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Children with Diabetes: Focus on Fitness and Nutrition

Report from Texas 2004

Not the worst ice storm in 26 years, nor freezing temperatures, nor heatless meeting rooms could prevent the fourth regional Children with Diabetes conference from moving forward! Focus on Fitness and Nutrition, proceeded as planned, February 13-15, 2004 at the Four Points by Sheraton on the RiverWalk in San Antonio, Texas. About 200 people braved the storm to participate in the conference, which included two days of sessions for adults, teens, and school-age children. Families came from near and far, with people traveling from as far away as Illinois, Michigan, California, and Georgia. Sessions covered topics ranging from balancing exercise with healthy diet to the effects of various medications on exercise and diabetes. The bikers Team Diabetic were on hand to discuss their personal stories about the challenges of managing diabetes and the rigors of bicycle racing.

The conference began on Friday evening, as the Exhibit Hall opened with a wonderful reception sponsored by Deltec. Exhibitors were on hand to demonstrate and discuss their newest products, including new insulin pumps, meters, insulins, data management systems, health care providers, and sports-related food and beverages. Conference participants were offered the opportunity to wear insulin pumps with saline to experience the feel of the various pumps.

World-famous ballerina Zippora Karz opened the conference Saturday morning with a poignant talk about her diagnosis with type 1 diabetes as a young adult, and her struggle with integrating diabetes management into the rigors of her dance profession. Zippora performed as the prima ballerina for the New York City Ballet for 20 years, 18 of those years with type 1 diabetes. Her candid discussion of her feelings of terror and being out of control brought tears to many in the audience, and her current health and success reminded us all that for our children, anything is possible.

Dr. Richard Rubin, a CWD faculty favorite, continued the conference Saturday morning with a very compassionate and human discussion entitled Exercise, Too? Fitting it All In. He spoke of the balancing act we face every day in managing diabetes and all of the other important things in our individual and family lives. Whether it's running a marathon or 10k yourself, or watching your child compete in a football game or dance recital, each activity poses time and energy challenges that tap into our personal resources. Parents who had heard Dr. Rubin speak at previous CWD conferences marveled at the fact that they always learn something new and wonderful each time they hear him.

After lunch, Dr. Stephen Ponder from Driscoll Children's Hospital utilized a very cool computerized polling system to interact with the audience. Right off the bat, he ascertained that about 47% of the audience had children who were pumpers, while 53% managed diabetes with multiple daily injections. He asked several more questions and determined that over 75% of the conference attendees had never been to a CWD conference, and about 50% had been diagnosed less than a year ago. A very small percentage had children who had experienced a hypoglycemia-related seizure or medical event in the last year. Dr. Ponder presented very relevant and useful information about medications - all kinds of medications - and how they interact with diabetes, blood glucose levels, and overall health of a person.

The afternoon closed with some wonderful conversations in the Mom's and Dad's Discussion groups. Richard Rubin and Neal Billetdeaux facilitated the Dad's group, while Barb Schreiner, Laura Billetdeaux, and Michelle Rago led the Mom's group. Many, many topics were covered and some great ideas were shared. And, as usual, these discussion groups probably could have gone on into the evening hours! It is such a great feeling to talk with a group who has 'been there and done that!'

Also featured on Saturday was the sixth showing of the CWD Quilt for Life. 349 quilt squares, each hand-sewn and decorated in honor of a person with type 1 diabetes, were shown in the hotel's Rio Grande Ballroom. Conference participants, as well as adults and children who were simply interested in seeing the quilt first-hand, shared several hours of walking through the quilt aisles. It was truly an emotional experience for many.

The teen group met for discussion on Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon out and about in the freezing temperatures of the San Antonio RiverWalk! Natalie Bellini led off with a session called I Never Met a Carb I Didn't Like. The teens discussed what they were and weren't allowed to eat and the rationale behind it - if there was one (sometimes it didn't seem so)! Natalie, who has type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump, shared with the group that at her house, they don't eat dessert -- not because of diabetes, but because the sweets are just something she and daughter Erin want to avoid. They try to focus on keeping healthy foods in their fridge. Following Natalie's discussion with the teens, Rick Philbin led a talk about exercise and why it is so important regardless of whether or not you have diabetes. Rick is a certified athletic trainer and spent some time individually with the teens discussing their sports and challenges.

