At 23 years old, Jeri Morgan-Reiner was fresh out of college and ready to take on the world. She had entrepreneurial dreams and was starting her own business selling women’s accessories. But that summer, she also found herself losing weight, having dizzy spells and waking up to go to the bathroom multiple times per night. One afternoon, when she was visiting her parents, she found herself so thirsty that she was guzzling orange juice straight from the carton.
“My mom had a friend with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and was wary of the symptoms,” Jeri says. “She told me, ‘if you don’t go to the doctor, I’m going to take you there myself.’ I was diagnosed a week later.”
This was in the 1980s, when Jeri’s only treatment option was insulin shots. Jeri didn’t let learning to live with T1D stop her from building a successful business, but it wasn’t easy.
“Before insulin pumps, it was much more difficult to monitor your blood sugar,” she says. “I remember having lows come on so quickly with no warning — I’d be driving to a meeting or to the grocery store and fear I was going to pass out.”
Seeing firsthand how scientific advances like insulin pumps have improved the lives of people with T1D helps explain why Jeri supports Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) and recently named BRI as a beneficiary in her estate.
“T1D research is very important to me, but I want my gift to go beyond diabetes,” she says. “I have a niece with severe nut allergies and friends with multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. I chose to support BRI because they’re working toward helping people with all of these diseases.”
After running her business for decades, Jeri recently retired. These days, she spends much of her time reading, gardening and cooking. She also loves paddleboarding and doesn’t let winter weather stop her from getting out on the water. She’s living her best life with T1D — but she supports BRI in hopes that others won’t have to.
“If we can make living with debilitating autoimmune disease easier, that’s great,” she says. “But BRI’s research gives me hope that we will see a cure for these diseases — maybe not in my lifetime, but for future generations.”
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