Judge Sotomayor: A New Hero for Juvenile Diabetics

If you have been reading the newspaper or watching the news, you probably know that the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings this week to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice and its third female justice–both remarkable milestones in United States history. While I would certainly appreciate the diverse perspective that Sotomayor would bring to the High Court, I would also be very pleased with her appointment for another, lesser-known reason.

Many Americans may not know this about Judge Sotomayor, but she has Type 1 diabetes. As a juvenile diabetic (an alternate name for Type 1), this strikes a chord with me. Just as a Hispanic American may watch the confirmation hearings with much pride and anticipation, I too am proud to watch someone with whom I have so much in common prepare for her possible appointment to the highest court in the United States. It may be that I understand a particularly challenging aspect of her life–an aspect to which I can certainly relate; or it may simply be that her success instills a hope within me that my tarnished health will not impede my ability to achieve my own dreams. Regardless, this week’s confirmation hearings have grabbed my attention and have really excited me.

My friends are probably laughing right now that I’m writing a blog about juvenile diabetes or “diabeetus” (as it would be pronounced by Wilford Brimley). I was diagnosed with the disease, officially becoming insulin-dependent, in January 2000 (in the middle of sixth grade). I now must check my blood sugar 4-6 times a day, count carbohydrates, and use an insulin pump. For the last nine years, I have heard endless jokes about eating too much candy, checking my blood sugar, and wearing an insulin pump. I really don’t mind the jokes at all; I actually encourage them. In my opinion, there is no use for self-pity. I was diagnosed and that was the end of that. If you can’t laugh and have fun with the disease, then it’s going to be a long and tough ride.

But I hope you don’t get the impression that my friends and family aren’t supportive. They have been there for me every step of the way. Ever since I started at William and Mary, I have had many students ask me about checking my blood sugar or administering insulin with my insulin pump; and I’m happy to answer their questions. Last September, four of my friends (Drew, John, Kathryn, and Skyler) were nice enough to drive with me to Byrd Park in Richmond for a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) 5K Walk for Diabetes. Together, we (“Ryan’s Rescuers”) donated over $100 and came away from the walk with a feeling of great accomplishment, a t-shirt, and a bunch of temporary tattoos. It was such a fun experience, and their time and enthusiasm meant the world to me.

When I have the free time, I really enjoy reading about famous juvenile diabetics and researching their accomplishments (yes, I know I’m a dork). Some of the most well-known Type 1 diabetics include Mary Tyler Moore, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar Sadat, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bret Michaels, Thomas Edison, Jackie Robinson, Ernest Hemingway, and Halle Berry. These are people who have proven that diabetes, or any disease for that matter, cannot stop you from achieving great things in this world. The younger generation is probably a little more familiar with Nick Jonas of the Jonas brothers, who is also a juvenile diabetic. I really respect Nick because he has used his fame and platform to bring attention to diabetes and to raise much-needed funds. Not only has he served as a spokesperson for JDRF, including advocating at this year’s Children’s Congress in Washington, DC, but he even wrote a song about the disease entitled “A Little Bit Longer.”

So, you can probably understand why I am so thrilled to see a juvenile diabetic awaiting confirmation to the Supreme Court. If Judge Sotomayor is appointed, her high-profile position within the government will certainly bring a great deal of attention to a disease that affects millions of Americans. While new technologies are being developed on an almost monthly basis, there is much research to be done, and organizations like JDRF can certainly use the greater exposure. I wish Judge Sotomayor the best of luck.

If you would like to learn more about juvenile diabetes or how you can contribute to research, please visit www.jdrf.org.

Thanks for reading!


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