He went to see a doctor, who told him that he had type 2 diabetes. “I said, ‘No, I don’t.’” The diagnosis surprised him even though, looking back at his life, as far back as childhood, he would have episodes where he felt sick, sweaty and shaky.
At the time of the diagnosis, John felt he was in good shape. “I was real active until my late 40s, and I wasn’t overweight. I exercised a lot.”
John began coping with diabetes, a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas either doesn’t make any insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin for the body to be able to break down the sugar in foods for your body’s cells to get energy.
In addition to thirst, diabetes symptoms can include urinating often, feeling hungry even though you are eating, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal and tingling pain or numbness in the hands and/or feet.
Getting a diagnosis can help patients manage their symptoms and control their diabetes. In conjunction with the WVU School of Nursing, Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services offers a Diabetes Clinic. Kendra Barker, a nurse practitioner and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a board certification in Advanced Diabetes Management (ADM), heads up the clinic, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays by appointment.
John learned about the Diabetes Clinic just as it was getting started two years ago when he came to MCHD to get his flu shot. While vaccinations are important for everyone, they are especially necessary for people who have conditions that can affect their immune systems.
Although John still sees his primary caregiver, who put him on medication—Trulicity—that has really helped him, he finds his visits with Barker to be productive. When the Trulicity was going to cost $900 a month, he began going without it. Barker put him on a drug, Metformin, that he could afford in a formulation—extended release—that he could tolerate. John’s insurance situation later changed and he was able to go on Trulicity.
Barker also helps John in other ways, such as encouraging him to exercise and lose weight.
“My knees are so bad that I couldn’t do much, so Kendra wrote a prescription that got me into rehab in a swimming pool,” John said. “That worked out.” His mobility has improved with the treatments and helped him to become more active.
In addition to meeting with Barker at the Diabetes Clinic, patients also can attend a Diabetes Support Group Barker holds that takes place on the first Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at MCHD. Sometimes specialists will discuss topics such as kidney or liver disease or other ways in which diabetes can affect the body.
“And we always have diabetes-friendly foods,” Barker said, such as a recent offering of Zucchini Pizza Boats. “It’s important for people to try new foods. When people get diabetes, they feel there is nothing that they can eat, because if they eat carbs, it can make their sugar go up. We help them discover healthy choices.”
Could you have diabetes? More than 1 in 10 adults in West Virginia do, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources. That’s 15 percent, making West Virginia the state with the second-highest rate of the chronic disease. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 7 Americans don’t know they have diabetes.
You can take an online quiz at diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/ to gauge the likelihood that you have diabetes. You also can make an appointment at the MCHD Diabetes Clinic at 304-598-5119, for testing and, if necessary, help in managing diabetes.