JDRF Australia government advocate Emma Hogan recently visited Washington DC as part of the 2015 JDRF Children’s Congress. She tells us her story of her visit!
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the JDRF Children’s Congress 2015 (CC) in Washington DC to tell American Congressmen and senators about life with type 1 diabetes. They have the ability to make decisions about supporting research into type 1 diabetes for better treatments and an eventual cure.
Over three days at JDRFCC were jam-packed with amazing activities and meetings. First I got to meet all the other international delegates from around the world before I was paired up with my American ‘buddy’, Mary Morgan from Georgia. We’d connected before JDRFCC, so it was like we had already known each other for years. The energy in that room was amazing, and it was only the beginning!
Next, I got to meet the Australian Ambassador to the United States, Mr Kim Beazley. He showed a lot of interest in JDRFCC and type 1 diabetes, and even gave me an Australian Embassy Challenge coin when I left.
When I finally got to meet all 164 delegates in person, I felt like I already knew everyone as there were social media groups where we had been communicating for months. I found a good group of friends that I had a great time with.
At dinner that night, we heard from Chair of JDRFCC Kim Roosevelt and her daughter Elizabeth. We also heard from JDRF CEO Derek Rapp who spoke about his connection to T1D and about JDRF research. I got to meet him afterwards, and he showed me a thing called “beta cell encapsulation”. It was smaller than a band aid, and has beta cells encapsulated in it. The device is implanted under the skin and can keep people T1D-free for up to two years!
The next day, we had breakfast with more speakers including Kady Helme who now works for JDRF but was a JDRFCC delegate herself back in 2005, with Barack Obama as her state senator. After breakfast, we went to the T1D Role Model Town Hall, where T1D celebrities spoke about life with T1D. The panel included Austin Basis (Actor), Sean Busby (Pro Snowboarder), Brandon Denson (Pro Football Player), Becky Furuta (Elite Cyclist), Aaron Kowalski (T1D Research Advocate), Adam Lasher (Singer/Songwriter), Carling Nolan (Pro Golfer), Este Haim (Musician) and Adam Schefter (Sports Reporter) whose wife was diagnosed with T1D in 2002 served as the emcee for the event. The lunch that day was hosted by another T1D Role Model, Nicole Johnson (Miss America 1999, Journalist, and Author).
Day 3 was Capitol Hill Blitz Day, the day the whole event was leading up to when all 163 delegates got the opportunity to make their voices count by meeting with top US decision makers thanking them for the congressional support of The Special Diabetes Program (SDP) and asking them to co-sponsor the Medicare CGM Act which would enable Americans over 65 on Medicare to have access to continuous glucose monitors. I was a Georgian for the day as I went with my buddy Mary Morgan to meet with her Congressmen and Senators.
At lunch that day, I was sitting with Mary and Derek Rapp came and joined us. I got to tell him about the different fundraising and advocacy things we do in Australia, and told him about how I did the Jump to Cure Diabetes.
We were about to get up and go get some fresh air when I text message came through alerting us that the special senate hearing dedicated to Children’s Congress had been pushed forward and was in 10 minutes time. It was the craziest 10 minutes as everyone was running around checking that blood sugars were high enough before going, as many people did not have the opportunity to eat lunch.
The hearing was very interesting and I learnt a lot. It went for so long that we pretty much had to go as soon as it finished. I had one last chance to say goodbye to all the great friends I made along the way before I left… in tears.
JDRFCC15 was the most amazing three days of my life and I will never forget any of it. I’m so honoured to have represented Australia at this event and I know one day in the near future we will have a cure for type 1 diabetes.