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Deborah O'Keefe

Type 1 Diabetes Success Story

Date Posted: Monday, January 03, 2022


Deborah O’Keefe has been living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for more than 60 years.  Diagnosed at 5 years old, her A1c remained above 11% for many years.  She brought it down to 8% when she began using an insulin pump, but never dropped below 7% - until recently!

“I was very excited to see 6.7% for the first time in my life,” said Deborah. “When Christine [Hoogasian, her nurse practitioner] told me the number, we celebrated together.  It was a great moment!”

She credits the success to her UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE) care team putting her on the Medtronic 670G hybrid closed loop insulin pump system and working with her through the calibration process, changing sensors, learning the auto vs. manual modes and finally adjusting to a carb ratio that eliminated highs and lows.

Deborah’s care team is extremely proud of the effort she’s put into managing diabetes, learning new technology and persevering through challenges along the way.

“It was a struggle at first,” she said, “but my diabetes educator, Cheryl Barry, was incredible.  We stayed in regular contact for weeks to make adjustments, and finally got the pump settings that work well for me.”  It’s still a constantly changing process.

Deborah raves about the relationship she has with her endocrinologist.  “I’ve been seeing Dr. [Leslie] Domalik since before she started at UMass Memorial in 2011.  We always greet each other with a hug (pre-pandemic) and talk about everything going on in both of our lives.  She taught me that managing stress and anxiety is an important part of diabetes management.”

Deborah was reluctant to try using an insulin pump when they first hit the market, due to the size of the original devices.  They’ve since made tremendous technological progress, the devices are much smaller, and she finally decided to try one. 

“From the time I started on the insulin pump I had seen several different doctors, but never could get the desired control,” she said.  “When I started seeing Dr. Domalik, she worked on the settings, and slowly my A1c started coming down.”

Deborah always uploads her insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor data, so it’s available to her care team prior to office visits.  They then review those numbers and patterns together during her appointment, without wasting time to upload it while she’s in the exam room. 

MyChart is great,” she said. “If I send a message to my care team between appointments, they get right back to me.  It’s a wonderful way to communicate with them.” 

Technology has come a long way since Deborah was diagnosed with T1D in 1960.  “My parents shared in giving me shots of insulin using glass syringes and metal needles,” Deborah recalls.  “My mother would boil them to sterilize them.  There’ve been many changes to insulin and insulin delivery systems since I was first diagnosed.”

With the support of her boyfriend, friends and coworkers, Deborah understands that living a healthy life with diabetes requires a lot of work.  “Everyday you have to stay on top of it,” she said.  “I never thought I’d see the day where my A1c was 6.7%.  Now let’s see if we can get it to 6.5%!”

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