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Children with Diabetes: Focus on Technology

Focus on Technology, February 19-21. It was CWD's first visit to Houston (our 2nd ever to Texas), and over 200 CWD participants came to spend the weekend with us at the JW Marriott. Most were local, but a few families traveled quite a distance (the farthest was from Alaska!) to spend a few days learning, sharing, and supporting. Most of the families were new to CWD, and about a third were newly-diagnosed in the last month or so. There were lots of very young children and a good handful of 'seasoned' CWD teens, young adults, and parents to help answer questions and get everyone settled in!

Registration opened on Friday at 7:00, and all of the CWD families stopped by the desk to pick up their packets, name badges, conference t-shirts… and a warm welcome by our CWD registration staff led by Julia Mattingly, Mary Podjasek, Intissar Ben Halim, and Harold Sanco. 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 Accu-Chek/Disetronic, Animas, JDRF, LifeScan, Novo Nordisk, and sanofi-aventis. CWD sponsors are conference partners in every sense of the word – they help bring the best information to CWD events, and they spend the entire weekend with us, available for questions and discussions with adults and children alike.

Additional exhibitors joined our conference for the weekend, including MyConnectCare, Diabetech, Diamyd Medical (DiaPrevent Study), DM Distributing, Fifty 50 Medical, and American Medical ID.

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.

Stephen Ponder, a pediatric endocrinologist from Corpus Christi, opened the conference with the keynote, "Diabetes Technology: Now and the Future." Dr. Ponder is an excellent speaker, and he has a unique perspective on diabetes – he has had type 1 himself for over 40 years. In the keynote and in a later session entitled "Living and Wearing a CGM: A Pediatric Endocrinologist's Practical Perspective," Dr. Ponder shared his insights as a person who has grown up with rapidly-changing diabetes technology and who has had to make decisions very similar to those our own families face today.

Following a coffee break, CWD President and Founder Jeff Hitchcock shared with conference participants "Care Suggestions According to CWD." These are common-sense and practical, and supported by the very best research. Included in the care suggestions: test blood glucose frequently; explore the insulin pump and continuous sensor options; and use the best insulins available. Jeff also had his 'CWD Dad' hat on, and he answered questions from the audience about his own family's challenges in dealing with type 1 diabetes. Jeff concluded his session by sharing that his daughter, Marissa, recently graduated from nursing school, achieved her RN, and started her first job as an RN – and that she hopes to work with children who have type 1.

Gary Scheiner presented three sessions, "Sports, Exercise, and BG Control," "Using Advanced Pump Features," and "Making Sense of Sensor Data." Gary, who is a CDE, athlete, and person with type 1 diabetes, is known at CWD for his very understandable and applicable presentations. These three sessions were no exception, and Gary had a queue of parents with follow-up questions much of the weekend. Gary suggested that adults and families who are interested in interacting more with athletes with type 1 (in terms of having good role models and access to newsletters and conferences) might want to read more about the Diabetes, Exercise, and Sports Association (DESA).

After lunch on Saturday, Barbara Anderson addressed the topic of "Family Teamwork in Diabetes Management" and she continued some of the conversational threads in Sunday's "Managing Technology During Transitions and Change." In both sessions, Dr. Anderson stressed the importance of communication – sharing feelings, fears, frustrations, challenges, and successes.

Saturday evening, parents, kids, and sponsors gathered for a wonderful dinner (the salmon and prime rib were exceptional!). After dinner, parents continued to talk into the evening, and Teen Program Coordinators Natalie Bellini and Jim Vail led a discussion group for parents of teens with type 1 diabetes. This was a time for parents to share their challenges and ideas – and many thanks to Natalie and Jim for extending their expertise 'after hours' for this discussion group.

On Sunday morning, in addition to Dr. Ponder's session , Natalie Bellini led a discussion about "Choosing the Right Infusion Set." 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.

After a coffee break, Crystal Jackson presented "Managing Technology at School" which was a very pertinent topic with the large audience of parents with preschool and school-age children. Crystal spoke specifically about Texas and US laws, children's rights in public schools, and how to make sure that a child with type 1 diabetes has the appropriate care to which he/she is entitled.

After a lunch break (a delicious BBQ of burgers, brats, and chicken), CDE Anne Sides led a discussion about Sick Day Management. After presenting basic strategies for addressing the challenges of sick days, she problem-solved with the parents, requesting scenarios of sick-days they have experienced, and then talking through potential management strategies.

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!

Sunday was also discussion group day – and there were some great opportunities! The moms discussion group, led by Lauren Lanning and Intissar Ben Halim, covered a range of topics. Same with the dads group led by Jeff Hitchcock and Mark Fox. Both groups reported that – as always with these discussions - 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 teens combined a mix of some very serious discussion with some very fun hands-on learning activities. The teens spent Saturday afternoon analyzing some of the 'treats' at the food court in the Galleria (i.e., what exactly is the nutritional and carb content of some of this stuff?) and then spent Sunday afternoon ice skating at the Galleria ice rink! Many thanks to teen staffers Natalie Bellini and Jim Vail for leading all of these activities!

The tween group - ages 10-12 – also had a wonderful mix of learning and fun in their schedule. During the weekend, the tweens 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 Justin Abel, Kim Kelly, Anne Sides, and Jennifer Ochoa led a rousing game of Diabetes Taboo, which actually drew some spectators! On Sunday afternoon, the tweens joined the teens ice skating at the Galleria and doing a bit of their own Food Court analysis!

The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Sunshine Abel, Kyley Roberts, and Mary Wallis, enjoyed arts and crafts activities (including the All About Me drawings), some very fun active time at the pool, discussion and play time, and interactive diabetes games. They also truly enjoyed the visit and workout sessions with Harold! The 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.

The youngest conference participants – ages 3-5 – spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare with Miss Mary (Babin) and staff Catherine Schulz, Intissar Ben Halim, and Carolyn Billetdeaux. 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 time! Many thanks to all of you for being such great group leaders to the youngest CWD participants.

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 (the late-Saturday-afternoon workout was a humdinger) 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 and staff about how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way for exercise.

Additional thanks go to Dex4 for sending boxes and boxes of glucose 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!

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 Chef Jeremy and the catering staff at the JW 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 ACCU-CHEK/Disetronic, Animas, JDRF, 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.

Steve Ponder opened the conference, exploring diabetes technology past, present, and future
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In CWD World, all the food is carb counted, and there's a gluten free buffet
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Teens had a chance to chat with Barbara Anderson and Natalie Bellini
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The Tweens had a chance to learn about healthy food choices -- and how many carbs were in their favorite mall foods
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Families had a chance to meet with the conference sponsors and exhibitors to learn about the latest products and research programs
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Natalie Bellini helped parents understand the many options for infusion sets
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CWD teens from across the country reconnect at our conferences
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Tweens and Teens enjoyed an afternoon of ice skating on Sunday
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