Recognize diabetes before it’s too late!
A rugged bachelor, Roberts has three ruptured discs in his back from heavy lifting.
“I was constantly dizzy and thirsty, with all the snow, I wasn’t getting out and walking around, doing stuff. I’d gained a lot of weight. My eyes got blurry. I’d get so shaky, sitting on the couch watching TV, and I was pouring down the 24-ounce bottles of pop, five or six of them a day. It was like adding gasoline to the fire, all that sugar, but I didn’t know it.
All I knew was, I was terrible thirsty. I kept a gallon of water sitting beside me for when I ran out of pop. I couldn’t sleep. I’d get real, real sweaty; kept running to the bathroom. I thought maybe it was high blood pressure or something. I had no idea what danger I was in.”
He was one of an estimated 69,000 West Virginians who have diabetes, but don’t know it.
“Going to the doctor in the snow is not exactly easy, and it’s expensive.”
When he finally did go, the doctor told him he had all the symptoms of diabetes: blood sugar was up the high 400s and A1C [the three-month blood sugar levels] was 12.5.
His doctor referred him to diabetes educator and nurse practitioner Vicki Lynn Hatfield.
Hatfield and her partner help about 500 of the area’s estimated 3,500 diabetics figure out how to control the condition from day to day, despite sometimes harsh realities of life: shortage of cash, two jobs, kids, and so on.
“I lucked out, if it hadn’t been for Vicki, I’d probably be in kidney failure now,” Everette said.
He and Hatfield went over what he ate, how often he ate, his schedule, his physical activity.
To get rid of his dizziness, shakiness and blurry vision, they planned specific ways he could change what he ate or when he ate and increase physical activity every day. They also got his medicine adjusted.
Everette went to Hatfield’s group Diabetes Self-Management Classes at Williamson Memorial Hospital.
He learned how to shop for food that wouldn’t set off his blood sugar, how to read his own blood sugar levels, how to cope with periods of depression.
“Everette is somebody who, once he found out how to control his diabetes, he took the reins,” says Vicki Hatfield.
A year later, his blood sugar was in normal range. He requires less medicine to keep it there.
“He doesn’t have a lot of money and he doesn’t have a lot of education, but he learned very quickly how to do it. And, just as important, he did it!”
Hatfield dished it out to him in small steps, he said. He learned what foods would keep him stable and how to lower his blood sugar by taking a walk, how to buy healthy foods on a budget.
“There’s a whole lot more to it than what I thought….
I stay on the move now, 24/7 , I cook for myself. I take the skin off my chicken, and bake it instead of fry it. I make myself a lot of salads. I like salad and I put all kinds of stuff in them, vegetables, meat.
Vicki Hatfield adds,“People are not born knowing the symptoms of diabetes, and they aren’t born knowing how to control it, and it takes more than a 15-minute doctor visit to help them get a handle on all they need to know.
I have found that if I can get people the information, most will apply it, with whatever means they have. We’ve got plenty of patients who don’t have a lot of education and income, but that doesn’t have to stop them!”
She keeps trying new ways to stamp out diabetes .
Two years ago, she helped start a Mingo County Diabetes Coalition. Now they have a five-year grant for $50,000 a year through Marshall University to spread diabetes awareness and prevention through the county.
Hatfield now offers diabetes prevention classes.
“People tell their neighbors what they learned. So it’s spreading.”
The coalition plans to post symptoms of diabetes in store windows and telephone poles all over the county.
“We want people to know they can catch it early. If we can get people to go after it like Everette has, our diabetes rate should drop.”
Last word to Everette:
“I would tell anybody, the bottom line of it is, if you don’t set it in your mind that you’re going to get it under control, then it’s not going to get better.
It’s up to you whether you do or you don’t.”
(If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with diabetes, feel free to share your experience of post-diagnosis support in the comments.)