Noemi Motta: A champion in a Diabetes fight in Emery Village

By Sean Delaney

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a chance to highlight the struggles and triumphs of living with Type 1 diabetes. In Emery Village, Noemi Motta, is a primary school student diagnosed in November of 2022.

Now, she lives with the daily realities of managing this chronic condition. Type 1 diabetes requires constant vigilance over blood sugar levels. This involves regular monitoring, insulin administration, and balancing diet and exercise. Noemi, with the support of her family — mother Elisa, father Daniel, and her brother Jorge, the family’s ‘diabetes myth-buster’ — navigates these challenges with inspiring determination.

The first thing Noemi wants everyone to know is that diabetes is not contagious, and you cannot get Type 1 Diabetes from eating too much candy, as some of her schoolmates believe.

“Don’t come close to me; I don’t want to catch it,” is a common misconception she said.

Instead, each day simply requires routine. “I use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to keep track of my blood sugar levels throughout the day and night,” she said. A small wearable device allows Noemi and her family to manage her condition better. Insulin injections, another essential tool in her diabetes care, are administered by her parents based on meals and activity.

School life brings additional challenges. Noemi must have access to her diabetes supplies, and a plan is required to handle fluctuations in her blood sugar levels.

“I often have to check my levels during class and take breaks for snacks or insulin adjustments,” she said. Her friends and teachers play a crucial role in providing the support and understanding she needs.

An avid athlete, Noemi doesn’t let diabetes hinder her love for sports, including gymnastics and dance.

“I need to be extra careful, monitoring my glucose levels closely and adjusting my insulin and food intake,” she said. Her proactive approach is a lesson in balancing a chronic condition with an active lifestyle. At school, Noemi’s friends are educated about and aware of the symptoms of (what Noemi calls “going low”) and are ready to assist at a moment’s notice.

This month, Noemi and her family are actively involved in raising awareness about Type 1 diabetes. One significant initiative is local musician Frank Moyo’s (cousin) ‘Beanies for Noemi” campaign. It has raised more than $1,500 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in honor of Noemi. Recently, Noemi served as the ambassador for the Sunlife Toronto Walk to Cure Diabetes in June, aiding the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Assembling a team of seventy-five participants consisting of family and friends, Noemi was able to raise an incredible $17,000.

“It’s wonderful to see such community support,” Noemi’s mom, Elisa, said.

Noemi and her family were at Queen’s Park to accept a citation scroll from MPP Tom Rakocevic in recognition of her community engagement, education, and participation.

“I was proud to recently recognize Noemi at Queen’s Park for her efforts in raising awareness about diabetes at her school and beyond,” Rakocevic said.

With the support of her friends and family, she organized a beautiful awareness display to start conversations about the condition and educate others. Turning her experience into a powerful tool for advocacy shows that age is no barrier to making an impact.

“I want to thank my family, friends, and teachers for their constant care and understanding.” Her message to others living with diabetes is one of hope and encouragement,” Noemi said.

Noemi said she and many others find strength in counseling and support groups, where they can share their experiences and feelings with those who understand their struggles. Taking care of mental health is as crucial as managing physical health in living with diabetes.

Recognizing the early symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in youth is crucial for timely diagnosis and management. Key symptoms to watch for include excessive thirst and frequent urination, which result from the body’s attempt to expel excess sugar. Despite eating more, unexplained weight loss can occur as the body starts breaking down muscle and fat for energy. Extreme fatigue and weakness are common, as the body can’t use sugar for energy effectively. Additionally, youth may experience blurred vision due to high blood sugar levels affecting eye fluids. Irritability and mood changes are also notable, as well as a fruity smell on the breath, which indicates the presence of ketones, a byproduct of the body burning fat for energy. If these symptoms are noticed, seeking medical attention promptly is crucial, as early detection and treatment of Type 1 diabetes are vital to prevent complications.

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