Of all the activities I have done with JDRF over the past seven years, none affected me as much as traveling to Washington, D.C., to tell my story at JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress. Until recently, I was the only student at my school with type 1 diabetes (T1D), so I did not know how connecting with so many kids with T1D in one room would impact me. When I met others with T1D upon arriving at the event, there was a feeling of understanding. The burden of explaining myself had been lifted. For one of the first times in my life, having diabetes felt normal.
Being at JDRF Children’s Congress gave me a feeling of empowerment knowing that I’m not alone. One example of this occurred the first night after swimming with my new friends. My pump site fell off when I turned over in my sleep and this caused an unnoticed pump failure. Tuesday morning I threw up multiple times because my blood sugar was so high. My parents couldn’t bring it down. I was frustrated that my pump failed because I had to miss part of the morning’s activities. Most importantly, I felt horrible. However, I don’t think there could be a better place to wake up sick from high blood sugars than at Children’s Congress, where almost everyone had been through the same situation. They understood what I was feeling. Many friends told me they had also had dangerously high blood sugars, but now they were able to stop it before it started by using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
While in DC, our mission was to ask our members of Congress to sign onto the ‘Medicare CGM Access Act’ bill, so that people of all ages could have access to a CGM. My dad and I told our Senate staffers the story of Tuesday morning to explain how passing this bill can support all people with T1D, no matter how old.
Even though I’m back in Birmingham, Alabama now, the mission of JDRF Children’s Congress continues for me and my family. Being in Washington inspired me to find more ways to promote awareness of T1D and raise funds. I have explained to many of my friends how breathtaking it was to interact with the kids and adults there. I have shared my story with other people newly diagnosed with T1D by speaking at our local JDRF One Walk™ kickoff last week. I have even encouraged one of my friends with T1D to apply for the next JDRF Children’s Congress when applications open up again late next summer.
JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress has truly changed my life. When 163 people with T1D speak with our ‘One Voice,’ it gives new meaning to the saying “strength in numbers.” Of course, more is not better when it comes to the number of people newly diagnosed with T1D each year. But more can be better when it applies to diabetes advocacy. JDRF Children’s Congress has given me hope for a new normal!