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Personal Stories

Trevor Williams – DiabetesMine Patients Voice Scholarship Winner and T1D Advocate

Battling the misperceptions of type 1 diabetes is another challenge T1Ds encounter. People of all ages, races, sizes, ethnicities, and lifestyles can have type 1 diabetes. Most importantly, the lack of awareness in emergency rooms around the country has led to dangerous misdiagnoses among T1Ds.

Trevor Williams – DiabetesMine Patients Voice Scholarship Winner and T1D Advocate

 TIDStrong sat down with activist Trevor Williams to discuss the risks of his type 1 diabetes misdiagnosis, the benefits of joining the T1D community, and his recent DiabetesMine Patient Voice Scholarship experience.

Trevor Williams’ T1D Story

After several trips to the ER and a misdiagnosis of type 2 diabetes, Trevarus (Trevor) Williams was finally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of 19. He had just completed his first year at the University of Mississippi and was home in Jackson, MS, for the summer. Williams remembers being incredibly thirsty and drinking lots of water, but it was a hot, humid summer, and he had no family history of type 1 diabetes. It wasn’t until he experienced terrible stomach pains and his vision blurred that he drove himself to the hospital.

“I had been completely healthy my entire life,” he said. “I never even had the flu before. I drove myself to the hospital, and when I got there, they checked my blood sugar, and I was 635. They prescribed Metformin (a drug for type 2 diabetes) and sent me on my way. About two days later, I was still experiencing the same symptoms and couldn’t even get out of bed. I went back to the ER because my glucose was still so high and would not go down with the pills. This time, I stayed in the hospital for about three days. They would get me down with insulin and fluids, but then they would send me home with Metformin. As soon as I left the hospital, my blood sugar shot back up again.”

To make matters worse, Williams had just turned 19 and was no longer eligible for his parents’ insurance. Still, he went back for a third visit. “I was feeling really bad and went back for the third time when they finally diagnosed me with type 1 and sent me to a primary care physician who wasn’t very knowledgeable about managing diabetes. I didn’t get a whole lot of information from her, and wasn’t doing well. My glucose was still really high, which worried me because I was starting college again in the fall.”

Fortunately, Williams’ mother found a doctor who accepted out-of-pocket payments. He happened to be one of the best endocrinologists in the state. “After seeing him—everything changed. This doctor had cooking classes for T1Ds and taught about different insulin pumps and carb counting. He was very hands-on and saw me once a month. He approved me for the Dexcom and the Omnipod two years later.”  

T1D Advocate

Instead of keeping his diagnosis to himself, Williams used his experience to help others. Through several different avenues, Williams spread T1D awareness and supported the fundraising efforts of organizations like JDRF and ADA, where he became a camp counselor.

“After only having diabetes for a short amount of time, I felt really inspired to get the word out, especially in my community where we don’t know that much about type 1 diabetes. People still say to me – you don’t look like you have diabetes – and I try to impress upon them that T1D has a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and ages. That was my mission. In college, I had no one in my corner who looked like me or could relate to me.”

Williams said the camp experience took him back to his own diagnosis. “I just couldn’t imagine being a kid and having to deal with this type of disease. I remember having to go to a place in college where I felt safe to check my blood sugar and do injections. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. At the ADA camps – just the inclusiveness and being surrounded by so many people, other counselors, we all struggle with the same things. Just being able to impress upon them (the kids) that you have diabetes, diabetes doesn’t have you. I wanted to show them you can still have a happy and healthy life.”

Williams has his date of diagnosis (July 9, 2009) tattooed on his arm along with the medical alert symbol.  

Teaching is a Work of Heart

After graduating from the University of Mississippi, Williams received his MBA in Business Administration and Management from Belhaven University. Williams moved from his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, to Houston, Texas, where he worked for several years in banking before shifting careers to education and travel.

He now works as a grade-level assistant principal at the Spring Independent School District in Spring, Texas and is the proud owner of an award-winning travel agency, Book and Bag Travel.

“In 2019, I started teaching at the high school level. I taught accounting and business management for two and a half years. I worked in Title One school districts, where 90 percent of kids live below the poverty line, and a lot of times, those kids don’t have access to programs.”

During this time, Williams served as a mentor for his students and grew close to members of the graduating class, some of whom he still stays in touch with. “I tried to teach them to be the best version of themselves.”

“Over a short time, I became a mid-grade level principal. My career has taken off, which I always attribute to building relationships, working hard, being eager, and learning to grow.”

Williams is now a member of the Aspiring Principal Academy, which prepares you to become a building principal. “In 2017, I finished my MBA, and I’m currently working on my doctorate. I hope to move into a principal position and become a school district’s CEO in the next three to five years.”

One of the students at Williams school was just misdiagnosed with type 2, exactly like Williams. He had no health insurance. “I’ve been very hands-on and just connecting him to a lot of resources. In our African American culture and community, type 1 is not talked about; your diabetes is typically type 2 diabetes.”

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” –Malcolm X.

Book and Bag Travel

One of Williams’ passions is traveling the world. Over the last ten years, he’s been to Africa, Europe, and South America. But particularly enjoyed his time in Rome. “I love the food, culture, architecture, and rich history.”

In 2011, I got to attend the ADA summer camp and then had a chance to go to Nairobi, Kenya, to do mission work; it was my summer before my senior year, and I had just put on the pump a week before my trip. My doctor was really nervous. I actually left my sensor device on the bus in Africa. I always carry my insulin and pens as a backup. After that experience, I really became connected to travel. Growing up in the rural south, we didn’t really value travel.”

Williams decided to open his own travel agency to embrace his love for exploring. “I created my agency in 2017, specializing in romance travel, destination weddings, and honeymoon trips.” The Huffington Post wrote an article on him in 2019. Book and Bag has also been featured in local Houston papers and is listed as one of the top romance travel agencies nationwide. “My business has been very successful.”

Book and Bag Travel focuses on romance and group travel. Williams has been recognized as a Top 30 Under 30 Travel Agent in 2019. Not only can you book through Williams, but he will also help plan your wedding, anniversary, or party. He’s helped several couples plan weddings across Mexico and the Caribbean. “I frequently travel to the Caribbean when I need a quick vacation. I’ve been fortunate to visit many countries.”

DiabetesMine Patients Voice Scholarship Winner

“I saw on Twitter an opportunity to apply for the DiabetesMine Patients Voice Scholarship, so I did and won one of the ten international spots. The conference literally blew me away. I didn’t realize the number of people in diabetes-related careers and how passionate they were about their work. I felt so much love and concern and felt so connected.”

DiabetesMine founder Amy Tenderich describes the DiabetesMine events as “gatherings of patient-entrepreneurs and advocates, pharma and medtech leaders, clinicians, researchers, regulators, designers and more—all with a hands-on role in innovating for diabetes.”

“I have committed myself to being a public representative and really looking for opportunities to represent my community for T1D,” said Williams. “There were two big moments I felt passionate about. There was a segment at the convention that I connected to about diversity in marketing. Also, a representative from Dexcom talked about advertising and the face of type 1 diabetes. The second speaker who inspired me spoke about a program called FIRST. At his company, they go out to schools and teach kids with color about coding.”

When asked what Williams would tell a young adult recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he said, “There is hope. There is a community out there of people who support and advocate for eradicating T1D. You have diabetes; diabetes doesn’t have you.”

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