The Garcia family, Carlos Sr. (from left), Delphine, Carlos Jr. and Daniel, talk about working together to manage diabetes.

Family of four uses team approach for managing diabetes

By encouraging each other, the Garcia family improved their health
October 22, 2018

Since his diagnosis of diabetes in 2014, Daniel Garcia and his family take a team approach for managing diabetes.

“One day I woke up and my foot was swollen and fat,” Daniel said. He went to work that morning despite his condition, but had to clock out shortly after arriving. “I decided to go to the emergency room because I couldn’t walk.”

At just 32 years old, Daniel’s blood sugar was over 800 mg/dL. To put that into perspective, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says a normal range is 70 to 99 mg/dL before a meal and 70 to 139 mg/dL two hours after the start of a meal. Those managing diabetes should aim to keep their blood sugar levels between 80 and 130 mg/dL before a meal and below 180 mg/dL two hours after the start of a meal. Daniel’s blood sugar was so high, he risked going into diabetic coma, or worse.

Complications arise

As the medical staff at the hospital worked to get his blood sugar to a healthy level, Daniel noticed something was off with his vision.

“I was watching TV as they were lowering my sugar with some insulin,” Daniel said. “I noticed that I couldn’t see the TV screen.”

Though the physicians tried their best to maintain his vision, Daniel became legally blind permanently.

Getting educated on diabetes

“It was a real rough patch to go through,” said Daniel’s mother, Delphine Garcia. She had also recently received a diagnosis for type 2 diabetes. After facing her son’s life-threatening condition, she decided to look for a way to help him and the rest of her family improve their health. Hospital staff told her about diabetes self-management classes offered free of charge by the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

“We went to the class and what we learned blew us away,” Delphine said. “We didn’t know it could be so easy to control diabetes.”

While in the hospital, Daniel said he had difficulty retaining all the information about diabetes he received. He said the doctors gave him so much information in such a short amount of time.

“I had a lot of questions,” Daniel said. “When I was in the hospital, I was trying to absorb everything the doctors were telling me about managing diabetes. It was hard to take it all in.”

Delphine agreed with her son. “You go to the doctor and they give you medicine,” she said. “But they didn’t explain what’s happening to you when you have diabetes.”

Daniel said the Diabetes Education Program’s health educators helped him make sense of all of the information. “I like that you can sit with somebody who can tell you exactly what is going on,” he said.

Having the knowledge and encouragement from the educators about how to manage his diabetes has helped Daniel better manage his blood sugar. “I feel like I can be independent again,” he said.

About the diabetes education class

As part of the Texas A&M Healthy South Texas initiative, the Diabetes Education Program equips participants with awareness, information, tools, motivation and support for managing diabetes through healthy living. To better serve people with various schedules, classes are delivered in two ways: a one-day class that takes roughly eight hours, or a series of four weekly two-hour classes.

The program’s health educators teach the basics of diabetes, including nutrition, exercise, blood sugar monitoring and goal setting. Participants receive free screenings of their A1C, blood pressure, weight, body mass index and blood glucose.

After completing the class, participants receive yearlong support from educators in managing their diabetes. Clients can come in quarterly to receive additional A1C tests to check their progress on maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. They are also eligible to enroll in the center’s Wellness Program, a 12-week exercise program that tailors physical activity routines to individuals of all fitness levels.

Making progress

After going through the yearlong program, Daniel went from taking 14 different diabetes medications to just four. However, as he was making strides toward a healthier lifestyle, Daniel’s older brother, Carlos Garcia Jr., found out he also had diabetes.

“My brother’s experience was a wake-up call for me,” Carlos Jr. said. “I saw what he went through, and it scared me into doing what I need to do to be healthier.”

Involving everyone

Even Daniel and Carlos Jr.’s father, Carlos Garcia Sr., who doesn’t have diabetes, received education in managing diabetes to support his family’s commitment to improving their health.

“It’s been difficult here and there, but you roll with the punches,” Carlos Sr. said. “If I can help my family stay motivated by being involved, that’s a big plus for me.”

Now the Garcia family supports each other in managing diabetes by encouraging each other to eat better and exercise often. They agree that the classes taught by the Diabetes Education Program have made a positive impact on them.

“These diabetes classes are so worth it, for your life, for your family, for your health,” Delphine said. “I recommend it to everybody.”

— Leslie Cockrell

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