Jay Haapala – Flying Solo with T1D!

I’m thrilled to bring back Jay Haapala for another guest post! Last time was about the Prudential Spirit of Community award, and this time he’s soaring above cloud nine!

Welcome back, Jay!

Jay and his parents

Jay and his parents after his first solo flight.

When you think of flying you probably think of lousy service, high prices, crowded airplanes, and a lot of waiting in line. You will most likely stress about getting on your 6:00AM flight and then stress yet again about making your 45-minute connection in Atlanta. There’s another side to flying that many people never get to experience and even fewer diabetics get to experience. My name is Jay Haapala; some of you will remember me from my guest post here on Scott’s blog a little over a year ago. I am back today to share what is new with me and my quest of becoming a private pilot.

Jay in the cockpit

Jay inside the cockpit of N6238D, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk on his first solo flight. Downtown Charleston, WV is on his right and the camera’s left.

Long story short… when you’re addicted to aviation, you’re addicted. What starts the aviation addiction varies from person to person. I caught the “Aviation Bug” in June of 2007 when my mom and I flew to St. Louis for a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) conference. On the way home we ended up stuck in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport for nine hours. I have close to no recollection of what I saw in the airport but whatever it was it sure had a very profound impact on me. Aviation became my life and it was all I talked about. I spent 4th grade with my face glued up to a window in my classroom that sits directly under the approach path to Charleston’s Yeager Airport. I would go on to fly every chance I got and more recently started working as an intern at Yeager Airport.


Airborne! There’s Jay on his first solo flight!

In April of this year I decided enough was enough and decided it was time to start my journey of becoming a licensed private pilot. While this isn’t an impossible task for someone with T1D it has its added challenges. In May of 2014 I applied for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class Medical certificate. Currently people with T1D cannot hold a First Class Medical Certificate (the type required to fly for an airline). I’m happy to say that after close to 1.5 months of calling the FAA and getting a United States Senator’s office involved I now hold an FAA Third Class Medical Certificate. This certificate allows me to fly an aircraft solo and to eventually fly as a private pilot.

All smiles after landing

All smiles after he landed N6238D by himself for the first time. He calls this the look of “I did it!”

My instructor and I made a decision that I was ready to fly an aircraft while acting as pilot in command, my first solo! This is major milestone in any pilots’ training, the person that acted as your safety net steps out of the aircraft, knowing you are capable of flying that aircraft by yourself. The day was July 9, 2014. I flew two “patters” (or circuits around Yeager Airport consisting of a take off and landing) with my instructor, Brenda. We decided I was ready, I taxied back to Executive Air (the private terminal at Yeager Airport), Brenda stepped out and said “bring the plane back safely”, she signed my logbook and walked off. I’ll be honest; I was scared to death. However, I knew I could do it. I’ve waited for this moment since I knew the average person could become a pilot. My first solo went great. I was able to fly one pattern (loop) around Yeager Airport (CRW). While a first solo is special for any pilot in training it really meant a lot to me knowing I was doing it with T1D. I won, diabetes lost. The type of private flying I get to experience is much different from the airlines; if you ever get the chance to fly in a general aviation aircraft, do it.

Jay losing his shirttail

Jay’s instructor, Brenda, cutting his shirttail – a US tradition after a first solo flight.

I’ve come to the realization that when it comes to aviation I posses a ridiculous amount of serendipity. Serendipity is defined as: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. That one word pretty much sums up my aviation life. If I were to give anyone around my age advice it would be something like: your age doesn’t matter (you can do whatever you want at your age assuming it is legal), be interested in an industry, share your passion with others, use social media (if done correctly it will help you greatly), never take no for answer, if you have diabetes (or any other health related issue) don’t let it stop you, connection are key. Finally, as the slogan of AirTran Airways states: Go. There’s nothing stopping you. As I continue my quest of becoming a private pilot, follow my website and social media feeds. My website has some of my pictures and videos flying including an onboard video of my first solo! Thank you to Scott for the opportunity to share my story on here; it is always a pleasure.

Twitter: @CRWjay
Instagram: @CRWjay
Facebook: /CRWJay
Website: Flying on Insulin


Jay Haapala on DSMA Live!

Jay Haapala on DSMA Live – Recorded July 26, 2014




Hanging with SugarFreeShawn (Shawn Shepheard)!

I was blessed with an opportunity to finally meet Shawn in person at CWD’s Friends for Life conference in Orlando – and he’s twice as awesome in person as I’d imagined him to be. We weren’t able to coordinate a video while together in Orlando, but we made sure to connect not long after.

