By Mercy's Jaclyn Bardin
Diane Islam developed gestational diabetes while pregnant with her first child; since then, she's closely monitored her blood glucose levels and her risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
In 2006, doctors noticed her A1C numbers — the numbers used to diagnose diabetes — were climbing and she was near the marker for type 2 diabetes. She did not want to go on medication so she exercised and lost 10 pounds, but her numbers did not decrease and she was officially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
A few months later, Isam was still trying to manage her diabetes without medication through diet and exercise, but decided to splurge during the Christmas holiday. On Christmas night, she ate a generous helping of brownies, ice cream and hot fudge after returning from a movie with her family about midnight. Two hours later, she woke up feeling terrible and had a seizure.
The experience scared both Isam and her husband. She went to the doctor the next day and started medication to manage her diabetes.
“I wasn’t educated on what would happen if I did that (ate the dessert),” said Isam. “You think you know what you’re supposed to do and your doctor says you are doing okay and tells you a few foods to avoid, but there wasn’t anything real specific and I wanted details.”
Isam, 58, of Moore, Oklahoma, turned to Mercy for help.
Diabetes Programs at Mercy
After a recommendation from a co-worker in 2008, Isam received a referral from her doctor to a basic diabetes management class at Mercy. The experience was eye-opening as she learned about food portions, exercise, counting carbohydrates, medications, blood sugar monitoring and more.
About four years ago, she also learned about Mercy’s free Diabetes Support Group and has been attending the monthly meeting ever since.
“I go because it keeps it on my mind all the time,” said Isam. “It’s really helped me because it’s no longer a guess. I think a lot of people want to turn their back on their diabetes diagnosis and eat what they want to eat, but it could be freeing to them if they got more educated.”
Isam said she learned that she doesn’t have to give up everything she enjoys as long as she is counting her carbohydrate intake. She can have that piece of pie for the holidays, for example, but she may need to go without the mashed potatoes.
“Patients come here and they are surprised that we are not giving them recommendations that are going to make them feel deprived,” said Pam Litschke, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at Mercy. “It’s all about choices.”
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death nationally and contributes to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, blindness, amputations, pregnancy complications and nervous system disease.
“Our programs help patients and their family members make lifestyle changes since you cannot manage the disease with just medication alone,” said Heather Smith, a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian at Mercy.
Isam also appreciates the ongoing support of fellow group members and group facilitators from Mercy. She and her husband lost their home and the church where her husband pastors in the 2013 Moore tornado. The added stress caused her diabetes to get worse. The support group discussed the impact of stress when managing diabetes and helped her through a difficult time.
Now, more than a year and a half later, Isam is back in her rebuilt house and church, and her diabetes is under control.
To learn more about diabetes classes and support groups, contact your local Mercy hospital.
Mercy is the fifth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves millions annually. Mercy includes 34 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals and two orthopedic hospitals, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.