Feature Friday: Author, Shai Mercedes
This week I wanted to share an amazing author with you! Her name is Shai Mercedes and if you didn’t already know, she is the author of two T1D books. Her books are titled: “Shai Learns About Insulin,” and “Shai Learns About Diabetes Care.” Her books caught my eye because I noticed that she is representing children who have always been unrepresented in this genre of literature. I love that Shai was up for the challenge of breaking down barriers and she is an amazing person who definitely needs a shout-out! Enjoy her story and learn how diabetes has affected her life…
My name is Shaina Mercedes Hatchell. I am known as Shai Mercedes to most. I currently reside in Maryland and work as a nurse manager in a diabetes clinic in Washington DC. I have been a nurse since the age of 17, starting out as a LPN and attending HBCU, Delaware State University, for my bachelors of science in nursing. I am now a Registered Nurse. Outside of working as a nurse, I am a poet, author, and the CEO of Each 1 Teach 1 Diabetes Assembly. Writing and doing my creative business ventures has been extremely relaxing and rewarding for me. I absolutely love what I do at work and at home.
Can you tell us about your book Shia Learns? What inspired you to write this book!
My brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12 years old. I remember receiving diabetes education and telling my mom that one day I would be teaching about diabetes as well. My goal in high school and while in college was to be able to help others understand diabetes better, especially people living in predominantly BIPOC and underserved communities.
While in nursing school, I realized that writing and poetry really helped me with my stress. I knew that I loved writing as much as I loved teaching about diabetes and I hoped one day I would find a way to merge the two. Today, I have found that in the Shia Learns book series. Shia is a young African American girl who lives with her mother and father. After having some days of the traditional high blood sugar symptoms, her parents take her to the hospital. She learns that she has type 1 diabetes. These books follow her and her family on the journey to learning what it means to live with this disease. They also learn that Shia is not alone as she meets new diabuddies along the way.
Book 1, Shia Learns About Insulin, follows the new onset journey. Book 2, Shia Learns About Diabetes Care, follows her and Latinx Character Carlos as they explore the supplies they use to care for themselves everyday.
Representation is important in all literature, what do you hope to see in the “diabetic and health genre” moving forward?
My hope is that we see more representation of all people with all cultures and nationalities. I know that if people see themselves on the pages in books, they are more likely to read them. If there is increased resources in many different languages and education provided for a wider variation of dialects, we would narrow the disparity and health equity gap. My contribution to this is with my Shia Learns books. I do not plan to stop until every child can open a book and find themselves. I want children who do not have diabetes to want to learn about it as well because they see themselves in the pages. This will normalize the conversations about the disease and help those who are living with diabetes of any type not feel ashamed or alone.
Diagnosis story: My Brother
I remember getting off of school and my mom saying we were driving to the hospital because my brother was there. I was scared. My brother is my best friend. He is so important to me. I could not imagine what they were going to say. When they said diabetes, I felt guilty. I have always been the bigger kid. I felt like I should be the one in the hospital bed and not him. It was a terrible feeling. I knew I had to do anything in my power to understand what was going on.
What does the word THRIVE mean to you?
When I think of the word thrive and the many people living with diabetes, I think of all that they accomplish outside of living with a chronic disease. I teach everyday and I see everyday how difficult living with this disease can be. Yet, daily I speak with doctors, nurses, teachers, and creatives who are juggling diabetes and doing an amazing job with life’s general stressors. It is amazing! Thriving is not having the perfect A1C. It is living life despite the ups and downs that quite literally can happen every single day. Also, thriving is getting out of bed and choosing to do their best. This is why I love what I do. I get to speak with and teach heros every single day.
What is a little known fact about you?
I dance every time I see one of my patient’s A1C has dropped. Even if it is just by 0.1!
What words of encouragement or hope would you give to other T1D and their families?
You are doing a great job. No matter what that A1C said last visit. No matter how high or low your blood sugar was yesterday or even right now, you are doing great! Keep up the amazing work. You are seen. You are loved. Getting to know so many of you keeps me inspired beyond words. PROUD OF YOU!
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