Shawn does a TON of amazing advocacy work and is just a treat to be around. If you all don’t follow him already, please make sure to get him on your radar and support the work he’s doing.

I’m honored to be a part of his story through sharing our story.

And I can't wait to get his new book... 

And I can’t wait to get his new book…

I owe a huge hug and thank you to the marvelous Sandy Struss for the introduction.

Patient Network Live Chat – THANK YOU, FDA!

Patient Network Live Chat - Diabetes and Glucose Monitoring Devices

Helene Clayton-Jeter, Courtney Lias, and Bennet Dunlap

About four months ago the FDA’s Office of Health and Constituent Affairs hosted an extremely informative Patient Network Live Chat with FDA Expert Courtney Lias and Patient Advocate Bennet Dunlap. If you missed the live event, there is a recording online you can watch. iOS users, it’s a Flash site…sorry.

This is well worth your time to watch if you want to know more about the FDA and its role in blood glucose meter and test strip regulation, specifically the FDA’s new proposed guidelines and what standards blood glucose meters should have to meet before the FDA clears them for sale.

I’d like to express a huge “THANK YOU” to the FDA for hosting this extremely informative chat and making it available for the diabetes patient community. This is a really big deal and I very much appreciate it. Thank you!

And yes, I totally meant to get this posted a long time ago… better late than never, right?

Guest Post: Nene Adams & Diabetes Cards

Today I’d like to share a story from Nene Adams about a series of fun cards made just to lift our spirits and let us know we are loved.

Click on each card to see the message inside – I think you’ll love them (or is it just me?)! These are just a sample of what’s available. At the time of this post, there are something like 60+ unique cards available.

Thanks for sharing, Nene!

2014 nene mr manAs a recently diagnosed a Type II diabetic, I read everything I could about this life changing disease. Since my partner, Corrie Kuipers, and I have been designing and selling specialty greeting cards since 2007, during my research, I was surprised to find very few greeting cards for diabetics, especially children and teenagers.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million adults and children in the U.S. have diabetes. Clearly, the need exists for special greeting cards to serve this community. Creating a series of colorful, sometimes humorous, always light-hearted greeting cards addressing issues like insulin pumps, body image, lifestyle changes, emotional reactions and other concerns seemed like a “no brainer.”

We want to encourage a diabetic who’s feeling a little down. To let them know they’re not alone. To say “I love you” and “it’s okay.” Our greeting cards have positive, supportive messages for diabetic children, teens, young adults and adults.

We’re so proud of our work, we wanted to spread the joy, so we invited other talented artists – Doreen Erhardt, Sharon Fernleaf and Betsy Bush – to join us in making unique greeting cards for diabetics and growing the unique collection.

To diabetics, we want to say—you are not alone. To the families and friends of someone with diabetes—yes, there are greeting cards just for your loved ones. If you know someone who’s been recently diagnosed, send them an encouraging note. The right reassurance at the right time can really raise the spirits and make the day brighter.


It’s About To Go Down

I was surprised by a really high blood sugar (280 mg/dl) at lunch today after an awesome afternoon on the basketball court. I took what I needed for my meal, and to correct for the high, and knew I’d have to keep an eye on things for the next couple of hours.

Back at home, and only about an hour after eating, I’m surprised to see 121 mg/dl and dropping on my CGM. Slightly worried, and wondering if my CGM is confused I do a BG test.

As soon as I see the number (110 mg/dl) I hear Kevin Hart in my head.


Still full from lunch, I scarfed down a bowl of cereal and a cosmic brownie. I’m now coasting at 95 mg/dl and holding steady.

Why did I freak out with such a “perfect” blood sugar? 121 mg/dl is great, right? So is 110 mg/dl, and 95 mg/dl, right?

It all depends.

Those numbers are NOT at all great when I have a large lunch bolus on board that’s just beginning to hit its peak (well, maybe if I had pre-bolused or did something else fancy, it would be different).

When I see a number like that so soon after a meal it means there is a nasty low blood sugar right around the corner and I need to take action right now.

It’s another great story about how a “great” number can mean so many different things depending on the situation.

And here’s more Kevin Hart because he makes me laugh. Caution: Just a little bit of language here. If you’re the sensitive type, just skip it.


Diabetes Stigma – Let’s Keep Talking About It

I love that the conversations about diabetes stigma continue, and it’s clear to anyone paying attention that there’s a lot to talk about.

