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“I felt like I'd been in a dream for over a month," says 15-year-old Graham Clark before he ended up in emergency four years ago suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis. Also known as DKA, the dangerous complication of diabetes is the result of high blood sugar levels over time and excess ketones—acids created when fat is broken down to be used for energy). DKA can lead to a coma and even death.

The signs were there—thirst, brain fog, weight loss—but Graham and his parents, Denise and Matthew, didn’t know the cause until he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Graham says,

When I got the diagnosis, I started crying.

With their support, the following summer Graham attended Diabetes Canada’s Camp Kahkamela in British Columbia, one of nine Diabetes Canada’s D-Camps for kids and youth with type 1 diabetes. Graham credits his time at camp with changing his outlook. He shared what it’s like to live with diabetes and what going to camp meant to him.

How would you describe what it’s like to live with diabetes?

The thing that sets in with diabetes is, you’re going to have it for the rest of your life. At school, I was dealing with the stigma. When I pulled out my insulin, people asked, Is that a vape?

Can you describe your camp experience? How did it impact your life?

It was the healthiest I ever felt. My blood sugars were fine, and I had the best A1C during that time. I had so much energy, and I felt so strong. All the doctors were really nice.

What was the best part of camp?

It's a great opportunity for people with type 1 diabetes to feel more comfortable. You just feel normal and happy, and your illness doesn't weigh you down. It’s a good break from all the stress and a time to have fun with other people.

What is your favourite memory?

Hanging out at the cabin, playing Capture the Flag, and playing guitar at the talent show.

How did it feel being there with other kids who understand what it’s like to live with diabetes?

It was definitely a relief not having to explain what I was doing. It was really cool having so many people around me going through what I’m going through.

Did you learn more about managing diabetes at camp?

I was really amazed by the pumps that everyone had. One cabin mate had this really high-tech one, it made me really interested in diabetes technology. My counsellors made me be more on top of calculating and injecting. I looked up to their leadership and friendship.

Why do you think people should raise money to support D Camps?

It’s important for kids to feel like kids, and having diabetes shouldn’t change that.

Did you know?

You can help kids with diabetes feel like kids by sending a child to one of Diabetes Canada’s D-Camps. Donate now and have your gift matched.

Author: Denise Barnard

Category Tags: Impact Stories, Camps;

Region: National

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