We’re excited to continue our series of interviews with our2019 DiabetesMine Patient Voices Winners, who will be attending our annual Fall Innovation Days in early November! Today, please welcome Jaquita Sampson from Georgia, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly four decades ago as an 8-year-old.

These days, she’s a Registered Nurse and Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (DCES) who worked for a time as a pump/CGM trainer for Medtronic Diabetes, and she’s proud mamma of two young boys. Here is her story.

DM) First, can you share how diabetes came into your life?

JS) I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the early 1980s as a child. Coming from a family with a history of type 2, I had heard the term “diabetes” before and was somewhat familiar when I received my diagnosis. The classic symptoms of excessive thirst and frequent urination initially lead my parents to remove “sugary beverages” from my diet. After a few weeks, I lost a lot of weight in a very short period of time. When removing the sugary drinks didn’t seem to help turn things around, my mom took me to the pediatrician, who diagnosed me with T1D.

What happened then?

I was hospitalized that very day with a blood sugar in the 800s. As an 8-year-old, I remember being very frightened and afraid of what was to come. I had a bag of chips in my hand, and the chips were removed, never returned… and my life was forever changed to a world of insulin injections, urine glucose testing, a diet of no sweets or junk foods and trying to balance ALL these things.

Like any person living with diabetes, I have had quite a few bumps in the road and a lot of learning along the way. But thank God for my family, friends, and loved ones who support me and my strong will to FIGHT this disease!

What do you use personally for your own diabetes management these days?

I am currently on an insulin pump and have used multiple tech and tools to help manage — including various different insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), data management tools, various fitness and food tracker apps.

Have you had any access or affordability issues related to diabetes?

Yes. Diabetes is an expensive disease to manage even with health insurance. It requires utilizing resources to get the assistance needed to manage the costs. I have had to make supplies, medications etc. stretch or go without in order to make ends meet. The most recent example was when re-filling a prescription for glucagon, which averages $300 and my co-pay was $225. I searched the manufacturer’s website and found a rebate discount coupon, but my cost was still $125. After a visit to my endocrinologist’s office, the diabetes nurse educator provided me with a rebate coupon and my copay was $0! I was relieved and thankful because I couldn’t have otherwise afforded filling the prescription.

What motivated you to apply for the 2019 DiabetesMine Patient Voices Contest?

I hope to share my voice and experiences with living with diabetes. I am a patient advocate and am passionate about sharing my journey with others. It’s important for us to help each other by learning, growing and not being afraid to try new things.

What would you suggest that leaders in the industry could do better?

They can do a better job with listening and engaging more people who use diabetes tools/technology. Consumers prefer to purchase products from companies that care about the people they serve and who welcome collaboration from people living with diabetes every single day. These are voices that need to be heard.

What keeps you busiest these days?

I call myself a full time Mom/CEO of two boys – I sometimes still say “D-Mom,” since I’m a mom who has diabetes (but my boys do not). My youngest boy has special needs. I am a former healthcare professional, educator, medical devices/pharmaceutical sales representative. In the past, I have helped many people start out on pump therapy/CGM, have served on local JDRF projects and boards and served as a pump ambassador to offer advice to people contemplating pump/CGM therapy.

Can you share more about your past work as a pump/CGM trainer?

I’m a Registered Nurse by trade and have been a nurse for 22 years. I have worked in various capacities as a diabetes educator, clinical manager and training specialist. The later two roles were with Medtronic. The prior role was in an outpatient diabetes center which lead me to working with Medtronic. I noticed early on in my career as a nurse and as a person living with diabetes that people (patients) do better with guidance and adherence to managing their diabetes when it comes from someone they can relate to. That has also helped me in my personal diabetes management journey as well.

My role as a senior trainer with Medtronic allowed me to work with the customer support helpline and inside sales teams. I helped facilitate product training for these teams and provide perspective from an outside-sales point of view.

What was that industry work experience like, as a person living with diabetes yourself?

It was a great experience to work at Medtronic as someone living with diabetes! Many of the people there either have diabetes themselves or have loved ones who live with diabetes, so they are passionate. I was able to work on various projects and provide feedback and insight on current products in the development pipeline. It’s a slow and arduous process getting a product to market: from product conception to R&D and product development to usability trials to regulatory to manufacturing to training, and eventually getting products into people’s hands. Unfortunately, it takes a long time.

Each day lives are being lost, waiting on these products. It would be a dream come true to see diabetes eradicated in my lifetime and all people having access to a cure and/or therapies to help them live life to the fullest.

You’ve also been passionate about the topic of diabetes and pregnancy, no?

Yes, I wrote a T1D and Pregnancy post for the Medtronic Diabetes blog in 2011. I talked about my experience with pregnancy and managing diabetes. Fortunately, I had an overall great experience with an excellent healthcare team who took no risk in ensuring my health and my unborn child’s health was priority. This is paramount when a woman is pregnant and has diabetes.

It was my first pregnancy and I was scared as most moms are. I think most moms if not all experience a level or degree of this. Having diabetes makes you become hyper-vigilant in ensuring your little one has the best possible chance of succeeding. I had my share of challenges with learning to manage blood sugars, nausea and vomiting but we did it — thanks to my husband, the help of technology, and a knowledgeable health care team! Women with diabetes need to know what to look for in a healthcare team prior to delivering a baby. I would love to pen more this one day.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in diabetes care over your nearly four decades of living with it?

Definitely technology. We have to utilize the help of technology to manage diabetes. It’s a MUST. The challenge is trying to get more people to embrace it and utilize it as a tool. Technology needs to be simplified, then more people can see how it can play an intricate part in diabetes management.

What gets you excited as to diabetes innovations?

I know many people with or without a formal diagnosis of diabetes who could benefit from the technology but who are afraid. Technology can be scary… But diabetes innovations have helped me tremendously in my management and understanding of the disease, and it excites me to share with people how it’s helped in my journey. The best is still yet to come!

Thanks, Jaquita! We look forward to seeing you in November!