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Oklahoma teens can learn to manage diabetes at retreat

Oklahoma City — The teen years are marked by transitions, as parents' duties gradually become the child's responsibility.

It's a process marked by spurts and sputters, false starts and leaps, and it can be even more fraught if a life-threatening condition is part of the mix.

The Harold Hamm Diabetes Center is offering a retreat in January for teens who are trying to navigate managing diabetes as their bodies and lives change. The center generally offers Camp Blue Hawk each summer for youth with diabetes, but the retreat offers a chance to focus on teens as they take over their diabetes management, said Elvie Ellis, the center's pediatric diabetes camp coordinator.

“The main focus is going to be their independence in their diabetes care,” he said.

The teens will meet Jan. 13-15 at River Bend Lodge in Davis. Cost is $125, though scholarships are available.

The retreat is geared toward youth ages 13 to 17 who have Type 1 diabetes, a condition where the body no longer produces enough insulin to manage blood sugar levels. People who have Type 1 diabetes need to use insulin to prevent a dangerous buildup of blood sugar, which can damage their organs. On the other hand, they also need to make sure their blood sugar levels don't get too low, which can cause seizures, coma or death.

The group will talk about teen-specific topics, like driving safely with diabetes and how to talk to friends or dates about their condition, Ellis said. The professionals at the retreat also will reinforce the importance of carefully tracking the carbohydrates they eat, and the amount of insulin needed with each meal or snack.

They hope the teens will benefit from discussing their experiences while participating in camp activities, Ellis said. Stress, food, exercise, illnesses and the changes of puberty all can skew blood sugar readings, and some teens are too hard on themselves or find managing their diabetes overwhelming.

“If that is constantly a negative, beating-up-on-themselves experience, we want to help them process that,” he said. “Some of it is honestly kind of out of the kids' control.”

Participants cannot have been hospitalized for diabetes in the past six months, and need an A1C blood sugar level no higher than 12. The A1C gives a picture of a person's blood sugar levels over the past three months. For more information, visit

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›