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Teenager works for Type I diabetes cure

Emily IL Senator Dick Durbin

Emily and IL Senator Dick Durbin

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Updated: October 18, 2013 2:25PM

I’m Emily Laughead. I am 15 years old and I live in North Aurora. I have had Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) since I was 4.

I have my own website,, which teaches children and adults what it is like to live with T1D. You’ve might have seen me at my booth at local fests or maybe in one of the local parades, where I go to raise awareness about the disease.

T1D is an autoimmune disease — cells in your body that are meant to attack bad germs get confused and attack the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. It is a physically, emotionally and financially devastating disease. I test my blood eight to 10 times a day. Then based on the reading, I give myself the proper amount of insulin. Sounds pretty easy, huh?

Unfortunately, T1D is not like the TV commercials. If I don’t keep my blood glucose in a normal range, I can suffer complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness or coma. And T1D has filled my childhood with more than 40,000 finger sticks to test my blood and thousands of needles, both for inserting my insulin pump tubing under my skin and for giving myself emergency shots. As a result, my fingertips are numb and my stomach is full of scars and scar tissue.

I’ll have T1D my whole life or until a cure is found. But I don’t let not let it stop me from doing anything I want. I am an A student at Rosary High School. I enjoy reading, drawing, camping and playing my trumpet.

I think having T1D has made me a better leader. I have done lots of T1D advocacy, and I speak for people who can’t and will continue to do so until a cure is found.

This year, I was selected for the JDRF Children’s Congress, which met July 8-10 in Washington D.C. The biannual event brings more than 150 delegates (ages 4-17) with T1D and their families to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers. The children give the disease a face, showing our elected officials just how T1D affects them. This year’s event focused on renewing the Special Diabetes Program (SDP).

On July 10, I was lucky enough to have a big day at Capitol Hill. The six Illinois delegates met with Illinois Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin and our local representatives. Each delegate sat with Sen. Durbin and shared scrapbooks that demonstrated why we want a cure for T1D. We took a group picture with Vice President Joe Biden, who thanked us for our advocacy. He looked me right in the eye, took my hand, and said, “Hi, honey, how are you doing?” and I replied with an enthusiastic, “I’m doing great, Mr. Biden!” I feel all our meetings were successful, and that we left a powerful impression.

Later, the delegates headed to the “Special Committee on Aging” hearing at the Senate. NBA basketball player Ray Allen and actress Jean Smart — along with JDRF’s own president and CEO Jeffrey Brewer and another Children’s Congress delegate — told our stories and urged
the senators to renew the SDP. The Congressional members that attended indicated that they were on board for renewing the SDP.

I’m so honored I was able to be a part of such an important event. If you’d like to get involved and help find a cure for T1D, visit

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