Baptist endocrinologists raise awareness about diabetes
November 4, 2014 | Jacksonville, FL
Adjusting to a lifelong diagnosis of diabetes at age 22 was not easy for Ashley Blythe Chlebus, who had just graduated from college and later moved to New York. She went through periods of denial and anger.
As a financially struggling actress, she could not afford her insulin so she wasn’t dosing properly and ended up in the hospital.
But six years later, Chlebus, now 28, who has Type 1 Diabetes, which is common in children and young adults, is on a healthy track thanks to help from Baptist Endocrinology at Baptist Medical Center South. She’s on an insulin pump and taking care of herself.
National statistics estimate that 29.1 million people or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes, which is a disease in which blood glucose, or blood sugar levels are too high. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form where a person’s body does not make or use insulin well causing glucose to stay in their blood. Endocrinologists at Baptist Health are raising awareness in November for American Diabetes Month.
Some symptoms include extreme thirst and fatigue, frequent urination, blurry vision and numbness and tingling of the feet or hands.
Chlebus, of Mandarin, recently started working as an office specialist at Baptist Endocrinology and feels a connection to the patients and provides encouragement.
“It’s important to just take it one day at a time. I try to wake up and say I will eat healthy today, I will exercise today and I will dose properly today,” said Chlebus, who also does community theatre in the area. “Being able to be a positive influence in someone else’s life, who is going through the same thing, feels really good.”
Her Endocrinologist Wasim Deeb, MD, of Baptist Endocrinology, said treatment options in the last 10 years have improved so getting diagnosed early and starting treatment is key. Diabetes can result in everything from blindness to renal failure and can damage a variety of organs, if not treated.
“There are so many tools between pills and insulin that treatment is a lot easier and more effective than in the past,” Dr. Deeb said. “The sooner a person begins treatment, the better.”
Dr. Deeb said there are prevention steps that can be taken at least when it comes to Type 2 diabetes such as exercise and diet.
“Some studies show you only need 20 minutes of exercise a day to help decrease your chances. But if you do more exercise, it’s even better,” Dr. Deeb said. “You need to balance your diet and have one third carbs, one third fat and one third protein.”
Leslie "Brandi" Salomone, MD, endocrinologist at Baptist Endocrinology, said strong evidence consistently shows that having optimal blood sugar control helps reduce the risk of eye, kidney and nerve disease.
“There are now multiple medications to help patients and as endocrinologists we are experts at helping people find the right tools to manage their diabetes,” Dr. Salomone said. “There is a lot of hope.”
Chlebus said that when she came to see Dr. Deeb she was so sick that she would come to appointments in tears.
“I didn’t realize how horrible I felt until I didn’t feel horrible anymore,” Chlebus said. “Dr. Deeb always has a positive attitude and he always addresses me as a person as opposed to a diabetic and that makes a big difference. He said I could take good care of myself and that has helped me to believe it too.”
Now she’s doing so well, she will be participating in this year’s American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes event in Jacksonville on November 22 with a team from Baptist Endocrinology. For more information visit Baptist Endocrinology, and learn more about the Northeast Florida Pediatric Diabetes Center, a partnership between Wolfson Children's Hospital and Nemours Children's Clinic.