The Nurse Misplaced Her Brain

Nurse almost kills diabetic camper. Well, not exactly.

My best friend Elizabeth and I had just gotten out of the car after a three hour car ride to girl scout camp in the summer of 2009. Neither of us were technically girl scouts, but hey, who cares. It’s a whole week of just having plain old fun.

Diabetes Camp Nurse

But my dad was pretty nervous about me going to a camp alone without any parents or a staff of medical personal helping me manage my diabetes.
I was convinced that I would be fine. I can count carbs. I can so my own set. I’ll be okay. Calm down Dad.

The three of us march inside and get checked in. Then we go in search of the nurse.
We find her at a table taking other girls’ medicines and bagging them.
“Hi, I’m Minnie,” she says.

Let me stop right here and tell you that all the staff had weird nicknames. To this day I don’t know what Minnie’s real name is.

My dad introduces us and we get to talking about diabetes.
Minnie tells us that she is totally hip to diabetes. So Dad need not worry, right?
Am I on a pump or injections? A pump.
Can I count my own carbs? Dad tells Minnie that I’m really good at it, but it would be nice if she could help.
Can I do my own set changes? Yes, but a little help there also.
Lows and highs? I can feel both pretty quickly. And may I just add here that I was loaded down with a bag of smarties and a box of juice.
Would I please go to the nurse before meals to tell her my number and check in? And after meals to tell her my carbs and amount of insulin. Okay, sure.

Finally, Elizabeth, Dad, and I head over to our cabin to tell the counselor about diabetes.

And then Dad leaves. Freedom!

Elizabeth and I start the week off on a high note. Having fun, doing trail rides, building pyramids out of newspaper, that sort of thing.

The first day of camp was on a Sunday, but now it’s Tuesday after lunch.
“Did you have the sugar-free cookie?” Minnie asks after hearing my carb count.
“No,” I said.
She looks at me a little incredulously. “No? But you need to have sugar-free.”
“Nobody’s ever told me to have sugar-free,” I said. “It doesn’t matter.
“Actually it does matter sweety, in the long run.”
“Okay,” I said. But I went right back to ignoring the sugar-free menu.

On Wednesday during breakfast Minnie showed up at my table with sugar-free waffles and sugar-free syrup. Everyone else was eating pancakes. I accept them but go on eating pancakes with the regular syrup.

At lunch my blood-sugar was 170 but Minnie freaked out. Don’t get me wrong, but she was saying things like, “Oh my gosh, you’re 170. That’s a little high isn’t it. Well, what are you going to do about it? Do you think that you should still eat lunch right now?”
“I can still eat lunch right now.”
“Well, if you’re sure…”

After that little episode my numbers became “perfect”. If I was 170, she thought I was 120. If I was 70, she thought I was 120.

After lunch I had a set change. I went down to the nurse to do it. She was in the same room while I was changing my insulin and while I did my set. The first set I did would NOT stick to my skin. Both Minnie and I tried to fasten the adhesive to my butt, but it was like oil and water. So we gave it up. The second one didn’t work either. On the third try it stuck somewhat, so I decided to chance it, thinking that if it came off, I would just try again. I had one more left.

After a dance party that night my set fell off. So I went down to the nurse to do another set change. Please, please, please, let this work, I was thinking.
And it did. Well, not completely. It didn’t stick entirely. But I had no choice but to chance it.

“Did you eat the sugar-free pudding?” asked Minnie on my way out.
“Sweety, you really need to eat sugar free,” she said. “It matters when you’re older. You’ll understand.”

At about 1:00 in the morning I woke up feeling totally crappy. My set had come out. And I was about 300.
After getting out of bed I went to wake up Pip, my counselor. It took miles of will-power and an internal battle within my head to convince myself that I really needed to wake up Pip. And then I finally did.
Pip called Minnie who drove up in a pickup truck. I got in the back thinking that we were driving to the nurse’s office but Minnie just held out my bag of diabetes supplies to me. I climb in the front, grab a syringe, and shot myself.
I took the syringes and insulin with me when we went back to the cabin and ended up waking up a couple more times to give myself a shot.

