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  Back to Activities CWD Teen Trip to Denmark

Several families from Children with Diabetes were pleased to visit Copenhagen, Denmark, during the long Thanksgiving weekend, at the invitation of Maersk Medical. Maersk has been a behind-the-scenes supporter of CWD for a number of years, and they were very enthusiastic in extending an invitation for CWD to come for a visit, learn about diabetes care in Denmark, tour their facility that makes insulin pump infusion sets, participate in several focus groups, and tour the sites of their beautiful city of Copenhagen!

Maersk Medical is a manufacturer and developer of infusion sets for insulin pump treatment and has a long history of infusion set development. The company has production facilities in Denmark close to the capital city Copenhagen and also in Reynosa in Mexico. Maersk Medical has a high focus on product quality and development, which has led to the development of two unique soft cannula infusion sets: Comfort (also known under the brand names Silhouette and Tender) and Quick-Set. Maersk Medical supplies all the largest insulin pump manufacturers with their infusion sets and has done so for several years. As a supporter of Children with Diabetes, it is Maersk Medical's wish to help with the effort to create a world wide network, which was the main reason for inviting representatives from the CWD IDYA group to Denmark.

Maersk was particularly interested in supporting CWD's new International Diabetes Youth Ambassador (IDYA, pronounced "idea") program. This program was initiated early in 2002 and was first presented to CWD families at the Friends for Life conference in Pasadena, California in July 2002. IDYA Founder Clare Rosenfeld stated, "It is my dream to create the International Diabetes Youth Ambassadors, a group open to all young people worldwide who desire to make positive change in the lives of people with diabetes, as well as help find a cure for diabetes." The invitation to Denmark represented the first opportunity for face-to-face international collaboration between IDYA teens.

IDYA participants in this 5 day gathering included Clare Rosenfeld (age 16) and her mom, Kari; the Billetdeaux family, including Sam (age 12) and Carolyn (age 15), and parents Neal and Laura; and CWD Founder Jeff Hitchcock and his daughter, Marissa (age 15). Marissa, Clare, and Sam have type 1 diabetes. Carolyn does not. All four teens are founding members of IDYA and have been very active in CWD endeavors. The teens from the United States were very pleased to meet and spend a day with two Danish IDYA representatives, Anja Nielsen (age 17) and Marie Langhoff (age 17).

The following is a day by day report of the first IDYA international adventure! Many thanks to Maersk Medical for reaching out to CWD and supporting this wonderful opportunity!

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
The families depart their home cities: The Hitchcock's from Cincinnati, Ohio; The Rosenfeld's from Eugene, Oregon; and The Billetdeaux's from Manchester, Michigan. Everyone spends the night on their respective airplanes, flying over the Atlantic Ocean, trying to catch a few winks, and saving energy for the day ahead! The Hitchcock's and Billetdeaux's get a quick stop in Amsterdam - perfect for a snack of, what else? Chocolate and Coke Light!

Thursday, November 28, 2002
Arrival in Copenhagen, Denmark. Maersk Medical has reserved rooms for us in the historic Admiral Hotel. The hotel, built in the 1700s as a granary, is fascinating. It sits right on the waterfront, near the canals and is a short walk from the center of the city. We explore a bit, and then succumb to fatigue and excitement - everyone grabs a nap before lunch. In the late afternoon, our host, Thomas Lowe from Maersk Medical, arrives to officially welcome us to Copenhagen. We depart for a tour of the Steno Diabetes Center, the largest diabetes care center in Denmark. At the Center, we meet Dr. Jesper Johannesen and Dr. Stefanie Eising. They describe their work with children and teens who have type 1 diabetes, and we have many questions for them. Among other things, we learn that taking care of diabetes in school is not a big issue for most Danish children. They simply do what needs to be done for their daily routine (testing blood glucose, taking insulin, having a snack). They do not have 504 plans or IEPs, and they are surprised at some of the issues we describe in the U.S. Also, in Denmark, most people manage their diabetes by multiple daily injections. The insulin pump is not widely used. Drs. Eising and Johannesen are interested in the teens' feedback regarding their own insulin pumps. They compare notes with Dr. Eising, who also wears an insulin pump. The two physicians also share information about some research they are doing regarding insulin pumps.

The clinic is very modern, and the "typical visit" to Steno described by Dr. Eising is thorough, indeed. Each person with type 1 has lab work, a consultation with the diabetologist and physician, a retinal exam, a foot exam, and consultation with others as needed (i.e., dietitian, social worker). They truly utilize a team approach to care. Dr. Eising also describes the gatherings that they periodically hold for kids, teens, and parents. These seem similar to the U.S. concept of the support group.

