WashU CDN and St. Louis Children’s Hospital: a Blossoming Partnership

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Ashley Klein, Chapter leader, Washington University
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Coming to college in August after having only being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) a year prior was frightening, and I felt a sense of being alone. I longed for a sense of togetherness and to know that no, I am not alone. I resonated with CDN’s motto “on your own, but not alone,” and decided to take on the responsibility of founding the WashU Chapter of the College Diabetes Network.

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As a team of passionate young adults, our club decided that we wanted to volunteer with local diabetic children so that we could make a positive impact on our community. We decided to partner with the St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Endocrinology department. For our first collaboration, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital held a Diabetes Meet-Up at a location in St. Louis for children under the age of 12 and their families. Overjoyed to be invited, our CDN members took part of their Friday to go and volunteer at this event. We helped set up, interacted with the children, and participated in the main event with the children, which was yoga. We first sat down with the kids to color their own sock filled with rice in order to have conversations and make the kids feel comfortable.

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What struck me was how brave and strong these kids could be at such a young age. Having been diagnosed at 17, I did not have to grow up from being a toddler to an adult as quickly as these kids. While we were coloring, a mother came over to check her little girl’s pump. It was tucked into a fanny pack that I was completely unaware that she was wearing. Seeing her mother check her pump made me feel a connection. It made me feel as if in this place, none of us were alone.

 

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After coloring, we listened to the yoga instructor that they had brought in and sat between some of the kids. We, too, did the breathing exercises and activities. In the middle of the activities, I realized my pump was beeping and quickly got up. Usually, if this were to happen around non-diabetics, I would immediately leave so that no one would question what was going on, but in this context, I was afraid that one of the children would think that it was them beeping!

Seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces made everything worthwhile. We have plans to continue to work with the St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the future and look forward to helping these kids stay strong with smiles along the way.

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Ashley Klein
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Ashley Klein is currently completing her first year at Washington University in St. Louis where she is in the Olin Business School studying Entrepreneurship and Organization and Strategic Management. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly after turning 17 years old, less than two years ago. She is highly involved in the Jewish community at WashU and participates in numerous clubs on campus. She started the WashU Chapter of the College Diabetes Network this year, taking it on as a second semester freshman. She loves being able to inspire others and bring a community for type 1 diabetics to campus.

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