Sticking it to the man!

This post is about how diabetes helped me make my life better and easier.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes I was in a long distance relationship. Nick worked in Orlando, and I was at the University of Florida in Gainesville, which is two hours away. (Which albeit wasn’t that bad considering that two months prior I had been studying abroad in Paris…and that was really long distance.) Though I was diagnosed and hospitalized in Orlando because I happened to be there for my birthday that weekend, I spent most of my time in Gainesville…and truth be told I despised living there. I mean, I have had fun in Gainesville, but its just a small college town. Most of my friends had graduated and moved away…some I had had a falling out with. And in general being there made me feel both bored and lonely.

After my diagnosis, I spent the first few months living in extreme fear of low blood sugars. When I was in Gainesville, I would purposely shoot my sugar up pretty high before going to bed in hopes of avoiding this. Doing this made me feel in an even worse mood than I already was because my sugar was still all over the place, I was still getting used to diabetes, and I was still hating Gainesville. I only ever felt safe sleeping when I was with Nick in Orlando. Nick came to my insulin pump training with me, Nick was with me in the hospital, Nick knew how to check my sugar, and Nick could give me a Glucagon if I needed it. (A Glucagon is like a diabetic’s Epipen, it injects an emergency amount of glucose into a diabetic whose sugar has gone dangerously low. Most diabetics I know have fortunately never needed it.) But back to the story…this extreme paranoia of low-blood sugar coupled with the worst depression I have ever experienced made those months some of the darkest of my life. What I started to do was sleep in Orlando, wake up at 5 a.m. and drive all the way to Gainesville for class, go to class, and then drive all the way home. I was spending as much on gas as I was on test strips and insulin. Additionally, as many diabetics can probably relate to, my first few months of diagnosis seemed like a never ending marathon of doctor’s appointments, nutritionist appointments, insulin pump training, carb counting classes, therapy, and irritating phone calls and bills from my insurance company. I was always exhausted, and I had no free time. But being in Orlando, with Nick, and my multitude of other friends who live here (including my Diabuddy, Janeli who I talked about in my “DL on living with the D” post) was the only time I felt happy and secure. I started seeing a free therapist, which is something offered at the University of Florida. I would always complain about my living situation in Gainesville, and she suggested that I transfer to the University of Central Florida, which is just a few miles from Nick’s apartment, where a lot of my friends go. However, I was a senior, about to graduate with honors in a major that U.C.F. didn’t even offer. I wasn’t about to go through the application process of a new school. Additionally, I had been given a scholarship to do research that I will be required to present at a research symposium at the end of this month. I had a mentor and obligations to the scholarship that I had been offered to do the research to be at U.F.

So I sort of devised a creative round-about plan. Most schools allow for students to be transient students at other universities, specifically in cases of extreme family emergencies or health problems. So I decided to apply for transient student status to complete my last semester with 2 online UF classes and 3 UCF classes. The entire process was unbearably tedious. I had to get doctor’s notes and notes from my undergraduate coordinator in my major of Women’s Studies and minor of French. I had to write my own letter of intent, as well as submit an online application to a website, that for some reason never seemed to work. Tracking down all the necessary documents and approval for course substitutions at each school took a little over two months. It was really getting down to the wire when I finally submitted my application to the UF appeal board.

The way I saw it, there was no way I would be denied. I was newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, I had the support of a medical professional and all of my academic advisers, I had my course schedule clearly outlined and would still be graduating with the same degree, on time, with honors. That’s why, much to my surprise, disgust, and anger, when I received notification that my appeal was denied…well I turned into a ball of fiery rage and ran around my mom’s house (I was home for Thanksgiving when I got this notification) yelling at everyone about how I was going to sue UF until they gave me back every tuition dollar I had ever spent on them. What was even more insulting was the reasoning behind it, which I didn’t receive until I got back to campus. What the committee had told me was that since I had studied abroad and had transferred to UF from another school, I had already taken too many credits at other institutions and that was the sole reason that they would not grant my request. What they suggested to me was to apply for medical withdrawal and return to school when I felt “better apt to handle the course-load.” The letter closed with probably the most insulting part, “If you leave on medical withdrawal for more than one semester, you will have to apply for re-admission.” That was it….the claws were coming out. I spent the rest of the day stomping around UF campus as if I was on a military mission. I must have looked completely insane because I was breathing so heavily through my grinding teeth and muttering to myself about how UF was going to be very sorry that they had done that to me.

What I did was walk straight into the Disability Resource Center and demand to speak to the American Disabilities Association representative at UF. I made an appointment for a few hours later, and in the mean time went to the school computer lab and,¬† under the advice of a really lovely friend of mine who happens to have a 9 year old with Type 1 diabetes, printed out Title 2 the Americans With Disabilities Act. Title 2 outlines that diabetes, as it has a severe impact on daily living is a certified disability in the U.S. And because of this, people with diabetes are entitled to certain rights, which include but are not limited to, exceptions made for their own well-being at public institutions such as universities. I printed out Title 2 and highlight every right that UF would be denying me by denying my petition. I marched into the ADA rep’s office, guns blazing and when into a 10 minute speech (during which I did not stop to take any breaths) about how denying my petition was a violation of the American Disabilities Act, and therefore unconstitutional and legally questionable. Not only did the representative agree with my, but he passed my petition over the heads of the committee to the dean of UF, along with a personal recommendation to accept my appeal, and warning that otherwise I would have grounds for legal action.

For my part, I rewrote my personal statement. First, I outlined that whether or not I had transferred from another school, I would have gotten diabetes at this point in my life, and would have needed to adjust to it. Secondly, that I had a 3.7 G.P.A. and was on scholarship to do research that needed to be presented the following semester. I also stated that in my time at UF I had been an involved, hardworking student who made the school look better, and that therefore it was an insult to tell me to apply for readmission and put my entire life on hold because of an inevitable health crisis. I closed by saying that diabetes had taken a lot of things from me, but that I was still completely capable of completing my degree with quality work, I just needed to be living in an environment where I felt safe. Therefore, I should not be forced to put my life on hold any longer because of diabetes.

There first time I submitted my petition, it took them two weeks to decide to reject me. This time, it was accepted in less than two hours, and the dean sent me an e-mail commending me on how I handled the situation, gave me his sincerest apologies, and wished me well in terms of my health. Two weeks later, the semester ended and I moved to Orlando.

There were a few more obstacles, such as financial aid telling me that it is not protocol to give aid to people enrolled at two universities but that they would be able to give me 25% of what I normally get. To which I said, “Because I have a health issue I am not going to get the money that I have been given based on need and merit?” And the moronic horrible woman in the financial aid department replied, “So what you are saying is that isn’t good enough?” And I said, “Obviously, if you don’t give me all of my financial aid you will have to take it up with the American Disabilities Association.” So I received all of my aid as well. I should be a lawyer.

Now I am writing my honors thesis at UF about insulin pumps and female self-esteem, but I live in Orlando. And I am so glad, not just because of my friends and the fact that I got to leave Gainesville and move in with my boyfriend, but because Nick has legitimately helped me in the middle of the night on multiple occasions. But most importantly, I wont this battle. I felt so empowered after this, I really felt like I could do anything. We, as diabetics are entitled to certain protections under the law. Please don’t be afraid to fight for these protections. (Winning, it feels awesome.)

From left to right: Me, My Diabuddy Janeli, and Nick in Orlando


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. lovehatediabetes
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 02:55:00

    Holy smokes! You go girl! That whole process if something to be very proud of!


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