Parents who have children with chronic health problems can learn how to relieve stress on themselves as well as their
offspring and foster mutual respect and cooperation at an all-day conference Saturday at Fort Lewis College.
It's important to pay attention to make sure you're parenting correctly," said Liza Tregillus, a social worker at the
San Juan Basin Health Department and one of the conference coordinators. It's too easy to see children as victims and
protect them rather than see them as survivors and empower them."
Tregillus knows whereof she speaks. She spent 22 years dealing with her four children's ongoing health problems that
included auditory memory loss, epilepsy, recurring but inexplicable lung collapses, a bone tumor and sudden hearing
It was like the Chinese water torture," Tregillus said. I often thought it would be easier to have one big issue than
Tregillus thinks the conference presenters - Dr. Foster Cline, an author and international speaker, and Lisa Greene, an
educator with two children with cystic fibrosis - can help participants avoid some of the on-the-job training that she
went through. Foster and Greene are the authors of Parenting Children with Health Issues.
Cline and Greene will offer parents tips about how to motivate children to make wise choices about food and
medications; foster responsibility without nagging, lecturing, yelling or bribing; end power struggles, arguing and
whining; and talk to children about issues such as life expectancy.
Stella Best, whose 16-year-old daughter lives with Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes, said a child's illness isn't borne
only by the youngster.
The ripples go through the whole family," Best said. We have to go to Colorado Springs every three months because
there are no endocrinologists in Durango, we help her through illnesses such as a pancreatic virus that kept her out of
school for half a semester, we see her through mood swings, and we make sure her emotional needs are met."
Best, administrator for Animas Valley Audiology, said her daughter is tough and independent but prefers that her name
not be used.
Dr. Jennifer Heinicke, a hospitalist at Mercy Regional Medical Center, has dealt with the cystic fibrosis of 5-year-old
daughter Annelise since birth.
She was swallowing pills before she was potty trained," Heinicke said. They're on the brink of a cure - a drug by
2012 - for the 3 percent of CF patients with her genetic makeup. Another drug for everyone is coming along."
The good news highlights the advancement made in treating cystic fibrosis, Heinicke said. In the 1980s, the life
expectancy of a person with the disease was 18 years. Today, it's 38 years.
Heinicke's husband, Courtney, looks after Annelise in the morning. She pulls the afternoon shift. Annelise takes two
inhaled medications to clear her airways twice a day for 20 minutes and five pills with every meal as well as other
medications. The tot swallows up to 35 pills a day.
We try to have Annelise live as normal a life as possible," Heinicke said. She has sleepovers with friends, and we
have a portable generator that we take camping so her treatment continues."
Heinicke, also a conference coordinator, has heard Cline and Greene speak on another occasion. Participants should pick
up a good number of parenting skills, she said.
Traci Smith, an administrative assistant at the La Plata County Sheriff's Office while she studies for a career in
radiology, said living with a teenage child with Type 1 diabetes can be a roller coaster.
The teens are the hardest age," Smith said, speaking about daughter Ciara, 15. The teens come with a challenge."
Ciara, who received the diagnosis of diabetes at age 7, conscientiously tests her blood sugar five times a day and
self-administers insulin when needed, Smith said. But Smith checks in on her from time to time.
I have to buzz her about it when she's tired of being diabetic," Smith said.
Ciara's diabetes posed a problem with some classmates in elementary school, Smith said.
Those who didn't know about Type 1 diabetes thought she was contagious," Smith said. It affected her relationship
Smith has attended diabetes-education workshops but said she gets more out of talking to parents with children with