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Children with Diabetes: Focus on Technology

It was supposed to be sunny and in the 80s this late April weekend. Instead, it was blustery, rainy, and actually more like sweater-weather! But, that didn't stop 350 parents, kids, grandparents, and diabetes educators from joining together in attending CWD's Focus on Technology conference at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel April 24-26. It was a tremendous weekend full of fun, learning, and unequaled support.

Registration opened on Friday at 7:00pm, and all of the CWD families stopped by the desk to pick up their packets, name badges, pedometers, conference t-shirts… and a warm welcome by our CWD registration staff led by Julia Mattingly, Mary Podjasek, Nabil Elarbi, and Victor Miranda. The exhibit area opened along with a yummy reception hosted by our sponsors. Representatives from the various sponsor companies spent the weekend with CWD families, discussing their products and keeping conference participants up to date on the newest and best diabetes management tools available. Sponsors included Abbott Diabetes Care, Accu-Chek, Animas, Insulet, LifeScan, Novo Nordisk, and sanofi aventis.

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 general sessions as well as breakout sessions more specific to individual interests.

Dr. Bruce Buckingham opened the conference with the keynote presentation, "Pumps and Sensors: Why Do We Use Them?" Dr. Buckingham presented the science behind today's technology, and then explained in a very easy-to-understand manner why pumps and sensors are helpful to our families with type 1 diabetes.

Following Dr. Buckingham's session, Jeff Hitchcock presented "Technology 101" which had two components including an overview of the tools that we use to manage type 1 diabetes, and then a discussion of best care suggestions supported by the most recent science. Jeff, who is the Founder and President of Children with Diabetes, spoke with his CWD Dad hat on for much of the session, and this is a perspective to which all parents relate and which they very much appreciate.

Gary Scheiner presented several sessions during this Focus on Technology conference. His first session, "Kids, Sports, Pumps, and Sensors" offered very practical advice about how to use the most current technology to keep our kids healthy while they are being active, whether in sports or otherwise. He later presented a session about "Advanced Pump Features" which guided parents through some of the more technical pump applications.

After lunch, Natalie Bellini led a discussion about "Choosing the Right Infusion Set" for those with a bit more pumping experience. 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. She also demonstrated how each infusion set and sensor works and looks when applied. Most importantly, Natalie stressed the importance of site rotation. 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.

By mid-afternoon, "Technology Overwhelmus" was certainly a topic acknowledged by most everyone, and Paul Madden led a wonderful discussion about how to make sense of technology in our busy and sometimes very stressful lives. Paul, who has lived with diabetes for most of his life, shared many personal stories and insights, and parents were truly touched by his strength and warmth.

Also in the afternoon, Crystal Jackson led a discussion about managing diabetes technology in the school environment. Crystal, who is the Associate Director of Legal Advocacy at the American Diabetes Association, had many great suggestions for parents who are using diabetes technology such as insulin pumps and continuous sensors in the classroom. She also stressed that it is important to speak up and advocate for change when one encounters resistance to using current diabetes technology in the public school classroom.

Dr. Bob Bulgarelli closed the afternoon's program with a session about Stress Management. Dr. Bob helped parents understand the impact of the various levels of stress in their lives, and he then led visualization and relaxation exercises to help participants learn how to relax and let go of the stress. This was an excellent finish to a very full day of sessions!

For those interested in working up a sweat after the program ended for the day, Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco led a one-hour workout just before dinner. Harold, who spent the day working with all of the children's age groups, still had energy to spare when it came to the adults… and the workout was pretty tough!

On Saturday evening, everyone shared a delicious buffet dinner and then danced the night away to DJ Duane and his very fun and family-friendly tunes! The dance floor was full – with young and old alike. Also on Saturday evening, Teen Coordinator Natalie Bellini led a discussion group for parents of teens. Natalie grew up as a teen with type 1 diabetes, and her insight into that experience (as well as her current experience of being a mom with a teenager) made this particular discussion group a ‘don't-miss.'

Sunday morning's keynote session "The Artificial Pancreas" was presented by Dr. Bruce Buckingham. For many, this was the first time that all of the components of ‘the artificial pancreas' were presented in a way in which they could understand the potential application within their own family. It was a very hopeful session!

Gary Scheiner next presented a session called "Making Sense of Sensor Data." Gary's very straightforward explanations helped parents understand why the data from continuous sensors is so helpful, and he noted the types of changes that can be made based upon that data. While only a few conference participants indicated that they currently use continuous sensors, many commented after the session that they would now consider it as part of their diabetes management program.

