Living with Diabetes

Rebecca Stevenson and her health coach, Cheryl Laszynski

Works for me

‘Living with Diabetes’ made easy with help from Center for Healthy Living

As we all know, the Center for Healthy Living offers faculty and staff a plethora of no-cost wellness programs and services. For Matthew McClain – who works in a level VI utility special projects position with Building Services – one program in particular has made a huge difference in his life.

In July of 2014, McClain had been to a family reunion and was feeling odd on the way home. According to McClain, by the time he got home he couldn’t concentrate, his breathing was difficult, his vision was swimming and he believed he was having a heart attack. He went to the emergency room where his blood sugar was found to be over 400 and his A1C (a common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and then used to monitor how well the disease is being managed) was 13.5. According to Mayo Clinic, for most people who have been diagnosed with diabetes an A1C level of 7 or less is a common treatment target.   McClain stayed in the hospital for three days and started the first days of the rest of his life as a type 2 diabetic.

“It was a very scary time,” McClain said. “And I didn’t see it coming.”

While trying to find information and possibly a hospital-sponsored program to teach himself about his new disease, McClain visited the Center for Healthy Living to see what he could learn. At that time, the Center was trying to launch a new program – “Living with Diabetes” – to inform employees with diabetes about their disease. McClain signed up right away as this was what he was hoping to find. McClain said it seemed like a long stretch until the end, but he was at least going to check it out – because a perk of the program was discounts on all his diabetic supplies.

“Living with Diabetes” is a comprehensive program for people doing just that – living with diabetes. It’s tailored for the newly diagnosed as well as those with years of experience living with this disease. The primary objective of the program is to share essential education and support so participants can manage their condition, stay healthy and prevent complications. Participants will gain the educational tools needed for success and develop a plan to become an active partner with his or her health care provider.

“Let me say this, the information that was provided was excellent,” McClain shared. “I learned about what dangers I would face if I ignored my disease, what happens to your body and blood if left unchecked but it wasn’t just the scary stuff. This workshop showed me that my life could be normal with diabetes, as long as I didn’t give in to frustration and anger.”

McClain was impressed with the variety of and access to the expert services of health care professionals at the Center as well as being able to meet providers in fields such as optometry, endocrinology and podiatry – all of which have special connections to diabetes.

“On different weeks they would bring in doctors to explain the complications of the diabetes with respect to their fields of expertise,” McClain said. “The dietitian gave us excellent information on how to eat healthier and smarter as well as explained that one can still enjoy eating without having to give up everything they like.”

One week the participants were able to have hands-on experience in a demo kitchen where a couple of different recipes were prepared and they got to try them.

According to McClain, the class isn’t a homework-based class but rather a discussion-based experience with activities such as asking participants to track blood sugars and count carbohydrates for a specific time period to give them a better idea of how their bodies were performing.

For McClain, the Living with Diabetes workshop made all the difference in a very uncertain period of his life.

“After the workshop was over, I personally felt empowered to take control of my disease, to live a normal life while keeping my A1C low and to enjoy life like I always have – just a little more carefully,” he shared.

“As a fellow diabetic, I strongly urge anyone thinking about taking this workshop to do it,” he said. “It costs nothing but remember you have everything to lose if you don’t get a handle on the disease. I believe this workshop is a way to gain something back.”

By the way, McClain’s A1C is now 5.9.

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