Ever wonder about the events G-PACT participates in throughout the year? Samantha tells all about her experience at this years DDNC event!

Every year, the DDNC (Digestive Disease National Coalition) puts on an event in Washington DC. During this two day event, representatives from groups such as G-PACT, physicians, patients, and patient advocates get together and speak at the House and Senate. This year, I was able to attend, along with G-PACT president, Carissa Haston to represent ourselves and G-PACT.

DC was quite the experience. I’ve never been before, and being in the nation’s Capitol was very exciting. The first day of the event was full of speakers. While mostly doctors, we were also able to hear from a patient; telling her story and how certain aspects of the healthcare system have failed her.

All of the participants were split into groups. Being from NY, I was grouped with fellow New Yorkers along with others from Illinois. Together, we would all work as a team to speak the following day about new bills, old bills, and how the healthcare system affects all digestive diseases.

I was really nervous. I’m very open about my story, and what I’ve been through, but the idea of speaking to our representatives (or in most cases, their aides) was nerve-wracking.

Monday was business casual. We all met up after breakfast and headed to Capitol Hill. All together, we spoke our pieces in each of the meetings. After speaking once, it was easier to talk. It was great to see how a group of (mostly) strangers can come together and fight for the same thing. We all had different diseases, and/or represented different non-profits and foundations.

Our last meeting was at the House, and coincidentally was with my districts representative. Even better, we were meeting with the Congressman himself!! I’ve had some issues with my insurance, and some of the issues I’ve been dealing with coincided with the issues the DDNC wanted to bring to his attention. I was ready (but still nervous) to talk to the Congressman about these issues.

That meeting was the best of the day. He was very interested in everything we all had to say. I even showed him my feeding tube set up that I had been carrying around all day!! I wanted to make sure that he knew that those of us with chronic conditions are important, and that we deserve proper healthcare. I spoke about how TPN gave me a better chance at life, and how currently, my feeding tube was part of what allowed me to make the trip to speak with him that day. We spoke a lot about how the ACA and how its patient protections truly help those in my and similar conditions; and that while we’re expensive, we deserve a chance to thrive by getting proper healthcare. He asked questions, engaged with all of us, and at the end, he took pictures with us.

I felt empowered leaving that meeting. We all did. We were able to put faces to these bills. Hopefully now, when he’s looking over healthcare bills, he’ll remember our stories and how these bills can truly make a difference on whether or not we get a chance to thrive or suffer.

This was also my first time meeting Carissa. While we’re in contact frequently, being able to meet in person and really get to know one another was so great. I look forward to the next time we’re able to get together! (Though next time we’ll have to make sure not to forget a picture!!)

The DDNC was quite the experience. I’ll tell you though, I’m tired. We did a lot of walking and it pooped me right out. While the experience was one for the books, I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed.

If you have any questions about the DDNC, you can check out their website here, or send me an email at smiths@g-pact.org