Nayeli Pagan is one of the many children in Puerto Rico whose life has been changed in the wake of Hurricane Maria. She and her family live in Humacao, a small municipality on the southeastern side of the island where the storm first made landfall. When the storm hit, her family was forced to huddle inside a bathtub for protection after powerful winds blew off a door and other protection her family had put up to safeguard their home. “We felt insecure because it was the strongest wind we have seen on the island,” her father Omar said.
Still, in spite of all she’s lost, she has one simple wish.
“My dream is that I want diabetes to stay away so I can live a normal life.”
Nayeli was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just 3 years old. She spent a month in intensive care as doctors and nurses worked to get her blood sugar back to normal levels. After she was released, the family faced new challenges in trying to keep her blood sugar levels normal.
“We tried to manage it with just a diet but it didn’t work. Her pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin,” her father said. As a result, Nayeli had to learn at a young age how to monitor her blood sugar levels and self-administer insulin as needed. “The biggest challenge for me is measuring my insulin and putting it on the needle,” she said.
In order to help monitor her blood sugar levels, Nayeli wears a Continuous Blood Monitor (CBM) that relies on cell service to provide readings every five minutes that can be viewed on a cell phone. When her blood sugar is too low or too high it sends an alert to her parents so they can provide her with food or insulin to get her levels back to normal.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Maria’s destruction has created challenges with the system. “Due to the lack of telephone coverage on the island we haven’t had this system,” her father said. Many on the island still don’t have electricity or cell service a month after the storm, and it could still take several more months before service is fully restored.
In order to help better manage her diabetes, Project HOPE’s team in Puerto Rico provided Nayeli with a year’s supply of insulin. Her family knows the insulin will go a long way in making sure they can keep their daughter healthy, but also know on an island where nearly 15 percent of the population has diabetes, they’re far from alone in their struggle. “This has affected our life in so many ways - emotionally, economically, and our time as a family. There are a lot of people like us who need help,” her father said.
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