Last year, I walked in the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute (DHWI) Healthy Harvest Walk for reasons very close to my heart. I remember my Facebook status that morning, “This morning we walked for diabetes. My mom has diabetes and my mother-in-law has diabetes. It was 39 degrees, but we walked.”
The Healthy Harvest Walk was the first 5K that my husband and I had ever done, and we enjoyed it! The booths and activities afterwards were fun, especially for my (then) 17-month-old son.
I participated in the race because I’m a nurse, and the first seven years of my nursing career were spent at a Telemetry and Intermediate Care Unit in Austin. I took care of many heart attack patients, as well as kidney patients that needed heart monitoring because of abnormal potassium levels; most all of these patients had diabetes.
Diabetes puts patients at a higher risk for heart attack and kidney troubles that lead to a chance of the patient ending up on dialysis. In my experience, it seems that, for most, diabetes isn’t the only diagnosis.
Diabetes runs rampant in my family. My great-grandparents on up all had diabetes, and my sister and I have hypoglycemic tendencies. That’s why, when I heard the news that my mother had developed type II diabetes, I wasn’t surprised. She had high blood pressure, was overweight and wasn’t exercising regularly.
After being diagnosed, she asked me to go to a diabetes education class with her. The class was run by dietitians who taught the class how to count carbohydrates and what the recommended “carb” counts for each person would be, along with helping to calculate the recommended total calorie intake in order to get to a healthy weight.
The nurse in me thought it was great! My mom didn’t; she was in denial. It was a struggle to help her apply some of the principles she had learned, starting the night after class.
Since then, she’s improved tremendously! She exercises regularly, has lost weight, and is on the right track with her diet and medication regimen. Her average blood glucose (blood sugar or A1C) levels are almost at a normal (non-diabetic) level!
It seemed to all be going great, until we received another call. We found out that my husband’s mother also had diabetes. Now, both grandmothers had diabetes, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Despite multiple trips to the doctor and multiple rounds of antibiotics, her labs revealed an elevated glucose and her A1C levels were sky high—a complete 180-degree change from my mother. Every time we went to visit, we could tell that weight was falling off of her, almost to the point that her clothes were falling off. Since then, she manages her medication regimen and diet better than anyone I know. She even allows for a sweet treat periodically.
So that is why I walk. I walk because I am a nurse and because diabetes runs in my family. I have inspirational people in my family that battle type II diabetes valiantly and a cousin-in-law with type I on an insulin pump. They all teach me new things every time we talk. They motivate me to live a healthier life.
I walk so that we can find more innovative ways to treat and prevent this disease.
I’ll be running the 5K this year. Join me in the effort to treat and cure diabetes at this year’s Healthy Harvest 5K on October 26.
This blog post was contributed by Megan Wheeler, a clinical nurse specialist and program manager at Baylor Health Care System.