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Eleonora's Experience: The Community-House of Parma

Updated: Jun 9

 In this #Diaview we head to Parma, Italy to connect with Eleonora Martellenghi. At 24 years old, and living with Type 1 diabetes for the past 11 years, Eleonora has become a leader in supporting others with the condition through her involvement with her regional diabetes association, AGD Parma.


Her journey with AGD Parma began by supporting summer camps, and she now heads their youth group. AGD Parma’s main goal is to promote awareness of Type 1 diabetes for early diagnosis and to provide efficient diabetes education for families and young people.

“In the initial months after my diagnosis, I had a positive experience, at least in finding early motivation to deal with feeling so unwell. However, after a year or so, I started to gain weight and this led to me refusing my medical treatment. My body had changed a lot since I started taking insulin – and I no longer felt that I recognised myself. So, I had completely stopped taking care of myself, without considering the consequences.


Things started to improve for me in time, when I started volunteering to support children and teenagers with the same condition. I felt useful, that I had a purpose.”


As a young adult yourself, what can you share about the challenges of balancing life and this condition for those in this transitional age group?  


“As a young adult with diabetes, I’ve faced various challenges from managing blood sugar levels amidst a busy schedule to dealing with the emotional impact of the condition. However, I’ve learned to adapt by prioritising self-care, seeking support from the diabetes community, and taking care of my mental health. My message to other young adults is to never limit yourself; to take on that flight, attend that event, to go to that trip; to seize every opportunity that comes your way to not be afraid to fully embrace life. 


Taking the opportunities life has presented me with hasn’t been easy at all, especially considering the anxiety I’ve been experiencing for the past few years, but it has been crucial for managing both my diabetes and my well-being. So don’t be afraid and trust the process.”


Can you share an insight into how the health system in diabetes care operates for you over in Italy?


“We have a free health system in Italy, which generally provides good care in diabetes. There is access to specialists and medication. However, there are areas that could be improved. It is necessary to have more uniformity across the entire national territory because there are regions with easier access to the best treatments or more recent advances, while other areas can’t afford them.


Additionally, more emphasis on psychological support and mental health services for those living with diabetes would be beneficial.”

What would you share to others today who have recently been diagnosed, from your experience of adjusting to life with type 1 diabetes?


“I want to say, don’t lose hope. I know how scary it can seem at first, but with time, support and working on yourself, you’ll learn to manage diabetes and live a full life. Seek support from the diabetes community, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Remember, you’re not alone. There are resources and people willing to help you along the way.”



What motivates you to engage so passionately to support AGD Parma? 


“What motivates me to passionately support AGD Parma is the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by diabetes. Being able to contribute to awareness, education, and support for individuals and families dealing with this condition drives my dedication to the cause. Additionally, it's personally significant for me in terms of accepting my own type 1 diabetes condition. To see people go through the same challenges I may have faced, or will face, and to be able to offer for them some advice and support, gives me strength. Seeing the positive impact of our efforts and the difference it makes in people’s lives inspires me to continue my involvement with AGD Parma.”

What kind of events do AGD Parma host?


“AGD Parma organises various events aimed at raising awareness, providing education, and fostering support for individuals with type 1 diabetes and their families.


A fond memory for me was this year at the adolescent camp, where teenagers aged 15 to 18 gathered. I had the opportunity to share some key moments of my life as a type 1 diabetic, my ups and downs, and how I faced them. I poured my heart out. It was incredibly rewarding to connect with others who understood and to offer them guidance based on my experiences.”


What comes next for you and AGD Parma?


One of the upcoming events for AGD Parma will be the grand celebration of its 40th anniversary. A significant conference is organized for November 30th, focusing on RESEARCH and TECHNOLOGY, and the relationship between SOCIAL MEDIA and ASSOCIATIONS, which we believe is a combination that needs to be strengthened.

The conference, the celebration of AGD PARMA’s 40th anniversary, will take place without neglecting other support activities for young people with diabetes and their families. In June, there will be a health education camp for children aged 9 to 13, in September, a camp for adolescents aged 15 to 18, and in December, the usual St. Lucia party and Christmas greetings.


Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this event physically as I've decided to participate in the Erasmus programme, and will be spending a semester in Belgium (a very big challenge I decided to face). However, this won't stop me from continuing to volunteer as much as possible remotely for AGD Parma, because it is a very important part of my life.”



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