There are only so many things that will get a college student motivated enough to wake up at 7:00 on a Saturday morning and walk 5k on an autumn day in Minnesota when it is barely above freezing temepratures. For me, it was the chance to meet with other Type 1 diabetics to make a difference. For the other three people from our student group, it was probably my incessant calls, text messages, and emails. With election time right around the corner, I consider myself lucky for being a self-appointed president as the result of a mutiny.
I started the student group S.H.O.T.s (Students Helping Other Type 1s) on the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities campus, and for some reason this was legitimate enough that people decided to join the group I guess that’s the difference between the United States and the University of Minnesota “democratic systems” while neither of them is actually democratic, in one a mutiny is accepted without question.
The name S.H.O.T.s is the brain child of one of my supervisors, Jennifer Smith. I work as a clinical research assistant at Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet and I get endless support from all of my coworkers there. The name is catchy, but misleading. We want not only students with Type 1 diabetes in our group, but any student at the University of Minnesota. Everyone is affected by diabetes, and therefore we want everyone in our group, whether it be siblings of type 1 diabetcs, friends of diabetics, Type 2 diabetics, students pursuing a career in the public health, or just students that would like to be better informed about the difficulties of the daily struggle with Type 1 diabetes that many people on campus struggle with.
The purpose of S.H.O.T.s is to not only provide support and resources for students that have to struggle with the less common form of diabetes, it’s also to promote awareness among fellow students on campus. November is diabetes awareness month, but what we find is that most people are only aware of Type 2 diabetes and have very little knowledge about Type 1.
Type 1 diabetes, or insulin-dependent diabetes is an autoimmune diesease in which the some of the cells in the pancreas perceive the insulin producing cells as foreign and kill those cells causing the person to lose almost all ability to produce insulin. Insulin is necessary in order to break down the glucose or sugar in the body. Formerly known as juvenielle diabetes, Type 1 is most commonly diagnosed in children under 18, but can be diagnosed at any age. People who are diagnosed withType 1 often suffer from high blood glucose levels for months before a diasnosis and experience symptoms such as increased thirst and urination. Once they are diagnosed they have to take daily insulin injections or use an insulin pump to control their blood glucose levels. Type 1 diabetics also have to routinely check their levels by a finger poke. The doctor who generally oversees diabetics are called endocrinologists. Tight blood glucose control is important in order to prevent long term complications such as diabetic retinopathy and kidney damage.
When I first started college at the University of Minnesota campus, I felt like I was the only who had to deal with the disease lately, it was such a large campus there wasn’t a good way to connect to other students. Now I’m engaged to someone else who has Type 1. In meetings we often discuss common problems regarding control and difficulties we encounter, and it is always helpful to learn from other people’s experience and mistakes. I try to promote an open environment in which we can discuss any topic.
Another aspect of our group is fund raising money for diabetes research especially through the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and JDRF. So far we have volunteered at the ADA diabetes expo in which healthy living was promoted and visitors could get screened and talk with experts. We also raised money for the ADA Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and four of us walked 5k. We also have meetings every other week.
Type 1 diabetics never get a day off.
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