What Our Clients Are Saying

Watch our featured success stories to hear what our clients have to say about their experiences with the services and programs at the Center For Health & Wellbeing.

Community Wellness Programs are Made Possible Through the Support of Sun Health Foundation

Sun Health Foundation funds life-enriching community wellness programs, which have served thousands of West Valley residents, some of which are offered at little or no cost.

Sharon Brubaker

Larry Randall

Anne McDonald

Sally Gallardo

Sharon Takes Charge

Every day, Sharon Wachs is on a mission to keep her prediabetes in check.

The goal: Healthy living.

The strategy: Nutritious meals, daily exercise, and the buddy system.

At the core of Sharon’s plan is Sun Health’s Center for Health & Wellbeing and its Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Struggling to take charge of her diagnosis, Sharon enrolled in the program and then convinced a friend to do the same.

Designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 16-week DPP program, followed by six months of maintenance sessions in a support group format, focuses on education, healthy eating and the benefits of staying active. For Sharon, a program that stretches over many weeks is vital for success.  Otherwise, she said, “you fall off the wagon.”

“I knew a lot about these different things, but had never been able to quite put them together,” Sharon said. “Sun Health did that for me. They put all the different benefits together in a package for DPP participants.”

“The DPP program has changed my style of eating completely and now I think that way,” she said. “I like the long term process of the program.”

Every day, Sharon scoots her dogs out the door for a nice long walk. When the weather warms up, she heads to the recreation center with her headphones and gets moving. Sharon used to walk about 1.5 hours a week and now she has doubled that. She rarely misses a day of exercise.

“I feel really good about going out and walking,” she said.

Many evenings, she meets up with her friend to cook healthy dinners. They work together to make nutritious meals, and help each other say no to temptations like potato chips and desserts.

So far, Sharon has lost about 30 pounds and her A1C has decreased. In fact, since she started the program, her A1c had decreased one full point and is now in the normal range. Drinking more water and eating more fiber have been good for her overall health, too. Diagnosed with arthritis, she said weighing less also eases the pain in her joints.

“I was just really ready for this program…and the program is absolutely excellent,” Sharon said. “You can’t beat it.”

Anita’s Health Boost  

Anita Orton has lived with diabetes for two decades but has struggled to get a handle on the disease.

“Diabetes is deceptive. You don’t feel sick on a daily basis so it’s easy to lose control and it’s easy to let things slide,” she said.

When Anita’s health took a turn, her doctor gave her a six-month ultimatum: get her diabetes under better control or begin taking medication to control it. Anita decided to recommit to a healthier lifestyle. But she didn’t have to do it alone.

She turned to the Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) training at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing. The program, a benefit under Medicare and most insurance companies, offered a wealth of diabetes education, nutrition advice and more.

As important, program staff exuded a can-do attitude and offered encouragement every step of the way.

“If there was any way to clone everyone’s attitudes, personalities, and vibes and just put those around all the medical professionals, it would greatly enhance our medical field,” Anita said. “I came in and people were helpful, they were knowledgeable, they were able to guide and direct me immediately, and they were very welcoming.”

During the five-week training, Anita felt especially supported by Tracy Garrett, the Center’s diabetes program coordinator and also a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. Tracy’s concern and compassion, Anita said, made participants feel as though she was “investing in each of our lives.”

Thanks to the program, Anita embraced a healthier diet and lost 15 pounds. Her A1C levels went from 7.8 down to 6.9, a move in the right direction. “My doctor was ecstatic and I was ecstatic,” Anita said.

The A1C blood test provides information about a person’s average levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over the past 3 months. It’s used to diagnose and monitor diabetes.

“When someone with diabetes significantly lowers their A1C levels, it greatly decreases their potential for developing complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes,” Tracy Garrett said.

Anita also learned relaxation tips and how to do low-impact exercises.

“I also noticed that there was a change in how I felt emotionally,” Anita said. “I had an ‘upbeatness’ that I did not have prior to the education.”

She calls DSME a “Godsend.”

