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A local win for young Virginia diabetics

Jennifer Natividad carefully watches news reports of children who die in school from allergic reactions and heart conditions.

She monitors those reports the same way she meticulously checks her youngest child’s blood sugar, looking for a trend, a sign that something is wrong. And the Stafford County mom is terrified that one day, she will see a student die at school because they didn’t have access to diabetic supplies.

Natividad and other Virginia parents have fought to make sure that won’t happen, and they recently won a small victory when Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill requiring public schools to allow students with diabetes to carry their medical supplies with them. The bill also asks the Virginia Board of Education to revise its training policies to include newer treatments, such as glucagon and insulin pumps.

The bill won’t affect 10-year-old Annika Natividad, who now attends a private school. Her parents pulled her out of Stafford County schools when they felt like staff didn’t know enough about Annika’s insulin pump.

“I just couldn’t send her anymore,” Jennifer said.

Annika was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7. She began using an insulin pump at 8. From the beginning, Jennifer, a registered nurse, worried about Annika while she was at school. She worried that Annika’s blood sugar would spike and no one would know how to help the young girl.

She also wanted Annika to have access to her medicine throughout the school day, and she wanted school staff to be trained in diabetes care.

“You can’t leave diabetes in the nurse’s office,” Jennifer said. “It goes everywhere with you.”

So she and other parents lobbied state lawmakers, asking for required trainings, the right to carry diabetes treatments and the assurance that each school would have glucagon for students.

They didn’t get everything on their wish list, as the Virginia Education Association opposed requiring schools to buy glucagon, which is an emergency medication used to treat severe low blood sugar in diabetics.

The final bill also doesn’t require staff to be trained in using insulin pumps. But it does require the VDOE to revise its training guidelines to include insulin pumps.

Annika will still stay in private school, as her parents don’t think the law provides enough protection for her. But Jennifer said that the right to carry their own supplies is a big step for students with diabetes, who could otherwise be separated from needed medical equipment during a lockdown or evacuation.

“And the wheels are already turning as to how we can approach this the next session and do more,” she said.

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973