Report from Chicago 2006

The Renaissance Chicago North Shore was the home of CWD's 20th - yes 20th! - conference, Focus on Pumping, held September 29 to October 1, 2006. Over 110 families from all across the United States participated in this weekend event. It was a wonderful mix of age groups, and also a great mix of new and 'old' CWD families. For about two-thirds of the conference participants, this was their first CWD event! We were very happy to meet so many new parents and kids and to welcome them into our CWD family!

The conference began on Friday evening, as registration and the Exhibit Hall opened with a wonderful reception and social evening. There were 18 exhibit tables, and the representatives from the various 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. Exhibitors included Abbott Diabetes Care, the American Diabetes Association, Angel Bear Pump Stuff, Animas, BD, Diabetes Mall, Diabetic Connections, Disetronic, the Education for Children with Diabetes Foundation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, PumpWear, Roche Diagnostics, and Smiths Medical.

Many thanks to Lisa Anstine, Julia Mattingly, and Bernadette Tull, for staffing registration, getting everyone the correct t-shirt sizes (not an easy task!), and serving as the information checkpoint! Also, many thanks to 'locals' Mary and Mike Podjasek, Joanne Hasmonek, and Janie Gold for helping us out with rides, how-to's (get to there from here), and general picking-up-of-stuff!

The conference was divided into several tracks for Saturday and Sunday, with the teens, tweeners, 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. Bruce Buckingham opened the conference with an informative and thoughtful perspective on Why We Pump. Dr. Buckingham amazed some parents by advocating that even very young children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (i.e., babies) be started on insulin pump therapy right away.

In a second session entitled CGMS and Pumping, Dr. Buckingham 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. Dr. Buckingham stressed that one of the most useful functions of continuous sensing is to identify trends in blood glucose both day and night. He also pointed out that we are just in the beginning stages of using continuous sensing, and that these systems will become ever more sophisticated (and hopefully more user-friendly for families and kids) as this becomes an accepted piece of diabetes management.

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. 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.

Athletic Trainer (and pumper) Rick Philbin talked about managing type 1 diabetes in kids who are very active and involved in sports. His talk, Exercise and Busy Kids, gave parents some pointers on what to modify with their child's pumping regimen. Rick was also available throughout the conference (by appointment) to discuss individual protocols for athletic pumpers, and over a dozen families took advantage of this. Rick is wonderful in his capacity to help these athletes get past some of the hurdles of diabetes management to achieve excellent blood glucose control. Note that Rick also coordinates and authors CWD's Sports Corner, an online resource for athletes with diabetes.

CWD mom and ADA advocacy expert Crystal Jackson presented Pumping In Schools: Making It Work. Crystal encouraged families to be proactive and armed with knowledge as they work with the school systems. After her session, she was available to discuss specific school system challenges with individual families. Crystal is a wonderful resource for CWD families, and she suggested that parents with current challenges regarding diabetes management in schools should contact the ADA for further assistance and guidance.

Pharmacist Kim Kelly, in his parent and teen sessions Glucose: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, explained why glucose is beneficial - and dangerous as well - to all people, not just those with diabetes. This session is always an eye-opener to participants ... and it was quite the buzz during 'after hours' on Saturday when some of the parents gathered to share thoughts on what they'd learned during the day. If you did not get an opportunity to hear Dr. Kelly at this conference, make sure you catch this session at the next one! After his presentation, Dr. Kelly then spent the rest of the conference working with his favorite group of kids: the tweeners!

In response to feedback from other conferences, Dr. Bob Bulgarelli spent some time with parents discussing the emotional challenges of diabetes. No matter whether you are brand new to diabetes or whether you've 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. Dr. Bob always has a great helping and healing way with all of us, and he always makes things better. This conference was no different.

Teen program coordinator Natalie Bellini took time off from her very busy schedule with the teens to present Sunday's beginning general 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. 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 40 this weekend! Their activities combined a mix of some very serious and emotional discussion led by Dr. Bob Bulgarelli, Natalie, and Jim Vail, 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 food court by teen staff Chris Tull and Jim Vail. Exactly how many grams of carb, how much fat, and how many calories are there in that big old bag of fries or that 40 oz slushie? The teens were surprised! That, of course, led up to Sunday's outing to - yes - the same food court at the nearby mall. We're not sure, but we don't think anyone ordered that big portion of fries! Carb-counting by the group was pretty accurate, and the teens said that the previous day's session was a real eye-opener when it came to actually dining in such a venue!

