danvance_120Boy Scout Troop 1230 of Mankato, Minnesota, could be the first in America consisting entirely of members with a a specific disability. (If you know of another, please email.) Their disability is type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, which a National Institutes of Health website defines as a lifelong disease, often beginning in childhood, when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.

In a telephone interview, Scoutmaster Vickie Parsons said, "I'm a pediatric nurse practitioner at Mankato Clinic and work with about 80 kids with type 1 diabetes from southern Minnesota. The idea began when the mother of an affected child asked about whether we knew of another child with type 1 diabetes her daughter could meet."

The next day, a physician, who also was the father of another affected girl, asked the same question. The physician happened to be a Boy Scout leader and knew the Scouts accepted boys and girls. In time, a Type 1 diabetes troop was born.

Given the age range of children, the boy/girl mix, and the substantial physical limitations of children with type 1 diabetes, Troop 1230 employs a specially designed, adaptive program. It meets six times a year for outings, including one overnight camp.

Said Parsons, "(Type 1 diabetes) never goes away. Each time someone with it eats carbohydrate foods, they have to give themselves a shot. A kid will take at least three insulin shots a day and sometimes up to eight. Some kids wear (insulin) pumps, which are inserted every three days. An active kid might have to poke her finger to draw blood ten times a day (to discern her blood sugar level)."

Type 1 diabetes symptoms vary considerably depending on whether the person's blood sugar is too high or low, with worst-case scenarios leading to ketoacidosis, seizures or death.

Said Parsons, "At camp, the kids get to do all the fun stuff just like the other kids. We have adults and counselors with type 1 diabetes to show them there isn't anything they can't do."

The "troop" was the best thing her clinic had done so far to help kids with type 1 diabetes, she said. Often these children feel isolated and different because of their physical limitations, and don't know other children with the same disability. The group also facilitates parents meeting parents.

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