Follow the Gleam

By: Scott M. King

Jane Seley, RN, MPH, MSN, GNP, is a doctoral candidate from New York City and a good friend of mine. Jane has served on our advisory board since the very beginning, over 10 years ago.

What follows is an essay explaining her experience this past summer at Elliott Joslin Camp for Children with Diabetes in Charlton, Massachusetts. I wish I had been to this camp and had Jane care for and teach me when I was a boy!

I choose to share Jane’s words with you because they make me laugh and cry. Her descriptions also made me feel wonderful, like I had been in her shoes.

I’m looking for more editorials like this to print in future issues of Diabetes Health. If you have a good idea that burns inside you, please email me an outline or a 700-word article to

Scott King
26 Years with Diabetes

You Are Outstanding
by Jane Seley, RN, NP, CDE

I recently spent two weeks working at the Elliott Joslin Camp for Children with Diabetes. Although I have been a diabetes educator for over 20 years, I have never lived with diabetes. I wanted to learn what it was really like for children that live with diabetes. Most of all, I wanted to touch their lives in any way that I could. Looking back on my experience, I think they may have touched my life far more than I was able to touch theirs.

The Humalog Bell

When I got to the camp, I had no idea what to expect. I woke up the first day at 6:55 a.m. to the sound of a cheery voice over the loudspeaker system saying "Good Morning Camp Joslin!" I began the day by running to the infirmary to get blood-glucose supplies and insulin and taking them to the senior division cabin (ages 15 to 16).

Then came the hardest part—waking up teenagers! We had a time schedule, and everyone had to have their blood sugar checked before the Humalog Bell went off. That’s right—the Humalog Bell. What a perfect world it would be if we had a Humalog Bell everywhere to remind us that it is time to take our pre-meal insulin.

Then, I was off to the mess hall, where pandemonium reigned as 80 kids with diabetes and their counselors grabbed at food served family style while reading the caloric breakdown on the blackboard and weighing, measuring and estimating their portions on food scales placed on every table.

After breakfast, everyone started pounding the tables with their hands and chanting "Announcements!" The next thing I knew, several campers and counselors came forward and received kudos for joining the "Breakfast Club." What’s that, I asked? That’s when you take everything in your meal plan for breakfast, pour it into one big bowl and eat all of it. This was one club I never wanted to join!

Next thing I knew, the camp director, Paul Madden, came forward to lead the group in a screaming rendition of You (repeat after me), You. Louder. You (You). Are (Are). Outstanding (Outstanding)! I felt my eyes well up with tears as I glanced around the room and witnessed the empowerment of every child in the room. They were all outstanding, and I felt privileged to be there.

Opportunities to Offer Support

Although having fun is a priority at Camp Joslin, there are many opportunities for a nurse to offer guidance and support about diabetes management. Quiet is enforced during ‘bloods and insulins’ so that each camper can focus their attention on their diabetes care. An evaluation is made by the camper—with the help of the nurse—as to how much insulin to take to cover the current blood sugar and expected meal, based on a range provided by the physician on a daily basis. If the camper disagrees with the physician’s recommendations, they visit the infirmary to discuss it.

I had an ongoing opportunity to offer information and instruction regarding blood-glucose monitoring, insulin administration and meal planning. Many of my campers had been reluctant to try alternate-site blood-glucose testing or injecting insulin into certain areas—especially the abdomen or buttocks. Peer pressure and my offer to help often provided the safe environment to try new things. Many campers went home comfortable with procedures they had feared a week earlier.

A Perfect World

What a perfect world the camp was for the campers. Diabetes-care stations were dispersed throughout the camp and refilled daily with blood-glucose monitoring equipment and fast-acting carbohydrates in case of hypoglycemia. Afternoon snacks were brought to the waterfront and the field. Interrupting a ball game to monitor your blood glucose or take some glucose tablets was no big deal. What a wonderful vacation it must be for the campers to not be alone with their diabetes for a change.

Lasting Memories

Of all of my memories of Camp Joslin, the most powerful was the last night ceremony when all the campers marched in silence holding a candle, forming a circle and reciting:

Through the nights in the days of old
Keeping watch on a mountain high
Came a vision of holy grace
And a voice through the waiting night
Follow Follow: Follow the gleam
Banners unfurled, for all the world
Follow Follow: Follow the gleam
For the chalice that is the grail
Follow the Gleam.

And with that, one by one, each person blew out their candle until we all stood in silence in the darkness in a perfect diabetes world, anything but alone. Reminded, once again, that each and every person there is outstanding.



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