What do you get when you combine 350 kids, parents, and diabetes educators from the Pacific Northwest ... ten sponsors ... an upscale hotel in downtown Seattle ... the world's best experts on insulin pumps ... a mostly sunny and warm-for-the-winter weekend ... kids eager to learn ... athletes and adventurers with type 1 diabetes ... and two dozen CWD staff?
CWD's 29th conference Focus on Pumping our very first event in the northwest region of the United States!
The Renaissance Seattle Hotel was the home of this event, held February 29-March 2, 2008. Of the 350 participants, more than two-thirds were first-timers to a CWD conference, and nearly a quarter were fairly new to type 1 diabetes, having been diagnosed within the last six months! It was a wonderful mix of age groups and also a good mix of families with type 1 diabetes and health care professionals.
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 and products, demonstrating new meters and data management systems related to pumping, and generally keeping conference participants up to date on the newest and best diabetes management tools available. Sponsors included Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, Pelikan Technologies, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, and Smiths Medical MD, Inc.
Many thanks to Lisa Anstine, Julia Mattingly, and Mary Podjasek for staffing registration and getting everyone the correct t-shirt sizes once they arrived, and for serving as the official information checkpoint 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 advanced pumpers and beginning (or considering) pumpers. Dr. Henry Anhalt opened the conference with an informative, thoughtful, and sometimes humorous perspective on Why We Pump. In a second session entitled Continuous Glucose Sensing, Dr. Anhalt discussed the concept of continuous glucose monitoring, current continuous sensing systems on the market, continuous sensors in development, and why this type of management is critical to people with type 1 diabetes. Many families commented after Dr. Anhalt's sessions how much they appreciated his enthusiasm for helping kids and families with diabetes.
Dr. Anhalt introduced himself as a Pumping Convert. He related to the audience that several years ago, he was a pediatric endocrinologist who definitely did not believe in insulin pumps. And then one day, he looked at the scientific data in a report which landed on his desk -- data which showed that simply by wearing an insulin pump, one's A1c dropped significantly. That entirely changed his perspective, and he now is a very strong advocate for kids of any age being on pumps.
John Walsh presented Pumping Basics for those families who are just in the beginning stages of pumping (or considering a switch from MDI to pumping). As always, his excellent explanations helped many families understand what they would need to do in order to begin successful pumping with their child. In his Advanced Pumping Concepts session, John presented ways to address those very challenging diabetes management scenarios through the use of more advanced pump functions and dietary management.
Gary Scheiner presented two very pertinent sessions, Strike the Spike and Preventing and Managing Hypoglycemia. In these very informative and practical presentations, Gary discussed the mechanism of hypoglycemia (which affects all of us at some time and is tremendously scary), as well as the very frustrating post-prandial blood glucose highs which affect lots of our kids. He spent some time helping parents understand the concept of glycemic index and how that affects post-prandial blood sugars as well as why it is important to use a food with a high GI when a person experiences hypoglycemia. As with his presentations in past conferences, Gary received excellent feedback from parents for taking some tough concepts and making them understandable in a way that parents could take home and apply.
Gary also talked about managing type 1 diabetes in kids who are very active and involved in sports. His talk Exercise, Busy Kids, and Smart Pumps stressed how important it is to have a diabetes management plan when a person is active and involved in sports. Gary and athletic trainer/marathoner/pumper Tom Kowalski were also available throughout the conference (by appointment) to discuss individual protocols and challenges for athletes who pump.
CWD mom and advocacy expert Crystal Jackson led a very well-attended session about effective strategies for Pumping In Schools. With the most up-to-date legislation and guidelines from each participant's state in hand, Crystal discussed the challenges that might face students with type 1 diabetes. She presented current strategies for approaching some of these challenges, and left families with a sense of empowerment, optimism, and concrete resources.
In Making Sense of Glycemic Variability, Dr. Kim Kelly explained to parents that current research indicates that damage occurs to one's body as a result of roller-coaster highs and lows. As a goal, we should all strive to minimize the variability in blood sugar as much as possible. Before and after his presentation, Dr. Kelly spent the rest of the conference working with his favorite group of kids: the tweens!
