At 7:30am, after 90 minutes of travel time, I dropped her off with the amazing staff at the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) diabetes camp.
First, please let me get it out of my system that the NEED for a camp like this to exist, to see SO MANY LITTLE PEOPLE attached to insulin pumps, or testing their blood sugars, it doesn't seem right. But the CDA stepped up, and this year they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this camp. Every year the number of kids needing this camp sadly swells.
This is the first time that Rowan has EVER been away from me, for such an extended period of time, let alone the geographical distance. Not just since diagnosis, but in her 8 years itself.
These camps are not cheap. Please let me repeat that, these camps are NOT cheap. For, I believe, the first time ever, the CDA offered 'three tiered pricing'. The first tier actually reflecting the TRUE cost of camp. The second tear offering a rate reduced by half. The third tear offering nearly a one third rate of the original amount.
So when I heard early this year, that rock musician, reality star Bret Michaels was offering to sponsor children to various diabetes camps, it caught my attention. Originally, I suspected that the offer would only have been for American residents (as is so often the case for us Canuckers). But I was encouraged to apply.
In case you did not know, Bret Michaels has lived with type 1 diabetes since he himself was six years old. The same age that Rowan was diagnosed.
I have always marvelled with gratitude when I hear him describe his experience with the disease. It helps me realize exactly how much progress has been made in the treatment. To hear him describe testing his blood sugars six times a day through a urine dip, it has helped me appreciate how FORTUNATE we are in the advancements of technology. Hell, when he was diagnosed, I don't know if insulin pumps were even yet available. It really puts Rowan's experience into perspective for me.
But. There is one more strange link to share in our world of type 1 diabetes and rocker Michaels.
Rowan had unfortunately been "off" for weeks before she was ever diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I knew something was up, but had no idea what. Her symptoms were so flu-like, that I didn't recognize it, heck, medical professionals didn't see it, until it was very nearly too late.
A day before diagnosis, I had the great karmic luck of stumbling onto a Bret Michaels interview on the Oprah Winfrey show. I believe we were home at the time because Rowan was feeling so yucky. It was August. It was hot.
I couldn't tell you if I managed to catch the show from the beginning or not. BUT, the planets alligned and I heard him tell his story of diagnosis. His story of symptoms, that I sat upright in my chair, and tingles ran down my spine. They were all there: extreme unquenchable thirst, insatiable need to use the bathroom, increased hunger, mood swings, exhaustion, aches and pains.
I knew what was up with Rowan.
When Rowan was delivered to the BC Children's Hospital, she was in severe diabetic ketoacidosis, hallucinatinglapsing in and out of unconsciousness, borderline comatose, with a blood sugar in the 70 mmol/L range (1260+ mg/dl). I was told, as a matter of relief, by one of the nurses "thank heavens she came in when she did. Another hour, and it could have ended so very differently".
Bret Michaels was the catalyst for having her hospitalized. As far as I'm concerned, divine intervention stepped in, and strangely enough: a rock star saved my kid's life. But not only did he contribute to saving it, two years later, he single handedly rescucitated that same little life. Asking nothing in return.
This gentleman sponsored at least two little girls in British Columbia Canada, in additions to dozens and dozens and dozens of children across the United States. The thought of the cost simple boggles me.
So for the first time in her life, my Sweet Precious L'il Bones will spend five days in an environment where every child tests their blood sugars 6-10 times a day. There will be no awkward moment for her, when she tests, and a child balks and squawks "doesn't that hurt???" There will be no strained moment, when she lifts up her t-shirt and starts playing with a pager looking device that is attached to her by a thin piece of medical tubing. Telling her insulin pumps how many carbohydrates she just ate, so that it can give her the appropriate dose. No parent daftly commenting "I could never give my child needles".
Hell, for the first time in nearly 2 years, she will be surrounded by grown ups of no blood relation, that UNDERSTAND how this disease works. I have no fear for her physical safety, and THAT is a much needed reprive. To be confident that she will be safe and healthy, is an experience you don't know how grateful to be for... until it is gone. To drop your child off and know that they will be safe. To hell with the boogie man or the peripheral cliche worst-case scenarios. You KNOW that your child's body will not turn on itself in a mere couple of hours, if gawd forbid, an ignorant choice is made.
I have to wrap this up, because I'm beginning to cry. Not just missing her, or the fact that she's gone for the first time. But appreciation for WHAT this trip will mean to her. The level of stress and pressure has been lifted off my shoulders for the first time, and honestly, I'm nearly panicking because that stress, that pressure, have come to ground me in the last 600 some odd days.