Hello! My name is Ashley Conley. I am 25 years old, a medical student at UQ-Ochsner Medical School, and a type 1 for over 23 years. In the photo with me is Nick Morriss, he is also 25 years old, a medical student at Duke University School of Medicine, and he has had T1D for 11 years. We were classmates at Colby College, where we built the foundation for a life-long friendship because of our shared experiences and understanding of what it means to live with type 1 diabetes. We arrived at Colby College as experienced TIDers, confident in our abilities to manage everything college life could bring. But, like most first-year students, we were clueless!
Nick was the first T1D on campus I met at a diabetes club event organized by Erik Douds. As a long time T1D student athlete I was familiar with managing my diabetes under different stressors. However, being away from home and a parental support system, college presented new challenges and having others that understood such issues was instrumental. A community to share in the daily struggles and answer questions from logistics (where to have prescriptions shipped) to broader management (health center appointments), or how to talk to a roommate, coach, or professor. Through online resources and social media presence, I discovered The Diabetes Link and started a chapter with a mission to unite with other T1Ds on our campus.
Why is connecting with other TIDs important on campus? For one, having other diabetics on campus that you can rely on in times of crisis is essential. For example, the winter of my freshman year at Colby College, which is located in northern Maine, we had a blizzard that brought an enormous about of snow that closed down the roads and local stores. This presented a problem because my test strips prescription was scheduled to arrive the next day, but because of the blizzard, it was delayed. I should have been fine, but because of all the running around and playing in the snow, my site had come off and I was without any blood sugar monitoring devices. With no hope of of getting to a pharmacy or delivery in time, I was luckily and fortunate to be able to send a text to chapter members asking what to do and if anyone could help me out.
A major part of The Diabetes Link experience is not just restricted to a single campus, but the wider diabetic community. The Diabetes Link provides the connection to other chapters, and we had the opportunity to meet with fellow students from across the country. I learned more from each other about how to navigate TID college life than from any doctor (ironic as we are both in medical school now). The Diabetes Link provided resources that reassured T1Ds as students and one day I would love to see the network to expand into graduate schools and medical school campuses as well.
We are forever appreciative of our time as co-presidents of our chapter. We cannot express the feeling of comfort knowing someone “always had your back,” especially with extra fruit snacks. The Diabetes Link helped make college a fun and safe experience, and we highly recommend others to start or join your campus’ chapter.
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