Prom Season is here! Which is a big moment in life, all on its own. But with diabetes added into the mix, the experience can become challenging for teens and families worried about insulin pumps in prom dresses, or blood sugar swings that might impact the fun.
Luckily some teens with diabetes
are able to team up to face this challenge, thanks to connecting through great programs like the annual Children with Diabetes Friends For Life conference. That was the case recently for two teens from Kentucky and Virginia, who've had a longtime
friendship since meeting 15 years ago at the
very first CWD FFL event.
Here’s their story as told by D-Mom Julia Mattingly, one of the “FFL originals” whose family was at the very first gathering at Disneyworld Florida back in 2000. She now serves as the group's registration coordinator and all-around “volunteer for whatever’s needed,” helping make this event what it is. She and her husband Ed have been married for 20 years, and they have two children: Ethan, who has type 1, and a non-D daughter Hannah who’s in college.
Julia tells us how Ethan and a CWD friend decided to "prom-swap" and how that went down:
A Guest Post by Julia Mattingly
What a crazy, fun time of year Senior Prom Season is! Whether you are a guy or gal there is lots to consider -- tux, dress, hair, nails, makeup, flowers, limos, dinner… the list goes on and on. OH!!! But wait… there’s more!
My son Ethan has celiac, and both he and his date Kaeli have diabetes. AND to top it all off, their prom also included airline tickets, to and from Louisville, KY, where we live, and Suffolk, VA, where Kaeli and her family live.
They met many years ago at the Children With Diabetes, Friends For Life conference in Orlando, FL. Ethan was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 10 months old, and Kaeli was 2 years old. Our families have been attending the event for many years and this July will be our 16th year.
Ethan and Kaeli have moved through all the age groups together and have become good friends. A couple of years ago, the two of them started hanging out together with a group of 10 or 12 other teens from all over the United States. They all stay in touch throughout the year, counting the days to the next conference -- making plans for visiting the theme parks, dinner or just hanging out at the pools. There is a bond that is made attending these conferences. Not just with the children with diabetes, but also with their siblings and the parents. I think there is a comfort zone there, because we all “get it.”
So last summer, the two of them decided they would take each other to their respective proms.
Kaeli’s mom and I met years ago at one of the FFL conferences in the Mom’s session. As we headed into the prom swap season, we had many text messages and a few phone calls discussing gluten-free food and diabetes care for each of the kids. We each made sure we had a medical release accompany the kids when they were in our care, for just in case. Luckily we didn’t have to use them.
Finally, Ethan’s prom night rolled around on Friday, March 27, and Kaeli arrived here in Kentucky, a little later than expected with a delayed flight. Ethan went to the airport to pick her up. They went for lunch then came back to the house to start getting ready for the prom. A group of 14 of Ethan’s friends and most of their parents, grandparents, few aunts, uncles and cousins gathered here at our house for pictures. A little while later, a limo picked them up to take them to dinner and on to the prom.
Ethan left with pockets full of glucose tabs in case of an unexpected low and a meter. Kaeli’s purse had her supplies tucked safely away. Prom was to last until midnight, but the limo pulled back up here at the house right around midnight to deliver the kids back to their cars. Several came in, changed clothes and then they were back out the door and off to the after-party and breakfast. My famous last words were, "Be sure to check your blood sugar and have a good time!"
The two of them rolled in early the next morning, starving, so I fixed bacon and scrambled eggs. We all sat around the kitchen listening to the stories from the evening. I am happy to announce there were no diabetes issues either of them had to deal with. It was a good night!
Then, two weeks later on April 9, Ethan left for Virginia to attend Kaeli’s prom. Luckily he made it to and from without any delays. I have to add that it is really a trick to pack a weekend of clothes with a tux and shoes, and pray for no wrinkles. Once again a group of 30 gathered for pictures. Ethan said they went to a couple different friends’ houses of Kaeli’s for pictures, and then on to dinner and prom… plus the after-party and breakfast again, of course!
These were Ethan’s first proms, but he has been to several other school-related dances. Actually, back in November he flew to Suffolk to attend another dance with Kaeli. As a mother, you have a head full of emotions when you send your child on a flight alone with a layover in some airport in another city, praying no delays. Then add in the diabetes -- a high, a low -- and the emotions multiply!
I know we have taught Ethan how to take care of himself and he does a great job. Checking his blood sugar at least 4 or 6 times a day is pretty good for a teenager. He wears an Animas Ping insulin pump, and for now has no interest in a CGM. He says he just does not want another thing attached to him, and I respect his choice. So after I go through everything in my mind that can possibly go wrong, and know he can handle it… I step back, take a breath, give him a hug and watch him go out the door.
Ethan will be volunteering at the Friends for Life conference this summer in the elementary group. He is looking forward to giving back for all the fun and education he has had over the years. Sadly, most of the group of teens have other commitments this summer and will not be attending, so this last “before college” conference will be a bit different.
This fall, Ethan will be attending the University of Kentucky and Kaeli will be attending James Madison University in Virginia.
But despite the distance between the two of them, and whether they attend any more dances together, they’ll always have Children with Diabetes and Friends For Life conferences. The friendships these children and parents make are truly for life… and who knows, you may even find a date for the prom!
Very cool story, Julia! Great to hear about these connections, and I personally can't wait for my chance to attend FFL for the second time this July!