On Sunday afternoon, for the last session of the conference, teens Kelsey Martin, Monica Lanning, Kara Podjasek, Trevor Tull, and Sam Billetdeaux, along with college freshman Elizabeth Vanover, served as the experts for the 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 scariest thing about pumping? What do you hate that your parents do? What do you really like that your parents do? Interestingly – the answers to those last two questions were the same… the teens didn't particularly like the nagging quality of parents asking over and over throughout the day, “What is your blood sugar?” However, the teens stated that they really appreciated how much their parents cared about them and they understood this was reflected in their parents' reminders to test or take insulin. The teens were very well-spoken, as were the kids in the audience who asked questions! It was definitely a 'let's do this again' type of session.

The tweener group - ages 10-12 - began with an ice-breaker and a juggling session with Noah Moore - a young man who has traveled the world learning about people, learning many juggling and performing skills, and learning how to manage his diabetes in remote places such as small villages in Chile and China. Noah's participation was sponsored by LifeScan - and we kept him busy working with the Tweeners, the Elementary kids, and even the youngest kids in childcare. Noah was amazing with the kids - they just loved him!

This set the stage for the rest of the weekend which included a wonderful mix of learning and fun. Tweener 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)! Dr. Bob and Melissa also spent some time with the tweeners discussing the challenges of being a middle school student, whether you have diabetes or not. The kids did a really nice job of sharing their feelings and taking this interaction seriously.

On a very fun note, the Gordon Twins (otherwise known as Erin and Caitlin) spent Saturday at the conference and met nearly all of the kids. They were a lot of fun - very positive and upbeat - and kids from all of the age groups said how much they enjoyed meeting these young ladies. Many thanks to Roche for sponsoring their day with us!

Both the tweener 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 staff), and boy was it noisy.

The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Gayle Schurig, Marissa Hitchcock, and Elizabeth Vanover, enjoyed arts and crafts activities such as making Handprint Dreams, conference scrapbooking (including photos of your new CWD friends and autographs of faculty and friends), some very fun active time, free play, and interactive diabetes games. And absolutely best of all - pool time on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (we used every towel in the hotel)!

The youngest conference participants - ages 3-5 - spent Saturday and Sunday with CDE and childcare coordinator Mary Babin and CDE Heather Speer. They joined in many of the activities with the elementary age group, but also spent some quiet time and play time on their own!

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 Founding Sponsor BD, all of the conference participants enjoyed a scrumptious Midwestern Buffet dinner (BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, fresh green beans, and ice cream sundaes - yum!) 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; somehow discussing it with others helped it make sense and sink in! The teen group had their own dinner in the Greenery - a lovely banquet area at the top of the hotel, with floor to ceiling windows. After dinner, the teens headed off on a bowling excursion, while other folks spent time with Noah, learning about his travels and amazing experiences.

Many thanks to Jennifer von Bleichert at Konami Digital Entertainment for donating several DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) systems for the kids to use during the conference. Rumor has it that even some grown-ups and faculty were seen on the dance pads. And additional thanks go to Kelly Neyhan from the Lakeshore Athletic Club for spending some high quality exercise time with our kids. They just loved her activities!

To CWD dietitian Mike Schurig, who once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals - our thanks and appreciation. Mike even pulled together 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 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. BD stepped forward this year as our first Founding Sponsor for all of the 2006 regional conferences. This was so important to us as it allowed CWD to offer a Saturday evening dinner event which kept everyone on site, interacting and continuing the day. We haven't been able to do this in previous years, but we definitely felt it was missing. Because of the Founding Sponsorship, we were able to add this very special component - many thanks to BD for enabling us to do this.

Special thanks and appreciation to our supporting sponsors, including Abbott Diabetes Care, Animas Corporation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, Roche Diagnostics, and Smiths Medical MD, Inc., for their generosity in supporting the regional conferences and CWD families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life.

Finally, a big hug to the many parents, grandparents, teens, and friends, 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.


Kids and parents had a wonderful time
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Families visited the table of BD, the Founding Sponsor for CWD's 2006 Regional Conferences
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During Friday's opening night, families met and talked with the generous sponsors
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Lauren's Pink Team took a break during their scavenger hunt for a group photo
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Erin and Caitlin Gordon -- famous from their ads featuring the ACCU-CHEK Compact glucose meter -- met with the kids
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Kids showed off their insulin pumps
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Natalie teaches about infusion set rotation
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The Elementary Age Kids shared their hands and their dreams
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Teen friends pose before heading home
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Last Updated: Sun Oct 08 11:54:58 2006
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