Living With Diabetes

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Living with diabetes can be scary. Depending on insulin to save your life can be scary. And, switching from daily insulin injections to managing your disease with an insulin pump can be scary. The fear can be a big hurdle for many – both physically and emotionally. And, for Ron Grewe, of Bertha, he was no exception. In fact, one could argue that Ron’s hurdle was larger than most because not only was he living with Diabetes, he had also lost the use of his left arm five years earlier to a stroke.

Ron’s journey with Diabetes began more than 15 years ago. It started with a blood sugar level of 640, just 10 units shy of the point at which organs start shutting down. Prior to his diagnosis, Ron was unaware that Diabetes ran in the family. The oldest of 10 kids, Ron quickly learned that he wasn’t alone in this journey. Although no one had previously talked to him about their chronic disease, after he learned of his Diabetes, he also learned that both his parents and all of his siblings were diagnosed with the same fate.

When Dr. Pate first detected that Ron had Diabetes, he started Ron on a prescription of pills and sent him to Diabetes Educators Pam Doebelling and Sue Sigurdson. Because medications are only effective for a given amount of time, Ron got to a point in his life where he needed to make a choice about what to do next. And, approximately six years ago Ron choose insulin shots, a common decision and one that many people living with diabetes choose.

Recently, Ron was faced with another decision – continue insulin shots or try something else. With the help of Miranda Weaklend, Tri-County Health Care’s newest Diabetes Educator, Ron was introduced to the Insulin Pump. Rather than spikes and jolt of all the insulin units at one time like you get with the shots, an insulin pump gives a steady flow to your body, working much more like a working pancreas. The pump would allow Ron to correct his insulin with precision.iStock_000002701372_Large

Initially, because Ron doesn’t like change, he said “No.” Through education and conversations with Miranda, Ron learned that pumps can be pretty amazing things and can help lead to lower A1Cs and fewer low blood sugar events. Saying yes, was a courageous new step for Ron in his diabetes management.

And, while learning the infusion pump is scary and frustrating for most newly diagnosed patients, Ron was justifiably frustrated learning a task that generally needs two hands. “I could see the wheels spinning in his head as he was trying to figure out how to adapt what needed to be done and how he could do it with the use of just his right arm,” said Miranda.

Change is scary when you don’t know what is involved, admitted Ron. Yet, if you have a good educator that can show you how it works and you can call when needed, the easier it is, he said.

Paper bag with the word diabetes filled with healthy foods

A healthy lifestyle is an important part of diabetes management.

Ron was quick to add that the infusion pump is only as good as the user. If you aren’t honest or accurate with your carb counting, you don’t consistently check your blood sugar and you don’t do all the regular stuff involved with diabetes management, you won’t get accurate results. An insulin pump is no magic solution, they do exactly what you tell them to do with the information you input. Since having the pump, Ron has not had an incident of high blood sugar. And, he can feel a difference, physically. He is not so groggy, he has more energy and according to his wife he is even bossier.

With the infusion pump, Ron doesn’t have the safety net of that long last lasting insulin in his system, but like many things in life it’s a compromise. With the insulin pump, Ron receives smaller doses of rapid acting insulin every few minutes. It responds more like a non-diabetic pancreas, giving Ron more control and flexibility.

Learning to live with Diabetes – to check blood sugar, to count carbs, to choose healthy food options – these are permanent life changes, and they are tough. And, having a machine as your constant companion can honestly get annoying. Yet, according to Ron, all of those moments pale in comparison to how hard work, the support of his wife and the dedication of Miranda, his diabetes educator, and the rest of his medical team keep him alive and well.

Want more information?
For more information about Diabetes Education at Tri-County Health Care, contact Miranda Weaklend, Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator at 218-631-7471 or via e-mail at miranda.weaklend@tchc.org.

Support Group Information:
Tri-County Health Care offers a support group for people living with Diabetes. Anyone with an interest in understanding more about Diabetes is invited to attend. The Diabetes Support Group meets the second Monday of each month at 3:30 p.m. at Tri-County Health Care’s Wadena campus. Please visit the front desk for meeting location. Click here for more information: http://bit.ly/21C40Xb

About the author:
Ron Grewe has lived in Bertha, Minnesota most of his life. He graduated from Bertha High School and worked at the Creamery in Eagle Bend until it closed. He then moved to the Twin Cities area where he lived for four years before returning home and buying a farm. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 52 years.