We return to the Admiral Hotel, thoroughly exhausted, but very excited about the new information, and happy at having made friends with the physicians at Steno. Shall we go out to dinner? Nah, it is nearly 2 a.m. on our body clocks. Cheeseburgers from room service suffice for tonight. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 29, 2002
We are picked up bright and early (well, not bright, for it remains dark in Copenhagen until about 9 a.m. in November) for the taxi ride to Maersk Medical. Today's agenda includes spending most of the day on site at Maersk, touring the factory where insulin pump infusion sets are made, and participating in discussion groups with different groups of people from Maersk. John Lindskog, the General Manager of Maersk, welcomes us, reviews the morning's upcoming activities, and brings us to a room set with the most delectable Danish pastries! And chocolate! And fruit and cheese and other healthy foods that the teens basically ignore. Very thin slices of chocolate are the hit of the morning. Thank goodness for insulin pumps! We learn later that these thin slices of chocolate are to be put on toast - our kids eat them plain. Kari and Laura can't decide which pastry looks the best, so they split several. Sam goes the healthy route and samples cheeses and different types of bread. Yum! Clementines, sliced pears, and some fabulous Danish coffee round out the morning meal. We are ready for our tour!

We meet Morten Juhl, who is our tour leader. He takes us to a dressing room where we don protective booties, hairnets, and gowns. The factory is considered a "clean area," and we must be cautious. We walk through three separate parts of the Maersk facility and see several different varieties of infusion sets being made. Some of the production is labor-intensive; other parts rely more on machines. Clare is invited to join the assembly line, and then later, we all are invited to assist in the packaging line (making sure the tubing gets in the individual set packet). What strikes each of us is the quality of the process. Every set is made of many individual pieces, and they are all quality checked at numerous points in the production process. We learn that every single set is checked for appropriate flow. If insulin can't get through the tubing and the set, the result could be very dangerous, so every set must be perfect. Sam and Marissa try their hardest to tie a tight knot in the tubing; then they try to break the tubing. No success. We look at a magnified image of the inner and outer tubes of the pump tubing and learn that if the tubing bends or if someone sleeps on the tubing, it will not interfere with insulin flow. The little marks that occur when one bends the tubing are simply a gap in the inner and outer tubing created by the bend. We have many, many questions about the processes, and Morten and Thomas answer them all. We are appreciative of their concern for our kids. In return, the workers in the factory area are very interested in meeting the teens, as the kids all wear insulin pumps with the products they are making!

At lunch, many of the Maersk workers gather to hear a short speech from Clare Rosenfeld. Clare shares her thoughts about being a teen with type 1 diabetes; she talks about how diabetes affects her life and how having an insulin pump helps her. She invites Marissa and Sam to share their thoughts with the group as well. Marissa describes being involved in soccer and Sam talks about hockey; both teens have found the pump to be extremely valuable when they participate in sports. All three teens answer questions from the Maersk group about daily life as a pump wearer.

We also meet with several other Maersk groups during the day, including Product Development and Quality Management. All four of the teens give feedback about the ideas on the table and they also provide suggestions for some new products!

In the late afternoon, we leave the Maersk complex and head to the home of our host, Thomas Lowes, to meet his family and have some refreshments. Thomas' wife, Anita, was born in the U.S. and has lived in Denmark for many years. We have some great conversation. Their two children, Helena and Mathias, are just adorable. The teens have a lot of fun playing with the younger ones, and the language differences simply aren't a barrier when playing! We present Thomas and Anita with some gifts - a beautiful photo book about Oregon, some Dr. Seuss books (in English) for the kids, a large red white and blue candle (in Denmark, many candles are used to celebrate the holiday season), some pewter ornaments for their tree, and some candy. We hope these are symbolic of the U.S.; our IDYAs helped to select the gifts!

We head back to the hotel in the late evening and once again opt for the cheeseburger route. People dine rather late in Denmark. With the time change, our bodies aren't quite ready for a big dinner at 2 a.m! Perhaps tomorrow.

Saturday, November 30, 2002
Today is an exciting day because the IDYA teens from the U.S. get to meet the IDYA teens from Denmark. Thomas has arranged a small conference room at the Admiral Hotel, and we are so looking forward to meeting Anja and Marie! Rufus the Bear with Diabetes joins us as well. This is Rufus #12, and he will be traveling around the world, meeting families with type 1 diabetes -- his first visits will be with the teens in Denmark, starting with Anja! The teens have so much to talk about - conversation is animated, and the interaction is simply wonderful to watch (from a parent perspective). Kari gets teary-eyed and comments that this is what Clare envisioned when they had their first conversations about the possibility of the IDYA program so long ago. The kids really hit it off, and they decide we need to leave sooner rather than later to do our site seeing!

