When she was first diagnosed and started to learn about the damage diabetes could do if it is not controlled, Tennessee resident Doris McKinley was scared.
“I wasn’t sure I could make it,” said Ms. McKinley. Her healthcare professionals warned her that diabetes was the most common cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputations in adults. It is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. This knowledge was a lot to digest for Ms. McKinley.
“They told me my kidney could fail; I could lose my limbs,” said Ms. McKinley. Her blood sugar spiked as high as 400 mg/dL, while normal levels for a diabetic should be less than 180 mg/dL. “I was thirsty and going to the bathroom all the time.” She decided to take control and get her blood sugar down to avoid all those life-threatening complications.
Her sister’s neighbor had recently started attending a free Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) class at the local community center, so she decided to join her sister and brother-in-law at the next class.
“That class was the beginning of the light, the beginning of some peace for me,” explained Ms. McKinley, having enjoyed learning from both the instructors and fellow students. “It was wonderful to be with others. I couldn’t hardly wait to go to class each week,” she said.
Ms. McKinley found the nutritional advice most valuable. She needed detailed guidance on portion control and appropriate meal sizes.
“I had been cooking a half of a cup of oatmeal which turned into a cup and a half of oatmeal!” she recalled. “The (instructor) helped me understand things like over-ripe bananas have more sugar than those that are green.” She appreciated learning little things like the correct number of grapes to eat. “I now know how to eat to stay in control.”
Since she started eating healthier and taking her medication, her blood sugar is down dramatically. When it was regularly measuring around 300 mg/dL, it now measures closer to 110-120 mg/dL. To be more active, Ms. McKinley does yard work and attends an exercise class at her church. Her doctor is pleased with her progress. She has even planned a diabetic eye exam. Diabetes is no longer scary for Doris McKinley.
“This class was a life-saver for me,” she reflected. She routinely encourages her diabetic friends and neighbors to take the class. Lifestyle changes can be easier with support and education. “You need to know!”
The free Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) classes help people with diabetes and their loved ones learn more about:
- Symptoms and risk factors
- Living a physically active life
- Managing diabetes with nutrition
- Preventing complications
- Working with your diabetes team
The DSME program is offered by atom Alliance, the federally-funded Quality Innovation Network – Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) serving Tennessee. Find out more about the free classes at http://atomalliance.org/initiatives/reducing-disparities-in-diabetes-care/dsme-sites/
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