Life is never the same again for children and teens diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in South Africa. Type 1 diabetes which occurs mainly in children and young people, is an autoimmune disease, where the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the bodies own immune system.
Its chronic, life-threatening and exceptionally demanding in its daily treatment regime. With a major organ, the insulin-producing pancreas, in fail-mode, the patient has to manually replace its functions 24/7. To function normally; to avoid complications and death, a child with Type 1 diabetes is subjected every single day to a minimum of 3 to 5 insulin injections, 6 finger-pricking blood glucose tests and a rigidly-controlled diet.
It is a disease management programme that severely taxes the self-discipline and emotional resilience of most adults. There is little wonder that it is often overwhelming for a child who is still developing on all fronts, and often very taxing on the entire family.
Worldwide, one of the most effective strategies for helping children and teens diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes is camps that bring them together for education, care and solidarity. This is why the MySchool fundraising programme decided to sponsor the latest Children’s Diabetes Camp organised by a non-profit organisation, Diabetes SA in association with the Diabetic Clinics of the Tygerberg, Groote Schuur and Red Cross Children’s hospitals.
Thanks to MySchool supporters, 50 children and 20 nurses and leaders enjoyed an action-packed three days that combined vital education with fun and comradeship. “Children with diabetes have very challenging lives,” says Margot Mc Cumisky, the National Manager of Diabetes SA. “They most often develop a negative attitude towards living with this chronic disease which they experience as isolating them from their peers and being burdensome on their families.
That’s why it is really important for camps to bring them together. They realise that they are not alone in their suffering and feel supported; they learn how to self-manage the treatment and gain confidence; they start to feel that they are empowered to manage their self-care, deal with the socio-emotional challenges and lead a healthy life despite the enormity of their diagnosis.”
While Children’s Diabetes Camps are open to those from all walks of life, many of the young sufferers in the Western Cape come from underprivileged communities and could not afford to attend even though camp fees are kept as low as possible. In the absence of government funding, Diabetes SA is reliant on donors to hold Children’s Diabetes Camps on an ongoing basis. Research has shown that the camps do help limit the burden of disease on the country. Hospital admissions are reduced after camps, and parents and children’s doctor’s report that they find that their children are more motivated to play their part in managing the disease.
“For a child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the world they have always known can suddenly become hostile,” says Helene Brand, MySchool’s Social Responsibility Manager. “They cannot eat what every other child is eating. They have to know so much more than any other child does about the role of the pancreas, the hormone insulin and nutrition. At school, they have to remove themselves from situations to test and to inject.
They could find themselves judged and alone. At home, they are commonly the focus of parental anxiety and stress; and family drama that is centred on their condition. These camps give them a much-needed break, as well as the skills and insights they need to manage their disease optimally. I am really proud of MySchool shoppers because they made this important sponsorship possible.”
You can sign up for your free MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card online or simply by downloading the free mobile app and make Diabetes South Africa one of your beneficiaries. Every time you swipe at the till point of a participating retailer, they make a contribution on your behalf, at no cost to you at all. Go to www.myschool.co.za or your app store to sign up for your free MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card.