When Pumplette was diagnosed with T1D, all those years ago, visitors to our house would talk of the “bad news” and how terrible it was, and weren’t we being brave, interspersed with such banalities as “At least she’ll not remember any different” & the all time classic “I’ve read there’ll be a cure in 10 years anyway, so its not like a life sentence.”!!!
Now, I won’t pretend that I wasn’t in deep shock when her diagnosis was first delivered. Indeed, it was a shock that lasted many months and the fear of the unknown can, even now, 12 years on, blindside me on occasion. However, I always recall my very initial response to her diagnosis. The one that sent my mind hurtling through the life timeline of a dear friend who has T1 and was diagnosed when we were children. My mind raced through all the things my daughter would still be able to do. Not once did I contemplate that there would be things she couldn’t do, because this wonderful friend had lived (and still continues to do so) a full life, achieving massively.
I was very fortunate to have this particular point of reference. This positive role model for my hopes for my daughter, in addition to the generosity of her mother who reached out to me and gave me confidence in my ability to manage this at a time when I was truly questioning my aptitude for this medical life. Not everyone is as lucky.
However, twice this year, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness first hand the power of “Me Too”, as 50 strangers, linked only by their pancreati ineptitude to produce insulin, come together thanks to the vision and hard work of some very talented physicians, heroes and a company who believe that every person living with T1D should have access to education so they can confidently manage their diabetes through a wide range of different sports and exercise.
The Animas Sports Weekend is, I suppose, a little like a camp for adults who have T1D. We all know the positive impact that paediatric diabetes camps have for children, but when it comes to adults, the opportunity to get together with other T1s for more than just an evening is a rare and beautiful thing. That this weekend incorporates such a wealth of expertise and knowledge too, all delivered and presented by exceptionally talented and passionate HCPs, elevates it to another level entirely.
Delegates arrive, some looking a little bewildered, questioning what they’ve signed up for and why are they actually here, but are quickly put at ease by a band of PWDs who attend each of these weekends. They all scoff at being called Heroes, as they’re a very modest bunch who do quite remarkable things, but a Hero is what each and every one of them is. They listen to the delegates, answer queries, calm nerves and muster confidence in each of the attendees. And when it comes to putting the theory into practise and participating in the sporting activities, applying different strategies that have been taught that day, you’ll find each hero ensuring that no one is left behind, and no one is held back. That is quite a skill, and they deliver every single time.
The programme that has been developed by Dr Ian Gallen and Dr Alistair Lumb never fails to impress. These two gentlemen give freely of their own time in order to ensure as many PWDs can benefit from the theory they teach as possible. I cannot begin to thank them, and the team of dieticians, specialist nurses, drs, enough. To say their participation in this weekend goes above and beyond the call of duty is an understatement of epic proportions. Their passion to ensure all PWDs are able to access this level of education is unwavering and their energy and enthusiasm for delivering this is humbling.
Finally, theres the back room staff that make sure the entire weekend is able to occur. Accommodation, sports facilities, enough hcps & heroes, all need to be booked and briefed and shepherded around a vast campus over the event. The Animas team do a grand job of caring for everyone and ensuring the weekend is entirely about education. Not one sales pitch in sight. Special mention this year has to go to Barbara who has superbly crafted the weekend into an event that can now be run twice a year. Barbara’s determination to ensure as many delegates as possible are able to experience the education provided at the sports weekend has meant she leaves behind her a fearsome legacy of which she should be rightly proud. And enormous shoes to fill. We will all miss you very much.
By Sunday afternoon, every attendee had made new friends. For many, this was the first time in their T1 lives that they had ever been in a majority. There is something hugely empowering, knowing you’re not alone. That sense of “Me too”. I love seeing how, 36hrs earlier, a group of strangers meet, and 36 hrs on, when it comes to parting, a group of firm friends bid their farewells.
The class of October 2016
I am, as always, privileged to attend this weekend in the capacity of my daughter’s chaperone. She is an Animas Hero, and we are lucky enough to be supported by Animas in order to attend this event. There was no expectation or request for me to write a piece about this weekend, I do so of my own volition as I have witnessed the very positive impact it has had on the people who are able to attend and am keen to spread the word. In that spirit, click for the links to Dr Ian Gallen’s Runsweet website and the Animas website where you can register an interest in attending a sports weekend next year.