A woman journeys to better health with help from MCHD's Diabetes Clinic
By Mary Wade Triplett
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Something’s not right,” said the Morgantown woman. “I went to the doctor and told her, ‘I am losing weight. I think I have cancer.’”
The doctor performed a finger prick blood test and found out that Mary Jane’s glucose was 451. Ideally, a person’s blood glucose should be under 100. A range of 100 to 126 is pre-diabetes. Mary Jane had full-blown diabetes.
That surprised her because she thought of Type 2 diabetes as being an illness that overweight people have. She learned that losing weight and feeling hungry also can be a symptom of the disease. To her, being small makes her situation more difficult.
“Overweight people can lose weight and they might be able to get rid of their sugar,” she said. “With me, I didn’t weigh much. With me, I have no weight to lose. I will always have sugar.”
That does not mean that Mary Jane cannot manage the disease. She learned that by attending the Diabetes Clinic at the Monongalia County Health Department, she could put several tools in her arsenal to fight the illness, thanks to Kendra L. Barker, DNP, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) who is also certified in Advanced Diabetes Management (ADM).
Barker leads the diabetes clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays, by appointment. She can perform or order testing, figure out what medications are best, recommend diet and exercise strategies—and, like she did for Mary Jane, cut through red tape that can make getting a prescription difficult.
In Mary Jane’s case, Barker could provide aid on all fronts. She taught Mary Jane that she needed to eat three healthy meals a day and count her carbs for each one. She switched her medication and added another one into the mix to help flush out Mary Jane’s kidneys. She constantly checks Mary Jane’s feet for sores because of the peripheral neuropathy that people with Type 2 diabetes can develop. And she encouraged Mary Jane to get an eye exam because of the swirls she was seeing.
After fighting diabetes for nearly a year, six months of that with Barker’s help, Mary Jane finally has begun to feel like her old self again. Her weight has gotten back up to the 120s and she no longer sees swirls. Her glucose ranges from the 200s and 300s, which is still high, but better than 451. And her A1C, which measures her glucose over a three-month period, has dropped from 11 percent to 7 percent since she began attending the Diabetes Clinic. Normal is under 5.7 percent and pre-diabetes is 5.7 to 6.4 percent, so 7 percent is a solid number for Mary Jane.
She was seeing Barker once a week but now they both feel confident in Mary Jane’s progress that she will now have an appointment once a month.
It’s just a coincidence that Mary Jane’s progress comes during November’s American Diabetes Month. But it’s a good time to go over how to avoid this disease if you can, or how to manage it if you do have it.
If you have any concerns that you might be at risk for diabetes, make an appointment with a health care provider. You also can take a simple online quiz available on the American Diabetes Association’s website.
In West Virginia, 11.2 percent of the overall population—11.9 percent men and 10.7 percent of women—have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013. That’s higher than the overall rate for the United States of 9.4 percent.
What’s more, according to the CDC, not only have 23.1 million Americans been diagnosed with diabetes, but it is also estimated that 7.2 million, or 23.8 percent of the population, has diabetes but has not been diagnosed.
As Mary Jane found out, a diagnosis can lead to healthier eating and exercise habits and medications that can manage the symptoms of diabetes, which can include urinating often, feeling very thirsty and/or very hungry even though you are eating, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling pain or numbness in the hands and/or feet.
So make an appointment to see Barker at the Monongalia County Health Department’s Diabetes Clinic. You also may attend Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. kick-off for a new Diabetes Support Group led by Barker, who will discuss managing diabetes with a healthy diet. Family and friends are also welcome. You can call 304-598-5119 or email Barker at Kendra.L.Barker@wv.gov to reserve your space. You also can find more information at monchd.org.