On Monday evening, December 16, I had the privilege of listening to Haley Doyle talk about her introduction into the world of Type 1 Diabetes. Everyone with diabetes has a unique and powerful story, but Haley’s story hits it out of the ballpark.
Haley was the featured speaker at the December meeting of the JDRF Adults with Type 1 in Bloomington, MN. Here is her bio according to the JDRF promotional email:
Haley Doyle is currently a Senior at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland with a double major of Aerospace Engineering and Russian. Haley’s road to that prestigious school reflects an incredible personal story of commitment, intelligence, and a passion for life that is rarely found. Her story will emphasize family, opportunity and living life to the fullest despite being diagnosed with T1D during her Freshman year, jeopardizing her military ambitions and career path. Haley Doyle is an overachieving, yet humble, young woman from Kansas, who has a story that you will definitely want to hear.
Haley was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in February of her Plebe year at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Most of us would guess that she would have immediately been dismissed from the service academy, but with grit, determination, and support of her commanding officers, she persevered through 3+ years of medical boards, recommendations for dismissal, rigorous training missions, and a challenging academic load to be on track for graduation in the spring of 2014.
Lest you think that this is a Pollyanna story, Haley will be medically discharged from the Navy upon graduation. The civilian workplace will be the beneficiary of the tremendous talents and military training of this young woman with a defective pancreas.
I asked Haley if she thought that people with Type 1 should be able to serve on Navy ships or at the front lines of military conflicts. Like me, she has no definite answer. She understands that a low blood sugar or a broken pump could jeopardize an officer’s ability to effectively complete a mission or provide leadership to guide and motivate the soldiers in her command. But she has climbed mountains in Alaska, she can do a million push-ups, she has scuba dived in the Caribbean, and she has completed a JDRF 100-mile bike ride. I don’t know the right answer and neither does Haley.
I would argue that rather than lose the talents of anyone like Haley, the Navy should commission her in a restricted line corps position. Maybe someone with Type 1 Diabetes shouldn’t command an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Yeman or be pilot of a F/A-18C Hornet. But she can design bridges in the Civil Engineering Corps. She can coach the varsity women’s crew at the Naval Academy, she can provide inspiration for numerous high school students thinking of entering the military, and she can serve her country. As a tax-payer, my money to train Haley has been wasted. As someone with Type 1 Diabetes, I know that our country has squandered its investment in the education of a fellow T1. I am disappointed and I am angry.
But thank you, Haley, for reminding me how strong and talented we T1’s are. And thank you, JDRF, for sponsoring our Adults with Type 1 group. You have introduced me to Tim who is a Joslin Medalist after living with Type 1 for 50 years. And Wally who is at 49 years. And Connie who long ago passed 40 years with Type 1. Then Christine who bikes in JDRF rides and this year will raise $10,000 for diabetes research. And Katie who taught me about arm and hip sites for my Dexcom CGM. And Chad who is quiet, but doesn’t miss a thing when it comes to Type 1. Plus Doug who runs in marathons and just welcomed(?) his sister into the Type 1 universe. We missed Cynthia at the December meeting, but she constantly reminds me that I need to nurture my soul as well as take my insulin. Scott also missed this presentation because he is in Europe with the mySugr guys. I am inspired by all of you and proud to be your friend.