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Annual diabetes camp, where kids can be kids


There are a lot of things Mackenzie Fagan enjoys about the annual diabetes camp that takes place at Camp Lavrock on the Salmonier Line in Newfoundland and Labrador. The 10-year-old loves the friendships she makes with other campers who also live with Type 1 diabetes. However, her favourite things about Camp Douwanna are the theme days that include everything from a Canada-themed clothing day to a day when campers are encouraged to dress like a king, queen, princess or other fun clothing similar to what royalty would wear.

Diabetes Canada began hosting camping experiences for children and youth living with Type 1 diabetes in 1953. The first camp in Newfoundland took place in 1964.

Camps also take place in some other provinces, including Nova Scotia.

According to information about the camps, “D-Camps” are an opportunity for the campers to indulge in their sense of fun and adventure without experiencing stigma about their disease — a place where kids can be kids. Medical staff and counsellors are also on site to ensure the children get the care they need.

Mackenzie lives in Conception Bay South, N.L., with her parents Brad and Mandy Fagan and her eight-year-old sister, Madelyn.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in December 2017.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces.

It’s a serious chronic disease and uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and other conditions.

The diagnosis isn’t something any parent wants to hear, Mackenzie’s mother said.

“Mackenzie has her good days and her bad days but she handles it quite well. She is still on (insulin) injections but we are in the process now of getting her an (insulin) pump.”

While Mackenzie will still need to be cognizant of the foods she eats, the pump will give her more freedom especially when it comes to the times of the day she can eat, her mother said.

Mackenzie’s symptoms upon diagnosis included drinking a lot of water, going to the washroom frequently and losing weight.

“She was tired a lot as well,” Fagan said.

Mackenzie first attended Camp D in 2018, Fagan said. The camps are possible because of the generosity of donors, she said.

While Mackenzie was reluctant to go to camp in 2018, Fagan said, with encouragement she went and had a great time.

“She had an absolute blast and she gave herself her first injection at camp. It was good for her to be around other kids going through the same thing,” Fagan said.

Fast forward to July 2019 and Mackenzie was extremely excited about going to camp, her mother said.

The campers enjoy numerous outdoors activities such as swimming, canoeing and archery,” Fagan said.

“And they have these sweet talks where they talk about their diabetes. Overall, it’s a week of fun for them. It’s been over two weeks now and (Mackenzie) still talks to the girls she was in camp with,” Fagan said.

For more information, visit diabetes.ca or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).

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