Kids with type 1 diabetes are among the estimated 200,000 young people living with the disease in the United States. Each year, roughly 40,000 people are newly diagnosed with the disease. A diagnosis is challenging, especially for kids with type 1, but many are thriving and living inspirational lives.
Diabetes Self-Management and JDRF have a shared vision: to promote the advancement of type 1 diabetes research by spotlighting the dedicated sugar type 1 diabetes champions from across the U.S. In this series, we asked some young patients about friends, new tech, friends, advice and more.
Emilina “Emi” Villalobos, 8, Hilo, Hawaii
How old were you when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and please describe your journey?
I was 5 years old. I was very sick and we thought I just had a cold. There is no family history of diabetes with my family. I live on an island that does not have a children’s hospital, or pediatric I.C.U., which I needed, I was flown to Kapiolani Children’s Hospital where my family and I remained for five days. It was a very scary time, but we learned all about what our life would be like with type 1 diabetes.
What is the hardest part about managing type 1 diabetes ? And how do you turn these challenges into positives?
The hardest part about managing type 1 diabetes is having to be responsible and remembering my devices, my PDM for my pump and receiver for my CGM. It is hard because I am very active and get excited about doing my activities, I forget about them. My mom found a lady that made me a personalized fanny pack to help me carry my devices and still be able to be a kid.
How did you become involved with the JDRF?
When I was diagnosed, I was gifted with Rufus who assisted my family and I in learning about type 1 diabetes. He is very special and I still have him. Rufus was a gift from JDRF. They have been in my life since day one and continue to be.
Any JDRF community service projects or initiatives?
I created a slideshow and presentation about type 1 diabetes for my school, Ha’aheo Elementary. I used Rufus to help when I spoke to the kindergarten and first grade. I created this presentation to help my peers and teachers understand me and my life with type 1 diabetes.
How do your friends and family support you?
My friends and family are extremely supportive. My friends my always being there for me and treating me like all the other kids and my family encourages me to live my best life, being active, trying new things, and always making sure I have all my diabetes supplies.
What are some of your favorite activities?
Hula, baseball, swimming and reading. I am looking forward to starting cheer and soccer this year, too.
What is your favorite diabetes-friendly meal and why?
Since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I was also diagnosed with celiac disease in September of 2018. It has been very frustrating to find foods I like without gluten. I enjoy sugar-free popsicles on hot days, which we have many of in Hawaii. But my favorite meal would be crunchy tacos, TACO TUESDAY! My favorite.
What advice would you give to someone your age who is newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
Not to be afraid, you can live an awesome life with type 1 diabetes. There are lots of people and resources that will help them and their families, especially JDRF!