When superstar Usher explained to the world why he had to miss the Manchester Benefit Concert this week, the average parent scratched their head.
To drop his son off at summer camp? Can’t someone else do that?
But parents just like Usher – “D-Parents” who are raising a child with diabetes understood, and shook their heads yes in solidarity. Because in caring for a child with diabetes, there are few things more sacred, detailed, and just plain vital than dropping your child off at diabetes camp.
Let me explain, because I’ve been there. In fact, it was 19 years ago this summer that I first dropped my child off for two weeks at diabetes camp. This I can say: Usher? I feel you. And I salute you.
Camp Kudzu, a small, determined, renowned diabetes camp has embraced Usher’s family and given them privacy and, therefore, given their son a chance to dive deep into the beauty that is diabetes camp just like any other kid with diabetes. In order to make the transition to camp a success, Usher had to spend that day setting his son up .Here’s why:
Logistics: Passing the daily care of a child with diabetes on to another – even a highly trained, vastly experienced diabetes camp – is tricky. Parents like Usher arrive with weeks of data they’ve gathered in preparation. Blood sugar readings over 24 hour periods for weeks prior. Carb counts of meals paired with insulin doses administered and then, after meal blood glucose values to help the camp medical staff see what’s working now. Usher also had to track his son’s activities those weeks prior and log them all, so that camp medical staff can assess it, compare it to the planned camp activity schedule, and then come up with a medical plan for those camp days.
Usher would then sit down with a camp nurse – and doctor – and plot out the plan. He’d sign off and then have faith. (I admit, my first year dropping my daughter off at camp I hung around for hours and briefly considered camping out behind a tree and popping up every few hours just to yell “Hey, are you low?”)
D-Parents like Usher are actually their child’s medical experts, which is why it’s so important for them to be at camp on the first day. Usher passing his son on to camp is in the same scope as a doctor passing a patient in a medical crisis on to the next doctor on duty. You can’t just dial that stuff in.
Happiness: Choosing to embrace camp for his son (and Usher and his family did this from the start of his child’s diagnosis) is a key component to helping a child grow up happy, secure and independent with Type 1 diabetes. First, there are the diabetes care reasons. Every summer, it seemed, my daughter would come home having mastered another “medical necessity trick.” Changing her own insulin pump cannula. Doing a shot in a place she was terrified to do before. Discovering a new tool and pushing me to research it for her. Better understanding of how to count carbs and how to calmly fix things if you get that count wrong. And more.
But the great thing about diabetes camp is that the kids learn all these things, but not in a medical setting. In fact, Usher’s son probably does not even realize all that’s being taught to him. That’s because diabetes camp is just like regular camp, but with diabetes along. You hike a nearby mountain (and learn to manage blood glucose in high-stress and high-activity situations). You swim, canoe, cook out, do pranks on other cabins, put on talent shows, sit around campfires and gaze at the stars, sing silly songs… all while camp helps you to weave the constant demands of diabetes care into your life. Masterful; that’s what it is. And Usher understands that at Camp Kudzu his son’s is getting the tools he’ll need to keep him healthy, and a chance to be with kids who are like him.
A Break: It’s hard to imagine this when you see him in photos, on stage, or at events, but like the rest of us D-parents there is never a day or a night that Usher can “turn off” diabetes. Except when his son is at camp. I used to joke that my child was so safe and secure at camp, she should live there and visit me for two weeks a year. While Usher’s son is at camp, Usher himself can recharge. He can turn off the constant thinking (When did he last eat? How much insulin on board? Is he low? Could he be high? Did I refill the 344,636 scripts we need on time?) It goes on and on. And Usher needs to turn that off and recharge. Just like how we are to put an oxygen mask on ourselves first on an airplane, we D-Parents must take care of us so we can continue doing the endless, vital job of taking care of our kids. A break may sound selfish, but it’s not.
I love that Usher brings his child to camp with no fanfare, no media attention, no “look at me being a hero” photo ops. Usher brings his son because, simply, time at Camp Kudzu is what his son needs to thrive. And he does it not as Usher the superstar, but as Usher the D-Dad.
This D-Mom gets why this D-Dad made the choice of being at camp that day. Usher had to know that there would be social media pushback, but he understood deeply that to better his world – and the world of a child – his place was at camp that morning.
Photo Source: Wiki Commons by D.roller.saparena