Then, the teens were off on the RiverWalk! They donned coats and sweatshirts and headed to the Alamo. Because it was Saturday and Valentine's Day, the RiverWalk was crowded and there were entertainers and musicians sprinkled in the crowd. Some of the group watched a band by the RiverWalk, while others scooted over to the RiverCenter Mall to warm up and do a little shopping. Warm up? Most of the teens indulged in ice cream. Go figure. Saturday night, the teens ordered in Chinese food and pizza, and had a karaoke party in the Teen Room. Faculty Melissa Ringley and Jimmy Bennett wowed the teens with their musical talents - uh - sort of.

The school-aged group was lucky to have an entire faculty contingent working with them on both Saturday and Sunday! Barb Schreiner, Zippora Karz, Mike Schurig, teen Lianna Stroster, Melissa Ringley, and Natalie Bellini all contributed to the fun games and arts-n-crafts with diabetes, food, and exercise themes. At one point, Barb Schreiner was seen leading the hula-hoop parade through the school-age room! Ballerina Zippora Karz spent some time working with the children on Moving to Music, and Mike Schurig led a discussion called Make A Meal in which the kids made decisions about what constitutes a healthy menu.

Saturday's food was yummy, indeed, and quite healthy! Carb counts were provided for all food items to minimize the 'guess factor.' Many thanks to LifeScan, Animas, and Novo Nordisk, who sponsored all of the food on Saturday, including breakfast, snack breaks, and the buffet luncheon with Team Diabetic. Also many thanks to the group Almost Heaven, who provided beautiful background music during our meals and snacks. Almost Heaven includes three young ladies - two of them pumpers - Alaina and Andrea Strobel, and friend Kyley Roberts.

Sunday morning, bright and early, everyone gathered for breakfast, sponsored by TheraSense. Sunday morning sessions were opened by athletic trainer Rick Philbin with a discussion called Managing Game Day. Rick talked about the physiology of exercise, how it interacts with diabetes, and how a person needs to modify diet and lifestyle to be a healthy athlete with diabetes. Pharmacist Jimmy Bennett then presented back to back sessions on Interpreting Health Guidelines for Kids and Blood Glucose Values and Changing Behavior. His presentation included information about the new guidelines for the blood (and other tests) that most people get when they have a physical, and what the numbers in general mean. He continued with some discussion about how important it is for a person to learn to take control over their own testing and management, and how to encourage a child and teen to do this.

Barb Schreiner led further discussion about exercising while wearing an insulin pump. Mike Schurig finished the day's sessions with a presentation called Portion Distortion No More: Practice Makes Perfect. He led the group in a very eye-opening discussion about how much fat and sugar are in many of the foods we eat, and how advertising has made the American public believe that huge portion sizes are now the norm. One visual prop that particularly struck home was when Mike passed around the 20 ounce soda bottle, filled with the 23 teaspoons of sugar that was included in that particular brand. The bottle itself was about a quarter full of white table sugar. That's what a person drinks when they finish that soda. Mike was also quick to point out that, while many of us will drink a soda like that at one sitting, the label on the bottle indicates that there are 2.5 servings in the bottle.

The teen group had a very fun morning on Sunday, including dancing with Zippora and talking about managing diabetes on game day (for high school sports) with Rick Philbin. Then, after box lunches, they were off to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. Most of the teens were very sad to say goodbye to their new friends on Sunday afternoon. There were lots of tears and hugs and promises to stay in touch and get together at future conferences.

A huge thank you to Medtronic MiniMed for sponsoring snack breaks throughout the day on Sunday!

With the conference officially over at 4:30 p.m. and 60 degree, sunny weather on hand (finally!), several families decided to stay an extra day. The families sat outdoors and talked, and then went out for steak dinner with the kids. The evening was rounded off with a walk back to the hotel along the RiverWalk and a teen movie.

Many thanks to our wonderful conference volunteers who work behind the scenes and always manage to make everything go so smoothly! They include: Lauren Lanning, Chris Tull, Bernadette Tull, Michelle Rago, and Neal Billetdeaux. A huge thank you also to Anne Grau and Mark Godfrey who provided much of the local legwork for the conference.

CWD would also like to thank the conference sponsors, LifeScan, Animas, Novo Nordisk, Deltec, TheraSense, and Medtronic MiniMed, for their generosity in supporting the conference and CWD families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life.

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Lauren and Trevor staff registration
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Zippora Karz opened the conference sessions on Saturday
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San Antonio endured the coldest weather it had seen in years
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Our teens before heading out to the Alamo
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Everyone enjoyed a hearty breakfast
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The Quilt for Life was shown on Saturday.
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Team Diabetic -- bicycle racers with diabetes -- visited on Sunday
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Texas 2004: Focus on Fitness and Nutrition
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Last Updated: Friday December 03, 2004 12:15:30
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