology that will help them manage their diabetes in the best way possible.
Following Dr. Anhalt's session, Jeff Hitchcock presented Technology 101, an overview of the technology that families with type 1 diabetes now have available for diabetes management. He also talked about technology development over the past ten years or so, and helped parents understand the huge gains that have been made so very recently. Jeff later presented this information to both the teen and tween groups.
CWD's Sports Coordinator Rick Philbin talked with parents about Smart Pumps and Sports. Whether a person is a dedicated athlete, a weekend warrior, or simply a 'play once in awhile' athlete, the sophisticated pumps have features that can maximize both sports performance and diabetes management. Rick helped all of us understand these sometimes complex features, and that they really aren't all that hard to build into overall diabetes management practices if one takes the time to understand them and use them consistently.
Gary Scheiner presented two very pertinent sessions, Using Advanced Pump Features and Making Sense of CGM Data. In these very informative and practical presentations, Gary helped current pumpers understand the functions of some of the more sophisticated pump features that they were perhaps not yet utilizing in their diabetes management, and he also presented a very objective look at the continuous glucose sensors available to families, the pros and cons of their use, and some very functional strategies for using a CGM. Gary's approach is very interactive, and he is always open to questions during his talks.
Gary presented a third session, Using Technology to Strike the Spike. This very practical approach to how to beat those post-prandial high blood glucose levels is a session that Gary updates and presents at nearly every CWD conference. The information is applicable to so many of our families, and we truly appreciate how functional the information is and how Gary makes the concepts so understandable.
CWD mom and ADA advocacy expert Crystal Jackson led a very well-attended session about effective strategies for Managing Diabetes Technology At School. With the most up-to-date legislation and guidelines in hand, Crystal discussed the challenges that might face students with type 1 diabetes who wear pumps and/or sensors. She presented current strategies for approaching some of these challenges, and left families with a sense of empowerment, optimism, and concrete resources.
It is also important to include some time talking about the emotional challenges of diabetes. No matter whether one is brand new to diabetes or has been dealing with it for 25 years, it exacts an emotional toll ... sometimes it's hidden and other times it is evident every minute of every day in everything we do. Psychologist Richard Rubin joined our conference to talk with families about Technology Overwhelmus, i.e., how does one learn and make decisions about all of the diabetes technology available, yet keep perspective and not get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and choices.
Joe Solowiejczyk spoke with families about Managing the Stress of Diabetes. No matter what the topic of the session, Joe always manages to make us laugh, cry, and take a serious look at the way our families manage diabetes on both a daily basis and in the longer view. One CWD mom commented to me after the session that "Joe really has a way of pulling the emotions out of you so that you aren't afraid to look at them!"
Sunday morning's keynote session, The Artificial Pancreas, was presented by Dr. William Tamborlane, Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Tamborlane presented a well-balanced mix of completed research, current research, and his own experiences with patients who have used continuous sensors combined with insulin pumps and other technology to create an artificial pancreas loop. Stay tuned. This is a very exciting and fast-growing area of diabetes research and potential management protocols.
Sunday afternoon, CWD Dietitian Tricia Stewart talked with families about Using Advanced Pump Features for Accurate Carb Counting. Many of the pumps available now either have programs built into them or programs available as downloads to help pump-wearers with carb counting management. Some even have very detailed restaurant and fast food carb counts right at one's fingertips!
Teen program coordinator Natalie Bellini took time off from her very busy schedule with the teens to present Sunday morning's session, Infusion Sets and Sensors. Natalie is known at CWD conferences for her no-nonsense (and sometimes very funny) presentation style, and she discussed the pros and cons of all of the infusion sets and sensors currently on the market. There are a lot. She also demonstrated how each infusion set and sensor works and looks when applied. Most importantly, Natalie stressed the importance of site rotation with infusion sets. This doesn't mean side to side, using the same two spots over and over. It means moving the set to at least several dozen different places on a person's body.
On Saturday evening, Natalie spent time with parents in The Parents of Teens Discussion Group. Interestingly, this was a mix of parents of teens, almost-teens, and 'just graduated from teens.' The diverse nature of the group actually encouraged participation and conversation, and many, many great ideas and perspectives were shared.