The next morning Pip and Minnie thought that I shouldn’t have any food with sugar in it. I tried to explain that I could have sugar, I just needed to give myself insulin for it. They didn’t listen.
They finally found some oatmeal. It was plain oatmeal, so it didn’t have any sugar. So I told them that it actually had about fifteen carbs but Minnie just brushed my comment aside like an annoying fly. “Actually, it’s the sugar that counts, sweety.”

In an hour my mother arrived and gave me a new set. It actually worked. Surprise, surprise. So maybe I can’t do my own sets.
I was back to normal in no time.

But hey, I endured the antics of a crazy nurse. And that just shows that Diabetes just makes a person more independent, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Teenage Diabetic, Independent Pumper, ย Hater of Diabetes Camp Nurses, Diabetic Camper Because Every Camp is a Diabetes Camp to a Type 1 Diabetic

17 comments / Add your comment below

  1. You rock Claire – great article about “professinals” who are carefully picked out to make sure everything goes according to the plan… long as you can take care of everything yourself. I think you shoud send Minnie a bill for endured emotional distress of not only having to deal with the pump equipment and insulin yourself but also for trying to educate a professional about carb count and sugar. On the other hand, I am glad she wasn’t picked to be a life guard in a swim camp for a bunch of 5 year olds who can’t swim and can’t touch the bottom of the pool…..imagine that madness….and Minnie trying to tell them they are not tall enough to go swimming because that is what it’s all about.
    I am looking forward to your generation replacing current Minnies…it’s fine for Disney but not much else…unless you just want a good laugh.
    Take care girl –

  2. Claire – I love this story!! Glad you ‘survived’ camp….it sounds like a lot of fun despite Minnie’s efforts to keep you ‘healthy’….

  3. It’s hard for me to believe that Minnie is a certified nurse. Minnie should learn more about the carbs and the sugar before arguing with young adults that know what they need for diabetes. I have friends that encountered this problem at Boy Scout camp. It wasn’t quite so bad though. I don’t like that adults do not listen to you when you obviously know what you’re doing- it’s frustrating. I like the article.

  4. Claire!
    First of all, I am so happy you have a blog. Second of all, you are a FANTASTIC writer! I was laughing the whole time :). I hope you keep posting, I think you’ll have some more interesting stories in Mexico. I miss you! We’ll bring you up here to Canada sometime soon, OK?


  5. Hi claire,

    I love your blog and have learned a lot about diabetes from your posts. Hugs.

    Your neighbor, donna

  6. Claire This Rocks!!! Cool Site. I may have to write down some of my crazy experiences with “proffessionals” as well. From teachers to coaches, to dr’s, people like your little nurse friend are everywhere. I think I spoke to your dad about this at your house, but cant remember exactly, but you may want to see what your family or atleast some one can do to educate this poor soul. You know there will be others have to deal with her, and God forbid they listen to her. Good for you!!

  7. Wow! What a great blog Claire. You are so articulate. Your entries are informative and interesting. You have given me new insight into what it takes to manage your diabetes. I am so impressed with your maturity and independence. You keep up the good work and keep inspiring others to do the same. You have a gift! I am so proud of you!! Suzanne

  8. Thanks for commenting everyone!! It made me so happy to see that I had six new comments (and counting)! Before you guys, I had only one other comment, not including my dad.

    Tanja: After camp, my parents debated for a week to see if they should call the girl scout camp and inform them about Minnie, as other less educated diabetics could have followed the wrong information. But there was only one week left so we decided not to. I think my dad regrets not calling them. I also love how Minnie would be fine for Disney, ha ha. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Filip: I know exactly what you mean. Other adults will insist that they are right even though they are actually wrong. People should accept the fact that they don’t know as much as they think they do.

    Katherine: I’m so glad you like my blog! It had no publicity so I put it on Facebook and it apparently worked! I agree with you about Mexico. Did you know that right now it’s about 100 degrees down there? What if my insulin gets cooked? This trip will give me a lot more input about how to travel with diabetes. I miss you too!

    Tom: Yes, I remember telling this story at my house though in a lot less detail. I also have many more storys about dealing with crazy people, though all are less extreme than this camp nurse. And again, we did debate on telling the girl scout camp about her, but there was only one more week of camp after I left. Thanks!

    Suzanne: I’m glad you like it! I don’t think my writing has ever gotten people so worked up! It makes me feel so proud. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!!

