Teenage Athlete Learns to Embrace Her Insulin Pump

​When Norah Allen was 14, she lost 25 pounds off her tiny frame. She was tired all time, couldn't walk up the stairs, struggled in sports, and couldn't sleep through the night for needing frequent bathroom breaks. Life had gotten exhausting.

The cause, she learned, was Type 1 diabetes. To understand what that meant, she needed to meet with Dr. Marwan Bakhach, a pediatric endocrinologist in the Benefis Women's and Children's Center.

"I remember being really scared, and he helped me through it all and helped me and my family adjust,” she said. 

"I was scared about living life with diabetes. I thought my whole life was going to change," she said. "I wouldn't be able to do what I love or eat what I love. I thought I wouldn't be normal anymore."  

Now a senior at C.M. Russell High School, Norah was prom queen. She plays on the volleyball team and said she "feels better about everything."

"I realized I can do what I love and feel even better than before," she said.

Dr. Bakhach "has been a great guide for this journey," Norah said. "We've had a good working relationship."


Dr. Bakhach and his team recently arranged for Norah to have an insulin pump, though she was skeptical about having something attached to her.

“At first I didn’t want a pump, but it has changed everything," she said. "I sleep through the night. I feel a lot better. It makes sports a lot easier, too. It regulates my sugar so I don’t have crazy highs and lows while I’m playing.” 

Without the pump, Norah would have to give herself an insulin shot or eat a bunch of sugar to bring her blood sugar back to the right levels during a match. That was, she said, inconvenient. 

The pump also allows for smaller adjustments. It learns and adapts to potential blood sugar swings such as those caused by activity, Dr. Bakhach said.

"If you have practice from 4 to 6 p.m., you're going to need less insulin because you're more active," he said. "With the pump, you can adjust more often so you avoid highs and lows."

dr. bakhach

The biggest adaptation is mindset, Dr. Bakhach said. "If you have road blocks, there are ways around them so you can do what you want and need to do. That will be the same with any problem you face." 

Norah was self-conscious about the pump at first, but she's gotten over any embarrassment because of how much the pump helps her. With college ahead, Norah's family is less stressed about her managing her condition because the pump helps her. She's less worried about being on her own, too.   

She encouraged teenagers who need a pump not to be nervous about it.

“Embrace your difference. Learn to live life to the fullest with it," she said. "It doesn’t make you not normal. You’re still a normal teenager with a normal life but you just have a little more adversity.” 

Read more: Benefis Patient, Age 4, Becomes First Montanan with New Insulin Pump