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Avril's volunteering experience

 

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"I have just spent an amazing and educational week with children aged 7-11 years who all have Type 1 diabetes, along with a team of volunteers including dietitians, school teachers, nurses and doctors.

I had read with great interest about the children’s events that Diabetes UK arranges for children with Type 1 diabetes and thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some hands on experience with children and diabetes.

I applied to be a volunteer on the Diabetes UK Children’s event and was lucky enough to be chosen to work at Calshot Activity Centre, Southampton.

Each child has an action plan and the parents ensure that they have provided information and the treatments that the child will need during their stay for the week. This helps with planning and assessing the child's individual needs during their stay at the event.

Some of the goals included building the child’s confidence with changing their cannula, using different injection sites and having an introduction to carbohydrate counting.

 

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I have to admit that I was rather nervous of the management of pump therapy as I had only a basic knowledge of the different pump systems that I had read about and seen as demonstration models.

 

The doctors and children were a brilliant support to me as I had to learn about the pumps very quickly!

Blood glucose monitoring is done very frequently during the activities and the children would approach a team member if they felt ‘low’. Each adult would carry a rescue rucksack which included glucose tablets, blood glucose testing meters, water and biscuits.

The nurses and doctors also had the insulin and pen devices in their packs. Snack time was included in between activities and the children would all test their blood glucose levels prior to the next activity.

Each day was action packed and non-stop. Each group had a professional sport leader who led the activity. All of the sport leaders were super with the children and adults alike and had lots of patience. This encouraged good team building amongst the children.

 

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On one of the afternoons there was a session called ‘ask the experts’. The panel included staff members who had Type 1 diabetes themselves. The children had the opportunity to write down any questions that they had regarding diabetes.

 

This was an educational opportunity to pass the message to the children of the importance of good diabetes management and control.

Interestingly one of the little boys thought that he had contracted his diabetes from a Great Aunt as he had spent a lot of time visiting her! Being a mother of four children I had no worries about entertaining children as I had had plenty of experience and enjoyment. This became evident at night time, as each evening the children went up to their beds and were read a story.

At the end of each action packed day when the children were all in their beds, the whole team would have a meeting at around 11pm to discuss the day’s events and any issues that might have happened. These would include any accidents occurred, social worries and diabetes problems.

 

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After the meeting there would be a final check on the children, checking and correcting their blood glucose levels, and then reporting back to the allocated night team.

 

The children are the superstars of this event as they are encouraged to be actively involved in making the daily decisions regarding what they eat, level of activity, discussing adjusting their insulin needs and changing their own cannula sites (those that have insulin pump therapy).

I have come away feeling thoroughly exhausted both mentally and physically, but also extremely satisfied, as not only did I get the opportunity to participate in all the activities, which included sailing, skiing and orienteering in the forest, but I also gained a wealth of knowledge and information regarding the children’s attitude to their diabetes management and hands on experience of pump therapy and management.

The important message to us as healthcare professionals is that these are tomorrow’s adults, so we need to all be aware of the principles and management of good diabetes control and understand the importance of pump therapy. I highly recommend these activities which reply upon volunteers from the medical, nursing, and other professions to support Diabetes UK."

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