By Ramona Olivares, Diabetes Education Outreach Coordinator

In March 2011, Juan was struggling with uncontrolled diabetes and high glucose levels. He was referred to the Camden Citywide Diabetes Collaborative, but decided not to participate in the program. After a year of living with the effects of uncontrolled diabetes, he came to our class for the first time in March 2012. Juan had a change of heart when he met with Maria Colon, a Certified Diabetes Educator in Camden. Once Juan decided to attend class, he was engaged with the process right away. He decided that he wanted to live a longer, healthier life for himself and his kids.

The four-class series covers blood glucose control and obstacles patients might face, along with the importance of nutrition and exercise. The patients learn that no two people are alike and that everyone needs a customized diabetes care plan.

Juan did well in the first series of four classes, graduating at the end of the month with a goal of avoiding fried food and sugary drinks and completing 30 minutes of exercise three times a week.  Juan then took the classes again in April—a common occurrence when patients see that the course is working. Before the classes, he was only drinking soda, which he has now replaced with diet juices or water. By May, his blood sugar was drastically decreased.

I keep in touch with Juan and he enjoys the interaction. Though he was very skeptical about coming to classes at first, he now sees the benefits—as does his wife, who also has diabetes and took the classes. Both will be returning to the diabetes classes in September.

Juan offers this advice to others who have diabetes: “Educate yourself and seek help.  Don’t feel that you are defeated. The diabetes classes helped me understand how to control the disease. I now take my medication on time, and no longer eat junk food. If you’re struggling, please know that there is a solution.”

Through working with Juan, I learned that life changes can be made with desire and motivation. When he saw that the small effort he made was working, it motivated him to continue. Though Juan did not decide to take classes right away, once he was ready to commit to make a life change he was able to take the steps he needed to stay healthy.

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