McKenna Raimer Spring 2020 Disability Graduation Award

From McKenna:

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at seven years old. I do not remember anything but laying on the couch, the car ride, going through the emergency room doors. Lights. Doctors. Poking. Thirst. I was airlifted to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which targets my beta cells in my pancreas. Without these cells, my body cannot naturally produce the hormone, insulin. I was in the ICU for a little less than a week, spending my time learning the ins-and-outs of my new body. I have lived with diabetes for more than two-thirds of my life. 5,106 days. 28,260 finger pricks. 1,646 insulin pump site changes. 2,893 hours of sleep lost.

Thrust into a new environment thousands of miles away from my family, I would be making my own medical decisions during my undergraduate career. I met people who shared my struggle in my classes, in the dining hall, and at football games. One of my favorite memories from my freshman year of college was sitting in MacBride Hall and hearing the sound of someone else’s pump alarm and watching as one, then two, several students frantically reached into their pockets or backpack to silence their device.  It took hundreds of hours spent in clinics and hospital rooms to finally realize that my disease was not my identity. The University of Iowa had thousands of students just like me, trying to delicately balance education and health. In addition to class, and papers, and projects, and finals, I had to check my blood sugar, give myself insulin, play doctor, play engineer, and still find time to sleep.

The University of Iowa Chapter (Type1Hawks) of the College Diabetes Network’s mission statement is, “to offer a place of peace, support, and advocacy on campus and in Iowa City through fellowship, fundraising, and outreach.” Since joining in 2017, and becoming chapter president in 2018, my goals for the organization have not changed. Through participating in fundraisers, tabling events, Trunk-or-Treat at Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and dining hall takeovers, Type1Hawks has achieved our mission of being advocates on campus, in Iowa City, and throughout the greater diabetic community. 

Through my position as chapter president, I have made it my mission to a) act as a representative for the diabetic community at The University of Iowa by connecting with other sufferers with chronic illnesses to each other and b) by striving to be an advocate for diabetic patients who risk illness, hospitalization, and death by a lack of access to affordable insulin. Type1Hawks has been active on campus and the state of Iowa to fight for all people with chronic illness by connecting with other student organizations on campus. Together, we can demand space at the table and continue to shape our own body autonomy for all with different abilities.
On December 27, 2020, I will have lived with Type 1 diabetes for 15 years. On December 27, 2055, 50 years from my diagnosis, I hope to know that my time at The University of Iowa made a difference in the lives of others. Having a chronic illness can feel so alienating during college because you are away from your family and have to establish a new rhythm. After four years, I don’t feel alone anymore and if I just impacted one student during my time here, I will have achieved the mission of Type1Hawks.


I am thankful for the support I received from the College Diabetes Network nationally and our chapter here at The University of Iowa. I appreciate the effort to continue to advocate for “Insulin as a Human Right” and equal access for diabetics. I look forward to the next chapter in my fight for all diabetics at the University of Iowa College of Law.