In response to feedback from other conferences, it was 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. Bob Bulgarelli a cardiologist and holistic health specialist took both a humorous and serious look at this topic in Keeping Technology in Perspective. Dr. Bulgarelli also addressed the stress factor' and our need as parents and families to simply slow down in the Managing Family Stress session.
Teen program coordinator Natalie Bellini took time off from her very busy schedule with the teens to present Sunday's session, Selecting an 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 currently on the market in the United States and Canada. There are a lot. She also demonstrated how each infusion set 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 ... even if you need to use a permanent marker on a belly, leg, or behind to grid it out.
The teen group numbered about 30 this weekend! Their activities combined a mix of some very serious discussion led by Natalie, Jim Vail, and Bob Bulgarelli 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 big old bag of fries or that 24 oz Caramel Macchiato? The teens were surprised! That, of course, led up to Sunday's outing yes! to Pike Place Market. 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 Neal Billetdeaux, Nabil Elarbi, and Chris Tull for helping out with all of these activities!
On Sunday afternoon, for the last session of the conference, currently-pumping teens and college students served on a discussion panel in a session called Beating Pump Anxiety: Meet the Kids. Any question was fair game, and the panel did their best to answer candidly. What's the best thing about pumping? What pump do you use? Why? Where do you put your infusion set? What sports do you play? How long do your infusion sets last? What do your parents do or say that drives you crazy? What do they do that you really appreciate? The panel participants were very well-spoken, as were the kids and parents in the audience who asked questions! Many thanks to teens Maryam Elarbi, Monica Lanning, Kara Podjasek, Kara Duwe, and Chad Kyllo and to college students Sam Billetdeaux, Elizabeth Vanover, and Trevor Tull for serving on the panel and sharing their thoughts!
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 climber and adventurer Sebastien Sasseville, who is making preparations for his next summit attempt on Mt. Everest. 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 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 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. Many thanks to Trevor Tull and Sam Billetdeaux for rounding out the Tween Staff!
The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Marissa Hitchcock, Brian Foster, Richie Podjasek, and Elizabeth Vanover, enjoyed arts and crafts activities, some very fun active time at the pool, discussion and play time with the athletes, and interactive diabetes games. The elementary group also had a wonderful visit from Echo, a therapy dog owned by Susan Mueller from the Renaissance Seattle Hotel. Susan brought Echo to meet each of the children's groups, and she talked about how therapy dogs are trained and how they help people. The kids really enjoyed Echo's visit.
The youngest conference participants ages 3-5 spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare with Miss Mary and her staff. They had crafts time, story time, exercise time, music time ... and best of all, they had a field trip to visit all of the other kids' age groups at the conference! Mary Babin and Lynn Senecal - many thanks for being such great group leaders to the youngest CWD participants!
Additional thanks go to Can-Am Care for sending several hundred tubes of glucose gel all of which were distributed to parents by Sunday afternoon! While staff 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. It was a great feeling to just sit and chat with new friends about all the ideas presented during the day. There was so much new information; discussing it with others helped it make sense and sink in! As everyone finished up their dinner, climber/adventurer Sebastien Sasseville and triathlete Brian Foster gave very inspirational presentations, and 16 year old Nikki Lang shared her emotional and moving music, inviting the kids to come on stage for a quick 'photo op' after she performed. As dinner ended, the younger kids ran upstairs to change into pj's and brought pillows and blankets downstairs to watch movies and have later-evening snacks. The evening ended with an impromptu ice cream social an ice cream sundae bar outside the ballroom ... open for anyone who wanted to stop by, make a sundae and visit for awhile!
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. Mike 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 to Tricia Stewart for helping supervise the meals onsite. And many thanks to the Chef Erik and his staff at the Renaissance 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, Insulet Corporation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, Pelikan Technologies, Roche Diagnostics, Sanofi-Aventis, and Smiths Medical MD, Inc. Their generosity in supporting this first northwest 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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