“What’s that thing on your arm?”
I’ve been asked this question a lot over the years. Whether someone’s referring to my pump site or continuous glucose monitor (CGM), everyone is always curious about why I have these seemingly strange devices attached to my body. It’s hard to explain that I have type 1 diabetes (T1D) and that these devices help me to manage my diabetes and live a better life, because for the most part, people are still fixated on “that obnoxious thing” or the “science experiment” I’m wearing rather than what I have to say about it.
Since I was diagnosed with T1D in 2003, there have been so many days where I feel like the only way to convey what it’s like to live with T1D is if others could just be “diabetic for a day” and wear the same devices I wear. So when I learned that Insulet (makers of the Omnipod® Insulin Management System) would be partnering with the College Diabetes Network (CDN) to sponsor a Pod Challenge event during College Diabetes Week, I immediately wanted my campus’s CDN Chapter to participate. Several other students on my campus are living with T1D, and it’s a constant struggle for each of us to teach our friends, classmates, and professors about all of the devices we wear and why they’re so important. Through this event, it seemed like we’d be given a chance to engage our campus and gain understanding from our peers.
On Friday, November 17, the CDN Chapter at Florida Southern College set up a table in the middle of our campus and laid out over 100 demo Omnipod insulin pumps, with no idea how our Pod Challenge event would go. We advertised the event all across campus, posted flyers, and shared posts on Facebook and Instagram, but even still, none of us were sure we’d be able to distribute even half of the Pods we had. We were definitely in for a surprise…
Moments after we’d set up our table, a group of students came forward and asked, “Is this the Pod Challenge event that everyone’s been talking about?” Excitedly, my members and I grabbed a handful of Pods and started engaging with the students, explaining what the concept was behind the Challenge and how simple it was to participate. Once they’d been “Podded,” students eagerly started taking pictures and selfies of their very own insulin pumps, texting friends to come get one for themselves before they were gone. Before we knew it, we had swarms of students crowded around our table, eager to sign-up and take the Challenge. Left and right we were quickly placing Pods on students’ arms and answering their questions like, Is this going to hurt? Does it hurt you when you wear them every day? How long do you have to keep these on? Do you have to wear it 24/7? Does it get annoying to wear something like this? and Does it matter where you wear it on your body? The questions were never ending, but my members and I were eager to answer them all.
Throughout the event, I was shocked at the number of students who came to our table and shared their own connections to T1D. Florida Southern College is a small campus, with around 2,500 students, so it’s not too challenging to find those with T1D. However, during the event, we had a number of students come to us and say their best friend/brother/sister has T1D, and one student even said she’d been diagnosed with T1D just under a year ago. Everyone who came to share their personal connections with T1D also shared their appreciation for our interest in the cause, as they’d never seen so many people support students living with T1D before.
Once the event was over, my members and I discussed our feelings on how the event had gone. We’d distributed nearly 180 Pods and still had students coming to our table even after we’d run out of supplies. Even today, days after the event had commenced, we still have friends from all across campus messaging us and asking when the next challenge will be, saying that they want to participate too. For once, as college students living with T1D, we all felt understood by our peers. Beyond that, we also felt our peers appreciated the challenges we face in managing diabetes. Thanks to the Pod Challenge, we were able to impact and educate more students on our campus than we could’ve imagined, bringing Florida Southern College’s student body one step closer to a better understanding of T1D.
I hope this is the first of many Pod Challenge events College Diabetes Network and Insulet partner to host. Our CDN Chapter will gladly sign up to challenge our community again and again!
So, tell me, would you be up for the challenge?
-Sydney Johnson ‘20, CDN Chapter at Florida Southern College