Carolyn Boester of Winchester, Illinois, cried when she learned she had diabetes. Through her family history of the disease on her dad’s side she has seen the toll it can take, including amputations. Diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.

Carolyn isn’t crying anymore. Since January, she has worked with Illini Rural Health nurse practitioner Joanna Bunch, APRN-FNP, and today is celebrating success in managing her diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition – with no cure yet - that affects how the body turns food into energy.

The body breaks down most of the food a person eats into sugar (glucose) and releases it into the bloodstream. When blood sugar goes up, it signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into the body’s cells for use as energy.

With diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin, or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in the bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

A fasting blood glucose level of 70-100 and an A1C blood glucose measurement below 5.7% are normal. In January, Carolyn’s blood sugar was 347 and A1C was 11.9%.  Today, her blood sugar is 131 and A1C is 7.9%.

“I’m losing weight, eating healthier and putting myself first,” the 62-year-old said. “Joanna helped me get control of my health and I really appreciate it.”

Carolyn had no idea she had diabetes when she saw Joanna for another health situation last January. But Joanna saw the clues and ordered the tests that led to the diagnosis. More than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don't know they have it.

The Centers for Disease Control list the following as possible symptoms of diabetes:

  • Urinating a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty and hungry
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

“I don’t know where I would be if Joanna had not discovered my diabetes,” Carolyn said with an emotional quiver in her voice.

Joanna says Carolyn deserves much of the credit.

“Patient compliance with the plan of care plays a major part in successful treatment of all medical conditions,” she said. “That is exactly what Carolyn did in order to get her A1C down to a better number. Without her lifestyle changes and medication compliance it would not have been possible.”

“We as providers encourage and educate patients, order medications and testing. Ultimately it is up to the patient to decide to follow the plan of care,” Joanna concluded.

Carolyn encourages everyone to make another decision about their health, “If you don’t feel right, get tested,” she advised.