Over 37 million Americans have diabetes. Even more shockingly, about 1 in 5 people with diabetes have no idea they have it. Diabetes can sneak up on you without any obvious symptoms. You may not even realize you have diabetes until it’s out of control and difficult to manage on your own.
Unfortunately, this became a reality for 65-year-old Turner “Sonny” Stutts.
In early January 2022, Stutts was getting ready for his retirement at the end of the month. He was beginning the Medicare enrollment process when his wife suggested he schedule a “check-up” appointment with his doctor.
Throughout his life, Stutts felt as though he never really needed to go to the doctor. He seemed to never get very sick, so he thought there was no reason to go. However, since he had not been to the doctor in a while, Stutts made an appointment in mid-January with his primary care provider to get routine blood work done.
A couple of days after his appointment, his doctor called back with his blood test results.
“My doctor called me back and told me I needed to come up to the office as soon as possible. I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “When I got to the office, she (the doctor) told me I had diabetes, and it was way out of line. I didn’t really understand it at first.”
Stutts’ doctor recommended he visit the Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center so he could learn more about his new diagnosis and how to manage his diabetes properly.
Stutts had no apparent symptoms of diabetes but admitted he had a big sweet tooth.
“I ate a lot of food that wasn’t good for me, and I didn’t know what I was doing to myself at the time,” he said.
Stutts scheduled his first appointment at the diabetes center in February and went for one hour once a week for six weeks.
In his first session, he met with Amy Brant, wellness nurse and diabetes program manager for the center. During this one-hour session, he learned more about diabetes, including potential complications of uncontrolled glucose levels, healthy eating habits, health maintenance goals, diabetes medications, how the body uses insulin, pathophysiology, and available diabetes education resources.
“In my own mind, I was invincible. So, at first, it took a little while for me to accept that I had diabetes,” he said.
In the second session, Stutts met with a registered dietician who provided him with nutrition information and a personalized meal plan.
“When I went to my first two classes, they showed me the benefits of eating certain foods, and I could see what I was eating was exactly what I shouldn’t have been eating,” said Stutts.
After the first two sessions, patients at the Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center have the option to attend group classes to dive deeper into each topic. Stutts decided to go to all four group classes.
When he arrived at the diabetes center for each of his visits, he was greeted by Randi, administrative assistant, and was thankful for her cheerful attitude and assistance. Throughout his time at the center, Stutts was impressed by the way staff cared for him and explained topics to him.
“The way they explained everything — it wasn’t like they were telling me to do something. They said, ‘This is what you can do to help yourself, and we can help you do it.’ The wellness nurse, Amy, and the dietitian had a real conversation with me, and it really helped me understand more and get through it. They weren’t there just for their job. They really cared,” said Stutts.
“I was a nonbeliever, but they changed my mind just by being themselves,” he added.
Knowing what he does now, Stutts has turned a new leaf and is much more conscious of what he eats. He only eats sweets in moderation and has small portions when he does. Stutts also tries to eat more nutritious foods and drinks a lot of water throughout the day.
Stutts’ most recent blood test results stood as proof to his hard work and all he has learned.
Before the program, at his first blood test in mid-January, his A1C (a test that reflects average blood sugar level) was 8.8%, and his fasting glucose was 214 mg/dL.
For reference, a normal A1C is below 5.7%, and a normal fasting glucose level is less than 100 mg/dL.
At his doctor’s appointment in May, his blood test showed a huge improvement. Stutts’ A1C lowered to 5.5%, and his glucose was down to 91 mg/dL.
“My doctor said I basically cured myself, and I said, ‘No, I had help. Believe me, if it wasn’t for everyone at the center, I wouldn’t have improved and learned so much,’” said Stutts.
After all he has accomplished, Stutts says he has a newfound motivation to help others and explain what he has learned.
“One of my family members just got diagnosed as diabetic, and I recommend he visit the diabetes center. I told him it would give him a better idea of what things he could eat and what he should limit,” said Stutts.
Going forward, Stutts plans to continue following the advice of the staff at the Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center.
“It was a life-changing experience. I’m just going to try to keep doing what I learned at the center and try to do the best I can with it. And I know they’re there if I need them,” said Stutts.
Everyone with diabetes deserves the right to a healthy life. The diabetes team at Iredell gives patients the expertise and support needed to take back control of their diabetes and their life. Please consider a donation to Iredell Health Foundation’s Diabetes Educational Fund. Your gift helps us to continue providing these educational opportunities to Iredell and the surrounding counties.
To donate, please go to DonorPerfect and choose “Diabetes Educational Fund” from the “Specific Fund” dropdown.