Learning to manage diabetes was the theme of the third annual Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) Al Tahadi Camp, which was held from 6 to 11 October 2012.
Organized by the Qatar Foundation (QF) member, the residential camp, for 30 boys aged 12 to 16 with Type 1 diabetes, emphasized the importance of regular blood-sugar monitoring and managing the condition by leading a healthy lifestyle.
For the first time in the camp’s history, teenagers from the UAE and Kuwait joined local QDA patients. Participants took part in workshops on diabetes and nutrition. There were also three daily sport sessions, including activities such as football, swimming, martial arts, and bowling.
Mohammed Khalid Al Saadi, Challenge Youth Camp Manager and Ambassador About Diabetic People in Qatar, said: “The boys are in their teenage years and so are of an age when they are able to take responsibility for their diabetes. They are probably going out, socializing and spending time with friends, and so they need to know what to carry with them to monitor their diabetes, for example.
“It’s important for Type 1 diabetes patients to check their blood sugar levels regularly. By monitoring, they can prevent complications. For example, if their blood sugar is low, they can take carbohydrates to stabilize levels before they suffer the full effects of hypoglycemia. “We ensure that the teenagers are using the correct technique while testing. Often they need to learn how regularly they need to check, as everyone is different. The boys test every two hours, up to midnight, on the camp to try to establish an understanding of their diabetes and perhaps when they are likely to have high or low blood sugar so that they can alter their behavior accordingly.
“We also advise them on the type of insulin they are using, and may suggest alternative methods of administration.” Eating the right food at the correct time is essential in the management of diabetes.
QDA nutritionist Ayah Hassan said: “We educate the boys about eating healthily. They are taught about what they can enjoy and when, and the consequences of eating the wrong types of food, so that they make the best choices.
“For example, they often don’t know that drinking fruit juice is the fastest way to increase blood-sugar levels. Being a liquid, it is quickly absorbed into the body. Managing diabetes is all about avoiding the highs and lows in blood-sugar levels, and so we run a challenge within the camp, awarding the participant who manages to keep their sugar levels the most stable throughout.”
Daily swimming sessions were hosted at Awsaj Recreation Center for the Al Tahadi participants, while the boys also enjoyed bowling at the Hamad bin Khalifa University Student Center. “Sport is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle and can be used in diabetes management,” trainer Ahmad Ali Mustafa said. “The boys need to learn what they can do. After checking their blood sugar, to ensure that it is stable, they can take part in both aerobic and strength training. How much training is determined by their own individual condition, but this can be between 30 minutes and one hour. We also remind them to monitor their sugar level afterwards, too.”
Other activities helped develop a sense of camaraderie among the participants. Al Saadi said: “They definitely learn a lot from each other. Whether this is the regularity of blood-sugar monitoring or the different types of insulin each boy is using. The camp has a serious educational message but it’s also a chance for them to get to know fellow diabetes patients and share their experiences.”
Camp participant Hassan Khalil said: “We’ve learned how to monitor our blood sugar before and after sports like football and swimming. It’s been good fun, as I enjoy swimming. I’d like to do more of it when I can.”
All QDA staff were involved with the camp, whether attending or as office support. Al Saadi added: “We are also grateful to our five volunteers who have helped on the camp. They are invaluable in supporting QDA’s medical and nutritional staff.”