Parenting By Numbers: T1 Kids Take Over the Slopes

As a diabetes mom, letting go is not easy, even for a short time. The thing about Type 1 is that it’s always on, so you usually can’t catch a break. And you certainly don’t let your guard down when your child is doing something active and lows are likely. That makes our family’s experience with the Riding on Insulin (ROI) winter sports camp in Breckenridge, Colorado all the more unforgettable. Not only was it a great experience for our T1 daughter, but it was a great solo experience for her.

Since Lela’s T1 diagnosis 5 years ago, my husband and I have been a fixture on the sidelines during her sports activities, ready to help. Although we’ve briefed all her instructors over the years about her condition, we don’t expect them to be able to monitor Lela for symptoms of hypoglycemia while teaching a dozen other kids, too. So we’ve peeked through the window at ballet classes, waited poolside during swim lessons and strained our neck watching Lela scale the climbing wall, ready to tell the instructor who belayed her to abseil her at the first sign of dizziness.

Each activity has brought new challenges. We’ve had to treat highs during dancing, for example. When Lela was a toddler, our budding ballerina used to get a little, um, “expressive” during creative dance class, which must have gotten her adrenalin rushing. We’ve also had to treat scary rapid blood sugar drops during other athletic activities, in spite of lower temp basal rates and extra carbs.

029_300pxThen, last spring, we signed Lela up for an entire day of skiing without us. Even more surprisingly, we felt okay with it. It was a rare feeling of relief made possible by the fantastic team behind ROI, a ski and snowboard camp for kids and teens living with T1, and their siblings. It was founded by Sean Busby, a professional backcountry snowboarder with T1. When he’s not traveling the world exploring remote corners of the globe on snowboarding expeditions, Sean inspires T1 kids at his ROI camps all over the world by sharing his personal diabetes journey.

The family of Lela’s dear friend Lucy, who is a year older and also has T1, invited us to stay with them at their family home near Breck for the ROI camp weekend, turning an already special experience into a fun late-winter retreat with friends in the mountains.

The two T1 girls had each other, but they also made new T1 friends at camp. Sure, Lela was still at risk for lows, just as she would have been if she had skied with us. However, we could trust that the ROI instructors, who were T1 themselves, knew exactly what to do if one of the kids needed help.

We got to exhale and Lela and Lucy, who are just beginning to learn how to self-manage their diabetes, got to spend a day away from parents who don’t always “get it” and instead “hang” with T1 teens. They also got to look up to athletic T1 adults who showed them how be safe while having fun in the snow.

And for that one Saturday on the slopes, being T1 meant being like everyone else in the group. The kids and instructors did scheduled group blood sugar checks together, and their non-T1 siblings probably even felt a bit left out. For one day, T1 was the norm, and they were surrounded by people who showed them that it needn’t hold them back.

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Sandra Henderson is a freelance writer/editor, reporting on clean technology, modern architecture and design, healthy living and more. She is also very lucky to be the mother of Lela Rose, an adventurous little girl who doesn’t let type 1 diabetes stop her from dreaming big and loving sports. The German expat shares her home near Boulder, Colo. with her husband, daughter, two cats and a wannabe diabetes dog—Zola, the chocolate lab pup.

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