Better living through health care

Shelby Leya, nursing major

In high school, Shelby Leya only applied to one school, the University of South Carolina. The Summerville, South Carolina, native’s father had studied engineering here and she wanted to follow in his footsteps, but as a nursing major. “I plan to work in a hospital on a pediatrics floor after I graduate,” she says. “And I definitely will pursue my diabetes education certification within the next few years.”

I’d always known I wanted to be in the medical field. When I was a kid I’d dissect the catfish we caught.

My second day at USC I ended up in the hospital due to type-1 diabetes. I was rushing a sorority. I told one of the older girls in charge of my rush group that I had to go to the hospital and I was waiting for my parents to get here to take me. She said, ‘No, I’m taking you to the hospital now.’ She came to my dorm and got me. I was admitted to ICU. That was my second day at USC.

When I was 16, a junior in high school, I was diagnosed. I had a really rough few weeks at first. I was in the hospital, at MUSC in Charleston, and the nurses and doctors were so amazing. I was in the hospital for three days, getting educated on what I’d have to do for the rest of my life to manage my diabetes. It was an overwhelming experience. But it made me decide nursing was my career path.

I like talking about diabetes. I’ve made it a mission of mine to get educated on the subject. I eventually want to do pediatric diabetes education. Some nurses and doctors who don’t have diabetes don’t understand living with it day to day. Getting educated by someone who has it — that person understands.

Freshman should keep an open mind to everything. I was sheltered growing up. Coming to college was a little scary, quite frankly. Don’t stress about the little things. Grades are important, but you need to maintain a balance of social life and school. Finding that balance is really important for your emotional health as well.

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