“After 20 years of kind of floating along with the disease, you just need that recharge,” she said. “And that’s what it was for me, it was a recharge.”

Bonnie’s Wellness Journey

A nurse by training, Bonnie White faced down diabetes and a challenging weight loss goal. But she knew the road ahead would have obstacles.

How could she continue to eat healthy? What was the best way to incorporate regular exercise? Would old habits sideline her success?

To stay on course, Bonnie turned to Sun Health’s Center for Health & Wellbeing (CHW).

“Even though I had lost weight myself, I knew that I needed some help with maintenance,” Bonnie said. “Because maintenance is actually more complicated, lifestyle-wise and emotion-wise. You’re changing your whole relationship with food.”

Today, Bonnie is living a healthy and active life. It’s fitting that the new lifestyle came as a birthday surprise.

Bonnie had already lost 100 pounds and lowered her A1C levels. “I lost half of my weight,” she said.

Then, after reading a story about CHW in Sun Health’s LiveWell magazine, Bonnie picked out the perfect birthday gift for herself. She invested in her future with nutrition and fitness packages offered through CHW.

Bonnie credits Susan Welter, registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, for helping her stay focused on meal planning and nutrition. As important, Susan has helped Bonnie understand how to enjoy meals and give food less “power” over her life.

“Susan’s been very perceptive in all ways, not just with her dietitian skills,” Bonnie said.

Through education and determination, Bonnie has kept the weight off.

Bonnie is also committed to staying fit with the help of Rhonda Zonoozi, Sun Health’s exercise physiologist and health coach.

“I’ve gone to many classes over the years,” Bonnie said. “Rhonda actually prepares for the class…and she explains a lot about why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Walking an hour a day, Bonnie feels stronger, has built up muscle, and, as a result, has reduced her risk of falling. She has also lowered her cholesterol significantly.

“I just think that Sun Health is really geared to the types of needs I have,” Bonnie said. “Eating appropriately and moving appropriately gives you a sense of wellbeing.”

Health Makeover for Gladys

Gladys Eckel knew the devastating effects of diabetes after watching several family members battle the disease. So when Gladys learned that she, too, had diabetes during a routine doctor’s visit, she was determined to take a different path.

“I didn’t have any symptoms, but after the diagnosis I said, ‘I’m not going to allow this to take over my life. It’s not an option,’ ” Gladys said. “My mother had her legs amputated…I’m not going down that road.”

Fate intervened when she spotted a LiveWell magazine article about the Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) training offered through the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing. The five-week program focuses on diet, nutrition, and other lifestyle changes to better manage the disease.

For Gladys, it was a life saver.

“I was really skeptical in the beginning,” she said. “But I stayed the course and in that timeframe, I learned a lot and thought, ‘Oh, this might just work.’ It’s been about two years now, and it is working.”

DSME, a benefit under Medicare and most insurance companies, is designed to educate participants and help improve their quality of life. Considered a medical standard of care, the training is vital to managing the disease, said Tracy Garrett, the Center’s diabetes program coordinator and a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator.

“Most of the individuals that I come in contact with are unaware of the magnitude of impact that behavior changes can have,” Tracy said.

In addition to Gladys participating in the classes, she and her husband Ken began exercising daily and dramatically changed their diets. They have lost a combined 200 pounds, and Gladys was grateful for the education on diabetes she received from Tracy. Gladys also keeps a daily food journal, tracking calories, sugars and carbohydrates to help her stay on track.

She and Ken eat out once a month, that’s their treat. Gladys also plays cards every Sunday and that’s her “free” day. “It’s a free day, but not a free-for-all day,” Gladys said. “I might have a few bites of cake.”

Gladys also turned to Tracy for guidance about her medication, and Tracy worked with her physician make a change for the better, which included being able to completely stop taking one of her medications, following a consult with the doctor’s office.

“Had it not been for Tracy educating me the way she did and taking an interest the way she did, I don’t know what would have happened,” Gladys said. “I would tell people, ‘Take an interest in yourself. You’re the only one that can change this.’ ”