‘Don’t stop believing’: Local residents walking for a cause

Isabella Elentrio, a Type one diabetes sufferer, leads a team of “Diabetic Divas” for JDRF One Walk

Special to The Sun: Isabella Elentrio is held up by her parents Dana and Tom Conte at last year’s JDRF One Walk.

One month before her fourth birthday, Isabella Elentrio of Washington Township was diagnosed with Type one diabetes. Her mother, Dana Conte, remembers it very vividly.

“I had been on my honeymoon, we came home that Sunday, which was Oct. 2,” Conte said. She described Isabella as very lethargic, quiet but attached to her.

Over the weekend, Conte was informed Isabella was using the bathroom frequently, this led her to call the pediatrician. The pediatrician said to keep a log of how often Isabella drank and used the bathroom and to call back at the end of the week.

Conte kept the same routine on Monday, she took Isabella to dance class. The next day she returned to pre-school and Conte asked Isabella’s teacher, Ms. Michele Biscardi, to keep the aforementioned log for her.

When Conte picked Isabella up, she saw Isabella drank 80 ounces of fluid and used the bathroom more than 20 times. She called the pediatrician that night and booked an appointment for the next day.

At the pediatrician, Isabella had her sugar tested — it came back high. From there the family rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Isabella was diagnosed diabetic on Oct. 5, 2011.

“For the next three days, we went through training on how to give an insulin shot, test sugar, count carbs,” Conte said.

Luckily for Conte and Isabella, her teacher had a daughter who was Type 1 diabetic.

“I leaned on her heavily for the whole first year,” Conte said. “The support she gave me was incredible. God put Isabella and Ms. Michelle in contact.”

Conte added she and Ms. Michelle are still friends to this day. She mentioned that Isabella’s school nurse, Valerie Mallon, has not only been a huge help, but a special person in their lives.

Isabella is currently a fifth-grader at St. Mary’s in Williamstown. She is active outside the classroom, participating in dance, volleyball and cheerleading. Isabella is a practitioner of many different kinds of dance: jazz, tap, hip-hop, musical theater, ballet, contemporary and cheer dance.

“I like to hang out with my friends and do fun things with them,” Isabella said. “[Like] have sleepovers. I like to bake too.”

She added her favorite subject in school is language arts. Her mom chimed in she is an A-plus student to boot.

When asked about her diagnosis, Isabella had a good outlook to the situation.

“I didn’t feel like anything because I was 3, I didn’t know what was happening,” she said. “I knew something was going on. If I thought it at this age I would feel worried, upset and nervous. I wouldn’t know what to expect. Because I got it at a young age, I didn’t know what was going on, I got used to it.”

Isabella and her family have been participating in the SJ JDRF walks since 2012, most recently under the name “The Diabetic Divas.”

Conte and Isabella both have similar goals in mind when it comes to talking about the walk. When asked about what they hope comes of the walk and their work with the JDRF they answered swiftly, in unison, “A cure.”

Besides a cure, Conte wants to raise awareness.

“There are so many things people think [about diabetes] that are incorrect,” Conte said. “Just raising awareness for this disease and how many people it affects. Bottom line is we hope and pray every day that through everyone’s efforts there will be a cure.”

A quick example in reference to Conte’s point — a common misconception about diabetes is not being able to eat sugar. Conte said that’s not true, one of the most important things is monitoring carbohydrate intake.

Diabetics have to measure their food and count the carbohydrates in their food to ensure they get the proper amount of insulin to regulate themselves.

Despite having all of these extra steps to their day, it has become second nature to Isabella and her family.

When the interview was over Isabella had one more thing to add.

“Don’t stop believing,” she said.

“That’s become our motto,” Conte clarified. “I’ve always loved that song but this made me love it even more.”

The JDRF One Walk takes place on Oct. 28 at Camden County College in Blackwood, check-in starts at 8 a.m., and the walk will start at 9:30 a.m.

Those wishing to donate on Isabella’s behalf can do so at the following link: www2.jdrf.org/goto/isabella.