Heart and Vascular

Diabetes Education Program: Helping Patients Get Back to Living

Nov 20 2019
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Sandy Miller is a wife, a grandmother, and a dancer.

She and her husband love to spend time with their granddaughters. They also love to country and ballroom dance and have even competed in national competitions.

Sandy Miller is also a Type-2 diabetic.

After coming home from work with a headache and a cold in May 2019, Sandy went to bed. She woke up at 5 p.m. the next day with no muscle control. Her husband took her to Mercy Health – St. Anne Hospital where the executive decision was made to transfer Sandy to the ICU at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center. It was there Sandy was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes.

“They said I was one day away from life support,” Sandy recalls.

After her diagnosis, Sandy participated in the Mercy Health Diabetes Education Program. Offered on an inpatient and outpatient basis, this program is designed to help patients learn more about this disease and how it affects their bodies.

Topics discussed include healthy lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and being active. Monitoring blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of complications and the use of medications are also covered in the program.

Mercy Health physician Florentina Chirica, M.D., notes that this education program has been a great resource for her patients, whether they have prediabetes, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or if it’s controlled or uncontrolled.

“I’ve had patients be reluctant to go to diabetes education. They feel it’s all about the diet and they will say they know what to eat,” Dr. Chirica says. “However, when they return from diabetes education, they will always say they found it useful.”

She also says her patients have learned a wide variety of valuable lessons including:

  • How diabetes can affect their bodies
  • Why needing insulin doesn’t equate to being a failure
  • How to rotate injections and that there are smaller needles available
  • How to eat healthy on a limited budget
  • Why it’s important to check blood sugars

“The follow up training at St. Anne was priceless,” says Sandy. “The A1c numbers were scary. When it was explained what the numbers meant and the damages to my body, it wasn’t hard to realize that I needed to change my lifestyle.”

One major challenge diabetes educators face is the misconception that healthy eating with diabetes means not being able to eat many foods. Jeannie Wagner, clinical coordinator of Diabetes Education Services at Mercy Health in Toledo, OH, shares that diabetics can eat most foods, just in smaller portions or not as often.

“Managing diabetes takes a whole new routine, and there are going to be bumps in the road,” says Jeanne. “We look at ways to empower our patients to make their own decisions because people are more likely to change things that they’ve determined are issues. We’re here to support and coach, not to tell them what to do.”

For Sandy, the support from both her educators and her husband has been invaluable. With her new eating habits, she has lost 44 pounds. She was also able to hit the target blood sugar levels she needed to safely move forward with a knee replacement surgery.

“It just takes a change of mindset,” Sandy says. “Don’t let other people talk you into eating something that you know is not the right thing for you. You will pay the price, they won’t.”

Unfortunately, only 6 percent of people living with diabetes are referred for diabetes education. If you have diabetes, you do not have to tackle it alone. Learn about the diabetes management services offered at Mercy Health. With good management of diabetes, you can live a long and healthy life.


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