New Albany News

Local teen to advocate diabetes research


Fourteen-year-old Olivia Irion of New Albany is among 161 young people from across the United States who will meet July 8-10 with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to request financial support for diabetes research.

Having Type 1 diabetes "definitely taught me to be more responsible to try to monitor my health," Irion said. "I can't remember not having it. I don't remember what it was like before. I feel like I've never not had to carry around either insulin or wear my (insulin) pump. It's always on my mind."

Irion was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 10, about the same time her family moved to New Albany from Dublin, she said.

People with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, a hormone which helps convert food into energy, according to the American Diabetes Foundation. Type 1 diabetes often is diagnosed in children and young adults.

"I had felt really sick, I had to go to bathroom a lot and my head was hurting," she said. "I lost like 10 to 20 pounds and wasn't feeling really good."

In fifth grade, Irion was giving herself four insulin shots a day: one each time she ate and one at night.

When she entered sixth grade, she started wearing an insulin pump, which automatically pumps insulin into her system after she enters her nutrition information. It eliminates the constant need to check her insulin levels by pricking her finger.

Irion said she will travel to Washington with the other delegates from JDRF, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Type 1 diabetes research, to talk to Ohio's representatives about the importance of research and new products being developed.

She mentioned the artificial pancreas, being tested by the Food and Drug Administration, which could simulate the operations of a normal pancreas and regulate insulin.

"The delegates will meet with individual representatives and on the third day, July 10, the U.S. Senate is having a hearing," said Michael Cook, media relations coordinator for JDRF. "We will have select group of delegates that will actually testify what life is like with Type 1 diabetes and the affect that research will have in their lives."

Cook said JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, sends delegates to Washington every two years through a program called the Children's Congress.

"The purpose is and always has been to remind or share with our elected representatives in Congress the importance of Type 1 diabetes research and to urge them to continue to fund this research," Cook said.

Now entering her freshman year at Columbus Academy, Irion said she is looking forward to playing volleyball and swimming.

But she said she can't ever forget she has diabetes.

"If my blood sugar goes too low, I have to eat 15 to 20 carbs and I have to eat three meals a day," she said. "I have to eat. I can't skip meals."

Irion became a JDRF delegate after submitting an essay to the organization.

Cook said five delegates in al for this trip are from Ohio, including Irion and others from near Dayton, Cincinnati and Strongsville.

He said children and teenagers apply through local JDRF chapters and are chosen by a special committee to represent the organization.

"They are looking for kids from all backgrounds, representing all 50 states," Cook said.