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Children with Diabetes: Focus on Pumping

It was a wonderful mix of 350 children, parents, athletes, speakers, VIPs, and sponsors, the largest regional conference that CWD has ever held. The venue was bright and recently renovated; the hotel staff were warm and friendly. Families began arriving as early as Wednesday, and by Friday evening, nearly everyone was onsite for the opening reception of the CWD Focus on Technology conference held March 6-8, 2009 at the Marriott Eaton Centre in Toronto.

Registration opened at 4:30, 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 and Victor Miranda. At 7:00, 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 Animas Canada, Disetronic Medical Systems, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, and Splenda®.

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 Perkins opened the conference with the keynote presentation, "Why We Pump." Dr. Perkins has type 1 diabetes himself, and he shared stories about his own life as a teenager growing up with type 1, relating his own personal challenges and triumphs. His talk was powerful and at times humorous, and it most definitely resonated with this audience of moms, dads, young adults, and health care professionals.

Following Dr. Perkins' session, Gary Scheiner talked with beginning and prospective pumpers about "Pumping Basics," while 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 currently on the market in Canada. 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.

Gary also offered an "Advanced Pumping Concepts" session later in the day, as well as a session about "Pumps, Sports, and Busy Kids" on Sunday. Diabetes management during exercise was a common thread throughout our sessions both days.

There were many wonderful VIP athletes at this conference thanks to the very generous sponsorships of Medtronic Diabetes and Animas Canada. Medtronic Diabetes supported the participation of John Chick, a professional football player in the Canadian Football League, adventure bikers/travelers Johnny White and Tom Baxter, and rower and Olympian Chris Jarvis. Animas Canada supported the participation of outrigger canoeist Leanne Stanley, snowboarder Mike Fisher, and go-kart racer Chase Pelletier. These athletes were absolutely amazing and it was an incredible experience for the families to meet each of them. Each athlete spent time in each of the children's age groups even the childcare little ones got to spend time with some of the athletes! After lunch on Saturday, each of the athletes spoke for a few minutes about their sport, training challenges, and personal reflections. Many thanks to Kim Kelly for facilitating this session and for providing the overview of the mechanics of exercise.

Paul Madden presented a session called, "How To Eat an Elephant" which contrary to what it sounds like is not about carb-counting elephants! Both this session and Paul's Sunday session about Family Dynamics addressed the sometimes enormous challenges that families face whether they have type 1 diabetes or not. Paul is a wonderful speaker and an empathetic listener, and he has type 1 diabetes himself, so he has experienced much of what the audience shares.

CWD dietitian Mike Schurig along with RD Marilyn Fry finished up Saturday's educational presentations with "Carb Counting in the Real World," a session about what we really eat (versus what we sometimes pretend we eat!).

On Saturday evening, everyone shared a delicious buffet dinner and we were treated to a private performance by country music star George Canyon. George shared with the families that he has had type 1 diabetes since he was 14 years old. When he was diagnosed, he was certain that his dreams of being in the Canadian Air Force and becoming a pilot were dashed. George did not give up on those dreams, however. Today, he is both a private pilot and an honorary Colonel in the Canadian military. George has visited Canadian servicemen and servicewomen in Afghanistan several times, and he told our CWD families what an honor that was for him. George performed several songs for our families including two that he wrote for his children. There wasn't a dry eye when he sang his latest hit, "It's What I Do." George spent time signing autographs and meeting kids and families throughout the evening. Many thanks to him for taking time from his busy travel schedule to be with us; and many thanks to Animas Canada for bringing George to Toronto!

Sunday morning's keynote session "CGMS and Pumping" was presented by Dr. Bruce Perkins. For many, Dr. Perkins' explanations pulled together pieces of research and new technology in a way that was very understandable and helped them to see the potential application of continuous sensing in their own diabetes management. Dr. Perkins had many questions after the session and he spent time continuing the discussion as we all took a much needed coffee break!

Sick Day Management was presented by diabetes nurse educator Ana Artiles. For newly-diagnosed or newly-pumping families, sick days can be quite a puzzle! Ana shared many practical strategies and walked the group through hands-on problem-solving for a great learning experience.

Sunday was also discussion group day and there were numerous opportunities! The moms discussion group, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Heather Kyllo, and Marcia Wilson, offered a range of topics for moms to chat about. Same with the dads group led by Tom Karlya, Scott Kyllo, 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 afternoon finished up with a discussion group about Pumping in Schools, led by Barb Marche and Michelle Rago, as well as a Celiac discussion group facilitated by Heather Kyllo. Additionally, there was an impromptu diabetes educator discussion group Sunday afternoon; many thanks to Ana Artiles for leading that discussion!

The teen group numbered about 25 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 Toronto (thank you Patty Clune!). One of the places they visited was the site where insulin was first discovered! Many thanks to teen staffers Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Chris Tull, Neal Billetdeaux, Alanna Landry, and Tom Karlya for helping out with all of these activities!

The tween group - ages 10-12 was the largest group this weekend! They had a wonderful mix of learning and fun. During the weekend, the tweens had the opportunity to meet all of the athletes attending the conference, including Chase Pelletier who actually was part of the tween group! They also had some great discussion with the athletes and CWD Dietitians Dana Dignard and Mike Schurig regarding how to manage diabetes, diet, and exercise in a healthy way. Tween program leaders Melissa Ringley, Kim Kelly and 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 had some fun working out with Harold!

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

The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Lorraine Anderson, Adam Town, Sam Billetdeaux, and Brian Foster 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 visits and interaction with all of the athletes and special guests! Many thanks to all of our volunteers including the Connected in Motion gang for helping out with extra hands during the children's programs!

The youngest conference participants ages 3-5 spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare with Miss Mary and staff Marissa Hitchcock, Chelsea Meredith, and Alanna Chambers. 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!

Additional thanks go to Dex4 for sending boxes and boxes of glucose tabs 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 Animas Canada, Disetronic, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, and Splenda. Their generosity in supporting this Canadian 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.

Dr. Bruce Perkins presented the keynote address on Saturday morning
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Canadian country music star George Canyon met with the kids ...
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... and later inspired families during Saturday's dinner.
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There were lots of first timers
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Natalie Bellini's session on infusion sets was very popular
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A team of young adults from Connected in Motion helped with the kids -- and brought Tom and Johnny to share their bicylce adventure experience
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We keep pool time fun and safe with frequent glucose checks
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CWD teens visited the site of Banting and Best's lab, where insulin was discovered
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The youngest kids played "Pin the Pancreas on the Pig," courtesy of Theresa Garnero
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Sponsors of CWD's Focus on Pumping Conference in Toronto
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