Roanoke Teen To Lobby For Diabetes Research Funding

Jul 14, 2017

Keira Realmuto, practicing with fellow swimmer Olivia Reichardt at the Elks Lodge #197 pool in Roanoke.
Credit Jeff Bossert

A young athlete and straight-A student from Roanoke gets a chance this month to talk about something a little more personal.  Kiera Realmuto is among more than 150 young people living with Type 1 Diabetes who will visit the nation's capital this month, with hopes for a better tomorrow, and ultimately, a cure.

Keira Realmuto was diagnosed at age eight – but it’s never stopped her from competing on a summer swim team in Roanoke.  

She’s among more than 150 kids representing each state that will attend the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s 2017 Congress in Washington. 

Realmuto hopes to make the path easier for others like her, and says that starts with making her case before leaders.

“I don’t think they understand how hard it is for somebody with Type 1 Diabetes who’s a kid to kind of live their life normally, like other kids, without it," she said. When I saw what endocrinologists do, it really interests me, and I want to help kids who go through what I’m going through.”

Realmuto said she had long wanted to become a veterinarian one day, but may pursue a career as an endocrinologist after her experience with the disease. 

Keira, 13, also plays soccer, and does what all kids like to do, like staying over at a friend’s house – just always being sure to monitor blood sugar.

"When I go to sleepovers, I try to wake up around 2 and check my blood sugar.  Because if I’m too high or too low in the middle of the night, that can be very dangerous," she said. "But a lot of times, I won’t wake up, and a lot of friends will have to wake me up when I’m there. And I mean, I eat cupcakes and pizza when I’m there, I just have to control how much of it I eat."

Realmuto practices at the Elks Lodge pool.
Credit Jeff Bossert

Realmuto knew a bit what to expect with the disease since her father Mark is also a Type 1 diabetic. 

Her mother Julie says she’s not surprised Keira was handling insulin injections within days of being diagnosed.  But like any parent, she thinks about Keira being off on her own one day.

“Getting her to wake up and check her own blood sugar is almost impossible, so I worry about that for the future as well –you know, what’s college going to bring?," she said. "But that’s why she’s fighting for what she’s fighting for."

Julie also says Keira has taken on the challenge of Type 1 Diabetes with a great deal of responsibility, and she's very proud of her for that.

Realmuto is among four delegates on the JDRF Children’s Congress from Virginia, ranging in age from 8 to 17.  The application process included writing an essay and producing a video.

The two-day schedule at the capital includes meetings with Congressman Bob Goodlatte, as well as U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.