Maya Webster is not your typical seven-year-old.
In addition to being articulate, chatty, confident and outgoing, she is extremely brave, selfless and very grown-up in dealing with the Type 1 diabetes she has had since the age of two.
And because of her experience with the disease, she has become a young activist determined to help others.
Maya has gone door to door through her neighbourhood of Niagara-on-the-Green, and was in Virgil Friday, collecting signatures on a petition. She plans to take it to Queen’s Park in the fall, with the help of MPP Wayne Gates.
From the time of her diabetes diagnosis four years ago, until recently, Maya has had her finger pricked to test for sugar levels 10 times a day. Because it’s not terribly accurate, she was often sick. A cold or sore throat would send her to the emergency room, she explains.
“If you or most other people have a cold you don’t have to go to the hospital,” she says. “I do, and sometimes I have to stay for a week.”
She matter-of-factly explains her situation, which was necessary until recently, because her parents could not afford the $4,000 for a continuous glucose monitor that not only eliminates the painful routine of finger-pricking, but also keeps her healthy and out of the hospital.
She has come to understand how fortunate she is to enjoy the benefits of the expensive equipment since her mother’s employer, Bethesda, which supports and provides programs for special needs children, decided the monitor should be included in its benefits package.
Christi Webster said the Bethesda human resources department looked at how many people, both parents and kids, in their system would benefit, and decided the monitor should be covered.
Maya wears an insulin pump on her leg, and the continuous monitor on her arm that tells the pump what to do. The pump is funded by OHIP, the monitor is not.
And that is her mission — to have provincial health insurance cover the monitor, for kids whose parents do not have coverage or the money to pay for it. Her quality of life is much better with the monitor, says Christi, and Maya wants that for all children with diabetes.
For her parents, having a child with diabetes is a “24/7” job, says Christi.
“We can’t just go out and leave her with a babysitter. It has to be someone trained to look after her.”
Maya was chosen to represent JDRF, the diabetes association, on a trip to Ottawa, and recently, Gates has been “phenomenal” in the assistance he has provided with the petition, says Christi.
He knocked on doors with Maya while she was collecting signatures, was in Virgil Friday evening, and has said he will take her to Queen’s Park to introduce her petition.
“I am absolutely blown away by how intelligent, compassionate and caring she is,” said Gates. “Every single person who had the chance to talk to Maya signed the petition right away. It’s kids like her that are the example of how caring our community is. I was so proud to stand beside her and help her out today.”