Those of you slightly earlier in to their Diabetes ‘career’ than me are probably wondering what on earth the BDA is? The BDA or British Diabetic Association, is the former name for Diabetes UK. It is an organisation set up in 1934 simply as the Diabetic Association, renamed the British Diabetic Association in 1954 and once again re branded in 2000 to what we now know as Diabetes UK.
When I was younger, the BDA offered summer camps for children with T1D from ages 5 up to 16 and I was lucky enough to go on a few of these holidays. They were week long trips in the school summer holidays, usually based at a boarding school or activity centre ranging from anywhere between Aviemore and the South of France. The focus of the holidays was very similar to PGL in that there were lots of activities to try, we all slept in dormitories and all ate together in a big dining hall area.
The big difference between a BDA summer camp and a standard PGL summer camp was of course the fact that all 50 children had T1D! The staff for the weekend were a variety of HCP’s and volunteers, most of whom either worked closely on a daily basis with Diabetes or in fact were T1D’s themselves. This meant that we were all in very safe hands and throughout all the holidays that I attended, I felt very safe at all times.
The usual set up for the week was that there was one ‘medical’ room where each of us had our own cubby hole in which to keep our supplies. Before each meal time, we would queue up outside the ‘medical’ room where each of the staff members would have a station set up. We would go to the station and test our blood sugar before doing our insulin prior to eating. Sometimes this was a quick process, sometimes there was more discussion needed. As we were not in our usual routines, there was an element of dose adjustment that had to take place due to increased levels of activity (kayaking, abseiling, trapeezing you name it…we tried it!) and of course a different diet to what we were used to at home. I do remember an incident where I got caught throwing some toast in the bin as I didn’t think I needed it andgetting in to trouble – oops! Looking back, it was actually really useful to learn from all of the other kids on the holidays as well as the staff who looked after us although didn’t feel overly ‘educational’ at the time – we were on a holiday after all!
I would say that the biggest benefit to these holidays was that they taught us that T1D could not stop us trying all these new activities and having a LOT of fun! Yes, there was always someone having a little hypo in the corner and all the staff had to carry around bum bags filled with glucose tablets and digestive biscuits, but this is just life with T1D and every hypo and hyper was dealt with calmly until things were back to normal.
It was also great to meet other people the same age with T1D and to make you realise that you were not alone in battling this disease. I am not sure if Diabetes UK still run a similar program but if so, I would highly recommend it, either attending as a child or volunteering as a staff member!