Bethany LaPrad, Midland, MI

Bethany LaPrad will attend Saginaw Valley State University in the fall to begin studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. Her determination to pursue higher education has been driving her throughout high school, but she’s equally motivated by her desire to help people, “I love the process of people and things healing. I think it’s fascinating. ”

A very engaged student, Bethany is a member of student council, the varsity & marching bands, her school’s track team, and its theater program. She was Vice President of her sophomore class, and is very involved with her church, singing in the choir and helping in the nursery.  She says, “I love to sing. Choir is like a sanctuary for me. Whenever I go there, I can forget the day’s troubles and stressors and get lost in the music.” She’s also a member of her local Gleaners, works 24 hours per work on top of her school schedule, and volunteers with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Bethany is unique in at least two ways: She’s had significant experience lobbying on Capitol Hill, and she’s done it on behalf of not one, but two disease communities of which she is a member. In addition to PKU, Bethany has Type 1 Diabetes (sometimes referred to as “Juvenile Diabetes” because it’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults). This means that Bethany has two different disorders that each have their own very stringent dietary restrictions, and has significant motivation to lobby Congress for each: for funds for treatments and cures for both disorders, and for coverage for medical nutrition for her PKU.

Bethany has won significant recognition for her activism, starting with the invitation to be a part of the 2013 Children’s Congress hosted by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association, and the Call to Congress of the American Diabetes Association. She’s well-known by her Congressman, Representative John Moolenaar, as she has met with him multiple times to discuss both Diabetes and PKU.  Her Congressman, Bethany says, “knows both diseases and understand the urgency of getting medical necessities covered by insurance.” Bethan has also participated annually in a program for Year 1 Medical Students at Wayne State University, speaking, according to her physician, “openly and honestly — discussing the positives and negatives of having both PKU and diabetes. She is engaging with the more than medical 300 students, answering their questions and telling her story.”

Of her diet, Bethany is very sanguine:  “I know people who can have three times my allowance each day, and people who can only have one-quarter of that.” While she has sometimes struggled with the diet, she works hard to maintain good levels and says her parents have always been very honest with her about what could happen if she doesn’t stay on diet.  She credits her parents and her clinic for tremendous support and understanding, and recognizes that her diagnosis has given her an opportunity: “Because of PKU, I have found my passion: advocating for what is right… Long story short, PKU, while it is a tremendous responsibility, is also one of the best things that has happened to me.”