Medtronic is excited to announce that we’re sponsoring a team of riders at this year’s JDRF Ride to Cure event in Amelia Island, FL . This sponsorship aims to support those who are living with diabetes, including our own employees, family members and friends, in the hopes that one day there will be a cure for type 1 diabetes. One of our employees affected by diabetes is Keirsten Welch, a Senior Diabetes Clinical Manager. Today, we asked her to share why she chooses to ride.
In 2001, my world was forever changed. At 22 months old, my daughter, Alexandria was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I know the date, the time, the weather – the details of that day are forever burned into my memory. Despite the devastating news, I picked myself up and have gotten stronger. I realize people with diabetes are more than their diagnosis. Diabetes doesn’t define Alex, it helped shape her into who she is. We’ve embraced her diagnosis as a family and are her biggest advocates.
JDRF was wonderful in helping to accept and manage Alex’s diagnosis. It’s easy to get wrapped into the JDRF family quickly if you chose to get involved. We participate in all the walks, including making our team shirts, fundraising and celebrating on walk day. We’ve raised over $65,000 since her diagnosis. Every walk day is an inspiring day- a day to celebrate being bigger and better than the diagnosis of diabetes. However, I want to do more to give back. Seeing the day-to-day struggles that Alex goes through, as she adjusts to being a teenager and having to deal with diabetes, and the struggles the patients I work with at Medtronic experience, makes me want to do more.
Being involved with JDRF, I knew about the Ride for a Cure and in 2016, I was a part of the first Medtronic Diabetes bike team. It included 11 Medtronic Diabetes employees and we rode in Death Valley, CA. As a new bike rider, the idea of riding in Death Valley was horrifying- how would I handle the heat? People asked if I was crazy- “you’re going to ride 100 miles where? The desert?” My response was always, “if my daughter has to manage diabetes everyday- dealing with highs and lows and all the blood sugar tests, etc., I can struggle for a day, in her honor.”
The ride was an awe-inspiring moment. It was a JDRF walk day on steroids- the location, the passion for the cause, the commitment of the participants and volunteers- it was overwhelming.
Despite weather challenges and not being able to complete the full 100 miles, as I rode through the finish line and had my daughter put the ride medal over my head, tears of joy flowed, and the emotions are hard to put into words. It was a moment that Alex and I shared. She was moved by my commitment and struggles, to ride in her honor and I made sure she knew she was my hero for all she does every day to overcome diabetes. Her letter and gift after the ride, is something I will forever treasure.
In 2017, the Medtronic Diabetes bike team took on the challenge of Amelia Island, FL Ride to Cure. This time I completed the full 100 miles. In a few weeks, I’m excited to approach the 2018 ride in Amelia Island again. I’m excited for my co-workers to feel the excitement and see the passion for the cause as our ride day approaches. The Medtronic bike team is 31 people strong this year. I love having the support of a company that believes in the mission and supports my daughter not only with life-saving technology today but for a cure in the future. As I take on this ride, I’ll remember my focus and will use it to push me through each mile and if I’m struggling to do one more hill. My motivation is all the people I work with and my hero, my daughter, Alex. For everyone living with diabetes who manages their diabetes daily, because quitting isn’t an option. If they can’t quit, neither will I.