Sebastien Sasseville, the first Canadian with type 1 diabetes to summit Mt. Everest, presented a session about his various mountain-climbing expeditions both solo and with other climbers with type 1 – and left everyone feeling that truly anything is possible. Sebastien also spent time with all of the children attending this conference, and he was a superb and positive role model for all of us. He is soft-spoken, but carries a powerful message in his words: You can grow up to be anything you want to be; type 1 diabetes will not stop you.

CWD's dietitian Mike Schurig led a discussion about how to use advanced pump features for counting carbs. He also discussed realistic carb-counting, i.e., accounting for the portion size on the plate instead of the portion size in the book or on the computer screen. The parents had some great questions for Mike and the interaction covered a lot of carb-counting territory!

Many of the CWD families in attendance had older teens heading towards college or first jobs away from home. Psychologist Jill Weissberg-Benchell led a great discussion about how to help teens transition to independence in taking care of diabetes when they live on their own. This sometimes can be as much of a struggle (or more of a struggle) for parents as it is for the young adult striking off on their own! Jill was funny, insightful, practical, and made oh-so-much sense.

Sunday was also discussion group day – and there were numerous opportunities! The moms discussion group, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, and Jill Weissberg-Benchell covered a range of topics. Same with the dads group led by Tom Karlya and Paul Madden. Both groups reported that there wasn't nearly enough time for everyone to share their ideas, but it was a good start and it was yet another opportunity to share ideas!

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. The teens spent Sunday afternoon out and about in the Navy Pier area of Chicago. Many thanks to teen staffers Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Chris Tull, Dana Dignard, and Galen Horton for helping out with all of these activities!

The tween group - ages 10-12 – also numbered over 30 this weekend! They had a wonderful mix of learning and fun. During the weekend, the tweens had the opportunity to meet Sebastien Sasseville and learn about his climbing expeditions! They also had some great discussion with Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco and CWD Dietitian Mike Schurig regarding how to manage diabetes, diet, and exercise in a healthy way. Tween program leaders Anne Sides, Justin Abel, Sunshine Abel, and Nabil Elarbi 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).

Both the tween and elementary groups participated in Scavenger Hunts which had them scouring the hotel - and interviewing CWD staff, conference exhibitors, 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, and the Marriott housekeeping staff who kept us well-stocked with dry towels!

The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Heather Speer, Intissar Ben Halim, Sam Billetdeaux, Marty Moore, and Trevor Tull enjoyed arts and crafts activities, some very fun active time at the pool, discussion and play time, and interactive diabetes games. They also truly enjoyed the visit and interaction with Sebastien Sasseville as well as the workout sessions with Harold!

The youngest conference participants – ages 3-5 – spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare with Miss Mary and staff Kelsey Martin and Grandma Cindy Webb. 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! Dr. Boogs (aka Bob Bulgarelli) – thanks for the extra set of hands in childcare and all of the wonderful photos!

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 our CWD dietitians about how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way for exercise! It was hard to believe, but Harold even kept going on the dance floor with the kids on Saturday evening! We are not quite sure where all that energy comes from…

CWD is very fortunate to have CWD Dad (aka Diabetes Dad) Tom Karlya working with us once again. Tom is an entertainer on many levels, and he is also very talented in working with a video camera and kids. Tom has initiated a long-term project which, over the next year or so, will encompass many hundreds of videos taken by CWD families and kids… this weekend, he worked with several CWD children attending the Chicago conference in making a wonderful video about the event. It is linked at the bottom of this page. Tom – you are a treasure, and the kids were very deserving of their Emmy Awards!

Additional thanks go to Dex4 for sending boxes and boxes of glucose tabs, bits, and bursts (liquid), 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!

CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals and snack breaks. He 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 and catering 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, ACCU-CHEK, Animas, Insulet, LifeScan, Novo Nordisk, and sanofi aventis. Their generosity in supporting CWD events and 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.

During Friday evening's reception, ...
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... families had a chance to meet with the conference sponsors ...
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... and learn about the latest in diabetes care products.
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CWD teens had a chance to renew long standing friendships ...
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... and families reconnected with CWD staff members
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Abigail bolused for breakfast
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Proof that you can nail the lunchtime bolus!
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Dr. Bruce Buckingham opened the conference sessions, speaking on "Pumps and Sensors: Why Do We Use Them?"
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Maryam and Monica sported Navigators
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CWD's Focus on Technology Conference in Chicago is Sponsored By:
Abbott Diabetes Care Animas Corporation OmniPod LifeScan Novo Nordisk ACCU-CHEK sanofi-aventis

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