This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan Chapter JDRF Diabetes Today and Tomorrow Conference. This was significant for a few different reasons:
1. It’s my first JDRF event in…well, years. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but I guess I haven’t really felt the need or desire to go to any events until recently. I donate every year to the JDRF, but it had been a long while since I was at a JDRF sponsored event. Now that I have a little more free time, I wanted to become more involved. And that’s exactly what I plan to do. After meeting people at the conference, I’m looking forward to becoming involved in the local YLC (young leadership committee) of JDRF.
2. Not only was I attending the conference, I was on a panel at it! I was assigned to speak on a panel at the Teen Central, talking about my personal experiences with diabetes to a room full of teenagers. I have to admit, this session was completely eye opening. I was on a panel with 3 other inspiring type 1 diabetics who each had interesting and amazing stories to share. When we started engaging the teenagers, I was shocked at the stories that most of these teens had when it came to the treatment by teachers, substitutes, principles, students, and the like. Substitutes not letting them treat a low or leave to check their blood sugar. Teachers not understanding the urgency of a situation. Principles telling a student to put her pump in her locker even after explaining what it is. Gym teachers making a student keep running even when she said she felt low (testing in the 20s). A coach informing a teen that they could try out for the team but wouldn’t be able to play on it. And the stories went on. They all went on to say how they told their parents, who then called the school and dealt with the situation, but I was so surprised that these instances even happened in the first place.
Hearing the teen’s stories made me so appreciative for the supportive and understanding environment that I had while I was in school. Maybe I lived in a naive or sheltered diabetes bubble, but I never had situations like the ones being described by the teens at the conference. If I didn’t treat a low in class, it was because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, not because someone told me I couldn’t. All my restrictions were self-imposed. It truly made me realize how important it is to educate both students and faculty about type 1 diabetes. Even with 504 plans, there still seemed to be some misunderstanding when it came to the needs of the diabetic students.
3. I had the opportunity to meet people from the DOC, my first D-meet up! I was very excited to meet Mike from DiabetesMine, Tim from BleedingFinger and Andrea. These were the first people that I have met from the DOC in person after following them on twitter and reading their blogs, so it was very exciting to have the opportunity to talk with them.
Over all it was a great conference. I learned quite a bit and look forward to becoming more involved with JDRF in the future.