JDRF youth ambassador sets out to change the future of type 1 diabetes

He has met with ministers, senators and members of Parliament to share his story about his diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (T1D). He has advocated for policy change for access to affordable insulin for all Canadians with T1D. He has served as a spokesperson at fundraising events and schools to discuss the triumphs and struggles of a teen living with T1D.

Meet Noah Silvaggio, an ambitious 16-year-old JDRF youth ambassador who was voted one of Manitoba’s Top 40 Young People to Watch in 2018 in the category of community activism and social affairs.

Five years ago, Noah was preparing for 7th grade when he began to experience flu-like symptoms. His breathing became laboured and by the time he reached the hospital, his kidneys had begun to shut down. Noah then received some shocking news: he had T1D.

“I remained at the hospital for five days to learn about T1D and how to manage it,” he recalls. “It was a learning curve for all (my family) to adjust to my new normal.”

Following his diagnosis, Noah was invited to give a speech hosted by DER-CA (Diabetes Education Resource for Children and Adolescents) at the Children’s Hospital HSC Winnipeg, which offers specialty services to children and youth under the age of 18 with T1D or type 2 diabetes. It was during this period that he began to volunteer at JDRF, enrolled in the Walk and Ride, and signed up to be a youth ambassador. Not only did Noah serve as a guest speaker at the 30th anniversary of JDRF’s Starry Starry Night Gala – the largest audience before which he had ever spoken – but he also had the opportunity to attend Kids for a Cure Lobby Day (2018) in Ottawa.

“It was an amazing experience,” he says. “I met government officials and really emphasized that in Canada we shouldn’t have to choose between buying insulin and buying food.”

To date, Noah continues to lobby the Manitoba Legislature for insulin pump coverage for all Manitobans with T1D. He writes letters, meets with public servants and participates in local advocacy initiatives to raise awareness. The young activist has also donated $30,000 to JDRF through fundraising and the sale of his art (animal sketches) and jewelry made by his sister.

Noah was the recipient of the Boston Pizza Youth Ambassador of the Year award in 2018. When he isn’t out in the community trying to make a difference, he devotes time to mentoring youth with T1D.

“I like helping others and telling them they can do anything they did before their diagnosis – that it just requires planning, patience and support,” he says.

Noah currently uses an insulin pump, along with a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. An active teenager who enjoys hockey, soccer, snowboarding and Spartan races, he has grown accustomed to checking his sugar levels during sports. Although his condition is more stable now and carb counting has become a way of life, he is hopeful that a cure for T1D will be found one day soon.

“A cure would mean freedom from constant worrying and being 100% in my game without thinking of T1D first,” Noah says candidly. “My Mom could finally sleep the night without checking in on me.”

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