Girl hopes for freedom at 11 with insulin pump

Birthday wish for a medical device is bringing family the warmth of community support

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

Donations to help cover the cost of 10-year-old Julie Mourao's insulin pump can be made through the GoFundMe website, www.gofundme.com/evnqrs.

Donations to help cover the cost of 10-year-old Julie Mourao’s insulin pump can be made through the GoFundMe website, www.gofundme.com/evnqrs.

Ten-year-old Julie Mourao uses a needle to inject insulin into her stomach about five times a day. After her 11th birthday next month, though, she hopes to be able to abandon the needles in favor of an insulin pump.

Julie was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago. For her upcoming birthday, the only thing she asked for was an insulin pump.

“I think it’ll make diabetes a little smaller part of my life,” Julie said of the pump.

The generosity of relatives, community members and complete strangers may make that possible.

Julie’s mom, Irina Razumovsky, had planned to use her credit card to cover the out-of-pocket cost of the insulin pump. Even with employer-provided health insurance, the pump is going to cost the family about $2,000.

A coworker encouraged Razumovsky to raise the money through the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, and to share her story through social media. Razumovsky created a donation account but didn’t expect the effort to raise much, if any, money.

So far, the campaign has raised more than $1,200.

“I feel really blessed to have people care about me that I don’t even know,” Julie said. “I’m really thankful for that, and I’m really excited.”

Managing diabetes

Diabetes is a disease affecting how one’s body uses blood glucose, or blood sugar.

When a person eats, his or her pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin helps sugar in the bloodstream to enter cells. A person with diabetes has too much glucose in the blood, not moving into cells to fuel their work.

In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas, making the body incapable of producing insulin. So people with Type 1 diabetes rely on insulin injections or an insulin pump.

Insulin pumps deliver insulin 24 hours a day through a catheter placed under the skin. The pump will allow Julie to administer insulin at meal times, and as needed throughout the day, with the push of a button, as opposed to a needle injection.

“It’ll help me, because I don’t have to do shots every day,” Julie said. “That’s pretty amazing for me.”

Julie tests her blood-sugar levels about six to eight times a day and administers insulin before eating meals and snacks. Razumovsky helps Julie to determine insulin dosages, based on her blood-sugar levels and what she’s eating.

During school, Julie, a fifth-grader at Silver Star Elementary in Vancouver, goes down to the office at lunchtime to test and administer insulin. Next year, Julie will be attending Covington Middle School, which doesn’t have a school nurse to help Julie, Razumovsky said.

The goal, she said, is to get Julie the pump and have her ready to manage her disease on her own while at school.

“She’s going to be a little more independent, which is what I’m hoping for,” Razumovsky said.

Covering costs

Razumovsky and her fiancé, Shane Tomlin, both work, but they were still facing a financial pinch to afford the pump, which costs between $5,000 and $7,000 without insurance.

“I was going to put it on my credit card and think about it later,” Razumovsky said. “But with the holidays coming up, I felt the financial burden more.”

Julie’s health insurance covers 80 percent of the cost of her diabetes supplies, so the family spends a few hundred dollars on supplies every couple of months. Once Julie has a pump, they’ll still have out-of-pocket costs for different supplies — tubing and catheter covers instead of needles and injection pens.

Razumovsky is also looking at purchasing a continuous monitor for Julie. The monitor uses a sensor inserted under the skin to record real-time blood-sugar levels. That could help Julie to prevent dramatic drops or significant spikes, and eliminate the need for multiple finger pricks each day, Razumovsky said.

If more than $2,000 is raised through the GoFundMe campaign, Razumovsky said, the money will go toward purchasing that monitor and Julie’s diabetes supplies.

Julie took control of her diabetes — testing her own blood-sugar levels and administering her insulin injections — within a year of being diagnosed at age 7. For the last couple of years, she’s asked for a pump to make managing the disease easier.

“I was just nervous,” Razumovsky said of her initial hesitation. “But now I think the time is right. She’s ready. She’s grown-up.”