Twin teens Maraya and Evelyn Wiltrout manage their type 1 diabetes on a daily basis. Maraya was diagnosed at age 10, so it wasn’t a surprise to learn that her twin sister also had the disease. Despite being identical, their treatment regimes are different. Maraya uses a pump with the option of constant insulin delivery of insulin, while Evelyn relies on insulin injections.
“I was so scared, I thought I couldn’t eat, I had no idea what type 1 was,” Maraya says, recalling her initial diagnosis. But witnessing her sister’s experience provided Evelyn, who was diagnosed later, with more information: “I saw her manage it and I was like, ‘I can do it, too.’”
The athletes from Cambridge, Minn., are not letting diabetes get in the way of playing sports. “I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to play. I was thinking of basketball practice, we’re going to always have to have granola bars, juice boxes,” Maraya responds. Evelyn adds, “We’re super lucky to have our dad as our coach. He helps us. My mom calls my dad a lot during practice. It works out – we make it work.”
Seeing the medical and political challenges of affording and managing diabetes has also informed the 13-year-olds’ future plans. “When I’m older, I would like to be a nurse practitioner in endocrinology so I can work with kids going through the same thing I am, which is what I really want to do,” Maraya declares. “I would like to get a degree in political science and become a politician – that interests me a lot,” Evelyn says. “My parents are really involved. I love politics, love getting in arguments.”
Their parents have become involved in the political effort to contain the skyrocketing costs of insulin. “This is a drug that has been around for a 100 years,” says Eric Wiltrout, the twins’ father. “We both said we have to do more and try to help more. Instead of talking about solutions, we have to drive those solutions.”
Their mother, Shari Wiltrout, has come to the State Capitol to make her case. “It is life or death. If those girls don’t have insulin, they’ll be in DKA [diabetic ketoacidosis] in a day. They would probably die within two or three.”
Stay tuned to Mary Lahammer’s ongoing coverage of the political fight to control insulin costs as it unfolds in Minnesota. Tune in to Almanac this Friday at 7 pm for the second installment of this story.
Mary Lahammer also completed a two-part exploration of how accessibility issues are being addressed at the Minnesota State Capitol – Construction Continues to Upgrade Accessibility at the Capitol and For Those with Disabilities, the MN State Capitol Is Tricky to Navigate.
Heard about Rochester’s plan to create a $5.6 billion, 20-year Destination Medical Center, a $5.6 billion? One Greater Minnesota reporter Kaomi Goetz offers a peak at the plans, as well as some lingering questions.