DOWNEY, Calif. - Each morning Natalie Deo wakes up, checks her insulin pump and pricks her finger to check her blood sugar level because she has type 1 diabetes. Deo was only eight years old when she fell into a diabetic coma, her whole family including Deo not knowing she had the disease.
More than 40 thousand Americans like Deo are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year. Now, she relies on her insulin pump to balance her blood sugar levels.
“It doesn’t take a lot but it costs $300 per bottle and that’s why I want to highlight insulin affordability, because I go through two of these a month, and there’s some people who go through even more.”
Before Deo can start her day, she has to make sure her blood sugar levels are in range.
“People can just go outside and just go workout and just go walk out the front door and go to the store. That’s not the luxury I have of doing. When I walk outside the door, I have to have a bag on me with my diabetes supplies or when I’m driving, I have to first check my pump and make sure I’m good. If not, I have to wait,” Deo said.
If her blood sugar level dips below 70, she could faint, have blurry vision and become weak, among other symptoms.
Deo’s body isn’t able to produce insulin, that’s why she uses an insulin pump to help her manage the disease. But it’s not a cure. That’s why she will be alongside 160 children advocating for more funding for type 1 diabetes research with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for the 2019 Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C. on July 8.
“We are still in the research stages of understanding what the underlying causes of the disease are. So, we have much more research to do to get a cure. What we’ve done is come up with a lot more technologies, better insulin, and those sorts of things, but we have a long way to go," Laura MeCoy with JDRF said.
Deo is hoping that her story will remind others why funding for T1D research is needed.
“I’m one of the lucky ones that I have my family and I have my friend’s support and there’s some individuals that don’t have that support and there’s some individuals that can’t afford insulin and can’t afford their supplies and I want to be a voice for them,” Deo said.
For Deo, this is a disease that she’ll likely have to manage for the rest of her life. But she’s hoping that with continued research, others diagnosed with the disease in the future, won’t have too.