The folks at diaTribe and dQ&A (dQ&A is a diabetes focused research company that works closely with Kelly Close, Close Concerns, and diaTribe) shared some really interesting information they gathered recently and I wanted to help spread the word.

Their Storify piece tells it so well:

Jerry the Bear: Reinventing Diabetes Education Through Play

I have loved the team at Sproutel ever since I first saw them running around in bear suits (long story, watch the video here for a sneak peek). They’re launching a big campaign today to get a bear in the hands of every child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the coming year.

Jerry the Bear: Reinventing Diabetes Education Through Play





Watch, Learn, Contribute, Share, Help


Jerry Testimonial


I Ran a Half – Check Out my Medal!

Must be early in the race if I'm still almost smiling...

Smile and pretend you’re fine 🙂

After finishing an 8k with Insulindependence last fall I talked myself into completing a half marathon in Seattle and committed to doing so on live internet radio (it’s also recorded, so I couldn’t pretend it didn’t happen).

I trained, and trained, and trained, and was feeling good until about three weeks before the race when I hurt myself (turns out I didn’t pay enough attention to proper running form early in my training).

I tried to work through it, I tried to rest it, I tried pretty much everything except going to the doctor until I couldn’t take it anymore (two days before leaving for ADA, 11 days before racing). Diagnosis? Proximal hamstring tendinopathy.


That’s a fancy way of saying a high hamstring injury. Treatment? Acute physical therapy, with no hope for recovery or relief in time for the race. But the doctor was so cool about it.

“Of course – run the race. You have to run the race, we’ll rehab you afterward.”

I didn’t talk much about the injury online beforehand, but I was totally freaking out. It totally threw off my training plan, which, in turn, really shook my mental confidence for completing the event.

It’s one thing to push yourself hard through an event you know you’ve trained properly for. It’s something completely different to do an event when you know you haven’t.

Holy mind games, Batman.

Enjoy the Experience

But I was all in. I was going to do the race and just take my time. Slow down if I hurt, walk if necessary, and just take in the experience. And that’s exactly what I did.

I enjoyed Seattle, had some wonderful quality time with Dana Lewis & Scott Leibrand (#DIYPS), saw some old friends (hi Ghosn’s!) and met some new ones (hey Terri & David!). Oh yeah, we raised some money for the American Diabetes Association along the way, which is pretty great, too. Thank you, all, for helping make that happen.

I earned a half marathon medal, and it’s something I’m very proud of. I wore it all the way home and was congratulated a few different times. That felt pretty awesome. And you can bet your green, orange, and yellow bracelets that I’ll be wearing that medal at Friends for Life next week, too.

Why? Because if I can do this then you can set a goal and do it, too.

Picture of me with my finisher medal after the race

Check out my medal, yo!




ADA’s 74th Sci Sessions in San Fran

Moscone Center in San Francisco

The Moscone Center in San Francisco

A couple of weeks ago I attended the American Diabetes Association’s 74th Scientific Sessions which brought over 17,000 people from more than 121 countries to San Francisco, CA for an action packed weekend of learning and connecting.

Thanks and Appreciation

Welcomed with open arms

I have many people to thank for making this trip possible:

  • American Diabetes Association – The ADA has done a lot of work over the past few years to open this professional conference (designed for and aimed at physicians, scientists, researchers, and health care professionals) to patient bloggers. Their efforts here are, in my opinion, under-appreciated. Thank you, ADA, for opening up your press registration guidelines to this new world of information sharing.
  • Diabetes Advocates – This is another group that has come a long way recently thanks to the hard work and devotion of the members. When my corporate sponsor for travel and lodging to the conference fell through, I applied for, and received, a scholarship for this conference through the Diabetes Advocates (a program of the Diabetes Hands Foundation). Couldn’t have done it without you, DA!
  • Novo Nordisk – The scholarship mentioned above was possible thanks to the generous support of Novo Nordisk. They are helping bring a lot of patient advocates to a lot of conferences this year. Thank you, Novo!
  • Korey Hood, Phd – Korey had the vision for making history at this year’s meeting, and I am honored to have been a part of it. He worked hard to make my visit to San Francisco super comfortable from day one. Much appreciated, Korey!
  • Manny Hernandez – When I needed a place to crash for a couple of nights after the conference before heading north to run my race, Manny was quick to offer his place. I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed the time with him and his wonderful family. Gracias, hermano!

Behavioral Medicine & Psychology

A big display in the halls of the meeting listing all of the special interest sessions

DOC on the schedule!

