The day started out like any other for Army Veteran Antonio Correa. As the Florida sun rose, he went out for his usual morning “fun run” – a casual six-mile jaunt to maintain his peak physical fitness. Little did he know he was on the verge of a diabetes diagnosis.
“When I woke up, I was in the hospital,” Correa said. “And the doctor said, ‘Hey listen, you know you’re diabetic?’ And I said, ‘That’s impossible. I can’t be diabetic. I’m in the best shape of my life!’”
During his run, Correa experienced hyperglycemia: high levels of glucose in his blood due to not enough insulin produced by his body, and a common symptom of diabetes. As a result, he passed out and was rushed to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.
One in four Veterans have diabetes
Correa is not alone. In fact, one in four Veterans are affected by diabetes. This compares to one in 10 non-Veterans in the U.S. Like the general U.S. population, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, end-stage kidney disease and amputation in older Veterans.
Fortunately, VA has spent three decades understanding, treating and assisting Veterans in managing this condition. VA is helping Veterans take control of their diagnosis.
C.R. VanDerscoff III, an Army combat Vietnam Veteran, felt like he was able to take control of his diagnosis when he attended a Diabetes Self-Management Education program at the Viera VA Clinic, part of the Orlando VA Medical Center in Florida.
“They were phenomenal,” VanDerscoff said. “They were friendly, they were knowledgeable, they were respectful and they were very helpful. The handouts and the resources offered were amazing. It’s like we went from zero to 1,000 miles per hour overnight.”
VA and DoD support self-management program
The program VanDerscoff used is a partnership between VA and the Department of Defense. The two agencies collaborated on a Virtual Medical Center to support self-management education. The American Diabetes Association recently recognized this initiative for meeting the same rigorous standards as face-to-face programming.
VA also understands that treating diabetes or pre-diabetes is a team sport. We build strong care teams to help Veterans manage their diagnosis. Along with a doctor, this team can include a registered dietitian/nutritionist, a pharmacist and a certified diabetes educator. They work together to find the best treatment options for patients while ensuring patients’ needs and health goals are met.
For Correa, this included an automatic insulin pump. “My diabetic nurse at VA, Ms. Rainer, reassured me,” Correa said. “She told me, ‘Hey listen, this is the latest and greatest. You should try it out and see how it works.’ This has enabled me to do the kind of work I do today. I’m a JROTC instructor. I’m continuing to motivate young men and women to become better citizens.”
Watch this video to hear Correa and VanDerscoff discuss their treatment at VA.
For more information about VA’s diabetes treatment and care, visit www.nutrition.va.gov/diabetes.asp or visit the Veterans Health Library and search “diabetes.”