On this July Fourth, millions of fireworks, barbecues, and apple pies will commemorate our independence, and the countless number of people who have made an impact on our enduring history. Among the infinitude of great Americans are those who have accomplished much in the face of some type of adversity. Today, I would like to concentrate on type 1 diabetic patriots, those collectively making up the “United States of Pricked Fingers.”
The title may seem odd, but let me explain. All three million type 1 diabetics in the United States prick their fingers, to draw out blood for determining their blood sugar. Over the years, a diabetic’s pricked fingers will become calloused. Besides noticing their insulin pumps, anyone can look at a person’s fingers and immediately determine if they are type 1 diabetic. There are so many glucose meters, so many insulin pumps, so many pricked fingers in the United States that I have dubbed them the “United States of Pricked Fingers,” and it’s evident they have made an incredible impact on the country which celebrates its independence today.
Consider Gary Hall Jr., a swimmer and Olympic Gold medalist who turned a traumatic day of diagnosis into a thriving swimming career. He represented the United States at the Olympics, and made his country proud. Hall came to Children’s Congress 2011, talked and socialized with all of the delegates, and then answered questions at a town hall meeting. It is so rare to find celebrities who will hang out with kids and devote so much time to advocating for type 1 diabetes research. He is a hero and patriot to type 1 diabetics, especially teenagers.
Consider Mary Tyler Moore, an actress who graced the stages of shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. She has devoted much of her life to advocating for type 1 diabetes research, and she continues to serve as the International Chairwoman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She is a remarkable advocate for the artificial pancreas and for the many type 1 diabetic children across the nation. Along with Gary Hall Jr., she is a hero and patriot to type 1 diabetics abroad.
Finally, I want to mention a remarkable woman, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age. Regardless of her ideology or her voting record on the bench, she has proved to diabetic children that with hard work, discipline, and an optimistic personality, one can go to even the highest court in the land. At Children’s Congress 2011, she eloquently shared that advice to the children sitting before her. She is a hero and patriot to type 1 diabetics everywhere, particularly aspiring lawyers like me.
Of course, there are many more diabetics who have made an impact on this country, like Nick Jonas, one of the famous Jonas Brothers; Nicole Johnson, winner of Miss America 1999 and advocate for type 1 diabetes; and Dr. Nat Strand, who showed that diabetes cannot stop someone from winning the Amazing Race. Consider also Dr. Aaron Kowalski who works everyday on projects like the artificial pancreas that will improve the lives of type 1 diabetics in the United States; or Carling Coffing, who proves that anyone can be a LPGA golfer and manage diabetes; or Super Bowl winner Kendall Simmons, who plays great football despite having to worry about high and low blood sugar.
In the end, while watching fireworks or enjoying barbecued delicacies, all diabetics in this country should be thankful to be a diabetic in this country, and not a diabetic in a developing country where good healthcare and diabetes information are hard to come by.
I am thankful to be a diabetic in the “United States of Pricked Fingers,” and in the greatest country to ever exist on the face of this earth.
NEXT WEEK: A look into the lives of type 1 diabetics in India