Plenty of people with diabetes struggle with the daily rituals involved in keeping themselves healthy.
Not everyone — and certainly not all fourteen-year-old girls with Type 1 diabetes — have the wherewithal to recognize the burnout, decide to take action, and begin to build a local community group of peers with diabetes.
That’s exactly what Hadley George did.
When I asked her what she’s looking forward to about Diabetes Innovation 2013, she answered:
This is not an experience that kids of my age normally get. I’m only fifteen years old and I get to do this, so I am very blessed. I hope that people hear my story and maybe will start something like this in their town. And I also hope that it will give hopes for people who have children with Type 1 that it’s not the end of the world and that great things can come out of it. Because I would say that, I am very — I know this sounds weird, but I am very glad that I have Type 1, because it’s really given me a different outlook on life. And although in November and December, I wasn’t really thinking this, now I have gotten so many new friends and it’s just really changed my life for the better.
Listen in on our conversation now, and come hear Hadley discuss community building at Diabetes Innovation 2013.
Read the full transcript after the jump.
Here is the full transcript of our conversation:
Diabetes Innovation Interview with Hadley George
David Harlow: Hello, this is David Harlow for Diabetes Innovation and I am speaking today with Hadley George. Welcome.
Hadley George: Hello.
David Harlow: So, please tell us what you are doing to, as we say, hack diabetes?
Hadley George: So, in November and December of 2012 I went through diabetes burnout. I would pass maybe like three times a week and would randomly put in insulin and then I just felt very alone. I would try to talk to my friends and family, but they didn’t really understand what I was going through. And no one at my school had Type 1, besides me, so it’s just very lonely. I know that there had to be other teenagers going through what I was going through. So I decided to start a social group called Type 1 Teens, this social group, we meet monthly at different fun events, such as bowling or laser tag or maybe a baseball game.
And normally they are two-hour long meetings, they are not really meetings, we don’t necessarily sit down and talk about our feelings, because you know teens, we don’t like that. We like to keep everything boxed in, but we also — we will play games, have fun and diabetes will come up. We won’t be, so what are you doing wrong, we are going to be like, what kind of insulin pump do you use or are you on the shots. And it’s just a great way to meet new people and really grow friendships with people who are going through similar things that you are going through.
And a way that I have been using social media, that has really been helpful is by creating a website, which people can go to and learn about me and learn about our goals and they will find what events are coming up in the near future. As of right now, I don’t have a blog, but I am hoping to have a blog within the new school year.
David Harlow: And so what year are you going into at school?
Hadley George: I will be a sophomore at Marymount High School.
David Harlow: And that’s in Cincinnati?
Hadley George: Yes.
David Harlow: Great and that’s a very ambitious goal to get this going and to start blogging while keep a handle on your school work as well.
Hadley George: Yeah.
David Harlow: So how large has this group grown or does everybody always show up to meetings or is it just sort of a drop in kind of thing?
Hadley George: Well, right now, it’s kind of the beginning; we have had three meetings, so far. One in April, May and June and then we took a break for the summer, but I found that the hardest part is to get the word out, so like people will know when the events are and stuff like that. And as of last year, I just would say okay, this is what’s going to be happening in April and then after meeting, then I would have my May. So for this school year, I have planned what we will be doing each month and what the date of that is, so people can put that on their calendar.
David Harlow: Great, are you active on social media, personally on Facebook or other networks — or is Facebook passé at this point?
Hadley George: It’s going out, I had just recently got a Facebook, my mom is very overprotective. But I got a Facebook and I have been using that, it’s a great way to share pictures and what you are doing and stuff. And then I have Twitter that I am tweeting, not very good, but it’s been fun. It’s a great way to know what your friends are up to and get in contact with them.
David Harlow: So you said that you wanted to start this because of feeling a sense of fatigue or burnout in managing your own diabetes and has starting this group and meeting other teens dealing with the same issues helped you?
Hadley George: It has a lot, no one at my school has Type 1 and I, like, I knew what I had to do, but I also didn’t and so in many ways, this group is benefiting me because I am learning new ways to take care of myself. And I am also there to help others learn new ways, but importantly, then I am learning stuff about diabetes, but I have also grown a lot of new friendships which has helped a lot. Because being able to be with your friend on a Friday night and both of you having to test what your blood sugar is before you eat is a great feeling instead of you being the only one and everyone is staring at you.
David Harlow: Right, of course, and hopefully this as you said, it’s not, you don’t get together to talk about diabetes, but to have a couple of hours together, and that’s just sort of part of normal life and things come up and it’s good to be to able to do that, in that environment with that group of people. Do you think that has made things easier for you in other social situations?
Hadley George: Yeah, I do. I feel like I have learned to present myself, I have learned how to like, show what I want and what I need, because with this group, when I first started, I didn’t really know how to express what I was feeling inside. And now I have learned how to say what I am feeling inside and express myself.
David Harlow: Well, that’s great, that’s of course very helpful, not only for this particular situation, but for other issues that I am sure you will face as well. Would you like to see this group grow, are you interested in helping other folks start similar groups in other areas or where do you see this going?
Hadley George: Well, I have a friend — my grandparents had a house up in Michigan and we go there every summer. And I have a friend who moved in about four years and she also has Type 1. And so we get to spend the summer with each other, which is great fun. And I am hoping that she will start Type 1 Teens up in her area and then from there, it will be able to grow to different parts and towns or all over the world.
David Harlow: Are there other folks who are trying to get on board and help you with the outreach or with writing something about it?
Hadley George: JDRF helps a lot with getting the word out and showing people, I had a booth at the walk in Kings Island and I spoke at the T1D Expo. And also I am writing a thing for DiabetesMine right now, which is a great blog, website for people with diabetes that I would definitely recommend for people to read.
David Harlow: Well, that’s great, well you are really getting the word out and really have found a number of outlets to help you with that, that’s terrific. So what are you looking forward to about the conference in Washington in October?
Hadley George: I am looking forward to meeting new people, who will help me grow as a person. This is not — or this is not an experience that kids of my age normally get. I’m only fifteen years old and I get to do this, so I am very blessed. I hope that people hear my story and maybe will start something like this in their town. And I also hope that it will give hopes for people who have children with Type 1 that it’s not the end of the world and that great things can come out of it. Because I would say that, I am very — I know this sounds weird, but I am very glad that I have Type 1, because it’s really given me a different outlook on life. And although in November and December, I wasn’t really thinking this, now I have gotten so many new friends and it’s just really changed my life for the better.
David Harlow: Well, that’s an inspiring statement and I hope that you get what you are looking for out of the conference in October, and that your group continues to grow and reach new people online.
Hadley George: Thank you.
David Harlow: Well, thank you very much for speaking with us. This is David Harlow with Diabetes Innovation speaking with Hadley George. Thank you.