This summer has been a whirlwind with Children’s Congress, Promise to Remember Me kicking off and looking ahead to the Special Diabetes Program renewal , however, we have been fortunate enough to have four, energetic interns working in the Advocacy office to keep us focused. They have all left us and returned to their respective schools, however, we did not let them go before asking each of them about their experience at Children’s Congress. We already introduced you to Bella, Michelle and Beth. Now it is time for you to meet Kate:
I was sitting in the third hour of my four-hour nursing pharmacology class, and ‘Insulin’ just so happened to be the lecture topic. After being a T1D for 8 years (at that point in time), I felt like I had the subject mastered. So I did what most other bored college students do, and surfed the Internet while my professor rambled on about insulin peak times. Thinking about what I wanted to do that summer, I typed in, “Diabetes Camps.” All I wanted to find was a diabetes camp where I could be on the medical team, but I found something so much better, the Students with Diabetes organization; a group whose outreach is for college students who are living with T1D.
That summer I flew to Tampa for the very first large event with Students with Diabetes. Having no previous connection to other people with T1D, or any sort of diabetes camp experience, my world was turned upside down. I never knew how great it could be to sit down with a group of people who understood me so well, and who laughed when every single person quickly checked their pumps after hearing that forewarning “beep, beep, beep.” The past two years have been further enriched with even more T1D buddies (or as I like to call them, ‘diabesties’), JDRF walks, and my own Students with Diabetes group at school. It’s because of Students with Diabetes that I was given the resources to apply for this internship in the JDRF Advocacy office, and for that I will be forever grateful.
A year after becoming involved with Students with Diabetes I applied for the JDRF Advocacy internship. After being accepted, I was elated to find out that I would be helping out on planning for 2013 Children’s Congress! Throughout the preparations for the event, I was overwhelmed by the exuberant amount of talent, intelligence, and raw passion exhibited by the delegates. However, what I read on a page paled in comparison to finally meeting the delegates in person. These young “advocates in training” each brought a special light with them, and I believe I was given just a glimpse of their capabilities to shine.
While I expected to get little sleep and face some of my own diabetes challenges throughout the event, I didn’t expect the struggles of the delegates themselves to impact me so deeply. Most of my experience has been with T1Ds who are old enough to take care of themselves, so when I saw a younger delegate give the thumbs down motion and a little frown during the “Promise to Remember Me” song – indicating to her dad that she was low – it instantly struck a chord with me. This instance was just one of the hundreds of low blood sugars that I witnessed over the course of the three-day event. These unfortunate occurrences took away many delegates from the moment and mandated their guardians to not only keep a closer eye on them, but an eye on their blood sugars. The positive aspect of course was that within this community, no one was really ever alone; every delegate experienced ups and downs, despite having the fastest insulin available, a carb count chart for every meal, or even the newest continuous glucose monitor. Sometimes even the most prepared among us T1Ds face daily challenges as well, and that was on display at CC13. That is why we so desperately need a cure!
Being around these kids with T1D was so great for me, it was motivational and inspirational at every turn, and the interaction I had with five-year old delegate Charlie from Texas left me with a lasting impression. As I held him in my lap, waiting for his mom to arrive in the hearing room, Charlie traced the letters on my medical ID bracelet, and in his cute little voice said, “Diabetes.” No five-year old should ever have the word diabetes in their vocabulary to begin with! Along with everything else I learned from a firsthand perspective of working at JDRF’s Children’s Congress, this helped me gain a sense of urgency and passion to advocate even harder for the cause.
I’d like to simply say this to the delegates and their families:
Now that Children’s Congress is over, and your blue-shirted buddies may not be standing next to you, I encourage you to stay in touch and empower eachother throughout the year. Continue to share your stories, and maybe even attend a ‘Promise’ meeting or two. Last but not least, I leave you with a quote that has empowered me.
“Be like a wind chime. Maybe the world needs to hear the wind blowing through your circumstance.” -Unknown