Positively Inspirational: 17-Year-Old College Student Fights for Type 1 Awareness

In this series, JDRF and Diabetes Self-Management shine a spotlight on young people living with type 1

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In this series, JDRF and Diabetes Self-Management shine a spotlight on young people living with type 1

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.

Natalie Deo, 17, Downey, California

Natalie Deo, 17, was diagnosed with type diabetes at 8 years old. How old were you when diagnosed with T1D and please describe your journey?

I was 8 years old, autoimmune. Family had no idea what type 1 diabetes was at the time, there was no family history or anything. I was diagnosed Thanksgiving week. I was home from school and not feeling good, had a fever up and down. But on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, I was feeling lethargic and was unable to walk. My parents carried me to our local ER as I slipped into a diabetic coma DKA with my blood glucose reading 994. I was immediately ambulanced to Miller Children’s Hospital where I spent three days in a diabetic coma in the ICU. The ER doctor told my parents: “If she comes out of this, she could have severe brain damage and/or renal failure.” 

Coming out of the coma, it took me few hours to realize who and where I was then the doctor told me that I had type 1 diabetes. We spent a total of 12 days in the hospital. In those 12 days my parents had to learn to give me insulin shots and check my blood glucose several times a day.  Most of all I had to get use to it as I was deathly afraid of needles. Since then, I have grown a lot and learned a lot about my T1D. Now I am on a Medtronic Insulin Pump and sensor. I am an independent T1D where I am capable of doing everything by myself. I love to advocate for T1D, I am an ambassador for JDRF-LA. My #TeamNatDeo will be walking the JDRF OneWalk  for the fourth year in a row now. And this year I am going to Washington D.C. with Children’s Congress to talk about funding for T1D research, because we need a CURE. At 17 years of age, I just finished by third year toward my bachelor’s in engineering at California State University – Los Angeles. 

What is the hardest part about managing T1D? And how do you turn these challenges into positives?

The hardest part about managing T1D for me has been managing the unknown highs and lows of my blood glucose. It could be a regular day with nothing out of the ordinary and my blood glucose is high. Managing it, I use as a strong point when I share my story with people who might not understand what that would mean, and relate with the ones who do.

How did you become involved with the JDRF?

When I was diagnosed a family with a T1D daughter, who is involved with JDRF, visited us in the hospital and seeing her so healthy and living normal life – I knew I had to get involved.

Any JDRF community service projects or initiatives? Please tell us about them!

This year, the Children’s Congress 2019, but before that I was involved in JDRF OneWalk – #TeamNatDeo, JDRF Youth Ambassador and through JDRF visiting and talking to newly diagnosed families in my area. 

What have you found to be the most useful diabetes technology?

My pump and sensor.

How do your friends and family support you?

Overall my friends and family support me with donating to #TeamNatDeo and walking with me. And the close ones are patient, they care and want to understand my T1D. My immediate family, just being there for support on my good and bad days, providing me with the supplies and things I need and loving me for all that I do.

What are some of your favorite activities?

Hanging out with my friends, volunteering, going on new adventures, traveling, photography, binge watch NBC sitcoms and driving.

What is your favorite diabetes-friendly meal and why?

My favorite meal is a turkey sandwich with avocados because it healthy, simple and my blood sugar agrees with it.

What advice would you give to someone your age who is newly diagnosed with T1D?

It may seem tough, but you are tougher. Don’t give up.

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