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Summer Camp for Diabetes Print E-mail
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Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:00

Justin gets testedJustin Jerez is like any ordinary 13-year-old, and just by looking at him you would think he is the picture of good health, but the reality for this teenager is that he has to be living with diabetes. Justin says that in January of this year, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Since his diagnosis, he says, "my family treats me like the king in the house". But the condition is anything but regal; Justin is quick to admit that since the diagnosis, his life has been changed. Everyday, he has to test his blood sugar levels at least three times; he tests before every meal, after every meal and after doing exercise. He says if he is not mindful of his blood sugar level, it can dip so low to cause him to have blurry vision and eventually faint. To avoid this, he needs to keep track of his blood sugar and when it goes too low he says he needs to eat a sweet.

And keeping track of the blood sugar level goes hand in hand with proper nutrition. For Justin, a meal is not one that can be consumed from anywhere and, he says that in order to manage his diabetes, he prefers to eat at home where his parents give him healthy food.

While Justin has the basic idea of how to manage his diabetes, he along with over 30 other youngsters and teenagers from across the country are participating in the Belize Diabetes Association's 2nd annual Diabetes Youth Camp. According to Anthony Castillo, President of the Association, the camp is specifically tailored for children living with Type 1 diabetes. Through the camp, the children learn to take care of themselves since it will be a condition they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Through the camp, the participants are taught how to test themselves, how to take insulin injections, how to eat properly, exercise and take care of their bodies. Castillo stresses that the camp is important since it teaches the youngsters how to manage their conditions and in so doing, they are able to live normal healthy lives. And for the Diabetes Association, that is what is important.

Of similar importance to the Association also is finding out how many young people are living with diabetes since there is no known record of persons living with diabetes. In an effort to get those numbers, the Association has started to build a register of children living with diabetes. So far there are 38 children who have been registered and the association appeals to the public to visit the second floor of the commercial center in Belize City to do so.

Shelly McFarlane, the Project Coordinator for the Management of Diabetes in Youth Project which is funded by the World Diabetes Foundation, says that similar registers are being opened in St. Lucia and Jamaica. The aim is to develop a registry of children and youth living with Types 1 and 2 Diabetes in an effort to determine what the prevalence of the disease is. According to Mcfarlane, through the registry, children can be assisted in managing diabetes by developing support groups across the countries. They can also share with their peers and health professionals their experiences and empower themselves in managing diabetes.

More than building support mechanisms however, there is the possibility of receiving free insulin, testing supplies, syringes, glucose meters, strips and other benefits. Mcfarlane says this can be done through appeals to projects funded by the International Diabetes Federation and HOPE worldwide. Such a project is the Life for a Child Program. Through this program, much financial relief is given to those afflicted by diabetes as well as governments that have to spend on medical care for the disease.