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Being a diabetic makes her just one of the gang now

September 01, 2006|Melissa Pamer | Times Staff Writer

On a Sunday in October 2004, Katie Shubat completed a 5K Walk to Cure Diabetes in support of the work toward eradicating her younger brother's disease. By that Wednesday, after being rushed to the hospital, the 9-year-old found out she also had diabetes.

Katie was groggy and had lost a lot of weight before her diagnosis. Her throat was so swollen she couldn't eat. She spent three days at Children's Hospital in San Diego, getting pumped full of fluids.

"I just remember a lot of tubes," said Katie, now 11. "I was kind of shocked."

The next summer, Katie and her three younger siblings -- including her diabetic brother, Patrick, who's now 7 -- went with their mother, Mary Beth Shubat, to a three-day family camp run by Diabetic Youth Services.

Shubat allowed Katie to go back for a week of individual camp. She shared a cabin with other diabetic girls and enjoyed activities such as archery and rock climbing and especially swimming. "It's a really awesome camp," she said.

"It was a great experience for her because she could spend time with other kids who are diabetic and feel normal," Shubat said.

Returning this July to Camp Conrad-Chinnock, in the San Bernardino Mountains, Katie had something new to talk about -- and to discuss in the camp's "Med Ed" program. She had just been outfitted with an insulin pump, a small delivery system that some diabetics wear to administer insulin without frequent injections. Katie said she got some tips from other campers who also had pumps.

"It's just really nice because they're not asking, 'Oh, what's that?' " she said. Katie said strangers will sometimes stop her to ask about her pump, which resembles a small BlackBerry with a clear tube leading to her abdomen. With a roll of her large blue-green eyes, Katie said she responds to such "annoying questions" matter-of-factly: "I'm a diabetic. This is an insulin pump. It does not have any games on it."

When she grows up, Katie wants to be a pediatric endocrinologist so she can help children with diabetes, "because I just know what other kids are going through," she said.

In the meantime, after she turns 16, Katie hopes to be a counselor-in-training at Camp Conrad-Chinnock. "It's just really fun," she said, "and it makes you want to go back every year."

Katie was among the 10,000 children who were able to attend camp this summer thanks to $1.6 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

Donations this summer totaled $880,000 as of Wednesday. Those contributions will permit underprivileged children to enjoy summer camp next year.

The annual fundraising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1.1 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.

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