Jennifer StoneShare on Pinterest
Actor Jennifer Stone may be best known for playing the role of Harper Finkle in the hit Disney series ‘Wizards of Waverly Place,’ but today she’s enjoying a second career as an ER nurse – all while managing living with type 1 diabetes. Image Provided by Medtronic
  • Actor Jennifer Stone shares her journey of living with type 1 diabetes.
  • Stone’s diagnosis inspired her to become a registered nurse.
  • The actor juggles working as a nurse and acting.

While Jennifer Stone is best known for playing Selena Gomez’s best friend on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, she is also a nurse people encounter when they find themselves in the emergency room.

“I get recognized pretty frequently between the red hair and my weird voice. It’s kind of a giveaway. Even during the pandemic, when I was in full PPE – mask, gown, gloves, completely covered head to toe – people would recognize me. I was very surprised by that,” she told Healthline.

“No one wants to go to the ER, and so if I can bring somebody a little bit of joy when they’re having a rough day, I look at it as such a gift,” she said.

When she was 20 years old, Stone started having blurry vision, feeling extremely tired and gained 60 pounds in three months.

“Obviously, I knew something was wrong, so I started going to the doctor,” she said. “I had symptoms for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, so I really confused a lot of doctors…some doctors said type 2 cause I was older, and some said type 1.”

After four years of visiting different doctors and receiving different diagnoses, she was finally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“I got a good doctor with a good system, which for a diabetic, is vital,” Stone said.

Dr. Andrew Welch, an endocrinologist at UC Health, said that even though in the United States, children and teenagers are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes compared to adults, there is an increasingly recognized and significant risk of developing type 1 diabetes as a young adult and even into later adulthood.

“In fact, there was a higher overall number of new diagnoses of type 1 diabetes in adults than children in the United States because there are more adults than children,” he told Healthline. “Many adults do not get the appropriate testing for type 1 diabetes since they are assumed to have type 2 diabetes leading to delays in diagnosis and appropriate care.”

During her four-year journey, Stone was in and out of doctor offices and hospitals trying to figure out her condition, she had good and bad experiences with healthcare providers.

“I was in this place where I already had taken a break from acting for my health and I wanted to get a college degree, I was ready to transfer from a community college to a four-year for psychology, but with this whole experience it just really inspired me…I had a lot of really great experiences with nurses,” she said.

She entered nursing school and graduated in 2019. During school, she worked in different spaces, but the variety of treating everything from a cold to a heart attack, and intensity of emergency medicine resonated with her most.

“I like the multi-tasking. I like the chaos. I like the collaboration. Nursing is like that in general, but in the emergency room especially, because we don’t yet know what’s going on, and we’re in the diagnostic space where you really have to work with a group,” said Stone.

Collaborating is what she likes most about acting, too.

“I love collaborating with a group of people for a common goal, and I really feel that while [on set] and in the emergency room,” she said.

Over the past seven years of living with type 1 diabetes, Stone tried many different treatment options. She currently uses the reusable smart insulin pen, InPen, by Medtronic.

“Constantly be open with your endocrinologist about what’s on the horizon,” she said. “I would encourage my fellow diabetics to not get complacent with what they’re using because [technology] is constantly changing and evolving. Talk to your endo and see what’s best for you so you can live your best life.”

Dr. Kathleen Dungan, an endocrinologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said treatment for type 1 diabetes continues to get better with more effective insulins, insulin delivery systems that closely resemble a healthy pancreas and more effective glucose monitoring devices that reduce the need for people to poke their fingers.

“People who are fortunate to be able to access the latest technology in particular are much less likely to be hospitalized for severe complications and have overall better glucose levels,” Dungan told Healthline. “Better glucose levels will translate to fewer chronic complications and deaths in the long run.”

However, she noted that the condition is still a challenging disease that demands lots of attention to stay healthy both physically and mentally.

Stone knows this well and prioritizes self-care.

“I remember a diabetes educator saying ‘you can never have a drink’ and I remember thinking I’m not even 21 yet,” Stone said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I have to have balance in all things. I have to have balance in sleep, in exercise, in my diet, in everything, and how much I’m working and stress.”

She also does not consider her condition disabling but rather a challenge she didn’t have before.

“[It’s] made me a more well-rounded person. It’s made me stronger, and it’s forced me, in the best way, to take care of myself more,” said Stone.

Feeling her best allows her to continue acting while working three 12-hour shifts per week.

“So I have four other days that I can focus on acting, my other passion,” she said.

When Stone was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, she felt alone and isolated. Her mom’s college roommate was the only person she knew living with the condition.

Since her diagnosis, she has connected with others who have type 1 diabetes.

“I’ve seen other people deal with similar challenges that I deal with, and they come out better for it or more productive or capable; it’s so inspiring to me,” she said. “My hope is to make others feel less alone in their diagnosis and to make people feel more empowered and capable despite their diagnosis.”

While she aims to accomplish this with people in both her personal and professional life, she said sometimes her patients inspire her too, especially because diabetes, like other chronic conditions, is constantly evolving.

“I can do the exact same thing one week, and everything is perfect, and I reach that unicorn 100 blood sugar, and then the next week, maybe my hormones are surging, or I’m stressed, and it throws everything off kilter,” said Stone. “So I’m constantly learning from patients or other diabetics about what is working for them and the tweaks they make to help them adjust to the weeks where the sky is the wrong shade of blue.”