Scott Looks to the Future
When Scott Mahan’s mind tempts him to skip exercising, ignore his meal plan or ditch his medications, he thinks of Violet.
His six-year-old daughter – an affable kindergartner who loves hanging out with dad – is a powerful motivator for Scott to continue on the healthy road he’s worked so hard to build. “I’m doing this for her,” he says.
What he’s doing for Violet, as well as for his wife, two teen-age sons and himself is managing his type 2 diabetes. Reaching this point has taken years of stops and starts and some health scares.
The first scare came in 2004 when Scott visited a primary care doctor who discovered in the office that Scott’s blood sugar level was over 600, a condition called ketoacidosis, which left untreated can cause a diabetic coma. The doctor told Scott to go to an emergency room immediately. Scott complied and was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit for five days. That’s when he first learned he had type 2 diabetes.
He left the hospital feeling ill-equipped. “I walked out of there with no clue about what I needed to do.” He knew he needed insulin and he learned to give himself injections, but he didn’t realize the importance of checking his blood sugar regularly or of changing his diet.
He saw an endocrinologist a few times but stopped going. “I didn’t feel like I was getting clear directions,” Scott remembers. He turned to his primary care physician for help.
He vividly remembers a visit, during which his doctor told him his hemoglobin A1C score was 11.4, a dangerously high level. A1C is a lab test that measures blood sugar control by providing an average level of glucose in the blood over three months. (People with Type 2 diabetes who have good blood sugar control have an A1C value that is under 7 percent).
“The doctor told me, ‘I can’t help you anymore. It’s up to you what to do next,’” Scott recalls. “It felt like a slap in the face.”
But it also served as a wakeup call.
Through an email, Scott, now 47, learned about a diabetes management program offered by Sun Health and decided to give it a try.
The Diabetes Self-Management Education Services (DSMES) program, provided through Sun Health’s Center for Health & Wellbeing, showed Scott how he could take control of the disease.
“It was such an eye-opener,” he said. “The class gave me the tools I needed to make sure I could do this.”
Scott, a Navy veteran, knew he had too much to live for, and the DSMES training put him on a new path. The five-week program focuses on diet, nutrition and other lifestyle changes. A benefit under Medicare and most insurance companies, the program is designed to help participants better manage the disease and improve their quality of life.
Scott took to the training right away thanks to instructors Tracy Garrett, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, and Rhonda Zonoozi, an exercise physiologist and health coach. “They are excellent instructors. Very knowledgeable and encouraging,” he says.
With their help, Scott gradually changed his eating habits. Using a food log he created, he now tracks virtually everything he eats. When he eats out, he previews restaurant menus searching for healthier fare so he knows what to order in advance.
Scott also makes sure that his insulin intake is correct, and takes brisk walks nearly every day.
He dropped 40 pounds and has reduced his insulin units because of the DSMES training and follow up guidance from another registered dietitian nutritionist who works with his primary care physician.
With the weight loss, Scott’s able to wear the same size pants as his 16-year-old son and he’s been able to fit into clothes he had saved from his younger, slimmer days. “It feels awesome.”
Another benefit: “I can scratch the middle of my back,” he says with a laugh.
Postscript: A recent job change with different working hours put a dent in Scott’s progress. For example, he regained 10 pounds. “It was surprisingly easy to undo all the hard work I’d done but I decided to bounce back,” he says. He’s returned to his daily walks and a healthy meal plan.
“Managing blood sugar numbers requires constant vigilance but I have a better frame of mind now because I know it can be done. I’ve already done it once.”