I mentioned Korey’s vision for making history. His idea was to create a panel discussion around behavior medicine principals in the diabetes online community. I had the honor of sitting with Manny Hernandez, Jeff Hitchcock, and Kerri Sparling on the panel.

Allowing session attendees to engage with us in a safe environment, get to know a little bit about us (our history and background), and ask questions seemed to be very well received and appreciated by those who attended.

Of course, there were a lot of really tough questions, and for some of them there just aren’t any answers (I’m thinking of one specifically where patients were asking a clinician “why me?”).

A selfie of the panel showing Korey (moderating), Jeff, Manny, Kerri, and Scott

Panel selfie – had to do it.

We also had some great questions about the accuracy of information and more specifically what to do when we encounter bad information. I verbally stumbled while trying to address this concern, and was thankful to have Jeff, Manny, & Kerri to pick up where I fell short.

The experience as a whole was very special for me, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

There was one person in the audience who approached the microphone and said that my blog had saved her life… and I literally had to pick my jaw up off the table. Thank you, D’Arcy, for sharing such a moving piece of yourself. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

mySugr at ADA

It was a treat to have both Frank Westermann (CEO & Co-Founder) and Kyle Rose (Managing Director, USA) in town for the meeting. I enjoyed introducing them to many of my friends and business partners here in the states.

mySugr is excited to have a poster published this year (881-P Year: 2014) in collaboration with INSEAD about engaging patients with diabetes via mobile health technology during the holidays. My panel was during the poster presentation, so I couldn’t attend in person, but I hear it was well attended and well received.

Picture with Frank, Dayle, Scott, and Chris

Frank, Dayle, Scott, Chris

So Much More…

There are many more great things I’d like to talk about, like meeting Jana Beck at the great D-Data ExChange event (she introduced me to diabetes and QS last year), and the incredible #dstigma Meet & Tweet which is clearly an area that deserves much more attention and work.

But if I had to pick one thing that really resonated with me, it would have to be a statement from Dr. Howard Wolpert during the 8th Annual Diabetes Forum presented by TCOYD & diaTribe.

It’s important to keep in mind who Dr. Wolpert is when considering what he said… Senior Physician, Adult Diabetes at Joslin Diabetes Center, Director, Joslin Institute for Technology Translation, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. In other words, he is a diabetes expert badass who is famous for his level of knowledge and expertise.

“The more I learn about diabetes, the more I realize how little I know.”  — Dr. Howard Wolpert

This, to me, is a testament to the complexity of diabetes and the advanced level of focused research, teaching, sharing, and collaboration that happens at Sci Sessions. It blows my mind and fills me with admiration for everyone working so hard to make things better for us.

It also reinforces my feelings that we do a pretty good job of navigating life with diabetes. It is complicated. And it is difficult. And it always leaves me with similar feelings like that of Dr. Wolpert. But most days I’m able to get up and make it through a day, and so are you. And that says a lot about us.



Honoring Heroes with the American Red Cross

Red Cross Advocate BadgeI’ve been invited to help the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region tell the story of the upcoming Heroes Breakfast.

I’m incredibly honored, and am surrounded by a powerhouse group of fellow advocates in the local area.

So Impressed

I attended a short meet & greet session last week to learn more about the Red Cross and the heroes being honored. I toured the local Red Cross facility and learned about the services offered and the philosophies behind them.

By the end of the evening I was positively blown away by everything I heard and saw, and so impressed by what the Red Cross does. I’ll talk more about all of that stuff in the near future, in a different post, because I think everyone needs to know (and help). This post, however, is all about shining light on a handful of incredible people.

Regional Heroes & Remarkable Stories

Their stories range from instant reactions and courage beyond reason to long-term visions and projects that require determination few can sustain.


I encourage you to read their stories on the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region blog post.


You’ll also see the companies who sponsor each of these awards, and they also deserve a lot of recognition for supporting these great honorees. The sponsors include the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, the Medica Foundation, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans, CenterPoint Energy, St. Jude Medical Foundation, and the American Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region.

You’re Invited

The 2014 Heroes Breakfast is happening on Thursday, June 5th from 7:00 am – 9:00 am at the Hilton Minneapolis. If you’d like to join us you can find more information and buy tickets here.

The Connection

There are some diabetes related connections through the Red Cross and their services, and I’ll be talking more about those soon. But I won’t be doing any of that until these heroes have had their moment.

They deserve that, and much more.