Meet Laila England, a 13-year-old with an incredible dream. Like many kids her age, Laila aspires to become an astronaut when she grows up. Last summer while attending space camp in Huntsville, AL she learned some devastating news: people with type 1 diabetes are currently not allowed in space. Rather than abandon her dream, Laila decided that if people with diabetes were not allowed in space, the natural thing to do would be to help find a cure for diabetes so that her diagnosis wouldn’t keep her from reaching the stars.
Laila dressed for a flight simulation at space camp.
1. When did you first become interested in becoming an astronaut?
Three years ago, when I was in 5th grade, I did a report on Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut in space. I loved that Mae was self-motivated, a doctor, a dancer, and an astronaut. She’s become my inspiration. She was on my mind a lot when I attended Space Camp. She has made me want to go to space even more! I want to do a lot of things, but I really want to be an astronaut. I want to explore space, discover if there are secrets in the universe that we don’t know about and could possibly change our lives here on Earth.
Laila’s interest in space exploration was bolstered by a science report she did on Mae Jemison, the first female African American astronaut.
2. When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
I was diagnosed at age three, over ten years ago in 2010. I had no family history of the disease, so it came as a really big surprise to all of us. Luckily, we caught it early so I wasn’t in DKA.
3. Tell us more about Laila’s Lunar Mission.
In June 2019, my twin sister, Sonja, and I set out to Huntsville, AL to attend Space Camp. It was incredible! We got to experience flight simulations, training for missions by completing team-building exercises, and simulating a real astronaut’s trials in space by practicing drills in the water. We were part of teams, and together we followed the lives of real astronauts, watched fascinating presentations, and had the time of our lives. Thanks to the help of my Tandem t:slim X2™ insulin pump and Dexcom Share, I was able to participate in all the activities that the other campers participated in, all while being 1,400 miles away from home and my parents.
But halfway through camp, a counselor told me that people with type 1 diabetes aren’t allowed in space. It made me really upset that I couldn’t go up to space and follow my dreams.
Almost immediately after I returned home, I signed up with my local JDRF chapter to participate in the JDRF One Walk to be held that September. My genius twin sister Sonja named my team “Laila’s Lunar Mission.” If they weren’t going to let type 1s in space, then I needed to raise money for a cure to help get me into space. With the help of my mom Jaclyn, we posted our fundraiser on Facebook with an initial goal of raising $2,000 between June - September 2019. But our minds were blown when we saw that in the first 24 hours, we had raised over $2,400! After a lot of work fundraising, becoming a JDRF ambassador in 2019, contacting local companies for sponsorships and texting and emailing friends and family, I ultimately raised over $11,000 in my first year of fundraising. And I caught the bug to help raise money to find a cure and better treatments for T1Ds.
4. Do you have a favorite song?
"The Champion" by Carrie Underwood. It’s my theme song.
Back in Utah
5. How did you hear about insulin pumps by Tandem Diabetes Care?
My endocrinologist told me about a few of the pumps available for me. I also consulted with the most knowledgeable experts in the field of insulin pumps: my friends. Some of my good friends (or diabesties as I like to call them) already had the t:slim X2 pump and explained why they liked the pump so much. I’ve never once regretted my choice.
6. Do you feel supported in your journey with diabetes, if yes, by what/who? If, no in what areas would you like more support?
Yes, I have felt very supported in my journey with diabetes. My parents make sure I have all the tools I need, both physical and emotional to deal with the disease. I have many incredible friends, both with and without diabetes who love and support me. My diabesties help me feel normal and just like any other 13-year-old. Having my identical twin sister, Sonja, by my side everywhere I go is an extra blessing. She’s my good luck charm and always has my back.
7. Do you have any diabetes trick or tips you want to share with the community?
Don’t let anyone get in your way or discourage you. Stay on top of your diabetes, and people won’t even know it is there. Even you won’t. And set your pump and CGM “low” alert setting on loud at night so it can wake you up.
8. Do you have any diabetes gear you’d like to recommend?
The biggest change in my diabetes management happened in January 2020 with the update on my pump to the new Basal-IQ® technology. This has been a game changer. My parents say they've slept more in the past seven months than they have in the previous 10 years because the pump keeps me so stable at night. My A1C continues to drop every month as we watch on the Sugarmate™ app and follow up with our endocrinologist.
9. What is something you are proud of?
How well I’ve adapted to my diabetes and how well I can take care of it. Thanks to my diligence and the t:slim X2 insulin pump with Basal-IQ technology, I currently have the lowest A1C I’ve had since diagnosis.
10. If you met someone newly diagnosed with diabetes, what would be your advice to them?
It may seem very scary, but you’ll be okay if you manage your diabetes. If you don’t, then it will manage you. You’ll be okay, and you’ll have support of others. You’ll also meet many amazing people along your journey.
This year Laila is again raising money for the JDRF to help find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes so she can go to space and pave the way for all T1Ds to reach the stars. If you’d like to donate to Laila’s Lunar Mission JDRF One Walk team, click on the click link below.
From time to time, we may pass along: suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem insulin pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. However, please note individual symptoms, situations, circumstances and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified health care provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information linked below before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.
Important Safety Information:
Indications for Use:
The t:slim X2 insulin pump with interoperable technology is an alternate controller enabled (ACE) pump that is intended for the subcutaneous delivery of insulin, at set and variable rates, for the management of diabetes mellitus in people requiring insulin. The pump is able to reliably and securely communicate with compatible, digitally connected devices, including automated insulin dosing software, to receive, execute, and confirm commands from these devices.
- The pump is indicated for use in individuals six years of age and greater.
- The pump is intended for single patient use.
- The pump is indicated for use with NovoLog or Humalog U-100 insulin.
Basal-IQ technology is intended for use with compatible integrated continuous glucose monitors (iCGM) and alternate controller enabled (ACE) pumps to automatically suspend delivery of insulin based on iCGM readings and predicted glucose values.
The bolus calculator is indicated for the management of diabetes by people with diabetes by calculating an insulin dose or carbohydrate intake based on user entered data.
- Basal-IQ technology is intended for the management of diabetes mellitus in persons six years of age and greater.
- Basal-IQ technology is intended for single patient use and requires a prescription.
- Basal-IQ technology is indicated for use with NovoLog or Humalog U-100 insulin.
Contraindications and Warnings:
Basal-IQ technology is not indicated for use in pregnant women, people on dialysis, or critically ill patients.
Users of the t:slim X2 pump and Basal-IQ technology must:
- be able and willing to use the insulin pump, CGM, and all other system components in accordance with their respective instructions for use;
- test blood glucose levels as recommended by their healthcare provider;
- demonstrate adequate carb-counting skills;
- maintain sufficient diabetes self-care skills;
- see healthcare provider(s) regularly; and
- have adequate vision and/or hearing to recognize all functions of the pump, including alerts, alarms, and reminders;
The t:slim X2 pump, and the CGM transmitter and sensor must be removed before MRI, CT, or diathermy treatment. Visit tandemdiabetes.com/safetyinfo for additional important safety information.