More than 26 million people in America have diabetes, and it’s projected that by 2050, one in three people in the United States will have this disease.
Washington has little clue how to deal with this national health crisis, even though the political implications are long. Ask 10 presidential candidates what to do about the diabetes epidemic, and you’d see 10 blank stares.
The grunt work on this issue comes, not from politicians, but from people with big hearts, such as the late Don Scott. More about him later, but first, I’d like to discuss an event that bears his name – and one that children with type 1 diabetes and parents should not pass up.
Lori Troutman and her daughter, Jaliyah, have been attending the camp since its inception, and Lori says she learns something new every year.
“There’s so much to learn about diabetes, and it’s overwhelming reading about all of it in a book,” Troutman said.
One huge benefit, besides fun for the kids, is that parents can learn from each other – such as managing a child’s diabetes, coping with psychological issues or dealing with problems at school. One of the lasting messages from the camp is diabetes is not a death sentence; it can be managed and children can lead long and productive lives.
“As parents, we are not alone,” Troutman said. “I learn a lot from new people. Sometimes you forget what it was like at first.”
Troutman has her share of horror stories. Four years ago, her happy and playful daughter suddenly was drinking massive amounts of water. “I was getting sick to my stomach just watching it,” Lori said.
Jaliyah was taken to a doctor, and later checked into a hospital in intensive care with blood-sugar readings that were sky high. The diagnosis confirmed that Jaliyah had type 1 diabetes.
“That was a hard phone call to receive,” Lori said. “I didn’t realize the severity until we got to the hospital.”
Today, Jaliyah – who is about to go into the second grade -- is back to being the playful girl she always was. Both mother and daughter are much smarter about managing the disease.
“She’s been an inspiration to me,” Lori said. “There are times when she feels sad, but it doesn’t last long. She has a smile on her face and is a happy little girl. Diabetes is not going to get in the way of that.”
Somehow, I think that’s how Don Scott, a pediatric nurse with a big vision, hoped it would be. Scott died in a Wyoming climbing accident in 2011, didn’t live to see the first family diabetes camp. But his dream for starting one served as an inspiration to those who carried on, including his wife, Barb, and those at St. Luke’s.
Scott was one of the founders of Camp Hodia, a highly successful camp for kids. He spent the last few years of his life talking about creating a family camp to provide better education and support for parents and siblings.
“So far, it’s been really good,” said Barb.
That’s a bit of an under-statement. With Camp Hodia, and discussions about a family camp, he took on something that politicians love – especially those who say that government can’t solve all problems. His efforts required no public proclamations, funding, or high-powered lobbying. The camps can’t cure diabetes, which is the ultimate solution to this health problem, but they provide a valuable service to humanity by teaching smarter management. As a result, society will see fewer complications from a disease that is as deadly as cancer. And there will be fewer public resources going toward treatments.
The camps for kids and families are in Boise, but they can easily be duplicated in places such as Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston and throughout Idaho.
All it takes is for people such as Don Scott to make it happen.