  9. Claire, l love your story. I met your dad at our convention in Orlando a couple of weeks ago. He is so much fun to talk with and hang around with. His friend Steve Spangler was giving him tons of grief and teasing him alot (Probably just getting even)

    I am inspired to write a follow up to your story, “Surviving a convention in Orlando as a type II diabetic when Starbucks has a line a mile long”

    Great story, keep writing, you have a real talent for it!

  10. Claire – you rock! I love reading your blog! Your stories are inspirational and humorous with just a touch of seriousness – – all things you will need as your live your life and cope with diabetes. This is a great way for you to reach out to others and to share your leadership and vision about diabetes with all of us.

    Keep up the great work and you should feel so proud of yourself. The next year is going to be filled with so many wonderful adventures, don’t forget to look out the window even if the ride seems boring. Big hugs, Love from the Peters-Toure family

  11. Well, it’s annoying to have a daughter who can write better than I can! Kidding! Proud of you “sweety.” Great story and you’re a special girl.

  12. OH this is SUCH a pet peeve of mine!! How do you convince people that you actually know what’s best for you and that some of the info they believe is actually incorrect??
    I like to ask difficult questions that make people realize they don’t actually know what they’re talking about.
    For example:
    Minne: You should eat sugar free
    Me: Why, exactly, should I eat sugar free?
    Minnie: some explanation that isn’t true
    Me: What effect do carbohydrates have on blood sugar?
    Minnie: no idea
    Me: What macronutrient category does sugar fall into, Minnie: carbohydrate, fat, or protein?
    Minnie: carbohydrate (one would hope she could get this one correct, right?)
    Me: What macronutrient category does a ‘regular’ waffle, a sugar-free waffle, or sugar-free syrup fall into? What do you think the purpose of carb counting is? What influences blood sugar and rate of blood sugar changes? And on and on I would go until:
    Minnie: ok – you must really know what you are talking about. Thanks for teaching me something new today. :o)

    But it does take some time and calm resolve to help lead a horse to water…but you know what they say about that!! :o)

  13. Claire,
    Perhaps you could have spent a little more time educating the nurse in a respectful manner and a lot less time mocking her on your blog. Carb counting is a relatively new concept in diabetic management; perhaps this nurse was not introduced to it when she was in school. When I was in my basic nursing program and was learning about Type 1 diabetes, I was taught, among other things, that the average life span for a type 1 was about 45 to 55 years. A lot has changed since then, fortunately.

    I spent the majority of my professional career in a critical care environment. I kept abreast of changes in diabetic care and management. I became certified in critical care nursing. My IQ is about 140. Yet, I had not heard of “carb counting” or “sets” until just a year or so ago. It was not germane to a critical care environment.

    I was not able to be a camp nurse during most of my career, even though I would have loved to have been. Nurses can seldom manage to get the entire summer off from their regular job in order to take a much lower paying position as a camp nurse. For the past 2 summers I have had the good fortune to be a camp nurse in California. I chose to brush up on pediatric nursing in general and juvenile diabetics (both Type 1 and type 2) in particular.

    Luckily for me, the one camper who had diabetes came to camp with comprehensive, explicit, detailed written instructions. Since she was newly diagnosed she was also accompanied by a home health aide. She was also willing to apprise me of her specific needs as they related to her diabetes. I accepted this challenge of getting up to speed quickly and accurately on Type 1 diabetes.

    I had the option of refusing to allow her to attend camp since I was responsible for the health care of about 130 to 190 other campers as well as 60 staff members every session. I know the risks involved when blood sugar drops too low. Diabetes is not a disease to be treated with a cavalier attitude. Instead, I chose to allow her to attend camp for two separate sessions each summer that she wanted to attend. We established a rapport. There was no condescenfing attitude on either of our parts.

    Was I in the dark about carb counting? Yes. Did I take the time to learn? Yes.

    Perhaps you could take some time to learn more about respect. Not everyone has had all the benefits you have had when it comes to diabetic education. I am sorry your esperience was so frustrating for you. Perhaps if you had taken a more proactive role in teaching you might have made her job a lot less stressful. Both of you would have benefitted.

  14. P.S ” It is better to light one small candle than it is to curse the darkness.”

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