Education program motivates Waterford man to take charge of his diabetes


Growing epidemic: 29 million Americans with metabolic disorder

For Ivan Brown, 68, it came out of the blue. One morning last November, he woke up and experienced difficulty walking. Explains the Waterford resident, “It’s like I couldn’t walk. Scary.” His left foot was numb.

In three days, he saw five doctors. The neurologist said the numbness was caused by neuropathy. He was also told his neuropathy was caused by diabetes.

Brown thought, “Me? What diabetes?” His lab tests confirmed he had type 2 diabetes.

According to the National Institutes of Health, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all Americans diagnosed with this metabolic disorder. All told, approximately 29 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes. That’s 9 percent of Americans, and according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s growing. Alarmingly, among the 29 million, there are 8.1 million Americans who are undiagnosed.

Diabetes is a chronic, widespread condition characterized by high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia. When the body does not produce or properly use insulin, blood sugar levels rise. Insulin is a hormone needed to transport sugar from the blood into the cells of the body for energy. Diabetes complications can include: blindness, kidney disease, stroke, neuropathy and heart attack.

Brown recalls, “The thought of having diabetes made me nervous. Initially, I knew nothing about the disease. And the more research I did online, the more anxious I became – medications, diet, exercise and possible complications.”

His physician suggested he attend the diabetes outpatient education classes offered through Beaumont Hospital, Troy - a suggestion that Brown credits with changing his attitude towards diabetes and empowering him to take charge of his health. “I no longer let my diabetes manage me.”

He owes this new outlook and increased activity level to Beaumont’s Azza Elmorsy, RN, a certified diabetes educator, who coordinates the outpatient education program as well as the monthly support group. “She’s been my guiding light,” he says.

“Azza is a special person. She’s very personable and knowledgeable. She took the fear out of me and let me know I’m OK,” says Brown. “She is honest, down-to-earth and emphasizes the importance of exercise and getting rid of the extra weight around my mid-section.”

Since attending the classes and support group meetings, he joined a fitness club and dropped 30 pounds. Brown’s hemoglobin A1C has dropped from 7.1 to 5.8. Along with exercise, he manages his diabetes with an oral medication called metformin.

“I’m grateful for Azza’s support. She really lifted a burden off me,” says Brown. “She’s helped me eat healthier. I don’t eat as much now, and I do try to eat at about the same time each day.”

After 35 years with General Motors, he retired in 2009. Brown enjoys fishing, boating, travel and pursuing a patent on a toolbox he invented.

An avid fisherman, he finds the sport both relaxing and therapeutic, a great stress buster.

His future plans include losing more weight. “I’ve got to look good on the beach,” he says. “I’ve got a cruise booked for November.”

Along with the Beaumont, Troy diabetes support group that meets every third Wednesday of the month at the Beaumont Medical Center, Sterling Heights, a similar group meets at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

The Diabetes Outpatient Education Program at Beaumont is certified by the Michigan Department of Community Health and is recognized by the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes outpatient education classes are available at Beaumont, Grosse Pointe; Beaumont, Royal Oak; Beaumont, Troy; and Beaumont Medical Center, West Bloomfield. For more information, call 800-328-8542.