Hi all! My name is Sana Ajmal and I am from Pakistan. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 16. 24th January holds special importance in my life - it’s my own birthday, my son’s birthday and also the day I was diagnosed! I am happy for all the special events this day marks. Being diagnosed was like getting a new life!
I am currently a student of PhD Computer Engineering. I have taught engineering courses at various universities in the past. I am a mother of two. I gave up my teaching job as I wanted to dedicate my time to studies, family and the Young Leaders in Diabetes Programme.
Right after diagnosis, I was a bit tense because I could not find the guidance and diabetes education that I required. But one day, my doctor made me stand in front of the mirror and said, "You know what, I have a cure for diabetes! I can take it away from you. It's a medical research that I am doing, and am sure works. But I would need your eyes, or your nose or your hands, or your leg to prepare the medicine. Can you give me one of those for taking away your diabetes?" I was dumbfounded. By saying this he made me realise that I was lucky! I was still ‘complete’ and just needed a few shots a day! He shook me to senses! Diabetes has taught me a lot. It has been my best friend as it showed me how to take risks safely, to be bold, to be independent, to learn and re-learn, and to love others. It forced me to stay healthy by eating healthy and staying active.
I think the worst part in living with diabetes for me was the stigma and social discrimination. Remarks that make you feel as if you are the sorriest creature in the world, and would not be able to do anything like normal human beings always hurt me badly. My greatest challenge, which I took upon myself, was to prove this wrong. So I took great pains in doing well at school and keeping myself healthy. Today I have achieved everything that people said I could not do.
However, that's not where the story ends. The struggle at the medical end was as difficult. There was little diabetes management education available and I used to read books and surf through internet to learn about it on my own. My mother, being a GP, was a great help in this regard. Through her contacts, I later managed to find a great team for my diabetes care, but I was lucky. Most people in my country don't have this privilege and suffer due to lack of diabetes education, lack of access to quality care and medication and social stigma.
As a Young Leader I wish I could change everything, but let's be realistic. The first thing I want to do is to change attitudes towards diabetes, not only in my own country, but worldwide. I want people to see us, the Young Leaders, as inspirations. And I want them to come out of the darkness of hopelessness.
I want to ensure that every child with diabetes has access to quality care and supplies.
I want to persuade governments to ensure that the above requirement is met, that schools, insurers and employers do not discriminate against us, and that healthcare professionals are properly trained for diabetes care.
In 2011-2013, I organized a series of seminars to educate people with diabetes in local hospitals. In those sessions I always spoke to the audience about my own struggles but also more importantly about my successes, to give them hope and encourage them. At the moment I have a number of projects on my hand. Firstly, with a team we are in the planning stage of building a Diabetes Trust Hospital in Pakistan for free treatment and education of the poor. Secondly, I will be organizing the first ever diabetes camp for children and teenagers with diabetes in Pakistan this spring. This is in collaboration with the Diabetes Education Camping Association of Faculty member Shelley Yeager. It will be the first ever diabetes camp, with sports and entertainment, in Pakistan and I hope that this will serve as a pilot project for a long term camping programme.