Diabetes is scary.
Especially if you're 9.
Unless, of course, it's a ticket to summer camp - with a gaggle of other kids more interested in having fun than in moping about dealing with a chronic, dangerous - but mercifully manageable - disease.
Diabetes camp provides one more useful tool for an interdisciplinary PCH team dedicated to helping families deal with the demands of diabetes - caused by the body's still unexplained failure to produce the insulin needed for cells to absorb nutrients and energy.
Just ask Abbie Riekena - a bouyant, self-confident and resilient girl who has been coping with diabetes for the past three years with three daily insulin injections, a carefully controlled diet, and frequent measurements of her blood sugar.
"Camp really boosted her confidence that she can do things for herself," said her mother, Ann. "She met a lot of other kids (with diabetes), and it was very reinforcing."
The goal of Camp AZDA, the diabetes camp, is to teach kids self-management. Abbie learned how to give herself injections - a helpful skill when she's spending the night with friends, without her parents nearby.
"The good news about diabetes is that it's manageable," said Ann. "Of course, it changes your life. Everything revolves around it." Meals have to be served at just the right intervals. A test kit, along with glucose tablets or something sugary, must always be available for emergencies. "It just becomes part of your routine," Ann said.
Still, the ability to pick up the phone and call a doctor, diet expert or nurse eases the anxiety - especially when blood sugar readings spike suddenly.
Abbie and her family just take it one day at a time.
"I think she's had to mature a little quicker," Ann said. "She has to handle much more responsibility than most 9-year-olds."