The teen group numbered over 30 this weekend! Their activities combined a mix of some very serious discussion with some very fun hands-on learning activities. One of the highlights was a group analysis of several huge bags of junk food brought from the local mall by the teen staff. Exactly how many grams of carb, how much fat, and how many calories are there in that giant pretzel, slice of pepperoni pizza, or that 24 oz Caramel Macchiato ... or for that matter, the low fat smoothie? The teens were surprised! That, of course, led up to Sunday's all day outing to the National Mall (via the Metro) in Washington, D.C. Carb-counting by the group definitely improved over the weekend, and the teens demonstrated that they were quite good at this! Many thanks to teen staffers Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Chris Tull, Galen Horton, Tom Karlya, Nicole Johnson, and John Swanston for helping out with all of these activities!
The tween group - ages 10-12 - had a wonderful mix of learning and fun. During the weekend, the Tweens had the opportunity to meet several different athletes attending the conference, including triathlete and CWD staffer Brian Foster. They also had some great discussion with the athletes and CWD Dietitian Tricia Stewart regarding how to manage diabetes, diet, and exercise in a healthy way. Also, Tween Program Coordinators Melissa Ringley and Kim Kelly and Tween Staffer Anne Sides led a rousing (truly!) game of Diabetes Taboo. You need to see this to believe it – and it is so much fun and so informative ... the kids really learn a lot (without recognizing sometimes that this is a learning activity)! The tween group also learned about current diabetes technology and research from CWD's own Jeff Hitchcock, who reported that the tweens had some excellent questions indeed!
Both the tween and elementary groups participated in Scavenger Hunts which had them scouring the hotel and exhibit area - and interviewing CWD and hotel staff - for tidbits of information, some relating to diabetes, some not! This was a very hectic and fun activity for the kids ... and the hotel staff shared that this was a lot of fun for them as well. They loved interacting with our children. Both tweens and elementary kids also had pool time. Again, many thanks to the pool volunteers, the very patient lifeguard, and the Marriott housekeeping staff who kept us well-stocked with dry towels!
The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Brian Foster, Grandma Cindy (Webb), Sam Billetdeaux, and Trevor Tull enjoyed arts and crafts activities, some very fun active time at the pool, discussion and play time, and interactive diabetes games. Many thanks to the helper moms and dads – especially to Connie Smith, Paul Harvey and Cheri West – for assisting during pool time with blood glucose checks, extra towels, and being that extra set of hands and eyes that is always needed at pool time!
The youngest conference participants – ages 3-5 – spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare with Miss Mary and staff Marissa Hitchcock and Adam Towne. They had crafts time, story time, exercise time, music time ... and best of all, the fort they built from blankets, chairs, and pillows for their quiet movie time! Mary Babin - many thanks for being such a great group leader to the youngest CWD participants conference after conference!
And what would a CWD conference be without Harold? This would be Harold Sanco, aka Human Caffeine. Harold loves working with CWD kids and adults at our conferences, and he spent time with each age group including the parents and the childcare kids! We had some pretty great workouts and stretches, and we combined these with some really good information from Tricia Stewart about how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way for exercise!
Additional thanks go to Dex4 for sending boxes and boxes of glucose gel, bursts (liquid), and tabs – all of which were distributed to parents by Sunday afternoon! While staff, kids, and parents did, indeed, fight low blood sugar challenges as a result of lots of active play in the pool and out, it was a great experience for all of us to discuss and handle these challenges together. It encouraged a lot of sharing regarding what works with temporary basals, infusion set adhesive, fast glucose, identifying impending lows ... and somehow the challenges just aren't that discouraging when you face them with friends!
Saturday night, thanks to the generous support of the sponsors, all of the conference participants enjoyed a wonderful and healthy dinner and some well-earned down time. DJ Geoff spun the tunes and led some interactive games on the dance floor, and everyone had a great time.
CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) with Chef Abdellah for all of our meals and snack breaks. These gentlemen even created a wonderful gluten free buffet at each meal and snack time for those who needed them. It always amazes the hotel management and dietary staff that we spend so much time and effort on this particular facet of our conferences ... but it is probably the most important thing that makes families feel safe about spending the weekend at a CWD event. So, kudos to Mike for another job well done ... and many thanks to the Chef Abdellah and his staff at the Marriott for following instructions down to the last letter!
CWD would not be able to hold conferences at all if not for the continued and consistent generosity of our sponsors. Many thanks to our Sponsors, including Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care, DexCom, Insulet Corporation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, Pelikan Technologies, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, and Smiths Medical MD, Inc.. Their generosity in supporting this D.C. regional conference and CWD families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life, is extraordinary.
Finally, a big hug to the many people who helped out with this conference. You know who you are. We couldn't do this without you, and you have our most sincere thanks.
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