Everyone has a story. And many in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) already know that our friend and fellow PWD (person with diabetes) Kim Vlasnik has a great one worth sharing. That's even more the case recently as Kim's name is popping up near and far due to her video work. She indeed belongs in the Hall of Fame that is our regular Amazing Diabetes Advocates series.
To find out more about Kim, our talented cartoonist and correspondent Mike Lawson took some time to talk with her and get the scoop:
Special to the 'Mine by Mr. Mike Lawson
If you want to know who coined the widely-used phrase "You Can Do This!" to make it a virtual household diabetes mantra, then look no further than fellow PWD Kim Vlasnik.
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A type 1 from Nebraska, Kim's diabetes story goes back to her diagnosis at age 6, when she displayed the classic symptoms that most experience — extensive thirst and intense hunger, weight loss, etc. Kim's maternal grandfather had type 1 diabetes, so her mom recognized the symptoms quickly and took action. Although Kim doesn't remember much about her diagnosis itself, she remembers spending one night in the hospital.
As a child, Kim was raised to be a diabetes advocate. "Advocacy is something I grew up with," she says. "Growing up, we would go to all the JDRF walks and other events."
That advocacy has lasted through the years, since finding the DOC about two years ago. Raised in Nebraska, where she still lives and works as an administrative assistant for a finance company, some of the accomplishments that stand out for Kim are her blogging at Texting My Pancreas; her diabetes cartoon artwork, which for a time was also regularly featured here at the 'Mine's Sunday Funnies; and her incredible You Can Do This Project, which crowdsourced homemade inspirational videos from scores of people living with diabetes.
On the advocacy front, the YCDT project is a perfect example of how Kim gets an idea and runs with it, touching others and creating a ripple effect of inspiration and support that goes beyond even our D-Community.
The 2011-founded project started with a simple idea that she got from seeing a commercial on TV about the "It Gets Better" worldwide video campaign created to inspire the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Everything blossomed from there, and Kim's creation gave PWDs a place to tell others that diabetes is manageable. Since that launch, a little more than 100 people have submitted videos (including ours from the 'Mine team!)
"Everyone's story is important," Kim says. "It's so therapeutic to see someone else in your situation."
The support and community camaraderie that's arisen from the YCDT project has helped Kim take that message out to the wide world, speaking at conferences, actually having a booth at various events for the first time this year, and getting a seed grant from the Diabetes Hands Foundation to take her project to the next level! And that's just the start of it.
Being a visible voice on Facebook and Twitter, Kim offers a wave of support to anyone who might need it. In July, she saw a message posted online by a friend and D-Mom Wendy Rose, whose 9-year old daughter was upset when she learned she'll have to wear both an insulin pump AND eyeglasses. Wouldn't that make her the ultra-geek?
When Kim saw that post, her support senses kicked into gear!
Working with fellow PWDs Sara Nicastro in Florida who blogs at Moments of Wonderful and Jess Collins in Kansas who blogs at Me and D, Kim immediately turned to the DOC to find others who wear both insulin pumps and glasses.
They asked for people to send in "proof" — a short video message of support for Wendy's daughter. In one day, the number of video and photo images they received from around the country topped more than 50 and it was almost tough to keep up.
And the response was overwhelming.
"Sara, Jess and I tend to have a similar mindset in situations like this: when we see someone in need of help, we want to do everything we can to be that help," Kim said.
They quickly complied the video snippets into a video called "You Are Beautiful," to the tune by the same name from the band One Direction, showcasing the community's images to demonstrate that it's completely normal to be an insulin pumper who wears stylish specs. Sara edited everything together and Kim recorded an introduction for the montage. The project went from an idea to a completed video that went viral in less than 24 hours.
"It was a really cool, grassroots kind of thing," Kim said. "It was nothing more than people helping out a stranger and getting nothing in return."
Kim never expected the video to go viral and be shared as much as it was, from mentions at an American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) session on social media use to a link included in a CNN article about the aesthetics of medical devices and fashion (!)
"If I knew it was going to be so popular, I might have brushed my hair before recording," Kim laughs.
The video can be found here, and we think her hair looks just fine.
Kim isn't certain what the immediate future will hold for her, but she is certain that she's headed in the right direction.
"What I'm doing right now with the You Can Do This Project is what I'm here to do," she said. "It's why I was put here on the planet."
Thanks for being such an Amazing Advocate, Kim. We're both proud of — and thankful for — friends like you.