Hello, my name is Sarah Wellford and I am from Mechanicsville, VA! I am a rising senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Microbiology and I expect to graduate in May 2018. This is my first time interning for JDRF and I am honored to be able to work with quite an amazing group this summer!
I was 13 and it was the very last day in January of 2009 on a Friday when I went to the doctor and my life changed forever. My mom thought I was going through a growth spurt because I was eating and drinking a lot of fluids and she wanted to make sure everything was okay. The doctor tested my blood sugar and told me and my mom that we needed to go to the hospital. The next few days were busy in finding out more about type 1 diabetes (T1D) as well as meeting with an endocrinologist and diabetes counselor to talk about the best ways to manage this chronic disease.
Before I was diagnosed, I only knew a few things about T1D because my grandfather on my mother’s side had it since he was very young. He was always testing his blood sugar and as he got older, he eventually ended up in the hospital because of his T1D. I thought that was how my life was going to be- always in the hospital and being sick all the time. As I started readjusting my life, it became clear to me that it didn’t have to be a life full of hospital visits or feeling like less of a person because of this disease. I was still able to play on my school’s tennis team (I was #2 on the ladder), play piano (10 years strong), and still able to participate in my high school’s show choir and travel to competitions.
I have managed my diabetes well with the support of my family and friends, but this summer was the first time that I fully immersed myself into a group of people who have T1D and it changed my outlook on it. Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to the Students with Diabetes National Conference in Orlando, FL that Nicole Johnson (Miss America ’99) hosted for 140 young people living with T1D to attend and meet others with the same condition. Shortly after, I started my internship at JDRF Advocacy on June 5th and met even more people with T1D. Being around these people has helped me to not feel out of place because of carb counting, finger pricks, or that I have a device on my hip that acts as my pancreas. I recently began using the Medtronic MiniMed 630G insulin pump system in April and am waiting on the new hybrid closed loop 670G (artificial pancreas) system to be mailed in about a month! All of this new technology that is coming out now makes this summer a perfect time to be interning at JDRF. Through working with JDRF Advocacy’s Regulatory team, I have also had the chance to read up on new technologies that are coming through the pipeline in the next few years.
I am excited to see what the rest of the summer at JDRF has in store for me as we get closer to Children’s Congress at the end of July. The Delegates, children and teenagers with T1D from all around the country (and six other countries) will be coming into Washington, D.C. and talking to their Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill about their stories with T1D as well as socializing with fellow Delegates. It will be a busy, but rewarding time preparing for this event and I am grateful that I can be a part of an event that I would want my 13 year-old self to be proud of!