A Giving Heart
by Karen Nimetz
Charnelle “Mikee” Ombao donates items to young patients at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
Like most 8-year-olds, Charnelle “Mikee” Ombao is a ball of energy. Unlike most 8-year-olds, Mikee has faced some major hurdles in her young life. With the love and support of her family, she has approached each obstacle with bravery and happiness. This amazing second-grader has the maturity and wisdom of someone far beyond her years.
When Mikee was only 3 years old, her parents, Crisnel and Charlote, both nurses, began to notice a change in their daughter’s health and suspected diabetes. Their fears were confirmed at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Mikee was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes.
“The diagnosis was hard for us, but we strongly believe everything happens for a reason,” Charlote said.
Charlote and Crisnel were very open with Mikee, never hiding anything about the condition from her. Mikee has shown great maturity in handling her chronic illness responsibly, which includes checking her blood sugar levels with every meal and giving herself insulin via an insulin pump.
Two years after Mikee’s diabetes diagnosis, further bloodwork and an endoscopy revealed a diagnosis of celiac disease. Charlote said Mikee remained positive with that news, as well.
“Mikee knew there would be lifelong changes to her diet but was grateful she would not have to take additional medication for the celiac disease.”
Mikee has never let her diabetes or celiac disease hold her back. She is an active and outgoing child who loves to sing and dance. In 2015, Charlote learned of an open call for the National American Miss pageant. Mikee was eager to try out. Even without pageant experience, coaching or a professional stylist, Mikee still ended up as first runner-up in the Florida state pageant.
“I loved everything about the pageant,” Mikee said. “It was so much fun, and I made a lot of new friends.”
Later that year, with the generous support of friends and family, Mikee traveled to California for the national competition to represent Florida as Miss Orlando Princess, where she won Miss Personality. Mikee thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was truly touched by the community service promoted by the pageant.
“Giving back feels so good, and I wanted to continue to do that,” she said.
So Mikee asked her first-grade class at Holy Family Catholic School to donate books, crafts and toys to Give Kids The World and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
“The book and toy drive at school was wonderful, because my whole class came together to help the kids in the hospital,” she said.
While preparing for her seventh birthday, Mikee was still thinking of others. In lieu of gifts for herself, she asked guests to bring presents for children in need. Again, Mikee was able to donate a large number of items to the children at Arnold Palmer Hospital.
“I don’t like to see people suffer,” she said. “Instead of being bored and feeling sad about being sick, I want them to enjoy things and have fun.”
Mikee continued that tradition on her eighth birthday this past September.
“I don’t want to be the only one who is happy on my birthday,” she said. “I want to help others to be happy, too.”
Mikee continues to give back in a variety of ways. She has spoken to many students and HFCS teachers, educating them about diabetes and celiac disease. Charlote raves about the support that Mikee has received from the school.
“Holy Family Catholic School is such an amazing school, and the care that my daughter receives is phenomenal. The teachers and school nurses are well-trained and well-equipped to deal with Mikee’s medical needs. [Principal Sister Dorothy Sayers] has been supportive of Mikee since she started school and has joined her in prayer multiple times.”
Mikee’s star continues to shine wherever she goes. She enjoys participating in fashion shows such as Orlando International Fashion Week and the Back to School Fashion Show, benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
As for what she wants to be when she grows up, Mikee said, “I have a lot of things in mind. I would like to be a nurse like my mom and dad, or maybe a singer. I have been writing songs since I was 5 years old. I hope one day I will be able to share my songs with the world.”
No matter what Mikee chooses to do, it is clear that her star will always shine brightly. ♠