We visit many great spots that day, including Amelienborg Palace (the Queen's residence), where the teens try their hardest (and succeed) to get the guards to smile. It is a cold day with a biting wind, but we bundle up and head down to the canal to view the holiday shops and brightly colored buildings. It is truly beautiful. We find a café for lunch and enjoy some traditional Danish foods (and Christmas beer for the adults!). Then we are off and walking again. The kids want to do some shopping, so we indulge for an hour or so. Danish teens love to shop as much as American teens! Then we are off to Tivoli, where the holiday lights have just been illuminated and the crowds are gathering to view them. It is packed. We walk for a while, then indulge in some holiday glogg (hot spiced wine) and real hot chocolate. It's a toss-up which is better on such a cold evening!

We intend to have dinner together at Tivoli, but because of the crowds, we decide that dining elsewhere in town is a better idea. Marie is familiar with Copenhagen restaurants, and she guides us to a Mediterranean restaurant where a huge buffet is being served. It is wonderful, and just what our big appetites need! We have walked literally miles today! After dinner, we say tearful goodbyes and promise to keep in touch from either side of the ocean.

Sunday, December 1, 2002
Normally, Sunday is a quiet day in Denmark, a day in which families stay home and shops and businesses are closed. We are here on December 1, however, and this is a holiday! December 1 marks the official beginning of the Christmas season in Denmark. We didn't know this, and it is a great surprise! As planned, we use our "free day" for much site seeing. We visit the Kastellet (a fortress still somewhat staffed) and pass by underground bunkers that were used in the Danish Resistance during WWII. We brave the cold wind to see the Little Mermaid statue (yes it is very little). We tour Rosenborg Slot (a castle which served as the summer home of the king). Such a sense of history. Many of these buildings were built before the United States was a country. We take lots of photos!

We also are privileged to view the official holiday parade and the lighting of the official Christmas tree in the center of Copenhagen. Lucky coincidence, we just happen to be in the right place at the right time!

Darkness falls in Copenhagen by 4:00 p.m. this time of year. We head back to the Admiral Hotel with our souvenirs and great memories. Over dinner (this time quite fancy with nothing resembling a cheeseburger from room service), we talk about what a tremendous visit we've had, what a great learning experience it has been for the IDYAs in both countries and how we hope this has opened the door for more international conversation and visits. Type 1 diabetes truly has no boundaries. Together, our kids are stronger, and they will make a difference.

Again, many thanks to Maersk Medical for the invitation and the support to make this first IDYA adventure a reality.

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The IDYA group with host Thomas Ashley Lowes enjoying the crisp November air in Copenhagen. We all look forward to another visit -- in the summer!


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The IDYA teens (left to right, top to bottom):
Carolyn Billetdeaux, Sam Billetdeaux, Marie Langhoff, Anja Nielsen, Clare Rosenfeld, and Marissa Hitchcock


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Marissa and Carolyn taking a break at the Steno Diabetes Center


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The American IDYA group in protective garb inside the latest -- and most amazing -- Maersk production facility


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Sam Billetdeaux, Marissa Hitchcock, and Clare Rosenfeld talk to Maersk employees about what it means to have diabetes and their appreciation for the insulin pump infusion sets made by Maersk that they all use


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Anita and Thomas, our gracious hosts, on Friday evening. Anita shared with us the holiday traditions of Denmark.


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Kari and Marie and Clara and Anja chatting during Saturday's get together with the IDYA members from Denmark.


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Rufus #12, who begins his journeys in Denmark, enjoys the wonderful pastries that we call call Danish during the IDYA meeting on Saturday morning. (Yes, Rufus bolused extra for the carbs!)


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Even the Queen's Palace Guards were bundled up against the cold November chill. Our IDYAs were able to get the guards to crack a smile, which we all considered a major accomplishment.


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No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to the famous Tivoli, which was decorated for holiday festivities. Adults enjoyed holiday glogg while teens enjoyed wonderful hot chocolate.


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After a long but wonderful day of meetings, visiting Tivoli, and enjoying dinner in Copenhagen, Anja and Sam rest for a moment before Anja heads home with Rufus #12


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Carolyn, Sam, and Clare pose in front of one of Copenhagen's most famous sites -- The Little Mermaid.


7 December 2002



                 
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Last Updated: Thursday August 16, 2007 22:54:52
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