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Diabetes awareness month reminder of high prevalence in Crossroads

By JR Ortega
Nov. 16, 2010 at 5:16 a.m.

Michael Cooper, with his wife, Michelle, describes the day he was diagnosed with diabetes. "I was surprised. But I knew something was wrong. I really didn't put two and two together," Michael said as he reflected back on the point when the symptoms were so bad his wife rushed him to the hospital.

Today, Michael Cooper looks like an average 29-year-old man.

He's a young, somewhat fit, handsome married man.

But about a year ago, that was not the case. His weight was cresting toward 300 pounds, he was lethargic and not so approachable.

Cooper was suffering from Type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed in February.

Cooper shares a story similar to more than 23.6 million adults and children in the U.S. who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Each year, another 1.6 million people are added to that statistic.

November is dedicated to nationally bringing awareness to the disease.

Cooper's wife, Michelle, who is pregnant, is cautious about everything - and now - diabetes.


"I was surprised. But I knew something was wrong. I really didn't put two and two together," Michael said as he reflected back on the point when the symptoms were so bad his wife rushed him to the hospital.

Michael, a field operations manager for Baker-Hughes, had nausea, weight loss, frequent thirst and dry mouth.

He arrived at the hospital that February day with a blood sugar of 590.

The average is between 80 and 120.

He was immediately diagnosed with diabetes - the first in his family.

"It starts somewhere. And it started with him," said Becky DeLeon, the community diabetes prevention and control coordinator for the Victoria City-County Health Department.

The prevalence of diabetes in Victoria is very high because of the cultural diversity, she said.

Racially, Hispanics and blacks have a slightly higher risk of having diabetes than white people, DeLeon said.

Of 63 people sampled from Victoria County for Types 1 and 2 diabetes, 16.4 percent had it, according to a 2007 data collection provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Part of the problem is fattening foods, such as Mexican food, which can be found throughout the Crossroads.

Poor diet, lack of exercise and genetics increase the risk of obesity and high blood pressure, which could lead to diabetes, DeLeon said.

About 5.7 million people go undiagnosed each year, according to the diabetes association.

Cooper was told by doctors that he probably had diabetes for about three years and didn't know.

"As soon as I came out of the ICU, I felt like I was 10 years younger," he said. "It was like I was in a cloud."

Michael was put on a diet and on insulin twice a day.

Normally, Type 2 diabetics do not need insulin, but because his blood sugar had been high for so long, the insulin, diet and antibiotics will help get him down to a safe level, where all he would need to do to manage the disease is maintain his diet.


Because of grant funding received about five years ago from the Department of State Health Services, the city-county health department, Texas Agrilife Extension Office and Pecan Valley Area Health Education Center offer diabetes education classes.

Most recently, the Si, Yo Puedo Controlar Mi Diabetes program (Yes, I can control my diabetes) was started to target a more specific group of Spanish-only speaking diabetics, DeLeon said.

The new program and others, like the Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes and Cooking Well with Diabetes, have gained more participants each year.

The programs are designed to educate the public about diabetes and make them aware of what diabetes is.

"Word is getting around," she said. "We're getting there."

Melissa Mosby, a diabetes educator at Citizens Medical Center, said the cooperation between her, educators at DeTar Hospital and DeLeon, is key to serving diabetics in the Crossroads.

Mosby and DeLeon have each educated at each others programs, she added.

The number of programs offered in the area is a good sign, Mosby said.

"What she can't offer, maybe we can offer," she said. "We just sort of all complement each other and try to do the most we can for all the people of Victoria. It's going to take more than just one."


Michael attends the Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes class and has gotten much use out of it.

His wife has noticed of his physical and emotional change.

The changes are all for the better, she said.

He has gone from 290 pounds to 220 pounds and is still losing weight.

His diet is still going strong, and he's feeling healthier as time goes by.

The goal is to get off insulin and maintain his diabetes.

"I want him here as long as possible," his wife said as she rested her hand on her growing belly.

With the anticipated birth of their son, Mox Bentley, who is due on New Year's Day, the family sees this as a chance to start anew.

"It's about him now," Michael said.



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