On arrival, we checked in, unpacked and then went to meet everyone later on at the welcome meeting.
The parents were split into small groups. Couples were even split into separate groups. Although it seemed daunting at first, it was a well thought out plan because it meant that individuals could feel free to chat about anything, perhaps things they didn’t feel able to discuss with their partners at home.
Meeting other families
For the first time, we met lots of other families who also had a child who was newly diagnosed or who had been living with Type 1 for a while. We could relate to their experiences, exchange tips and support one another. It was comforting to know we were not alone because it can feel very isolating at times.
During the weekend we circulated around different workshops which included healthcare professionals and people with Type 1. We saw a dietitian who gave us free rein to chat about anything we wanted. A doctor gave a workshop about what the future holds.
Living with Type 1 diabetes
Other workshops covered topics such as aspects of diabetes, a parents’ talk on 'what diabetes means to me' and another was 'diabetes and us', a Q&A session where a panel of volunteers with Type 1 talked about living with the condition.
Hearing people who had been diagnosed with Type 1 as children talk about their lives so positively was an inspiration and gave us hope for the future. Over the weekend, we also had lots of opportunities to chat to volunteers and medical professionals outside of the workshops.
"Hearing people who'd been diagnosed with Type 1 as children talk so positively about their lives was an inspiration. It gave us hope for the future."
The children were split into age groups with animal names. Olivia was in the Lemurs. She met other children who had Type 1 and got to see them finger pricking, injecting, scanning their Libres and using pumps. After months of being the only child in school with Type 1, she finally knew she wasn’t alone.
They did loads of fun age-focused activities and games (wrapping grown-ups in toilet roll was a highlight). They even visited Dudley Zoo for the day, which was the first time since diagnosis that Olivia had been away from us and not at school.
We were apprehensive at first, but knew she was in good hands with the volunteers. She had a whale of a time. Non Type 1 siblings had the opportunity to chat about their feelings too because sometimes they can feel their Type 1 sibling has all the attention. All children got a certificate at the end of the weekend.
"We were apprehensive at first, but knew she was in good hands with the volunteers."
We don’t have any family or friends who are trained to care for Olivia, so as a couple we don’t get to go out together. On Saturday evening all the parents had a group date night where we had a lovely three course meal in the hotel restaurant. The children had their own party at the same time.
"One evening all the parents had a group date night where we had a lovely three course meal in the restaurant."
We are so thankful to all of the volunteers who gave up their time to help at the weekend. All of them either had Type 1 themselves, knew someone with it or worked within healthcare. A healthcare professional even told us that the weekend had been a real eye-opener for her and she had no idea what it was really like to live with Type 1 until she saw families and their children dealing with it.
Feeling normal with Type 1
It was so important for Olivia to see that she’s not alone and that she can still live a normal life with Type 1. For us as parents, it was invaluable for us to meet other parents and chat about how they manage their child’s Type 1.
Every minute detail had been thought of and carefully planned, even down to cereals at supper time for children who needed a little boost to see them through the night. Hypo treatments were available in a resources room and accessible any time. The weekend was real value for money for what it included; accommodation, the event itself and all food.
None of us wanted to leave and we decided there and then that we wanted to come back again. If you’re considering going, I’d say don’t hesitate. We’d recommend it for the whole family.