It was December 2009; my 19-year-old brother, Devin, lay in the hospital bed. At 6-foot-5 and 119 pounds, he had a blood glucose level of over 800. This is when he was officially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It was in this moment that his life, and mine, changed forever.
I am Daja Dial, Miss South Carolina 2015, and I am an advocate for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. My brother lives with type 1, my grandmother has prediabetes and my great-grandmother, at 92 years old, is blind from complications of type 2. This family history, plus my brother's struggles with accepting his disease and transitioning to adulthood, led me to join the fight. I vowed to do all that I possibly could to keep others from experiencing that same struggle!
Following Devin's diagnosis, I immediately became involved with the American Diabetes Association in my hometown. I found comfort in helping with their annual fundraising gala, "The Sugar Ball." I began to embody their mission: "to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes." These experiences sparked my interest in the health field, guided me through a difficult time and inspired me to take a leadership role in the future.
As my passion grew, Devin's challenges with managing his diabetes continued, resulting in several hospital visits and incidents of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). As I became more knowledgeable, I wanted even more to help Devin in his fight and pave the way for others as well.
I joined the local community leadership group for the Association's Greenville, South Carolina, office and worked closely with others to bring the fundraising gala back to our area (it had dissolved due to a change in leadership). We named it the "STOP Diabetes Gala" and committed to stopping diabetes in its tracks in our local community. Along the way I visited local endocrinologists, diabetes educators, physicians and registered nurses to inquire about the needs of children with diabetes, especially as it relates to transitioning into adulthood. It is my goal to use my time as Miss South Carolina 2015 as a year of service for these individuals. I want to be a force of motivation for them, especially during difficult times.
As Miss South Carolina, I have been afforded an incredible platform and a microphone that allows me to educate residents throughout South Carolina. I have persuaded parents, teachers, community leaders and legislators to invest their time and money with the mission to eliminate diabetes from the lives of Americans. I am ready to build on existing relationships with donors, as well as build new ones with policymakers. And if I'm awarded the job of Miss America, I believe I could reach even more people.
My goal is to not only create awareness around diabetes, but also encourage the dialogue that will equip our communities to develop a new age of public health. I may only be one person affected by diabetes, but I can be a leader for all.