"At first we were in complete denial," said Suzanne Ramaille about her daughter Allia's diabetes. "It can't be, we said - the doctors must have made some mistake."
But there was no mistake. Allia, then 31/2, indeed had diabetes and would need to have an insulin shot daily.Nearly three years later, Maher and Suzanne Ramaille can laugh about the furor that erupted in their lives with their daughter's diagnosis. Maher told the nurses that he would be hiring a nurse to administer insulin shots. They told him that Allia could not leave the hospital until her parents were confident in giving shots.
"They brought in oranges and needles so thin you can break them with your fingers. I told them, `This is an orange! That's our daughter!' " Suzanne said. "But we practiced and Maher and I even gave each other shots of a saline solution until we could give Allia her shot."
The Ramailles found that Allia's diabetes affected the entire family. "The older girls (Sharifa, 12, and Anisa, 10) were sympathetic and the younger one (Summer, 4) was jealous," she laughed. "Summer wanted Equal (artificial sweetener) on her cereal and told us she needs her protein at night before she goes to bed. You find that the family all goes through it - I would feel sorry for the child going through it alone," Suzanne said.
Luckily for the Ramaille family, the Utah Affiliate of the American Diabetes Association holds summer camp each year for diabetic children and their families. "We found out about Allia's diabetes in April, and in August we were able to go to camp. I was just starting to get used to dealing with it - camp was a great boost," Suzanne said.
Camp UTADA had its beginnings in 1962 sponsored by the Utah Diabetes Foundation. There were just 16 campers and a volunteer staff of five. Since 1975 it has been sponsored by the Utah Affiliate of the American Diabetes Association and enrollment now is 260 campers with 160 staff each year. More than 3,000 children have been served by this camp, which is accredited by the American Camping Association.
"They have tents and cabins for us. We don't have to worry about bringing food or utensils. There's nothing to bring but pillows and sleeping bags," Suzanne said. "It's the ideal way to camp with the family and it's worth 10 times what they charge you to go. The food is wonderful and we eat like diabetics up there."
The volunteer staff at Camp UTADA includes physicians, nurses, dieticians and social workers. The health professionals teach the children how to administer their own insulin shots and monitor their blood sugar four times daily.
Allia Ramaille has learned to do her own blood testing, and she records it in her log. She understands what kind of food she should eat and how to tell if her blood sugar is low. She will start kindergarten in several weeks.
Camp also introduced her to other children with diabetes. "It's great for the children," Suzanne said. "They find a whole bunch of kids their own age with diabetes, so they don't feel like an oddball."
Family camps are Aug. 19-21 and Aug. 26-28. The family camps will be held at the new Camp Wapiti facility in Tooele. The program is supported by private donations and camper fees. The Utah Affiliate of the American Diabetes Association sponsors fund-raising activities to help families pay their way to camp. Scholarships are available to help those unable to pay. Pledges are appreciated to sponsor needy campers. Those interested in donating may send checks to American Diabetes Association, Utah Affiliate, Camp UTADA Camperships, 643 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84102. Donations are tax-deductible and receipts will be sent.